Category: science

Next Science Cafe subject - Vaccinations


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.

Science Learning Center: breaking ground


UGA-ScLC-rendering.jpgThe D.W. Brooks mall on South Campus is about to [begin to] change for the better, with much-needed science instruction space in the new Science Learning Center:

The University of Georgia will break ground on its newest building-the 122,500-square-foot Science Learning Center-on Aug. 26 at 11:30 a.m. at the south end of the S10 parking lot located just off Carlton Street.


The Science Learning Center will be situated on South Campus adjacent to Pharmacy South and across from the Miller Plant Sciences Building. Funded by Deal and the Georgia General Assembly, the center will cost $44.7 million and be designed around an environment that promotes active learning.

The building's 33 instructional labs will be designed specifically for interactive learning in core undergraduate science courses. The Science Learning Center also will contain two 280-seat lecture halls and two 72-seat SCALE-UP classrooms. SCALE-UP stands for Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs, a learning model that focuses heavily on group-work class participation and technology-making student-to-student and student-to-teacher interaction easier in a larger class setting.

The building is scheduled to open in fall 2016.

Okay, that seems like a long way off but it will be here before you know it. Great news for students and faculty in the sciences, which more than ever, venture into many more disciolines than we have traditional associated with only chemistry or biology. But definitely for all our science majors, this new building is a welcome new addition to the campus learning environment.

Image: A rendering of the Science Learning Center shows how the new building will be situated on UGA's South Campus.


Microscopic photos spotlight the art of science


thale cressWhile they are often identified as poles, a spectrum or even a line of demarcation from one kind of investigation into another, science and art can and occasionally do cohabitate, as in the case of UGA research scientist Stefan Eberhard, who utilizes scientific instrumentation for creative purposes:

2014 CURO Symposium


Once again the best in UGA undergraduate research, heavy with Franklin College students, will be presented at the annual symposium by the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities March 31 and April 1 at the Classic Center in downtown Athens:

Since its inception in 1999, the CURO Symposium has provided a public space for students from all academic disciplines to share their research with their peers, the UGA research community and others.


Among the more than 150 student research projects to be presented at the CURO Symposium are:

• "Perceptions about Global Development," a poster by Alexa DeAntonio, a third-year biological sciences major. DeAntonio has been examining the public's awareness, attitude and knowledge of the developing world and the role the media plays in shaping those perceptions.

• "Octopaminergic Gene Expression and Flexible Social Behavior in the Subsocial Burying Beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides," an oral presentation by Mary Douthit, a fourth-year biology major. The project looks at how genetics influences the social behavior of the burying beetle species Nicrophorus vespilloides.

Great work by many talented students. The opportunity to conduct research during the undergraduate years allows students to test out a variety of career paths within and outside of the laboratory. The symposium is open to the public, so be sure to check it out.

AAAS on Climate Change: What We know


photo-consensus-senseThe American Association for the Advancement of Science launched a big climate change initiative today, "What we Know":

At the heart of the initiative is the AAAS's "What We Know" report, an assessment of current climate science and impacts that emphasizes the need to understand and recognize possible high-risk scenarios.
"We're the largest general scientific society in the world, and therefore we believe we have an obligation to inform the public and policymakers about what science is showing about any issue in modern life, and climate is a particularly pressing one," said Dr. Alan Leshner, CEO of AAAS. "As the voice of the scientific community, we need to share what we know and bring policymakers to the table to discuss how to deal with the issue."

The Nobel laureate Mario Moilina, Diana Wall and James McCarthy, along with the 10 panelists spanning climate science specialties, will engage in the initiative in various ways, from speaking engagements to testimonial on a forthcoming interactive web site to knowledge sharing with other professionals. The initiative encourages Americans to think of climate change as a risk management issue; the panel aims to clarify and contextualize the science so the public and decision-makers can be more adequately informed about those risks and possible ways to manage them. 

Emphasis mine, as these 10 panelists of course include our own J. Marshall Shepherd. Good for the AAAS for not sitting on their hands any longer, but actually getting to work. It's a rare intervention by the group, but the stakes couldn't be higher and this debate demands a much higher profile.

Faculty in the Media, March 2014


Our faculty continue to do an outstanding job of offering comments and quotes in a variety of media. A sampling from this month:

Chimps outsmart kids at computer games – News Track India article quotes professor of psychology Dorothy Fragaszy, director of UGA’s Primate Cognition and Behavior Laboratory

 Athens Banner Herald article, Little flying machine is new research tool for UGA scientists , quotes Tommy Jordan, director of the Center for Geospatial research in the department of geography

Marietta Daily Journal article on the film, "12 Years A Slave," mentions history professor Stephen Berry

Associate professor of sociology and senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America David Smilde continues to be quoted widely in media reports on political violence in Venezuela

Huffington Post interview with professor of art Imi Hwangbo by UGA alumnus and artist Ridley Howard

She Blinded Me with Science: Why can Coca-Cola be used to clean rust? – R&B article quotes chemistry professor Norbert Pienta

Rocket launch to collect global weather data ‘big deal for Earth’ – ABH article quotes professor of geography Marshall Shepherd

Assistant professor of history Akela Reason was quoted in a Philadelphia Inquirer article detailing a planned sale of artworks in the collection of the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary

Athens Science Café


And as if on cue from the post below, another terrific collaboration that has been in the work for a while comes to fruition. This one is aimed at taking science into the community - the Athens Science Café:

Regular meetings held in various locations around Athens where people can come learn about interesting scientific topics in a fun, interactive environment. Each meeting will be led by a professional scientist who is there to introduce some basic concepts and lead an open discussion about things that matter. All meetings are free and open to the public, and you don’t need to know a thing about science to participate and enjoy. 

The first one is coming up on Feb. 25 and features psychology department head and professor Keith Campbell at 6:30 p.m. at Ciné in downtown Athens. Widely known for his research and writing on Narcissism, Campbell's discussion will focus on the science of love, and they’ll even have a special cocktail available for the event (Love Potion #9).

Check it out.

Two faculty named AAAS Fellows


The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is an international professional organization founded in 1848 that published the journal Science, which has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world (approximatelt 1 million). AAAS also has two new members from the UGA:

Choosing a path to medical school


Pre-Med mag coverUGA resources abound for students with medical school hopes



Going into medicine can often be a daunting prospect for students.  However, with a medical school partnership right here in Athens, and considering the statistics concerning the physician shortage rate in the state, now is a great time to consider the medical field as a career choice.

University of Georgia students with an interest in the medical field have a broad base of resources at hand on campus and even a program, known as the Premedical Studies Program, to help guide you through the process. 

Students in the Franklin College may select the pre-med designation and work with an advisor to select a curriculum that will help prepare for medical school.  Of course, there are general recommendations—a year of non-organic chemistry, a year of organic chemistry, a year of biology and a year of physics—but advisers can also give recommendations about other ways to increase your chances of getting into medical school.

Beyond meeting with an advisor, the Premedical Studies Program website also has a great resource that can help students think about the logistics of becoming a doctor, and learn more about the process of applying to and succeeding in medical school.

Consider the follow excerpt from the Premedical Studies Program Guide:

The American Academy of Medical Colleges (AAMC) recently interviewed 171 medical school faculty members, residents, and students about the behaviors most likely to result in success in medical school and residency.

According to the survey the following ten qualities are key:

1. Taking an active role in helping to shape their own learning and knowledge acquisition
2. Self-management and coping skills
3. Effort to foster a team environment
4. Interpersonal skills and professionalism
5. Empathetic and listening skills when interacting with patients and their families
6. Technical knowledge and skill
7. Extra effort and motivation
8. Ethical judgment and integrity
9. Mentoring skills
10. Demonstrating an ability to remain calm under pressure


Still not sure if going to medical school is for you.? Don’t fret. Beyond the classroom and plethora of resources via advisors with the Premedical Studies Program, another good resource for exploring this career direction is a UGA publication called PreMed Magazine.

Created by students at UGA the publication aims to inform students about preparing for medical school, but also has information for students who are considering a science-based career or major at UGA. 

According to the website:         

PreMed Magazine is a student organization that aims to help pre-medical students at The University of Georgia achieve success in the medical field. As a part of PreMed Magazine, members will have the opportunity to refine their writing and editorial skills, meet prominent people within the fields of medicine and journalism, learn strategies of successful pre-medical students, and develop the skills needed to achieve their goals. This organization is open for students of all majors and concentrations

A new edition was released earlier this week. In it, authors take on the myths of pseudoscience, the many myths surrounding a career in medicine and even the myths of choosing a science-based major here at UGA. 

Orientation meetings for students with an interest in medicine as a career are held each semester where students can get advice about enhancing your chances of getting into medical school, as well as connect with a network of other students and professionals with similar interests. The next session will be held on reading day, December 4, 2013.

If you’ve got an interest in science or medicine, the resources are here to further spark that interest. Reach out, attend meetings and get advice from those who know best.  The University of Georgia has the resources you need to make the right career choice.


Lynne Billard selected for Florence Nightingale David Award


Lynne-Billard seated with penWe are fortunate to have so many faculty members who work diligently in the classroom, as well as the laboratory - whose scholarly research introduces innovation into their instruction efforts. Our students benefit and the institution grows as a result.

Then there is a level of achievement even beyond those two types of outstanding contributions, when a faculty member has an outsized impact on a wide swath of their colleagues, on their careers, on the generations of faculty members who follow them. Statistics professor Lynne Billard belongs in this latter category of outstanding achievement in her or any field:

Lynne Billard has been selected to receive the 2013 Florence Nightingale David Award by the Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies. Billard is a professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of statistics.

Established in 2001 and jointly sponsored by the Caucus for Women in Statistics, every two years the F.N. David Award biannually recognizes a female statistician who exemplifies David's contributions to education, science and public service. The award was announced at the COPSS awards session during the Joint Statistical Meetings.

Billard has long been recognized for her statistics research, her leadership of multidisciplinary collaborative groups and as a role model for women in science. She arrived at UGA in 1980 as department head of statistics and computer science, then one department. She has served as president of the American Statistical Association and the International Biometric Society, the two largest statistical societies in the world. She is only the third person to have been president of both organizations. She is co-author of "Symbolic Data Analysis: Conceptual Statistics and Data Mining."

She also was principal investigator for "Pathways to the Future," an annual National Science Foundation workshop from 1988-2004 focused on mentoring women in all fields of science and scientific research.

"Back in the '70s, all the research showed that it was hard for women in all disciplines," Billard said. "And then we said, ‘OK, if that's the reality, how can we make sure that you succeed when the numbers show you won't?'"

The workshops concentrated on professional advice for everything from preparing for classes to submitting to publications to reading and reacting to referee reports.

"These were professional guidelines, not specifically geared toward women," she said, "but women were often left alone during the early career years and didn't know these normal routes that are so crucial to their success."

The experience has been a gratifying one for Billard, who sees the increasing numbers at annual statistical meetings, a new normal, she said, that includes more women faculty than ever.

Congratulations Dr. Billard and our best wishes for continued success. it is because of your efforts that the history of women in science runs through UGA.