UNT was one of four U.S. higher education institutions to receive the first grants from President Barack Obama’s 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative, designed to increase the number of U.S. students studying in Latin America and the Caribbean to 100,000 and the number of Latin American and Caribbean students studying in the U.S. to 100,000.
UNT will use the grant to support U.S. students participating in field courses, research and internships in Chile, including at the pristine UNESCO Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve. The resources will more than triple the number of students in UNT’s “Tracing Darwin’s Path” study abroad course. Read more about the UNT program.
UNT has become a partner of the U.S. Department of Energy’s BioEnergy Science Center, now an 18-partner consortium consisting of more than 300 members studying ways to generate biofuels.
Richard Dixon, Distinguished Research Professor of biological sciences, is working with the center on a project investigating how to develop liquid biofuels from genetically engineered switchgrass. Postdoctoral researchers Luis Escamilla-Treviño and Xiaolan Rao work with Dixon on the project.
The center is one of three established by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science in 2007. The centers support multidisciplinary, multi-institutional teams pursuing the fundamental scientific breakthroughs needed to make production of cellulosic biofuels, or biofuels from nonfood plant fiber, cost-effective on a national scale.
New materials for applications ranging from night-vision devices and camouflage technologies to ultrahigh- efficiency solar cells are being investigated by a research group awarded $8.5 million by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Marco Buongiorno Nardelli, professor of physics and chemistry and a fellow of the American Physical Society and the Institute of Physics, is one of the primary investigators for the five-year project, which also involves researchers from Duke University, Brigham Young University, Central Michigan University and the University of Maryland at College Park.
“The current materials, which are characterized by simultaneously being transparent and electrically conductive, contain indium as a critical element,” Buongiorno Nardelli says. “But indium is scarce and there is a great urgency to find replacement materials that are cheaper and abundant.”
The project is supported through the Office of Naval Research Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative.
How a plant identifies stress factors, such as heat, disease or toxins, and then spreads the signal to defend itself against those incoming stressors was the subject of a research study led by Ron Mittler, professor of biological sciences.
It’s the first research to outline the importance of reactive oxygen species for signal production in plants. The oxygen-containing molecules propagate the stress signal throughout the plant tissue.
Mittler also found that triggering a stress signal in a plant gave it time to prepare for worse conditions. For example, a plant blasted with a small amount of heat as a trigger to signal its defenses was able to survive longer heat exposure later.
Plants exposed to long periods of heat with no time to prepare did not survive.
“Now that we know we can trigger plants to prepare for situations like drought, intense heat or disease, we are one step closer to being able to save many crops that would otherwise die,” Mittler says.
The research was published in The Plant Cell of the American Society of Plant Biologists in September 2013.
Mittler worked on the project with Vladimir Shulaev, UNT professor of biological sciences, and researchers from Bar-Ilan University in Israel.
Several UNT researchers received Fulbright grants in 2013-14. Gabriel Carranza, assistant vice provost for global engagement and adjunct research professor of biological sciences, was selected for a Fulbright Specialist Project at the State University of Ponta Grossa in Brazil, working to build a university-alumni relationship program.
Marc Cutright, associate professor of higher education and director of UNT’s Higher Education Development Initiative, traveled to Uganda as a Fulbright Scholar. At Uganda Martyrs University, he taught graduate students and further developed a “work college” concept, in which all students work part-time on keeping the college running, thus reducing costs and permitting more accessible tuition. He also worked on a project addressing the Ph.D. shortage in sub-Saharan Africa.
Tomas Mantecon, associate professor of finance, is teaching in Linz, Austria, as a visiting professor of finance and plans to research the banking crisis in Austria and around the world. His research interests include corporate finance with an emphasis on corporate control, initial public offerings and joint ventures.
James Meernik, professor of political science, received a Fulbright Specialist Grant to work with colleagues at Soochow University in Taipei, Taiwan. During his appointment, he lectured on foreign policy, transitional justice and U.S.-Mexico relations, and designed a peace studies and human rights course.
Lisa N. Owen, associate professor of art history, received a Fulbright-Nehru Research Award to conduct fieldwork on medieval rock-cut temples in India for her second book, Rocks, Caves and Divinity: Creating Places of Worship in Medieval Southern India. The book examines medieval temples carved into natural rock, which are typically excluded from larger studies of India’s temple architecture.
Christine Balarezo, a political science doctoral student who graduated in December 2013, was awarded a Fulbright Postdoctoral Research Grant to the University of Haifa to research the anti-human-trafficking policies and strategies of the Israeli government. She specializes in comparative politics and international relations, with a focus on human rights.
Visitors to the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas learned about the innovative research of UNT faculty members and graduate students at the museum’s adults only Social Science night.
Among the exhibits were “Relating DNA to Individual Vulnerability to Disease,” led by Qunfeng Dong, assistant professor of biological sciences and computer science and engineering; “Does Whom You Marry Matter for Your Health?” by John Ruiz, assistant professor of psychology; and “Relating People to Their Government,” exhibits led by Jesse Hamner, manager of UNT’s Research and Visualization Environment, examining patterns of repression, violence and protest through the work of political science faculty Jacqueline DeMeritt, Dave Mason and Idean Salehyan.
“Multi-Agent Collaborative Exploration With Robots” was led by Kamesh Namuduri, associate professor of electrical engineering. Autonomous robots programmed by his students moved through the crowd.
The College of Business is celebrating 20 years of its Professional Leadership Program, which helps students gain the polish and expertise they need to succeed in the work world.
Students review skills such as interpersonal communication, emotional intelligence and resume writing, and they work with industry mentors and use business case studies to get real-life experiences.
“In the program, you learn about defining success, the first 90 days on the job and generic finance,” says Austin Hatcher, a decision sciences major and PLP student leader who has secured a position with Price Waterhouse Coopers after he graduates. “The real benefits are knowing other people in the program and the mentors, who volunteer to help students reach goals, grow professionally and avoid their mistakes.”
UNT was the site for the world premiere of Ahab Symphony, the first full symphonic work of internationally renowned composer Jake Heggie, last spring. Commissioned by the College of Music and Institute for the Advancement of the Arts, the work expands on ideas Heggie first explored in his critically acclaimed opera Moby-Dick.
The new work was written for the UNT Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Itkin; the Grand Chorus, directed by Jerry McCoy; and soloist Richard Croft, professor of vocal studies and celebrated tenor who performs with leading opera companies around the world.
The commission was part of Heggie’s 2010-11 artist-in-residence award from the Institute for the Advancement of the Arts, which showcases excellence in the visual, performing and creative literary arts at UNT. The 2013-14 artist-in-residence is sculptor and printmaker Kiki Smith. She is producing hand-pulled fine art prints in collaboration with art students and Master Printer Catherine Chauvin, former director of UNT’s Print Research Institute of North Texas (P.R.I.N.T Press), as well as Lari Gibbons, current P.R.I.N.T director and associate professor of art.
The annual Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, hosted by UNT’s Frank W. Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism, has grown into one of the nation’s preeminent gatherings of writers.
The institute marks its 10th conference July 18-20 at the Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center in Grapevine, with a focus on writing about science, technology, medicine and innovation. George Getschow, former Wall Street Journal reporter, editor and bureau chief, is the institute’s writer-in-residence and conference director.
Slated for 2014 are keynote speakers David Quammen, contributing writer for National Geographic, and Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Lawrence Wright and Sheri Fink. For information, visit themayborn.com.
Many veterans suffer from tinnitus and hearing loss as a result of exposure to gunfire, explosions, airplane noise and other harsh sounds related to military service. The UNT Tinnitus and Hyperacusis Clinic provides research, testing, counseling and treatment devices to help vets and others who suffer from this condition. Commonly known as “ringing in the ears,” tinnitus is caused by sensory and nerve damage to the inner ear.
The clinic is among a few audiology clinics in the state that integrate treatment with cutting-edge, research-supported technology, says Ernest Moore, chair of UNT’s Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences. Patients have access to specialized equipment and procedures developed by faculty experts who pinpoint the nature of tinnitus and the frequency range in which the condition occurs.
Lana Ward, supervising audiologist and coordinator of clinical audiology at the clinic, says tinnitus can be overwhelming and permanent but treatment options such as hearing devices that redirect the brain’s focus to different sounds can “essentially train the brain to live with the condition.”
Making counseling and education essential treatment components along with hearing solutions sets the UNT clinic apart from others that concentrate mainly on hearing solutions only, Ward says.
A unique partnership of UNT, the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth and area community colleges is helping to improve diversity in allied health professions, especially in the physical therapy field.
M. Jean Keller, UNT professor of kinesiology, health promotion and recreation and a newly elected fellow of the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration, is the principal investigator for the Allied Health Pathways program.
Funded by a $400,000 grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and an $85,000 matching gift from TruCare Solutions Inc., the AHP program is helping to increase the number of African American and Hispanic males who become licensed physical therapists. That demographic makes up less than 1 percent of the field, and the lack of diversity could lead to health disparities for ethnic minority populations, Keller says.
Through the AHP program, direct transfer agreements accelerate the students’ transition from the two-year colleges to UNT and on to the doctoral physical therapy program at the UNT Health Science Center.
Along the way, students receive academic advising, mentoring, health-related Spanish-language training, and opportunities for professional internships and networking. More than 50 African American and Hispanic males have entered the AHP program since it was created in 2012.
UNT’s College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism is home to the first interdisciplinary center in the U.S. with a complete focus on digital retailing.
The new Global Digital Retailing Research Center, funded by business leaders who pay for different levels of membership, will provide professionals in retail, hospitality management, technology and other industries with research and expertise from faculty and industry leaders.
Richard Last, who directs the bachelor’s degree program in digital retailing — the first in the nation when it was offered as electronic merchandising in 1998 — is the center’s senior director. He founded the jcp.com website in 1994 when he was manager of new business development for J.C. Penney Catalog and also is chairman emeritus of the board of Shop.org, the world’s largest industry association devoted to digital retailing.
Ten UNT College of Music students had a rare opportunity to prepare a new edition of a significant Baroque composition, which was performed in concert last fall by fellow students.
The new edition of Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespers, or Vespro della Beata Vergine, of 1610 was prepared by students of Hendrik Schulze, assistant professor of music history.
Prestigious music publisher Bärenreiter requested that Schulze edit the Vespers, 14 movements for soloists, chorus and orchestra considered a master work that defines 17th-century sacred music.
Schulze enlisted the students to begin work on the edition in fall 2011 in a musicology course he created for the project. They transcribed the original source materials into modern notation and corrected inconsistencies as they deemed fit according to their research. The edition was published in April 2013. Proceeds support UNT musicology students’ research.
In October 2013, Richard Sparks conducted UNT’s Collegium Singers and members of the Baroque Orchestra along with guest artists from top early music ensembles in the premiere of the new edition, both at UNT’s Murchison Performing Arts Center and at Cathedral Guadalupe in Dallas. The Denton performance is on YouTube.
Guido Verbeck, associate professor of chemistry, has partnered with Denton County to create the county’s first forensic drug lab. The lab will be housed on the UNT campus.
As Denton County’s population is growing closer to 1 million, the number of drug cases needing forensic testing also has increased. In the past, Denton County drug evidence was sent for testing to a lab in Garland. The Garland lab is one of the busiest crime labs in the area, which meant test results weren’t returned as quickly as needed.
“With the high-tech equipment we have in the UNT Crime Lab, we will be able to analyze samples, pull drug evidence from fingerprints, and provide the services the county needs very quickly,” Verbeck says.
The lab is working toward accreditation from the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board.
Verbeck developed a device that allows investigators to manipulate samples on the nano-scale with mass spectrometry, getting more accurate findings and saving time and money.
His small-scale forensic workstation, funded by a U.S. Department of Defense grant, was deployed to Afghanistan last summer.
UNT’s Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism offered students a summer study abroad trip to Mexico with the goal of providing the challenges they could someday face as foreign correspondents or freelance writers or photojournalists.
After a week of intensive narrative documentary training at the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico’s Tenancingo campus, the students traveled in small groups to find interesting citizens to profile.
Jason Yang, who is earning a master’s degree in journalism and plans to become a travel writer, found a woodcrafter who had practiced his hobby for 23 years and was teaching it to teens. Yang’s group spent nine days talking to and observing the man to tell his story for the Heart of Mexico Literary and Visual Storytelling Project.
“Our stories are a way to give a voice to the voiceless,” Yang says.
Master’s student Samantha Guzman, a multimedia producer, found the caretaker of a large statue of Jesus that sits on a mountain overlooking Tenancingo and spent almost three weeks observing, photographing and talking to him. She says the Literary and Visual Storytelling Seminar “changed my life.”
“I learned that I have the skills to be a working photojournalist, but the trip also put life in a different perspective,” she says.
Thorne Anderson, assistant professor of photojournalism who has worked internationally as a freelance photojournalist and covered military conflicts in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq, was the trip’s director.
“I wanted the students to become a lot more confident of their abilities to travel to unusual places,” he says, “and gain intimate access to stories that teach us about the human condition.”
The projects are online at heartofmexico2013.com.
A website that adapts itself to a viewer’s needs is the goal of a community health project led by communication design associate professors Keith Owens and Michael Gibson. Owens and Gibson are research faculty associated with UNT’s Design Research Center, where teams of faculty, students and professionals use design to create practical solutions to complex problems.
The center’s partners on the website project are the Denton County Health Department, Cook Children’s Hospital, the Denton ISD, Denton County MHMR and the Wellness Alliance for Total Children’s Health.
The researchers created a prototype for the website, which asks visitors to enter basic information — age, sex, ZIP code and, if applicable, their diagnosis. They also indicate if they are a child, parent or guardian, healthcare professional, or childcare worker such as a teacher or counselor. The site then tailors information to the user.
For example, for a middle school girl with an eating disorder, the site could display personal stories from others her age about how they overcame the disorder, as well as resources in her ZIP code area. The girl’s mother could find healthcare providers nearby and information on her daughter’s disorder.
The site isn’t meant to diagnose illness, Gibson says, but to be a resource for children and families to find help. The researchers are working to secure additional funding for the project, which they hope to launch this fall.
A $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education is funding UNT’s Project STArT — Systematic Training for Autism Teachers — which will provide full scholarships and on-the-job coaching to special education teachers seeking master’s degrees in special education with a concentration in autism intervention.
About 40 teachers are expected to be trained through the program, housed in the special education area in the Department of Educational Psychology. Scholars commit to serving the field for two years for each year of federal funding received. Smita Mehta, associate professor of special education, is principal investigator of the grant.
The first cohort of scholars started this spring. They will begin the autism sequence in the fall and take one summer course at UNT’s Kristin Farmer Autism Center. The Project STArT team will measure the progress of the UNT scholars funded through the project, as well as the accomplishments of the students with autism on their individualized plans.
Digging through sediment layers can provide clues to a stormy past. Harry Williams, professor of geography, is studying evidence of ancient typhoons in Thailand to help determine how often they strike. Historical records of the storms only exist for the past 50 to 60 years.
Williams first visited Thailand with funding from UNT’s Charn Uswachoke International Development Fund and then received a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Catalyzing New International Collaborations program to begin conducting the research with Montri Choowong, associate professor of geology at Chulalongkorn University, and UNT master’s student Eric Simon.
The researchers dug through layers of sediments in tidal marshes south of Bangkok, where a layer of sand would indicate a past typhoon storm surge. Identifying and dating the layers allows them to construct a long-term record of typhoon strikes and determine the average number of years between major strikes.
“The smaller the intervals are between storms, the more governments need to be prepared with mitigation measures, such as planning evacuation routes and educating the citizens,” Williams says. “If past disasters aren’t in most people’s recent memory, they may not be aware of possible storm surge threats or know how to prepare for them.”
Williams also has studied ancient tsunamis in the Pacific Northwest and storm surge deposits in the U.S. left behind by hurricanes.
An illustration of the soil nematode C. elegans by Lacy Fenn, assistant director of proposal development and design in UNT’s Office of Research and Economic Development, won Best in Show at an exhibit at the 19th International C. elegans Meeting in Los Angeles last summer. She originally created the work to help showcase the research of Pamela Padilla, associate professor of biological sciences.
Padilla and doctoral students Mary Ladage and Tasha Garcia presented papers at the conference, where scientists discussed their research on the worm, often studied for gene regulation and function.
Supported by a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, Padilla studies how the worm is able to survive in extremely low oxygen environments. Her work could lead to new treatments for diabetes and other diseases.
Andrew B. Harris, professor of theatre, premiered his play The Lady Revealed — focusing on British scholar A.L. Rowse and his claim that Emilia Bassano was the “Dark Lady” of Shakespeare’s sonnets — at UNT last spring.
The play also was performed in a workshop production this March in collaboration with Theatre3, one of Dallas’ most prominent theatres.
While researching another play he wrote years ago, Harris came upon Rowse’s work and became intrigued by the scholar and prolific writer who was controversial for his claims about the sonnets.
Harris discovered Bassano’s relatives while researching the play in England through a Research and Creativity Enhancement award from UNT. Those relatives led Harris to Bassano relatives in Texas, who attended the UNT production.
Associate professor of theatre Sally Vahle directed the UNT production, which featured music composed by music student Daniel Sabzghabaei. Students acted in both productions and worked on lighting, sound, costume and set design.
“The fact that the students are originating roles that have never been performed before,” Harris says, “gives them a valuable opportunity to truly start from scratch and place their mark upon the play as it evolves.”
The Department of Library and Information Sciences is expanding its online master’s degree program in library science through the newly funded project “ELMS: Educating Librarians for the Middle South.”
The goal is to educate librarians in the region with skills in digital curation and librarianship, data management, medical information, electronic resources management and other emerging technologies.
The scholarship program also is targeting students in Arkansas and western Tennessee who are from under-represented populations in librarianship or from rural areas.
Students are assigned to UNT librarians for mentoring, via videoconferencing and online communication, while completing 36 hours of online courses.
A joint project of the UNT Libraries and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Library in Little Rock, the program is co-directed by Yvonne Chandler, associate professor of library and information sciences, and Martin Halbert, dean of the UNT Libraries.
Regents Professor Ana D. Cleveland and Daniella Smith, assistant professor, also are working on the project, which is funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program.
Since 2000, the library and information sciences department has offered its online master’s degree in library science to areas in the U.S. with no nearby university offering the degree. Thirty-one students who participated in the department’s “LEAP: Library Education for the U.S.-Affiliated Pacific” program celebrated their graduation in Susupe, Saipan, in 2013.
UNT researchers have identified new compounds that may lead to drugs to treat forms of hereditary cardiomyopathy, a disease that weakens the heart and can lead to heart failure. The disease is the leading cause of sudden death in young athletes.
Alysha Joseph and Diana Wang, who were students at UNT’s Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science, worked with Douglas Root, associate professor of biological sciences, on the project. TAMS is a two-year residential program that allows talented students to complete their freshman and sophomore years of college while receiving the equivalent of high school diplomas.
Root, who has been researching cardiomyopathy and muscle contractile proteins for some time, says his research suggests that mutations make regions of proteins in the heart unstable.
“The idea occurred to us to see what kinds of compounds would bind to the weakened region, stabilize it and counteract the destabilizing effect of the mutations,” he says.
Joseph and Wang found that small positively charged polyamine compounds did stabilize the weakened region.
The researchers presented their work in Washington, D.C., at Posters on the Hill, an annual event hosted by the Council on Undergraduate Research. The project was one of 60 chosen from more than 800 applications for the 2013 event.
The UNT College of Visual Arts and Design’s ArtSpace Dallas celebrated its grand opening in February 2014. The gallery showcases works of the college’s students and renowned faculty and alumni, as well as exhibitions from UNT’s internationally acclaimed Texas Fashion Collection.
Located at 1901 Main St. in downtown Dallas, the gallery connects the UNT and Dallas arts and civic communities while providing a venue to promote acclaimed artists who have worked or studied at the university. It is designed to present experimental, pivotal and breakthrough projects, says Tracee Robertson, director of UNT Galleries.
ArtSpace Dallas complements the four campus galleries and UNT on the Square in Denton, which together feature more than 100 exhibitions a year.
The Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Institute of UNT presented its first Arab Film Festival — the first and only Arab film festival in Texas — in 2013, and this year’s festival is May 2-4 at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas.
Tania Khalaf, assistant professor of film and graduate of UNT’s M.F.A. program in documentary film, organized the festival after traveling worldwide with her own films. The inaugural event included award-winning films from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and other Arab nations, and a panel discussion about the role of media in reinforcing and breaking down stereotypes of the Arab world.
The festival furthers the mission of CAMCSI, the only academic research institute in the U.S. focusing on the study of contemporary cultural issues of the Arab and Muslim worlds.
Directed by Nada Shabout, associate professor of art history, the institute is designed to foster an appreciation and understanding of Arab and Muslim cultures. With UNT’s international studies program, it will offer an undergraduate Arab and Islamic Studies Certificate beginning this fall.
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