Category: International

Building on Big Data

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BigData.jpgAt the turn of the millennium, the cost to sequence a single human genome exceeded $50 million and the process took several years. Today, researchers can sequence a genome in a single afternoon for just few thousand dollars. Technological advances have ushered in the era of “Big Data,” where biologists collect immense datasets, seeking patterns that may explain important diseases or identify drug and vaccine targets. But what to do with it? Making data easy to find, use, access and organize for researchers has become one of the biggest challenges for science. But scientists, government funding agencies and universities working to keep up just received some great new support:

A genome database team led by University of Pennsylvania and University of Georgia scientists has been awarded a new contract from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease worth $4.3 million in 2014-2015. Assuming annual renewal, this five-year award is expected to total $23.4 million.

The team has been responsible for developing genome database resources for microbial pathogens, including the parasites responsible for malaria, sleeping sickness, toxoplasmosis and many other important diseases.

The new contract ensures work will continue on the Eukaryotic Pathogen Genomics Database—known as EuPathDB—to provide the global scientific community with free access to a wealth of genomic data related to microbial pathogens important to human health and biosecurity. EuPathDB expedites biomedical research in the lab, field and clinic, enabling the development of innovative diagnostics, therapies and vaccines.

EuPathDB receives over 6 million hits from 13,000 unique visitors in more than 100 countries each month. Dr. Kissinger, principal investigator from UGA, puts it well:

"The costs and time required for genome sequencing have plummeted in the past 10 years thanks to advances in technology," Kissinger said. "Organizing this data, maintaining it in a way that is accessible and easy to use for researchers around the world, 24 hours a day, is our great challenge-and one that presents exciting opportunities for funders and other philanthropic organizations that support pathogen research."

We're excited for the UGA team, their colleagues at UPenn and the UGA Institute of Bioinformatics, which provides most of the systems administration for the entire EuPathDB - a feat in and of itself. Congratulations to these scientists working beyond their fields to strengthen research into all fields - the vast expansion of data capacity, sharing and transfer has probably had the greatest impact on science as a whole since the invention of the microscope. More on Kissinger and her work here.

 

Linguistics PhD grad wins international dissertation prize

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MUnze.gifCongratulations to Dr. Mark Wenthe, currently a parttime instructor at UGA and also a recent PhD alumnus in linguistics in the department of classics, who won an international competition for best dissertation for the year 2013 from the Society of Indo-European Studies (Indogermanische Gesellschaft).

Wenthe's dissertation, ISSUES IN THE PLACEMENT OF ENCLITIC PERSONAL PRONOUNS IN THE RIGVEDA, among the four canonical sacred texts (śruti) of Hinduism known as the Vedas, actually shared the award with Konstantinos Sampanis from the Univ. of Salzburg (Austria). Both scholars received full marks for their work.

Congratulations as well to Jared S. Klein, professor of linguistics, classics, and Germanic and Slavic languages director, program in linguistics in the department of classics. Our scholars are making an impact around the world, as their work is celebrated, noted and honored. Congratulationd again on this outstanding achievement.

UGA wins best delegation at SE Model African Union

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UGATeam MAU.jpgOutstanding accomplishment by this group of UGA undergraduates:

A delegation of seven undergraduate students representing the University of Georgia at the 18th Annual Southeast Model African Union simulation at Clayton State University won the best delegation award recently.

The UGA students represented the African nation of Burkina Faso at the program. As the winning team, they will compete at the National Model African Union held in February at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

The SEMAU simulation is a student-centered undertaking designed to help students gain valuable knowledge of diplomatic codes of behavior as well as enhance their leadership aptitude. The simulation exposes students to a wide array of issues relating to Africa, including political, economic, socio-cultural, security as well as environmental matters. It contributes to students' understanding of the capabilities and limitations governments in Africa face in dealing with various challenges.

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The UGA team members, their hometowns and majors, were: 
• Tifara Brown, Ocilla, management information systems and international business 
• Sainabou Jallow, Sugar Hill, international affairs and economics
• Lisa Traore, Bayreuth, Germany, international affairs and German
• Rita Ebhaleme, Loganville, international affairs
• Tyler Smith, Decatur, journalism
• Ryan Kelley, Conyers, international affairs
• Faisal Gedi, Stone Mountain, computer systems engineering and management information systems

Congratulations all, and especially to their faculty advisors Akinloye Ojo and Karim Traore.

Image: UGA students, Left to right: Ryan Kelley, Sainabou Jallow, Tifara Brown, Rita Ebhaleme, Lisa Traore, and Tyler Smith (Faisal Gedi, not pictured)

African Humanities Scholar Musila at UGA

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Musila.pngThe intersection of current events that hold popular fascination with wider cultural truths and observations is a societal phenomenon tailor-made for our finest scholars and critics. What our stories, and the way we tell them, say about us can offer insights about the direction of a culture toward honesty about itself.

This week, the African Studies Institute will host one of the great young African cultural scholars, Grace Ahingula Musila, American Council of Learned Societies and African Studies Association Presidential Fellow:

Musila's visit to UGA includes a public lecture Nov. 12 at noon in Room 142 of the Tate Center.

The lecture, "Sex, Gender and the ‘Criminal State' in the Julie Ward Murder in Kenya," will focus on the 1988 murder of a British tourist at the Maasai Game Reserve in Kenya and "the multiple strands of ideas and interests that were inscribed on the Julie Ward murder and what these reveal about cultural productions of truth, knowledge and social imaginaries in Kenya and Britain," Musila said.

Musila teaches in the English department of Stellenbosch University in South Africa. She holds a doctorate in African literature, and her research interests include East African and Southern African literatures, popular culture and gender studies.

A great program that brings important scholars to campus, The African Studies Association Presidential Fellows Program was instituted in 2010 with the objective of inviting outstanding Africa-based scholars to attend the ASA annual meeting and spend time at African studies programs and centers in the U.S. 

This lecture will be a terrific opportunity to learn about the Ward case from a scholar who is untangling some of the deep complexities of the post-colonial era. 

Study Abroad Fair Oct. 9-10

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In 1970, there were two study abroad programs at UGA - the Classics program in Rome and Lamar Dodd School of Art program in Cortona. Now, there are programs in [at least] 27 different locations around the world. Students can explore these opportunities for the next two days at the Study Abroad Fair in the Tate Center:

Organized by the Office of International Education, the fair will feature opportunities for students to study, intern, travel or volunteer abroad. Some 80 exhibitors will showcase programs led by UGA faculty, at UGA residential centers, at international partner universities and those offered by both external providers and other organizations involved in international education.

The fair will provide students with the opportunity to explore multiple program options, pre-departure preparation, dates and costs as well as practical information about pursuing academic or work experiences abroad. It is open free to the public.

"The Study Abroad Fair is a unique two-day event designed to help students get a feel for various global opportunities available to them during their time at UGA by simply browsing various tables and speaking with exhibitors," said Yana Cornish, director of education abroad in the Office of International Education. "I hope many will take advantage of this event."

In 2013, the fair attracted 85 program exhibitors representing all regions of the world and was visited by nearly 1,500 attendees.

Here's a short video of a longer documentary celebrating the Classics Program in Rome. Looks like fun.

 

 

 

Rethinking the Parthenon - symposium Oct. 17

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parthenon.jpgIt's one of the world's great iconic structures, a cultural symbol as well as an artifact and a living presence in one of the world's great metropolises. Even from a distance, the Parthenon inspires, compels and provokes as it connects past to present. All this and more awaits at an upcoming international symposium at UGA on the restoration of the great structure:

"Rethinking the Parthenon: Color, Materiality and Aesthetics" Oct. 17-18.

The international symposium will bring scholars to UGA to present recent research on the Parthenon, a temple built for the goddess Athena on the Acropolis of Athens between 447 and 432 B.C. 

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The symposium will focus on three interrelated aspects of the Parthenon: its color, its materiality and its aesthetics. New interdisciplinary research in London and on the Acropolis in Athens has uncovered remains of ancient painting on the sculptures and architecture of the Parthenon. These discoveries add new insights to old discussions of the building's decoration. The diversity of the Parthenon's construction materials, including white marble, bronze, ivory, gold and pigments are of critical importance, the complex symbolism and material aesthetics of the religious use of these materials.

Robin Osborne, a professor of ancient history at Cambridge University, will deliver the keynote speech, "The Parthenon as a Work of Art," Oct. 17 at 5:30 p.m. in the M. Smith Griffith Auditorium at the Georgia Museum of Art following a 5 p.m. reception.

The stories codified in Greek architecture are myriad and it's no surprise that more have been uncovered in the restoration at the Acropolis. Classical culture is alive in so many ways; come out and be a part of what are sure be fascinating discussions.

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.

Speaking and Listening: Romance Linguistics colloquium

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Make-a-Water-Drop-Sound.jpgIf you had to learn to speak Italian or Spanish with only a dictionary, could you do it? Phonemes are distinct units of sound in a specified language that distinguish one word from another, for example p, b, d, and t in the English words pad, pat, bad, and bat. So... consonants are one thing, but vowels can be a completely different story. You have to love this stuff and our Romance Languages faculty does. On Thursday at 4 p.m. in Gilbert 115, the department presents a Romance Linguistics colloquium featuring assitant professor of linguistics Peggy Renwick:

“Phonological closeness between phonetically distinct vowel phonemes”

Standard Italian has seven vowels: /i e ɛ a o ɔ u/. But how strong is the distinction between /e/ vs. /ɛ/ and /o/ vs. /ɔ/? Do people really speak like the dictionary prescribes? Our study investigates the validity of the conventional descriptions of Italian and probes the correspondence between speakers’ productions and their intuitions, with the ultimate aim of understanding how such cases can be incorporated into theories of phonological contrast and historical change.

Just so. More information on Dr. Renwick's work here. Language is a wonderfully, maddeningly evolving tool that gives force to our thoughts and voice to our emotions. It is the path to comprehending the world, yourself and your place in the world - even if you only speak one language. The best we can do is to continue to improve our understanding of its power. How does that sound?

Bella.

2014-15 Fulbright grants

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Of the twelve University of Georgia students who were awarded international travel-study grants from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program for the 2014-2015 academic year, the Franklin College is well represented:

This is UGA's second highest total of Fulbright recipients.

Eight of the students accepted the scholarships. Recipients of the U.S. Student Full Grants, which cover research, study and creative opportunities, include three students who recently earned undergraduate degrees at UGA: 2013 graduate Christian Conroy of Roswell; 2011 graduate Winn Davis of Savannah; and 2009 graduate Brett Heimlich of Alpharetta.

Two students who recently earned master's degrees at UGA also received Full Grants: Sara Hobe of Fresno, California; and Lauren Satterfield of Atlanta.

English Teaching Assistantship Grants, which place recipients in K-12 schools and universities to serve as language-learning assistants, were given to three students who recently earned undergraduate degrees at UGA: Tiffany Brown of Warner Robbins, DeAnne Cantrell of Douglasville, and Christine Pardue of Cleveland.

The largest U.S. international exchange program, Fulbright grants allow our students to work in communties throughout the world while continuing their education.

Pavlic on Palestine

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Creative writing professor and poet Ed Pavlić just returned from the West Bank, where he toured the region with other writers as well as government and NGO officials. He offers some poignant observations about the current conflict in this piece for Africa Is A Country:

I know. It’s the oldest of old hats to note the distended shapes American journalism creates to preserve the Israel-first, false impression of some symmetry or parity between interests and powers in the contested territory split, shared, and struggled over by people known as Palestinians and Israelis. Even the names are disputed. Many Palestinians would refute the idea of “Israelis” and simply say Jews. Many Israelis have contended that, in fact, there are no “Palestinian” people. It’s territory—rhetorical, ethical, religious, ethnic, and geographic—so complexly, at times, hideously, contested that many people in the West, certainly in the U.S., simply look away. As a person who, since childhood, has lived a life athwart American racial codes and territories, I’ve always kept an eye on Israel / Palestine for the focused, if challenging, clarity it can offer one’s perspective on American experience. That might sound strange. But, it’s true. In a recent tour of the West Bank with the Palestinian Festival of Literature, in fact, I found much clarified.

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There’s active and latent anger and violence everywhere in the region. But, according to these sources, even in so-called “Palestinian” territory (occupied by and often under the control of Israeli military personnel), there’s absolutely no parity in the legal, military, and social contests between Israeli power and Palestinian struggle. One is a contemporary bureaucratic state whose legal system vigorously operates to sustain and increase its hold on geographic territory and is possessed of a cornucopia of surveillance and weapon systems to back it up. The other is a disparate array of factionalized, anti-colonial resistance that uses smuggled and home-built weapons when not employing such high-tech systems as slingshots and cutlasses or simply throwing stones. Simply put there’s no contest here.

Friends of Israel do it no favors with our silence. The crisis continues, with news harder to come by as journalism suffers beneath its own conventions. Thanks to Pavlić for trying to elucidate some of the underlying conditions. Be sure and read the whole thing.