Category: Human Nature

Halloween edition


pumpkins_.jpgHaunted college campus lists aside, Happy Halloween everyone! What's better than a ghost-y campus - where do we think all that venerable tradition, character and culture comes from, anyway? - than a town that knows how to celebrate Halloween? Hopefully it's one of the many great experiences UGA students take with them wherever they go from here. Tonight's the night - although, in Athens tonight started one week ago and runs through Sunday - so get out and have fun.

Image: wonderfully carved Cucurbits in the grand tradition.

Faculty in the Media, October 2014


From the Ebola outbreak to the eclipse of the Hunter's Moon to securing the White House, Franklin faculty answered reporter queries and authored popular press articles on a variety of subjects. A sampling from over the past month:

UGA to share National Science Foundation grantTina Salguero, assistant chemistry professor, is on one of nine research teams across the country to share an $18 million NSF grant “to investigate the promise of 2-D layered materials.”  Salguero will work with three University of California-Riverside researchers.

Sea floors host surprise methane-munching microbes, reports  “This is a niche that has been completely unaccounted for,” said professor of marine sciences Samantha Joye.

Is U.S. ready for a pandemic?Bloomberg essay by associate professor of history Stephen Mihm:  “Although the likelihood of a large-scale outbreak of Ebola is almost immeasurably tiny, Americans have begun to ask, ‘Who, really, is in charge of snuffing out a potential epidemic?’”

Guest Op-ed by Athletic Association Professor of Social Sciences Marshall Shepherd in the Washington Post on the Lesson from the weather community on Ebola

“Of Myself I Sing” – A New York Times column on narcissistic posts on Facebook quotes psychology professor W. Keith Campbell that those who are narcissistic offline also narcissistically overshare online.

Distilling more than a century of American Indian history into a digital map – history professor Claudio Saunt’s online interactive map is “a lesson in the power of public history, and a case study for a profession grappling with how to encourage and evaluate digital experimentation,” writes the Chronicle of Higher Education in a feature story.

Study by Ashley Barr, a recent doctoral graduate in the department of sociology explores connections between romantic relationships, health – Health Canal

Seeking Congressional ‘Buy In’ – The approach of asking Congress to approve a military operation “isn’t what the Founders imagined whey they envisioned the powers of ‘war and peace’ in the new United States,” Stephen Mihm wrrote in Bloomberg View.

Northrop Grumman joins NOAA Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador Initiative – Space Ref. Marshall Shepherd, past president of the American Meteorological Society and UGA Athletic Association Professor participated in a panel discussion on Sept. 18

Weather Channel’s Sam Champion to headline event on climate change – AJC article says the event will feature a discussion with a panel of experts, including Marshall Shepherd, director of UGA’s Atmospheric Sciences Program

Humans altering climate is nothing new, but today's scale is more massive – ABH article quotes Victor Thompson, anthropology professor

Q&A on the News (Israeli and Palestinian situation) – AJC answer includes Kevin Jones, assistant professor  of history

Kanye West: Narcissist of the Day – Time Magazine article quotes Keith Campbell

“Heart, mind and eye – the art of Lamar Dodd” – The Saporta Report recalls the life of the eminent UGA-based artist and faculty member on the 105th anniversary of his birth.

Air Force removes God from chain of command – San Antonio Express-News column by Stephen Mihm, associate professor of history, for Bloomberg News, syndicated widely.

Kudos, October 2014


Signing_Reitz.jpgFranklin faculty and students continue to astound with extraordinary achievements and major contributions in scholarship, research and service. As sampling from the past month:

Elizabeth Jean Reitz was among one hundred-sixty four influential artists, scientists, scholars, authors, and institutional leaders who were inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences at a ceremony in Cambridge on Saturday, October 11.

Distinguished Research Professor of Physics and founding Director of the Center for Simulational Physics David Landau has been appointed to the Academic Advisory Council of the University of Heidelberg, Germany.

Wendy Zomlefer, associate professor of plant biology, received $74,385 from the National Science Foundation as part of a $2.5 million collaborative grant comprising 12 institutions, headed by Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.

Professor of industrial/organizational psychology Kecia Thomas was appointed associate dean for leadership development and diversity for the Franklin College.

Wenxuan Zhong, associate professor in the department of statistics, has been awarded a $1.44 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop predictive statistical models based on epigenetic change patterns.

A national exhibition at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, is highlighting the work of two alumni and one faculty member from the University of Georgia's Lamar Dodd School of Art.

Researchers in the department of psychology have developed a unique method of diagnosing the earliest stages of dementia by applying tasks commonly used to gauge levels of impulsive or risky behaviors related to financial decisions.

Melissa Harshman, associate professor in the Lamar Dodd School of Art and professor of psychology L. Stephen Miller will gain a deeper perspective on modern academic leadership as 2014-2015 SEC Academic Leadership Development Program Fellows.

The Academic Leadership Development Program Fellows program at UGA is part of the broader Academic Leadership Development Program of the Southeastern Conference.

University of Georgia researchers, led by Distinguishex Reseach professor and co-P.I. Michael Pierce have received a five-year $850,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to establish a glycoscience training program for pre-doctoral graduate students that will help train a new generation of carbohydrate researchers.

A team of students in the department of statistics recently won first place and $5,000 at the national SAS Analytics 2014 Conference in Las Vegas a national competition. The SAS Analytics Shootout Team from UGA is comprised of Wenbo Wu, Hejiao Hu, Linwei Hu, Lina Liao, Fei Liu, Xijue Tan, and Guannan Wang. Congratulations ot the team and faculty advisor Jaxk Reeves.

Image: Elizabeth Jean Reitz, Professor of Anthropology, signs the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Book of Members, a tradition that dates back to 1780.

Shepherd: Lessons on climate from Ebola outbreak


shepherd_crop.jpgAthletics Association Professor in the Social Sciences and nationally-recognized expert on climate Marshall Shepherd took to the pages of the Washingtom Post last week to point out connections between the latest Ebola outbreak and the challenges presented by climate change:

'State of the Art' exhibition includes UGA professor, alumni


crystal-bridges.jpgImagine you're a major research university, with aspirations for rising in the ranks. Everything from your endowment to annual extramural funding dollars can be included in quantifiable metrics you use to measure your progress. But there are other aspects of your impact that can be more difficult to quantify. For example, how good is the history department? How strong is your art school? Clear metrics on those endeavors rarely pop up, but when they do, as in a survey of contemporary artists in a national exhibition, we should take notice:

A national exhibition at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, is highlighting the work of two alumni and one faculty member from the University of Georgia's Lamar Dodd School of Art.

"State of the Art : Discovering American Art Now," on view through Jan. 19, features more than 100 American artists selected as the result of over 1,000 studio visits by Crystal Bridges curators who traveled the country seeking to discover artists whose work had not yet been recognized nationally.


"A large national exhibition featuring 100 prominent working American artists today provides a terrific survey of the creativity and inventiveness from across the country," said Chris Garvin, director of the Lamar Dodd School of Art. "To have three artists and one curator affiliated with UGA as part of this exhibition is a great distinction that places us at the forefront of artistic practice in the United States."

Just so, professor Garvin. What Crystal Bridges is attempting to do is very ambitious - create a national museum of international renown, deep in the heart of Arkansas - but what our art school is doing is no less ambitious. A very important constituent part of the learning environment in a major research university, a thriving art school would be missing if we didn't have one. But we do. 

Hispanic Heritage Month


choco.jpgAppreciation of the Hispanic culture that comprises such a great and growing part of the American fabric can certainly be an everyday ocurrence. But a monthlong celebration of rich cultural elements informing our campus and community is also in process, with events highlighting Hispanic Heritage Month:

The nationally recognized celebration is observed from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 and honors the many contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans in the U.S. while highlighting the diverse heritage and cultures of Latin America.

The theme for this year's observance is "A Legacy of History, a Present of Action and a Future of Success." Unless otherwise noted, the following events are open free to the public:

Sept. 30-"Ask Me About..." Students for Latin@ Empowerment will give away Mexican candy and have information about their organization available from noon to 2 p.m. on the Tate Student Center Plaza.

Oct. 1-Hispanic Scholarship Fund Celebration. The Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholar Chapter celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month by highlighting some of the many HSF alumni who are making their mark on history. The program will be held at 6 p.m. in Room 350 of the Miller Learning Center.

Oct. 4-Fiesta. The Athens-Clarke County Library hosts stories, music, a Don Quixote skit, crafts and more from 2-4 p.m.

Oct. 7 and 9-Film Screening: Chocó by Jhonny Hendrix Hinestoza. The film tells the story of a young Colombian woman who raises her children alone by working in a gold mine. A question-and-answer session with the director will follow. Admission is $9.75 or $7.50 for students. Oct. 7 screening will be at 8 p.m. at Ciné. The Oct. 9 screening will be at 6 p.m. at the Georgia Museum of Art.

Oct. 8-Film Screening: Cesar Chavez. The film looks at the American farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association. The screening will be held at 7 p.m. in the Tate Student Center Theatre.

Oct. 11-ALCES Open House. The Athens Latino Center for Education and Services showcases the various services offered to the Hispanic population in North Georgia. There will be food, music and door prizes from
1:30-4 p.m. at ALCES, which is located at 445 Huntington Road.

Oct. 11-Pueblos Originarios: Un Festival Artesanal. Arts and crafts inspired by the indigenous peoples of the Americas as well as food and music from all over Latin America will be showcased from 1-5 p.m. at the Pinewoods Library and Learning Center, 465 U.S. Highway 29 North.

Oct. 12-Book Fiesta With Lucha Libre. Share stories and make a luchador mask from 3-4 p.m. at the Athens-Clarke County Library.

More events at the the link. Franklin's LACSI and the romance languages department lead the way in planning these important celebrations and we are fortunate to have these vibrant organizations that both draw great students and faculty to campus and broaden the academic environment to more accurately reflect American values. Come out and enjoy some of these events, which cross into music, language, art, literature, food and film just like Hispanic culture does in real life. Voila, no boundaries at all.

Jessica Kissinger: making research usable


Jessica_Kissinger.jpgGreat opportunity to feature not just one of our star faculty members, but also an emerging challenge for all researchers everywhere in this era of big data:

Jessica Kissinger is a molecular geneticist whose research on the evolution of disease and the genomes of eukaryotic pathogenic organisms—Cryptosporidium, Sarcocystis, Toxoplasma andPlasmodium (malaria) among them—has led her to perhaps the emerging issue among research scientists: managing data.

"To solve a complex problem like a disease, whether you're looking for a new drug target or just trying to understand the basic biology of an organism, how it interacts with its host, you have to bring together a lot of data sets," Kissinger said. "You want to be able to take the expertise of the community at large, with individually generated pieces of the puzzle, and then try to stitch them into a quilt that creates a better picture."

Kissinger's local community at UGA includes the genetics department, the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases and the Institute of Bioinformatics, where she serves as director. But her focus is the wider world of scientists and helping make the data they produce more accessible, sharable and reusable.

"So many resources go into generating some of these highly specialized data sets, with very difficult to work with and hard to culture organisms, and publishing your results doesn't necessarily make the data usable," she said. "I work on that usability part-taking data generated elsewhere and integrating it to help others access it and use it well."

Our researchers and those around the U.S. world now produce mountains of publicly available data that must be managed and archived properly in order to be utlized by other researchers. It's the way we build on scientific discovery now - whether it is about DNA of nutirents in deep ocean plumes or T-cells in the body - and the shoulders of giants now include alot of 1s and 0s. Kudos to Kissinger for maintaining her own lab investigations while also giving full force attention to bioinformatics practices that are the steps to the next great heights.



Faculty in the Media, September 2014


Franklin faculty continue to be reliable sources of expertise and explication on the most pressing issues of the day. A sampling of quotes and reports on UGA research:

Professor comments on plagiarism charge – If author Rick Perlstein is guilty of plagiarism, “it was a minor transgression,” said Peter Charles Hoffer, Distinguished Research Professor of History.  Perlstein is being accused of the charge after the release of his new book, The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan.

African nations’ “cordon sanitaire” is a medieval move in the fight against Ebola – Bloomberg column by  associate professor of history Stephen Mihm, carried in the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and elsewhere, discusses the use of military force to isolate infected areas.

Of Myself I Sing” – A New York Times column on narcissistic posts on Facebook quotes psychology professor W. Keith Campbell that those who are narcissistic offline also narcissistically overshare online.

Study finds thunderstorms worsen asthma, allergy symptoms – R&B article quotes professor of geography Andrew Grundstein

Canola genome sequence reveals evolutionary 'love triangle' – Biodiesel Magazine article mentions Andrew Paterson, Regents Professor and director of UGA’s Plant Genome Mapping Laboratory)

Audubon Society to host presentation on use of drones for mapping – ABH (article mentions Thomas R. Jordan, associate director of UGA’s Center for Geospatial Research)

Artists' Guild to host juried show – Spartanburg Herald article mentions Scot Belville, a professor in the Lamar Dodd School of Art

UGA researchers are part of a team that has grown the first fully functional organ, reports WXIA-TV regarding work by UGA genetics professor Nancy Manley.  

“Growing science: UGA scientists part of team that grew new organ in mouse” – Front-page feature in today’s Athens Banner-Herald focuses on research by a team that includes genetics professor Nancy Manley.

“World is on the brink of an unprecedented wave of extinction,” says Mark Farmer, professor and director of the division of biological sciences in the opening lecture of a campus series on impacts humans are having on the world.  Article in the ABH.

Local students learn about civil rights – ABH column mentions sociology professor Keith Parker traveled with high school students to Mississippi for the Fourth National Civil Rights Conference

Incredible shrinking airline seats – The recent controversy over tightly-packed, reclining airline seats is examined in light of history.  The same problems occurred a century ago on America’s trains, writes associate professor of history Stephen Mihm in Bloomberg.

Is the ice bucket challenge narcissistic? – “What harm does a selfie or Youtube video do if millions of dollars are raised for medical research,” asks the BBC.  Psychology professor Keith Campbell says this is where narcissism is met with reward and there can be negative aspects.

Guest column: Tracking science behind Ebola drug – ABH colum written by Mark Farmer, professor of cellular biology

Why use of Native American nicknames is an obvious affront – ESPN/ABC News article mentions research conducted by Claudio Saunt, UGA’s Richard B. Russell professor in American History

Robot Dramas: Autonomous Machines in the Limelight on Stage and in Society – Huffington Post article quotes David Saltz, department head and professor in Theatre and Film Studies  

“Trust in others and confidence in societal institutions are at their lowest point in over three decades,” says a report running nationally via Associated Press about research by a team including psychology professor Keith Campbell and assistant professor Nathan Carter.

Experienced leader takes helm of fast-growing School of Computing – Powdersville (SC) Post article mentions Eileen Kraemer, the new Tycho Howle Director of the School of Computing at Clemson Univ., former associate dean in the Franklin College

Kudos, September 2014


finlay_lemons.jpgGreat work by our faculty continues, followed by honors and awards that bring distinction to the Franklin College and UGA. A sampling from the past month:

Georgia Sea Grant and UGA units including Marine Extension and the Lamar Dodd School of Art were presented with a national award for guiding the creation of the Tybee Island Sea Level Rise Adaptation Plan

Associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology Paula Lemons (above, right) received the Regents' Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award and Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor of Sociology William Finlay (above, left) was awarded the Regents' Teaching Excellence Award.

Professor of Spanish Luis Correa-Díaz was named US-based Member of the Academia Chilena de la Lengua (correspondant of the Real Academia Española de la Lengua).

The American Statistical Association presented its Founders Award to Lothar Tresp Honoratus Honors Professor in the department of statistics Christine Franklin.

The National Poetry Series announced the five winners of its 2014 Open Competition, which included "Let's Let That Are Not Yet: Inferno" by the Ed Pavlić, a professor of English and creative writing.

A team of scientists including researchers from the department of genetics has grown a fully functional organ from scratch in a living animal for the first time.

Sunkoo Yuh, an associate professor in the Lamar Dodd School of Art, placed second in the 2014 Virginia A. Groot Foundation competition. 

Professor of genetics Jessica Kissinger received a Brazilian Special Visiting Professor Award from Brazil's national science research agency, the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, as part of its "Science Without Borders" program.

Changes in the Life Sciences


Integrated_Life_Sciences_2dai.jpgNot the sciences themselves, but a new UGA graduate education approach. The Integrated Life Sciences:

giving entering graduate students in the life sciences one of the nation's broadest range of research opportunities through its redesigned and expanded Integrated Life Sciences program.

More than 50 students recently started their studies in the relaunched program, which allows them to gain hands-on experience in three labs before selecting a major professor and research focus. The students can choose those labs from among a slate of more than 200 faculty members and 14 participating doctoral programs in four different colleges.

Nancy Manley, director of the program and a professor of genetics in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, explained that the remodeled ILS program expands upon the concept of umbrella programs, in which multiple departments partner in graduate recruitment. Students in the ILS program can rotate through labs in fields as disparate as entomology, biochemistry, infectious diseases and plant biology, for example, or explore interdisciplinary topics such as cancer, climate change, evolutionary biology or neurosciences.

Distinguished Research Professor Allen Moore of genetics gets even more explicit about the issue:

"The problem with graduate education in the U.S. is that we are stuck with a format that was invented in the 1950s when we had botany and zoology. That is not what modern scientists do," Moore said. "What we really do is use techniques from all over the biological sciences and use model organisms anywhere from plants to insects to microbes. We're not stuck in those departments any more."

This is a good sign of response and evolution on the part of faculty leaders who design our graduate programs. As leading-edge researchers, they know where the science is moving and hence the kind of broad expertise they want to hire. Beginning a formal process of training our graduate students for success in the field today is a great acknowledgement of an institutional willingness to change. More opportunities for the most promising graduate students is a priority.

Here's a video of Dr. Manley and some of our students talking about the ILS program.

Image: Jin Dai, a first-year student in the Integrated Life Sciences program, speaks to Jonathan Eggenschwiler, assistant professor in genetics, during a meet-and-greet, courtesy UGA photo services.