Category: Human Nature

Shepherd: Lessons on climate from Ebola outbreak

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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

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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.

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"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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Franklin faculty honored with Regents awards

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Two Franklin College professors along with the First-Year Odyssey program, which if you remember also originated in the Franklin College, were honored with excellence awards from the USG Board of Regents:

• William Finlay, Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor of Sociology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded the Regents' Teaching Excellence Award;
• Paula Lemons, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the Franklin College, is the recipient of the Regents' Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award;
• The university's First-Year Odyssey Seminar program has received the Regents' Teaching Excellence Department/Program Award, giving UGA three of the seven statewide awards.

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Finlay, Meigs Professor and former head of the department of sociology, has received numerous accolades for his work. He has been awarded many of UGA's highest honors for faculty, including the Sandy Beaver Award and the Lothar Tresp Outstanding Professor Award. Finlay also has been named a Senior Teaching Fellow by the Center for Teaching and Learning; a Research Fellow by the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts; and a Wye Faculty Fellow by the Aspen Institute.

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Next Science Cafe subject - Vaccinations

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SciCafe Vaccines.jpegAre vaccinations controversial? And what does that even mean when the vast majority of physicians are troubled by the so-called anti-vaccination movement. There is little doubt that the administration of antigenic material (aka vaccines) to stimulate an individual's immune system to develop adaptive immunity to a pathogen is responsible for the worldwide eradicaiton of smallpox and the diminution of polio, measles and tetanus. So... what's the controversy about? 

On Tuesday, September 16th at 7pm at Hendershot's Coffee Bar, the Athens Science Cafe presents "Immunize This! The Challenges of Vaccine Communications," led by Grady College professor Glen Nowak. Doors open at 6:30pm, and the event is free and open to the public. Athens Science Cafe is supported by the UGA President's Venture Fund, UGA Office of Academic Programs, UGA Science Library, UGA Public Service and Outreach, and UGA Biological Sciences. The Franklin College fully supports public discussions of science and/or any other topic where campus expertise can broaden confidence and understanding.

In the service of learning more about vaccines prior to next week's science cafe the NOVA special, "Vaccines -- Calling the Shots," premieres in the U.S. on Wednesday, September 10th at 9pm. Dr. Nowak was involved as a technical advisor in the production of this documentary. Check it out, get up to speed, come to Hendershot's and be a part of the discussion.

The Humanities: towards greater empathy

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News and current events today challenge us to be able to see the world from the persepctive of others. The more insulated we become - socially, economically, politically - the more difficult it can be to understand the broader issues and events swirling around us. Of course, an education steeped in the humanities can go a long way towards making us better people, better citizens who can relate to our fellow citizens constructively, who want to understand, who can access solutions outside of our own personal interest, experience or perspective. This connection is the focus of recent NYT opinion column:

Sir Isaiah [Berlin] argued for acknowledging doubts and uncertainty — and then forging ahead. “Principles are not less sacred because their duration cannot be guaranteed,” he wrote. “Indeed, the very desire for guarantees that our values are eternal and secure in some objective heaven is perhaps only a craving for the certainties of childhood.”

Second, John Rawls offers a useful way of thinking about today’s issues such as inequality or poverty, of institutionalizing what our society gravely lacks: empathy. He explores basic questions of fairness, leading to a compelling explanation for why we should create safety nets to support the poor and good schools to help their kids achieve a better life.

Rawls suggests imagining that we all gather to agree on a social contract, but from an “original position” so that we don’t know if we will be rich or poor, smart or dumb, diligent or lazy, American or Bangladeshi. If we don’t know whether we’ll be born in a wealthy suburban family or to a single mom in an inner city, we’ll be more inclined to favor measures that protect those at the bottom.

Though there is room and impetus to do so, it's not really necesary to try to re-position the humanities within the context of the 'Digital Age.' They are important in their own right and always will be as long as there remain any adherents to the first part of the word. Anyway, good essay, and we're always happy to see the humanities get some ink and pixels. They are important because we so declaim, because we decide we care about humanity. Classes are in session this morning in a variety of departments and programs, from anthropology and classics to linguistics, philosophy and religion, educating our students in the traditions on which stability, progress and justice in our modern world depend.

 

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