EVENT: Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush will receive the first University of Texas at Austin Latino Leadership Award for his public service and exemplary leadership.
WHEN: 6 p.m. Monday, March 30
WHERE: Room 212, MAIN Building, The University of Texas at Austin,
110 Inner Campus Drive, Austin, Texas 78712
President Bill Powers will present the award at this invitation-only reception for supporters of Latino issues and education at UT Austin.
Media are welcome to attend the reception.
BACKGROUND: Commissioner Bush earned his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 2003. In 2014 he became the first Latino elected as the commissioner of the Texas General Land Office. As Texas land commissioner, Bush works to ensure Texas veterans get the benefits they’ve earned, oversees investments that earn billions of dollars for public education and manages state lands to produce the oil and gas that is helping make America energy-independent. Bush also watches over the Alamo and preserves historical archives at the General Land Office that date back to the Spanish Empire.
The award was established by the Center for Mexican American Studies and the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies, housed in the College of Liberal Arts, to recognize the success of Latinos at the state, national and international levels. Future awards will be presented during Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.
AUSTIN, Texas — President Barack Obama has honored The University of Texas at Austin’s GeoFORCE Texas program with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, the highest such honor from the United States government.
GeoFORCE Texas, an outreach program of the university’s Jackson School of Geosciences, takes high school students from disadvantaged areas in inner-city Houston and rural Southwest Texas on field trips each summer throughout high school, visiting geologically significant sites across the country. As a result, potential geoscientists are introduced to the profession, and students from disadvantaged areas find a path to college and rewarding careers.
“We are thrilled that the president has honored the program,” said Jackson School Dean Sharon Mosher. “GeoFORCE plays such an important role in shaping and improving young lives, particularly from underserved populations. There is nothing more fulfilling for an educator than helping young people achieve their full academic and personal potential. GeoFORCE is a wonderful example of a program doing just that.”
Eighty percent of GeoFORCE participants are members of minority groups. Since its inception, GeoFORCE has been a robust success, with 100 percent of students graduating from high school; 96 percent going on to college; 94 percent staying in college through their sophomore year; 64 percent focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) majors — more than double the national average; and 16 percent majoring in geoscience — more than 50 times the national average.
The Presidential Award recognizes the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science and engineering — particularly those who belong to groups that are underrepresented in these fields. A GeoFORCE representative will receive the awards at a White House ceremony later this year, and the program will receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation.
“These educators are helping to cultivate America’s future scientists, engineers and mathematicians,” President Obama said in a press release honoring all of this year’s recipients. “They open new worlds to their students and give them the encouragement they need to learn, discover and innovate. That’s transforming those students’ futures, and our nation’s future, too.”
GeoFORCE began in 2005 and has served more than 1,500 students. The program is more than an introduction to the geosciences. It also offers high school students support through high school, help preparing for the SAT and ACT, guidance applying for college, and has awarded more than $2 million in scholarships. After high school, GeoFORCE continues to mentor students through college, into internships and the workforce.
View a video on GeoFORCE.
White House media release.
Saturday night, March 28, the UT Tower will go black in recognition of Earth Hour – a global event that raises awareness about humanity’s collective impact on the planet and how we can make a positive difference towards its preservation.
Only the clock faces and aircraft warning lights will remain illuminated.
This marks the sixth year that UT has participated in Earth Hour. Those wishing to participate more fully at work or at home are encouraged to turn off all nonessential lights to raise support for energy conservation.
Earth Hour was conceived in 2007 as a simple way to engage people in the issue of climate change. It has since expanded into a global phenomena that includes hundreds of millions of people. Organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature, the movement emphasizes the need for climate change awareness to extend beyond the day of the event and into the daily concerns of individuals and communities.
The following is a news release from The University of Texas System that can be read at: http://www.utsystem.edu/news/2015/03/27/fenves-named-finalist-president-university-texas-austin
AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas System Board of Regents has named Gregory L. Fenves the sole finalist for the presidency of The University of Texas at Austin.
The regents voted to select Fenves at a special board meeting Friday. The decision followed an executive session where regents considered potential candidates and the recommendations of a presidential search advisory committee that reviewed nominations and applications for the position. The regents met earlier this month to interview candidates to succeed William C. Powers as president. Powers will step down in June after serving a nine-year tenure.
Fenves has served as UT Austin’s provost and executive vice president since 2013. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the highest national honor awarded to engineers in the United States. Prior to being named provost, Fenves served for five years as dean of UT Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering. With more than 7,500 students and research expenditures exceeding $160 million a year, the Cockrell School is a top-10 ranked engineering school with nine internationally recognized undergraduate programs and 13 acclaimed graduate degree programs.
Before coming to UT Austin, Fenves, 58, served as chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was on the faculty for more than 20 years. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Cornell and his doctorate at UC Berkeley. He began his career as an assistant professor in civil engineering at UT Austin from 1984-87.
“I want to thank the regents for their careful deliberation on this very important decision,” said UT System Chancellor William H. McRaven. “We had an extremely impressive slate of candidates to consider and I believe we’ve made the right choice for UT Austin, its students, faculty and staff. Greg brings a formidable intellect and charismatic and strategic leadership to the position. UT Austin is one of the finest public research universities in the world and it deserves exceptional leadership, vision and an innovative spirit. I have no doubt that Greg brings all those to the table and I am excited to work with him to continue to support and advance the important work taking place at my alma mater.”
Fenves is an internationally recognized structural engineer whose research is focused on computational simulation of structures during earthquakes and technology for earthquake engineering. He led the development of an open-source software platform in structural and geotechnical engineering that has been widely used in universities and industry across the world.
“I am humbled and tremendously excited to be selected as the sole finalist for president of The University of Texas at Austin,” Fenves said. “UT Austin is unmatched in its potential to educate and inspire leaders. I would be honored to lead this university and work with the Chancellor, Board of Regents and all Longhorns and partners across Texas and the nation.”
During his time as provost, Fenves has overseen much of the administrative progress for the creation of the Dell Medical School. He also launched a “Campus Conversation” intended to redefine the residential college experience in the 21st Century by identifying the essential learning elements of a high quality degree and increasing the role of student discovery and research in undergraduate education.
As dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering, Fenves recruited 57 new engineering faculty, raised more than $300 million for the university’s $3.1 billion Campaign for Texas, and successfully led efforts to build the Cockrell School’s Engineering Education and Research Center—a state-of-the-art facility slated to open in 2017—which will be dedicated to interdisciplinary research and hands-on student projects.
“I am confident that Greg Fenves is the right person to lead UT Austin as we continue to position this great flagship university to be among the best in the world at teaching and research,” said Board Chairman Paul Foster. “Dr. Fenves is a gifted administrator and academician who has had a stellar record of leadership at two of America’s top public research universities. His passion for and dedication to UT Austin were evident in his interview and I am thrilled to begin this new chapter with him at the helm.”
Under state law, university governing boards must name finalists for a presidency at least 21 days before making an appointment. During that time, UT System leaders will be coordinating meetings, giving stakeholders the opportunity to hear from Fenves.
Fenves and his wife Carmel Martinez Fenves live in Austin and have two adult daughters.
About The University of Texas System
Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking research and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States, with nine academic universities, six health institutions and an enrollment of more than 214,000. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees, educates two-thirds of the state’s health care professionals annually and accounts for almost 70 percent of all research funds awarded to public universities in Texas. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $15.6 billion (FY 2015) including $3 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With about 90,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state. For more information, visit www.utsystem.edu.
The William P. Clements, Jr. Center for History, Strategy & Statecraft at The University of Texas at Austin is proud to present an address by U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.
When: Thursday, April 2, at 4 p.m.
Background: This event is sponsored by the Clements Center for History, Strategy & Statecraft, the LBJ School of Public Affairs, the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law, the LBJ Future Forum, the International Relations and Global Studies program, the Center for Politics and Governance, the College Republicans at Texas, the Alexander Hamilton Society, AEI on Campus, the International Affairs Society, and Women in Foreign Affairs.
As a member of the Armed Services Committee, Ayotte is a leading voice in Congress on national security issues. She has written legislation with senior members of both parties to create workable terrorist detention policies that keep Americans safe. And as part of her strong commitment to reducing wasteful spending, Ayotte has led efforts in the Senate to save over $1 billion in the Pentagon's budget — successfully passing legislation to stop the Defense Department from spending money on unnecessary programs.
Ayotte serves as chairwoman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, which oversees military readiness, military construction, base realignment and closure, and industrial operations, including shipyards.
The Clements Center draws on the best insights of diplomatic and military history to train the next generation of national security leaders. Established in 2013 with the support of distinguished policymakers and scholars, the Clements Center is a nonpartisan research and policy center uniquely positioned in the Office of the President.
The Clements Center honors former Texas Gov. Bill Clements and his leadership on national security during his service as deputy secretary of defense from 1973 to 1977. Clements managed the Pentagon and helped guide American national security policy during a critical time. He brought a deep appreciation for history to every aspect of his leadership, policies and decision-making.
The Clements Center carries forward Bill Clements’ legacy by:
- Teaching students how to integrate the wisdom of history with current challenges in national security, and prepare for careers as policymakers and scholars;
- Supporting research on history, strategy and national security policy; and
- Convening scholars and policymakers to improve our understanding of history, statecraft and national security.
The University of Texas at Austin has selected Hemlata Jhaveri as the new executive director of Housing and Food Service, a department in the Division of Student Affairs. Jhaveri will oversee the university’s 14 on-campus residence halls, university apartments and 11 dining and retail venues and will lead the university’s efforts to provide living and learning environments that support student success.
“With nearly 20 years of experience in higher education, Hemlata will be an asset in helping us provide the best and most innovative on-campus housing and food services. She clearly understands the university’s core purpose and values, being attentive to our students’ needs while working collaboratively with campus partners and faculty,” said Gage E. Paine, vice president for student affairs.
On-campus residence halls house 7,300 students and organize 1,850 events each year aimed at building community and supporting students. The associated dining and retail locations, which range from buffet dining to cafes to convenience stores, handle 25,000 transactions with the university community each day.
“We operate one of the most comprehensive student housing and dining programs in the country. With the higher education landscape and student profile continually changing, it will take a dynamic leader to stay ahead of the curve. Hemlata’s business savvy coupled with her commitment to student and staff success make her the perfect fit for this leadership role,” said Tom Dison, the senior associate vice president who oversees Housing and Food Service.
Jhaveri currently serves as director of administrative services for Housing and Food Service at the university and was the university’s director of residence life for four years. Prior to joining the Longhorn community, Jhaveri was an associate director of residence life at California State University, Chico. She also worked as an area housing coordinator at Illinois State University where she began her career as a resident assistant.
“It is an honor to be asked to lead one of the most well respected housing programs in the country. The department has a tradition of being student-centered, having strong academic and community partnerships and providing high-quality living environments. The Housing and Food Service staff takes pride in what they do and in serving our students. I am excited to build upon this culture of serving students and the university community,” said Jhaveri.
Jhaveri received a Ph.D. in education and human resource studies from Colorado State University, Fort Collins and a master’s of business administration degree from Illinois State University. She also earned a master’s of arts in English literature from the University of Mumbai and a bachelor of arts in English literature from Sophia College in Mumbai, India.
Jhaveri begins her new position June 1.
Despite alcohol advertising facing increasing regulatory pressure in the U.S. and abroad, new research from The University of Texas at Austin shows that advertising has little if any effect on overall alcohol consumption.
In a study published March 23, 2015 by the International Journal of Advertising, researchers have found that there is either no relationship or a weak one between alcohol advertising and total consumption of beer, wine and liquor. However, they found that advertising may be related to consumers’ choice of brands or categories of alcohol beverages.
The study, “Beer, Wine or Spirits? Advertising’s Impacts on Four Decades of Category Sales,” was authored by Gary Wilcox, professor in the Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations; and Eun Yeon Kang and Lindsay Chilek, both Ph.D. candidates in the Richards School.
Researchers studied per capita sales of alcohol beverages in the U.S. from 1971 to 2011. During this time, they found that per-capita consumption remained relatively constant, with changes only occurring only between the three categories of alcohol.
The study also found that alcohol advertising media expenditures for all alcoholic beverages have increased more than 400 percent since 1971. Researchers concluded based on theoretical perspectives and empirical evidence that total alcohol advertising does not affect overall alcohol consumption.
“Since the overall alcohol market is not growing, competition for a greater share of that market is intense and constant,” Wilcox said. “Brands try to increase their revenue through stronger, more innovative marketing efforts like advertising. For example, liquor brands that took advantage of the recent ability to advertise in the electronic media saw market share gains associated with their ad spending.”
Restricting or banning alcohol advertising comes at a time when total per-capita consumption of alcohol in the U.S. has remained fairly constant during the past 40 years. Placing bans on alcohol advertising in correlation with consumption has provided conflicting results. Several cities in the U.S. have recently passed bans on alcohol advertising. Los Angeles and Philadelphia now prohibit alcohol advertising on municipal property, and San Francisco prohibits alcohol advertising on public transportation.
Internationally, Turkey prohibits alcohol advertising and even the sale of alcoholic beverages in certain situations. In 2013, Russia banned alcohol advertising on TV, radio, the Web, public transportation and billboards and all print media.
Researchers suggest alternatives to banning alcohol advertisements might be to inform the public about the problems of alcohol abuse and misuse.
“Although criticisms of alcohol advertising and promotional methods abound, remedies that would restrict or overly regulate such communication activities usually do not have the desired effect of reducing consumption,” Wilcox said. “Instead, a more logical alternative would be to communicate as much information as possible to the public about the subject and encourage all viewpoints so our society makes an autonomous, rational choice regarding alcohol consumption.”
Event: Reception and news conference for the 88th annual Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays. Sponsors include The University of Texas at Austin’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Texas Men’s and Women’s Athletics, and the City of Austin.
When: Reception, 5-8 p.m., Friday, March 27; news conference begins at 5:45 p.m.
Background: The reception honors the commitment that the university, the City of Austin and community leaders make to promoting cultural diversity and engagement during the historic Texas Relays event.
News conference speakers include Steve Patterson, Texas men’s athletics director; Chris Plonsky, Texas women’s athletics director; Dr. Gregory Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement; Steve Adler, mayor, City of Austin; Marc Ott, city manager, City of Austin.
The reception will feature opening remarks by Anthony Snipes, assistant city manager, City of Austin; Mark Strama, head of Google Fiber’s Austin operations; and Teddy McDaniel, affiliate chief executive officer of the Austin Area Urban League. Kevin Carr, founder and chief executive officer of PRO2CEO, will serve as guest speaker.
Entertainment will be provided by Ballet Afrique Contemporary Dance Company and Austin radio personality/host DJ Kay Cali.
The City of Austin and the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement have been working with the community and local organizations to extend an enthusiastic welcome to athletes visiting for the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays, an annual track and field meet at Mike A. Myers Stadium. The predominantly African American crowd draws an estimated $8 million in tourism dollars to Austin. The 2015 relays are scheduled for March 25-28.
Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have used a combination of metabolic engineering and directed evolution to develop a new, mutant yeast strain that could lead to a more efficient biofuel production process that would make biofuels more economically competitive with conventional fuels. Their findings were published online in the journal Metabolic Engineering in March.
Beyond biofuels, the new yeast strain could be used in biochemical production to produce oleochemicals, chemicals traditionally derived from plant and animal fats and petroleum, which are used to make a variety of household products.
Hal Alper, associate professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, and his team have engineered a special type of yeast cell, Yarrowia lipolytica, and significantly enhanced its ability to convert simple sugars into oils and fats, known as lipids, that can then be used in place of petroleum-derived products. Alper’s discovery aligns with the U.S. Department of Energy’s efforts to develop renewable and cost-competitive biofuels from nonfood biomass materials.
“Our re-engineered strain serves as a stepping stone toward sustainable and renewable production of fuels such as biodiesel,” Alper said. “Moreover, this work contributes to the overall goal of reaching energy independence.”
Previously, the Alper team successfully combined genetically engineered yeast cells with ordinary table sugar to produce what Alper described as “a renewable version of sweet crude,” the premium form of petroleum. Building upon this approach, the team used a combination of evolutionary engineering strategies to create the new, mutant strain of Yarrowia that produces 1.6 times as many lipids as their previous strain in a shorter time, reaching levels of 40 grams per liter, a concentration that could make yeast cells a viable platform in the creation of biofuels. The strain’s high lipid yield makes it one of the most efficient organisms for turning sugar into lipids. In addition, the resulting cells produced these lipids at a rate that was more than 2.5 times as fast as the previous strain.
“This significant improvement in our cell-based platform enables these cells to compete in the biofuels industry,” Alper said. “We have moved to concentration values that begin to align with those in other industrial fuel processes.”
Alper and his team improved the performance of Yarrowia through a combination of metabolic engineering and directed evolution, which, like the process of natural selection, seeks to identify and cultivate the high-performing cells. In this work, the researchers recognized that cells with high lipid content would float to the top of a tube, whereas cells with lower lipid content would settle down to the bottom. The researchers used this “floating cell scheme” to identify the best-performing cells.
The researchers used these high-performing cells, cells that produced more lipids and at a faster rate, to obtain the final yeast with improved function.
“We were able to iterate the strain through a process of directed evolution, which involves mutation and selection, and with each cycle we were able to get things better and better,” Alper said.
In addition to using lipids for biofuels, the cell-based platform is able to produce oleochemicals, including nutritional polyunsaturated fatty acids, waxes, lubricants, oils, industrial solvents, cosmetics and a type of vitamin supplements called nutraceuticals.
The researchers’ method and platform are patent pending. Alper’s lab is continuing to work on ways to improve how the yeast strain converts sugar into lipids, and on the types of lipid products they can produce.
This research received funding from the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program, the DuPont Young Investigator Award and the Welch Foundation.
The University of Texas at Austin is committed to transparency and disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest of its researchers. Hal Alper has research funding from various government, nonprofit and private sector sources, including the National Science Foundation, the Welch Foundation and Shire Pharmaceuticals.
Luci Baines Johnson and her husband, Ian Turpin, have made a $1 million challenge gift to support the newly launched LBJ School Washington Center established by the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin.
The gift will be directed specifically to create fellowships and professional internship stipends for students entering the center's unique federal policy focused 18-month master's program. The gift challenges the LBJ School to raise an additional $1 million in matching funds to ensure the long-term success of the LBJ Washington Center, which will welcome its inaugural class this fall.
In a statement announcing their gift, Ms. Johnson said, "It was my father's desire for the school that bears his name to provide both academic and practical training of the highest caliber for careers in public service. We believe our gift will do just that by providing our LBJ students a Washington experience that will more fully prepare them to change the world around them for the better. The LBJ Washington Center will provide a ‘capitol’ opportunity for LBJ students. It is designed to equip a new generation of skilled, committed leaders who are prepared to work in the demanding public policy environment. Daddy's goal was always ‘to do the greatest good for the greatest number.’ We share his vision and therefore want to challenge LBJ alumni and friends of the LBJ Washington Center to help us achieve that by matching our $1 million gift. Together we can make an immediate impact on the quality of education for a new generation of public servants.”
"Luci and Ian's commitment to the LBJ School is extraordinary and will have a lasting impact," said Dean Robert Hutchings. "This gift entrusts us with significant resources to build the quality and reputation of the new LBJ Washington Center, helping to ensure that it flourishes as a platform for the LBJ School and UT Austin to play a more prominent role in the national policy discourse and, most importantly, recruit and educate the best and brightest students. On behalf of the students who will be their beneficiaries, I thank Luci and Ian for their continued dedication and for playing such a significant role in empowering a new generation of policymakers."
Larry Temple, chairman of the LBJ Foundation Board of Trustees, which supports the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the LBJ Presidential Library, said, “This generous gift is the latest manifestation of Luci and Ian’s abiding support for the LBJ School. Luci’s extraordinary personal commitment to the school has played a crucial role in building and sustaining the program since its inception almost 45 years ago. With this significant donation by Luci and Ian to support the new LBJ Washington Center program, they continue to demonstrate loyalty and commitment to the institution that bears her father’s name.”
Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, are definitely the “in” thing nowadays. Never before have highly capable drones been so inexpensive and widely available.
But with this new frontier comes problems, and how we proceed in terms of regulation will dictate whether the drone industry can take off in the United States.
Perhaps a perfect example of the problems that can arise came last August when nearly 100,000 football fans gathered at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin to watch the Longhorn football season opener.
Hovering above the stadium was a drone with blue and red blinking lights. The police watched as the drone shifted from one area of the stadium to another. When the drone’s operator finally recalled the device and landed it at his feet in a nearby parking lot, the police immediately took both drone and operator into custody.
The situation turned out to be no more menacing than a devoted, but ticketless, football fan trying to watch the game through the video feed on his drone. But the police could not have known this beforehand and had to treat the incident as a potential chemical, biological, or explosive attack on the multitude of gathered spectators.
As we enter an age of highly capable and increasingly autonomous drones purchasable for a few hundred dollars over the Internet, the intrusion at the football stadium will be replayed in various forms at sites all over the United States, some critical to security.
The great majority of these incidents will be accidental, such as the flyaway drone that recently crashed on the White House grounds. But in the early stages of a UAV incursion, it will be impossible to distinguish the accidental from the intentional, the benign from the malicious.
The distressing truth is that even consumer-grade drones can be rigged to carry out potent attacks against which our defenses will either be only weakly effective or so militarized that the defenses themselves will pose a threat to the surrounding civil infrastructure.
So what should the Federal Aviation Administration do? Let’s start with what they should not do.
Imposing restrictions on small UAVs beyond the sensible restrictions the FAA recently proposed would not significantly reduce the threat of rogue drones or their operators. But additional restrictions would shackle the emerging commercial drone industry.
Even the FAA’s current ban on non-line-of-sight drone control would be of little consequence to a criminal capable of modifying open-source autopilot software.
The best way forward is for the FAA to adopt simple measures that sharply reduce the risk of accidental or unsophisticated drone incursions, such as voluntary manufacturer-imposed geofencing.
For especially critical sites such as the White House, detection and tracking systems based on electro-optical sensors will be most effective, particularly those applying infrared sensor pattern recognition to distinguish a drone’s warm motors and batteries from a bird’s warm body.
A squadron of at-the-ready interceptor drones, guided by the tracking system, could snare the intruder in a net and haul it off.
Cities such as Paris, where drones seem to pop up regularly around nuclear plants and government buildings, could adopt a large-scale version of this system, deploying electro-optical sensors and interceptor drones at key sites across the city.
We should refrain from any more drastic measures than these until the threat of drones proves to be more of a menace than recent incidents, which were alarming but nonetheless harmless.
Todd Humphreys is an assistant professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin.
To view more op-eds from Texas Perspectives, click here.
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Following a national search, The University of Texas at Austin has named Celena Mondie-Milner director of New Student Services (NSS). Part of the Division of Student Affairs, the office oversees and coordinates UT Orientation for nearly 10,000 freshman and transfer students each year. In collaboration with campus partners across the university, NSS provides an engaging and comprehensive orientation experience that ensures students successfully transition, both academically and socially, to the Forty Acres.
“Celena understands the importance of creating a welcoming and inclusive learning environment for our students at UT Orientation from the moment they register,” said Gage E. Paine, vice president for student affairs. “Her leadership will play a critical role in helping us achieve our goal of increasing four-year graduation rates.”
For the past eight years, Mondie-Milner has served as director of orientation and new student programs at Clayton State University in Morrow, Georgia. During that time, she maintained overall satisfaction ratings between 94 and 97 percent for student and family orientation programs.
“With more than 15 years of progressive leadership experience, Celena clearly understands the university’s mission, the department’s purpose and our new student initiative. She will be able hit the ground running with UT Orientation just around the corner,” added Soncia Reagins-Lilly, senior associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students.
Throughout her career, Mondie-Milner has held a variety of higher education positions including student affairs director, instructor, coach, judicial hearing officer and minority success recruitment officer. A former track star, she won the gold medal for the 4 x 100 meter relay at the 1995 World Championships. She is also a 19-time NCAA All-American in track and field and a Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor recipient.
No stranger to Austin, Mondie-Milner lived here while training for the U.S. Olympic trials in track and field. During that time, she tutored and mentored student athletes on the Longhorn football team.
“I look forward to returning to the Forty Acres and leading UT Orientation. The commitment of student affairs and academics to work closely together in providing a holistic experience for undergraduate, transfer and graduate students is impressive. I am excited to be chosen for this very special opportunity,” said Mondie-Milner.
In addition to UT Orientation, Mondie-Milner will oversee several other NSS programs that promote student engagement, support academic success and develop student leaders throughout the year.
This May, Mondie-Milner will receive her Ph.D. in educational leadership from Mercer University. She received a Master of Education degree in leadership and organizational development and a Bachelor of Arts degree in speech communication from the University of Illinois.
Mondie-Milner will start her new position June 1. The first of 10 UT Orientation summer sessions begins June 8.
A psychology study from The University of Texas at Austin sheds new light on today’s standards of beauty, attributing modern men’s preferences for women with a curvy backside to prehistoric influences.
The study, published online in Evolution and Human Behavior, investigated men’s mate preference for women with a “theoretically optimal angle of lumbar curvature,” a 45.5 degree curve from back to buttocks allowing ancestral women to better support, provide for, and carry out multiple pregnancies.
“What’s fascinating about this research is that it is yet another scientific illustration of a close fit between a sex-differentiated feature of human morphology — in this case lumbar curvature — and an evolved standard of attractiveness,” said the study’s co-author David Buss, a UT Austin psychology professor. “This adds to a growing body of evidence that beauty is not entirely arbitrary, or ‘in the eyes of the beholder’ as many in mainstream social science believed, but rather has a coherent adaptive logic.”
This research, led by UT Austin alumnus and Bilkent University psychologist David Lewis, consisted of two studies. The first looked at vertebral wedging, an underlying spinal feature that can influence the actual curve in women’s lower backs.
About 100 men rated the attractiveness of several manipulated images displaying spinal curves ranging across the natural spectrum. Men were most attracted to images of women exhibiting the hypothesized optimum of 45 degrees of lumbar curvature.
“This spinal structure would have enabled pregnant women to balance their weight over the hips,” Lewis said. “These women would have been more effective at foraging during pregnancy and less likely to suffer spinal injuries. In turn, men who preferred these women would have had mates who were better able to provide for fetus and offspring, and who would have been able to carry out multiple pregnancies without injury.”
The second study addressed the question of whether men prefer this angle because it reflects larger buttocks, or whether it really can be attributed to the angle in the spine itself.
Approximately 200 men were presented with groups of images of women with differing buttock size and vertebral wedging, but maintaining a 45.5-degree curve. Men consistently preferred women whose spinal curvature was closer to optimum regardless of buttock size.
“This enabled us to conclusively show that men prefer women who exhibit specific angles of spinal curvature over buttock mass,” said the study’s co-author Eric Russell, a visiting researcher from UT Arlington.
This morphology and men’s psychological preference toward it have evolved over thousands of years, and they won’t disappear over night.
“This tight fit between evolutionary pressures and modern humans’ psychology, including our standards of attractiveness, highlights the usefulness that an evolutionary approach can have for expanding our knowledge not just of the natural sciences, but also the social sciences,” Lewis said.
Five state lawmakers who are also former collegiate student-athletes will discuss the influence of sports in society at an event sponsored by The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation.
Center Director and founder Daron K. Roberts, who is also a former NFL assistant coach, will moderate the panel.
When: Monday, March 23, 6 to 7 p.m.
Where: Room 212, Main Building, UT Austin campus
News media are invited to attend and cover the event.
WHO: Participants are:
- Sen. Royce West of Dallas, former football player at UT Arlington
- Sen. Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham, former golfer at Texas Christian University
- Rep. Travis Clardy of Nacogdoches, former basketball player at Abilene Christian University
- Rep. John Kuempel of Seguin, former football player at UT Austin
- Rep. Rick Miller of Sugar Land, former baseball player at the U.S. Naval Academy
Background: The Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation was established in 2014 to leverage UT Austin’s academic and sports capital in order to cultivate leadership and character reform among student-athletes across the country.
Its three primary areas of focus are implementing a certification program for high school coaches who want to better cultivate leadership and sound character traits in their student-athletes; developing curricula for college student-athletes on financial literacy and sound decision-making; and applying quantitative analyses to issues of sports management and strategy.
In light of President Barack Obama’s looming carbon regulations for existing U.S. power plants, it’s worth remembering that a comprehensive climate policy needs to do more than tackle smokestacks.
It also needs to do something about agriculture. And more broadly, Texans and the rest of the nation need to think more environmentally about the way they eat.
After fossil fuel combustion, agriculture is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the nation. Despite consuming 2 percent or less of our energy, agriculture generates 10 percent of our emissions.
And while other sectors of the economy are reducing emissions, agriculture is heading in the opposite direction. This trend is bad for Texas and the U.S.
Agriculture primarily emits two potent greenhouse gases, nitrous oxide and methane, from activities such as the application of nitrogen-based fertilizers, manure management and burps from cows. And, agriculture is a source of dust and precursors for air pollution.
But, agriculture often gets a pass when it comes to air quality laws.
Historians can debate why this happened in the past, but to allow it to continue by giving agriculture a pass on its greenhouse gas emissions would be a huge mistake moving forward.
Regulations on carbon emissions disproportionately affect states that rely heavily on coal-fired electricity such as Indiana and Illinois, while states such as Washington that rely on hydropower would not be noticeably affected.
By contrast, everyone in America eats, so putting a price on the carbon intensity of food would spread more uniformly across society so we all share in the benefits and costs.
It’s true that farmers will have to make adaptations, but through incentives we can make these revenue neutral for farmers who lower emissions.
If we were to put a price on agricultural carbon, consumers would face higher prices for more carbon-intensive foods, such as meat. The change would encourage healthy shifts in diet and could dramatically lower emissions, because meat is known to be much more carbon-intensive to produce than fruits, grains and vegetables.
The agricultural sector may balk, saying that holding it accountable for emissions the way we hold other sectors of the economy accountable will be bad for business. But this is not true. There are plenty of ways farmers can adapt to a lower carbon world and even find new revenue streams in the process.
Consider the 100 million tons of manure that livestock generate each year. Those piles are a major source of greenhouse gases and a major headache for farmers, who have to deal with economic, environmental and legal liability from odor and handling costs.
Those same mounds of manure, however, are potentially a rich source of biogas, which could offset 4 percent of our annual natural gas consumption. This might be one of the easiest, cheapest and fastest ways to produce a significant amount of renewable, low-carbon, domestic energy that is available around the clock.
Another big opportunity is to reduce food waste. Amazingly, anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of our food is wasted, which amounts to a tremendous, equally wasteful use of energy and emissions. We quite literally throw that food-energy right into the garbage.
Reducing food waste is a straightforward way to reduce energy and emissions from the food system, and it should save money for everyone along the entire food supply chain, from farmers to retailers to grocery shoppers.
Most important, certain land management techniques can sequester hundreds of millions of tons of carbon into soils each year. No one is better suited to do this at larger scale than the agricultural sector. Putting carbon back into the soil from conservation programs does society an important service, and farmers should be paid handsomely for it.
The time has arrived to tackle climate change in a comprehensive way. At a policy level, we have to stop giving agriculture a free pass. If we can drive more efficient cars, insulate our homes and use less coal, surely we can also reduce emissions from the food we eat.
Michael Webber is the deputy director of the Energy Institute at The University of Texas at Austin.
A version of this op-ed appeared in the Corpus Christi Caller Times.
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New op-ed on TP: We need to stop giving agriculture a free pass and reduce emissions from the food we eat. http://t.co/B8Ug66rAsx— Texas Perspectives (@TexPerspectives) March 19, 2015
The University of Texas at Austin Tower will be lit orange Wednesday, March 18 to honor the Texas Track and Field teams for winning both the men’s and women’s Big 12 Conference Indoor Championships. Photo courtesy of Texas Athletics.
The Tower will shine with orange lights Wednesday, March 18 to honor the Texas Track and Field teams for winning both the men’s and women’s Big 12 Conference Indoor Championships.
The Longhorns last swept the titles in 2006, but this year’s victories mark the first time a single school has won both the men’s and women’s titles at the Big 12 Conference Indoor Championships since 2012. This year’s women’s team successfully defended their 2014 title, and the men’s team returned to the conference’s top position after last winning the title in 2013.
After the title sweep, men’s head coach Mario Sategna’s peers selected him as the Big 12 Conference Men’s Coach of the Year, and sprinter Courtney Okolo was named the Women’s Indoor Track and Field Co-Outstanding Performer of the Year.
“Winning is going to continue to happen at the University of Texas at Austin,” Sategna says. “I think now more and more these athletes in that program are starting to see the light. They saw that if they pull together as a team and as a group there’s going to be some great things that happen.”
To win the Big 12 titles, the women’s team went toe-to-toe with Kansas State and pulled off the victory during the final four events with a 6.5 point lead. The men’s team, meanwhile, outperformed second-place Texas Tech by more than 40 points.
The Longhorns then competed in the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, where each team finished sixth overall.
During the NCAA championships, Courtney Okolo won the national title in the 400 meters race, and the Longhorns also won the national title in the women’s 4×400 meter relay with the No. 5 time in collegiate history.
When it comes to cellphones, we are no better than trained rats in a box.
Just the other day, I was stuck behind a driver playing with a cellphone while driving. I have gotten used to assuming that everyone doing something silly on the road is driving while distracted.
In Austin, San Antonio and several other Texas cities, it is illegal to text or hold a phone while driving. It is also illegal to hold a phone while driving in 14 states and to text while driving in 44 states.
So, why are people still using their phones while driving, even though most of us know it leads to hundreds of thousands of injuries in distracted driving crashes each year?
Because as it turns out, most of us are addicted to our phones.
In my introductory psychology class in college, my lab partner and I got a rat to train. The rat was in a small box with a small cup that could be filled with water and a bar on one side of the cage that the rat could press.
The rat was thirsty, so the water was a great reward. At first we gave the rat water when he went near the bar, then when he brushed it, next when he touched it, and finally when he pressed it.
After that, the ideal schedule of reward was to give it water about half the time it pressed the bar randomly. This schedule keeps the rat pressing the bar for a long time.
You create this schedule of reward for yourself with cellphone use. You pull your phone out at intervals that give you the reward of a new message about half the time you check it.
Once the habit is set, you start getting a serious craving to pull out the phone when too much time goes by. Cravings are painful, and so it is easy to give in and check the phone, particularly because the odds of crashing are small, even if they are vastly higher than they would be if you drove without texting.
Unfortunately no amount of information about the dangers of distracted driving is going to change people’s behavior. The habit to pull out the cellphone is at addiction-level strength.
Hefty penalties for distracted driving help a bit, but the odds of being pulled over are also low. It would send a strong message for all states to ban texting and require hands-free devices (although even talking on a hands-free device is still distracted driving).
It would also be valuable for the media to report more of the crashes that involve distracted driving, even when they do not involve fatalities.
Beyond laws and fines, what needs to happen is people need to protect themselves from themselves.
A key principle of changing behavior is to fix the environment to make desirable behaviors easy and undesirable behaviors hard.
If you’re a cellphone junkie, then create a new habit. Before you start the car, put your cellphone in the glove compartment or the console between the seats. Otherwise, you have about the same chance of keeping yourself from checking the phone while driving that a rat does of avoiding the bar.
Art Markman is a professor of psychology and marketing at The University of Texas at Austin and author of the book “Smart Change.”
A version of this op-ed appeared in the Austin American Statesman.
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Share this story on Twitter:March 17, 2015
People who recently have been infected with HIV may not be as highly infectious as previously believed, a finding that could improve global efforts to prevent HIV transmission and save lives. In particular, the finding bolsters the strategy of treating patients with antiretroviral drugs before the onset of AIDS to prevent transmission.
Mathematical epidemiologists Steve Bellan, a postdoctoral researcher at The University of Texas at Austin, and Lauren Ancel Meyers, a biology professor at the university, authored the paper with researchers from McMaster University and Yale University. The analysis was published today in the open access online journal PLOS Medicine.
A few weeks after people are infected with HIV, they enter a months-long acute phase of infection when levels of virus in the bloodstream spike. If left untreated, this is followed by a decade-long chronic phase of infection that precedes AIDS. The acute phase has been previously associated with elevated risk for spreading HIV, even higher than expected from the viral spike. Researchers have argued that a large portion — or even the majority — of HIV transmission may arise from individuals who have just been infected, but the new analysis finds that previous estimates of infectivity during this acute phase are likely to be too high. In fact, today’s report suggests one of the most commonly cited estimates could be as much as 20 times too high.
“We found that people are less likely to spread HIV to others during this early stage than has been believed for many years,” Bellan said. “Our new estimates imply that some novel strategies to control HIV may be even more effective, and it can help communities to direct public health resources to save more lives.”
Estimating infectivity during acute-phase HIV is notoriously difficult, and only one study, involving heterosexual couples in Rakai, Uganda, has ever measured it directly. The new study took two complementary approaches to estimate the additional risk of transmission during the acute phase. The first analysis used data from the Rakai study but accounted for differences among the couples that were ignored in earlier studies; the second analysis estimated infection risk from measurements of virus levels throughout the acute phase. Both approaches found that the risk of transmission is indeed higher during the acute phase than the chronic phase, but the amount of additional risk during the acute phase is equivalent to only eight extra months of chronic-phase infectivity. By contrast, the most commonly cited earlier estimates suggest that the HIV acute phase produces risk equivalent to 31-141 extra months of chronic-phase infection.
"One of the biggest challenges to eliminating HIV is diagnosing people before they have the chance to infect others,” Meyers said. “If newly infected people are not as infectious as previously believed, then we can be more optimistic about the global impact of HIV ‘treatment as prevention’ efforts."
An estimated 2 million people each year become newly infected with HIV, the disease that causes AIDS. Treating HIV-infected individuals with antiretroviral drugs not only prevents AIDS, but also makes them unlikely to infect others. In the past five years, policy has consequently shifted toward programs that aim to keep HIV infections from spreading across a population by administering antiretroviral treatment as a preventive strategy. However, individuals can only be treated once they are tested and diagnosed, and individuals rarely get tested within the first few months after infection.
Because of this lag between infection and diagnosis, these “treatment as prevention” programs are unlikely to prevent transmission from acutely infected individuals, and some have questioned whether the strategy prevents much of HIV’s spread. The new analysis suggests it’s less likely that newly infected patients could undermine the strategy’s impact. By contrast, programs focused entirely on early identification of the disease may not be as cost-effective as once thought for controlling HIV’s spread.
McMasters University’s Jonathan Dushoff and Yale University’s Alison Galvani were the other authors on the paper. The research, which was started at the 2013 International Clinics on Infectious Disease Dynamics and Data, was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the J.S. McDonnell Foundation.
A new method of testing the most common cause of life-threatening infection in people with cystic fibrosis could improve efforts to study and combat the illness.
The bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a leading contributor to hospitalizations, serious illness and early death for people with cystic fibrosis (CF). Scientists at The University of Texas at Austin have found a way to recreate conditions specific to the environment in which the bacterium spreads in the lungs of a person with CF, allowing them to identify several genes that appear to be necessary for its survival.
A description of the method and findings appear online today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In cystic fibrosis, a serious genetic disease that causes recurring lung infections, bacteria colonize a patient’s lungs, usually beginning in childhood, leading to difficulty breathing. One of the most dangerous of these bacteria is P. aeruginosa, which, within the unique mucus that forms in the lungs of a person with cystic fibrosis, develops into large, antibiotic-resistant colonies.
Although scientists first mapped the genetic structure of P. aeruginosa 15 years ago, efforts to pinpoint how it behaves during an infection and which genes would need to be turned off to stop its spread have been hampered in part by the difficulty of mimicking the unique conditions of a cystic fibrosis patient’s lungs. Experiments that model the bacteria in animal cells, for example, have shown that P. aeruginosa behaves and grows in certain ways only when it is in the infected lungs of a person with CF.
Marvin Whiteley, a professor of molecular biosciences, and his research team at The University of Texas at Austin explain in the paper how they applied new technology to bacteria thriving in actual samples of the mucus from CF lungs to model the behavior of the bacterium in that environment. The team was then able to test tens of thousands of mutations of two strains of P. aeruginosa, which helped them identify key ways the pathogen behaves during an infection and the genes that might be essential for reproduction.
“We’ve developed something other labs can replicate,” said Whiteley, who has used this method of studying the bacterium for over five years. “It allows researchers to do relevant experiments in a context that really matters.”
Scientists at other institutions studying the bacterium and its effect on people with CF said the research was important and indicated others will follow the lead of Whiteley’s lab. The new model allows researchers to run large-scale experiments in conditions that are much more like the actual places where the bacteria colonize, without requiring researchers to collect countless specimens of actual mucus, called sputum, from humans.
“For the past decade, we have understood that Pseudomonas is arguably the major colonizing infection for people with cystic fibrosis. For a long time we have studied Pseudomonas the way we study other pathogens,” said John LiPuma, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at the University of Michigan. “But the cystic fibrosis lung is extraordinarily complex. In the research community, we’ve got to develop systems biology approaches, such as this one, that take a more sophisticated approach to get us where we need to be.”
Others note that the ability to recreate conditions closer to the sputum in the lung of a CF patient will lead to better understanding of how different strains of the bacterium behave. It will also allow for easier identification of genes that contribute to the bacteria’s spread from patient to patient, and more meaningful scientific experiments to understand the bug’s resistance to antibiotics or identify new antimicrobial compounds that target specific genes necessary for maintaining these persistent infections.
“Most studies grow bacteria in test tubes in a rich growth medium they never see in the real world. It’s rather like studying lion behavior in a zoo rather than in its natural habitat,” said Steve Diggle, an associate professor of life sciences at the University of Nottingham. “What Marvin has done is to try and re-create the sputum that Pseudomonas grows in so we can see what genes are important for bacterial fitness in this environment.”
In addition to Whiteley, authors of the paper are Keith Turner, Aimee Wessel, Gregory Palmer and Justine Murray. Research support came in part from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics (UTIG) in the Jackson School of Geosciences have discovered two seafloor gateways that could allow warm ocean water to reach the base of Totten Glacier, East Antarctica’s largest and most rapidly thinning glacier. The discovery, reported in the March 16 edition of the journal Nature Geoscience, probably explains the glacier’s extreme thinning and raises concerns about how it will affect sea level rise.
Totten Glacier is East Antarctica’s largest outlet of ice to the ocean and has been thinning rapidly for many years. Although deep, warm water has been observed seaward of the glacier, until now there was no evidence that it could compromise coastal ice. The result is of global importance because the ice flowing through Totten Glacier alone is sufficient to raise global sea level by at least 11 feet, equivalent to the contribution of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet if it were to completely collapse.
“We now know there are avenues for the warmest waters in East Antarctica to access the most sensitive areas of Totten Glacier,” said lead author Jamin Greenbaum, a UTIG Ph.D. candidate.
The ice loss to the ocean may soon be irreversible unless atmospheric and oceanic conditions change so that snowfall outpaces coastal melting. The potential for irreversible ice loss is due to the broadly deepening shape of Totten Glacier’s catchment, the large collection of ice and snow that flows from a deep interior basin to the coastline.
“The catchment of Totten Glacier is covered by nearly 2½ miles of ice, filling a sub-ice basin reaching depths of at least one mile below sea level,” said UTIG researcher Donald Blankenship.
Greenbaum and Blankenship collaborated with an international team from the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and France.
Because much of the California-sized interior basin lies below sea level, its overlying thicker ice is susceptible to rapid loss if warm ocean currents sufficiently thin coastal ice. Given that previous work has shown that the basin has drained its ice to the ocean and filled again many times in the past, this study uncovers a means for how that process may be starting again.
“We’ve basically shown that the submarine basins of East Antarctica have similar configurations and coastal vulnerabilities to the submarine basins of West Antarctica that we’re so worried about, and that warm ocean water, which is having a huge impact in West Antarctica, is affecting East Antarctica, as well,” Blankenship said.
The deeper of the two gateways identified in the study is a three-mile-wide seafloor valley extending from the ocean to beneath Totten Glacier in an area not previously known to be floating. Identifying the valley was unexpected because satellite analyses conducted by other teams had indicated the ice above it was resting on solid ground. Special analysis of ice-penetrating radar data shows the bottom of the ice over the valley is smoother and brighter than elsewhere in the area — tell-tale signs that the ice is floating and being eroded by the ocean.
“Now we know the ocean is melting ice in an area of the glacier that we thought was totally cut off before,” Greenbaum said. “Knowing this will improve predictions of ice melt and the timing of future glacier retreat.”
In some areas of the ocean surrounding Antarctica, warm water can be found below cooler water if it is saltier and, therefore, heavier than the shallower water. As a result, seafloor valleys that connect this deep, warm water to the coast can especially compromise glaciers, a process previously known to be occurring along the coast of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Although glaciers in West Antarctica have received more attention in previous Antarctic studies, this work shows that similar processes are underway in East Antarctica where there is also the possibility for retreat into an interior basin. As in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, complete collapse of the Totten Glacier catchment may take many centuries, although the timing of retreat in both places is the subject of intensive research.
The UTIG team collected the data during five Antarctic field campaigns using aircraft loaded with equipment to analyze the ice and seafloor in regions that even icebreakers are unable to reach. The airplane was outfitted with radar that can measure ice several miles thick, lasers to measure the shape and elevation of the ice surface, and equipment that senses the Earth’s gravity and magnetic field strengths, which are used to infer seafloor shape.
The data for this study were gathered as part of the UTIG-led ICECAP (International Collaboration for Exploration of the Cryosphere through Aerogeophysical Profiling) project with support from the U.K.’s Natural Environment Research Council, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Australian Antarctic Division, as well as NASA’s Operation IceBridge, the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation, and the University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences. The ICECAP aircraft was operated under contract to the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics by Kenn Borek Air LTD., Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Co-authors on the study also include D.A. Young and T. G. Richter from The University of Texas at Austin; J. L. Roberts, B. Legresy, R. C. Warner and T. D. van Ommen from University of Tasmania and the Australian Antarctic Division; A. R. A. Aitken from The University of Western Australia; D. M. Schroeder from the California Institute of Technology; and M. J. Siegert from Imperial College London. Legresy has joint appointments at CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship and CNRS-LEGOS.