MAVERICK SCIENCE E-News
The University of Texas at Arlington
College of Science
Feb/March 2016
 
Welcome to the Feb/March 2016 edition of Maverick ScienceE-News. This monthly e-newsletter provides information about College of Science events involving students, alumni, faculty and staff. To contribute items for inclusion, please send an email to pederson@uta.edu. If possible, please include a high-resolution headshot photo of those mentioned in your items.
Researchers create new process to convert CO2 and water into liquid hydrocarbon fuels
From left: Mohammad Fakrul Islam, Frederick MacDonnell, Wilaiwan Chanmanee and Brian Dennis.
A team of University of Texas at Arlington chemists and engineers have proven that concentrated light, heat and high pressures can drive the one-step conversion of carbon dioxide and water directly into useable liquid hydrocarbon fuels.
This simple and inexpensive new sustainable fuels technology could potentially help limit global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to make fuel. The process also reverts oxygen back into the system as a byproduct of the reaction, with a clear positive environmental impact, researchers said.
“Our process also has an important advantage over battery or gaseous-hydrogen powered vehicle technologies as many of the hydrocarbon products from our reaction are exactly what we use in cars, trucks and planes, so there would be no need to change the current fuel distribution system,“ said Frederick MacDonnell, UTA interim chair of chemistry and biochemistry and co-principal investigator of the project.
In an article published February 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled “Solar photothermochemical alkane reverse combustion,” the researchers demonstrate that the one-step conversion of carbon dioxide and water into liquid hydrocarbons and oxygen can be achieved in a photothermochemical flow reactor operating at 180 to 200 C and pressures up to 6 atmospheres.
Read more on this story here.
UTA named to elite list of highest research universities in U.S. by Carnegie Classification
UTA undergraduate researchers work in the Shimadzu Center for Advanced Analytical Chemistry.
The University of Texas at Arlington was named today in the elite group of R-1: Doctoral Universities - Highest Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the definitive list for the top doctoral research universities in the United States.
UTA joins a distinguished group of 115 institutions including Harvard, MIT and Johns Hopkins in the “highest research” or R-1 category.
The Carnegie Classification analyzes IPEDS data from all U.S. post-secondary institutions and evaluates measures of research activity for doctoral universities in making its assessments, which are released every five years..
“This is a tremendous validation of UTA’s emergence as a preeminent university on the national stage. Being ranked as a Research 1 university places us truly among the best of the best,” President Vistasp M. Karbhari said. “Thriving research universities foster economic development by infusing their regions with technology, knowledge and talent. I couldn’t be prouder of the work that our students, faculty, staff, alumni and supporters are doing to ensure that UTA is second to none and is serving North Texas to the fullest extent.”
Read more on this story here.
Greenway gift establishes new Greer Lab to accelerate gas-to-liquid fuel technology
Pictured from left to right are Ray Wright, Greenway Innovative Energy CEO; Fred MacDonnell and Brian Dennis.
A Fort Worth alternative energy company focused on converting natural gas for use as high-grade diesel and jet fuel has committed $750,000 to establish the F. Conrad Greer Lab at The University of Texas at Arlington.
The generous gift from Greenway Innovative Energy will allow Fred MacDonnell, professor and chair in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, and Brian Dennis, a professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, to conduct research focused on exponentially increasing fuel production through their innovative process.
The gift honors the legacy of F. Conrad Greer, an internationally recognized petroleum engineer and chemist who is known for his extensive work in the evaluation of oil and gas properties, reservoir engineering, the development of enhanced oil recovery methods and development of industrial catalyst.
Read more on this story here.
Walsh and team show that stable conditions can cause behavioral changes in offspring
Matthew Walsh
Researchers have known for decades that the environmental stress experienced by one generation induces changes in behavior, shape, biochemical properties and rates of development of their offspring. But the precise ecological conditions that produced these responses were not known.
Biologists at UTA have now provided the first evidence that stable environments like constant predator threats, not unstable conditions, generate these non-genetic “trans-generational responses” in the next generation.
“These results have broad implications for understanding responses to climate change, the spread of invasive species, changes in the availability of food sources or other threats,” said Matthew Walsh, UTA assistant biology professor and leader of the study.
Walsh and his team used the interplay of fish and their prey, water fleas, to demonstrate the ecological conditions needed for “trans-generational response.” They found that water fleas from populations that experience consistently intense predation responded by programming future generations to develop 10 percent faster to enhance survival rates.
Read more on this story here.
Roelke, Fujita using $130K TP&WD grant to study habitat, genetics of imperiled lizard
Matthew Fujita, left, and Corey Roelke
Biologists from The University of Texas at Arlington are studying a species of lizard found in parts of Texas and northeastern Mexico to find out why the reptile’s numbers have been dwindling dramatically.
They are conducting fieldwork and genome sequencing to learn as much as possible about the spot-tailed earless lizard (Holbrookia lacerata), which has experienced a steady decline in population in Central and South Texas. The work is being supported by a two-year, $130,880 grant from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. Corey Roelke, a lecturer in biology, is principal investigator (PI) of the project; Matthew Fujita, an assistant professor of biology, is co-PI.
“We propose a comprehensive study in the natural history, morphology, phylo-genetics, and ecological genetics of H. lacerata in order to provide a thorough assessment on the conservation and management priorities for an imperiled species,” Roelke wrote in the project abstract.
Read more on this story here.
Rajeshwar leading research team in devising high-performing materials for solar fuel cells
Rajeshwar
University of Texas at Arlington chemists have developed new high-performing materials for cells that harness sunlight to split carbon dioxide and water into useable fuels like methanol and hydrogen gas. These “green fuels” can be used to power cars, home appliances or even to store energy in batteries.
“Technologies that simultaneously permit us to remove green-house gases like carbon dioxide while harnessing and storing the energy of sunlight as fuel are at the forefront of current research,” said Krishnan Rajeshwar, UTA distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry and co-founder of the University’s Center of Renewable Energy, Science and Technology (CREST).
“Our new material could improve the safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of solar fuel generation, which is not yet economically viable,” he added.
The new hybrid platform uses ultra-long carbon nanotube networks with a homogeneous coating of copper oxide nanocrystals. It demonstrates both the high electrical conductivity of carbon nanotubes and the photocathode qualities of copper oxide, efficiently converting light into the photocurrents needed for the photo-electrochemical reduction process.
Read more on this story here.
Mosley-Eckler will seek to boost COS ties with alumni as new director of development
 
  Mosley-Eckler
The College of Science Dean’s Office welcomed a new member to its team in February with the arrival of Christie Mosley-Eckler as Director of Development.
Mosley-Eckler will work with College of Science Dean Morteza Khaledi and the UTA Office of Development to reach out to the College’s alumni and develop ways in which they can reconnect with the College and make a positive impact for the University and its students through their support..
“I am extremely excited about the opportunity to work with a college so critical in the successful implementation of President [Vistasp] Karbhari’s Strategic Plan at UT Arlington,” she said. “Furthermore, I look forward to working with Dean Khaledi and the College of Science. To be a part of providing students from incredibly diverse backgrounds the opportunity to realize their dreams is truly an honor.”
She previously served as vice president of development at Samaritan House, a locally based non-profit providing housing and services for individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS and other debilitating conditions. While at Samaritan House her team increased development revenue by 41 percent over the past three years. She is also an adjunct faculty member with the UTA School of Social Work.
“We’re all thrilled to have someone with the talent and proven track record in development which Christie has,” Khaledi said. “I believe we’re going to be able to partner with our alumni to do great things with Christie taking the leadership role in this area for the College of Science.”
Mosley-Eckler received a B.S. in Social Work from UTA in 2005, graduating Magna Cum Laude, and an M.S. in Social Work with a concentration in Community Administrative Practice from UTA in 2007.
Johnson’s work as pioneer in oceanography and mentor featured on Fox News Channel
Johnson
Ashanti Johnson, UTA assistant vice provost for faculty recruitment and associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, was featured on Fox News Channel on February 19 as part of the network’s series celebrating Black History Month.
Johnson is one of the first female African-American chemical oceanographers in the U.S. She is also a leading voice in the STEM field, the Fox News video says.
In the video, Johnson relates that her earliest memories of the ocean are of watching Jacques Cousteau programs on PBS as a child, and she decided then that she wanted a career in oceanography. The video recounts how she overcame prejudice to become the first African-American to earn a degree in Marine Science from Texas A&M University in Galveston.
The feature also talks about Johnson’s love of mentoring students and some of the many ways she has made a difference in the lives of young people. The video discusses her work with NASA in starting a pilot program to help STEM students from diverse backgrounds through mentorship and professional development opportunities. The video also talks about her role with the Institute for Broadening Participation and the Presidential Award she received in 2010 for excellence in STEM mentoring.
Watch the Fox News Channel video here. Watch a promotional video produced by UTA here.
Lopez named to board of National Society of Hispanic Physicists as president-elect
Lopez
Ramon Lopez, professor of physics, has been named to the 2016 board of the National Society of Hispanic Physicists as president-elect.
As part of the board’s rotation, Lopez will serve two years as president-elect, then two years as president and finally two years as past president. Lopez has been a member of NSHP since 2000.
The NSHP’s purpose is to promote the professional well-being and recognize the accomplishments of Hispanic physicists within the scientific community of the United States and within society at large. It seeks to develop and support efforts to increase opportunities for Hispanics in physics and to increase the number of practicing Hispanic physicists, particularly by encouraging Hispanic students to enter a career in physics.
Lopez has an extensive history of service on national science and education committees. Last month he was appointed to the National Academy of Sciences Committee on NASA Science Mission Extensions. He was one of the co-chairs of the writing team that produced the Next Generation Science Standards, and he also served on the National Academies of Science committee that produced the 2011 report “Future Science Opportunities in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean”. He also has an active space physics research lab and is a co-director of UTeach Arlington, UTA’s highly successful science and mathematics teacher preparation program.
Learn more about the NSHP here.
Students display creativity and ingenuity at FW Regional Science and Engineering Fair
College of Science Dean Morteza Khaledi addresses students prior to the awards ceremony on February 22.
Almost 700 students from around North Texas gathered at UTA on February 21-22 to present their research projects during the 65th annual Fort Worth Regional Science and Engineering Fair at College Park Center.
The fair allows students or teams of students to present their projects to a panel of judges, who present awards in middle school and high school divisions and in a variety of science and engineering categories.
“The kind of innovation and creativity you all have is very impressive and you are just the kind of students we want here at UTA,” Dean of Science Morteza Khaledi told the students prior to the fair’s closing awards ceremony.
In addition to the fair’s project presentations, the Colleges of Science and Engineering provided a series of afternoon activities for students, sponsored by UTA, Lockheed Martin and RadioShack. Among the activities was a Gear Lab run by Greg Hale, assistant dean of the College of Science. Yuan Peng, UTA professor of psychology, served as director of the fair. Jianzhong Su, chair of mathematics, served on the board of trustees. Valerie Martinez, coordinator of enrollment management and recruitment for the College of Science, served on the fair operations committee. The Planetarium at UT Arlington provided free screenings of its show “Dark” for students.
Find a list of award winners and learn more about the FWRSEF here.
Purgason selected as member of Fort Worth Business Press ‘40 Under 40’ Class of 2016
Purgason
Ashley Purgason, UTA assistant vice president for strategic initiatives, was honored as part of the Fort Worth Business Press’ 2016 class of “40 Under 40” on March 24 at the Cendera Center. UTA was the presenting sponsor of the event.
The annual event is designed to recognize 40 honorees, all under the age of 40, who the FWBP says are “destined for striking accomplishments in their chosen field, from the corporate sector to maverick entrepreneurialism. They are leaders today and are sure to be part of the next generation that will continue to make Tarrant County a great place to live and work.”
Purgason is a UTA alumna who received a B.S. in Biology with Honors (2006) and an M.S. in Biology (2007) from UTA. She was also a member of the UT Arlington Lady Mavs basketball team, where she was named an Academic All-American in 2004. She earned a Ph.D. in Environmental Toxicology from UT Medical Branch at Galveston in 2013. She previously served as assistant dean for Undergraduate Research and Student Advancement for the College of Science.
Read more about the FWBP 40 Under 40 here.
Alumnus, medical student Haider selected for AANS Young Neurosurgeons Committee
Haider
Ali Haider, a UTA alumnus who earned a B.S. in Biology with a minor in Chemistry in 2012, was one of two students in the United States to be elected to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons Young Neurosurgeons Committee as a medical student representative.
Haider, a third-year medical student at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, was nominated by a mentor, Edjah Nduom, who is a neurosurgeon at the National Institutes of Health and is the current committee secretary.
The AANS Young Neurosurgeons Committee historically has been considered as an elite fraternity of young neurosurgeons who are still in training, are not yet board certified and are under age 40. Many of them go on to become leaders in the field. This is the second year the AANS has elected medical students to the committee.
“My experience balancing academics, research, and leadership while a pre-med student at UTA is what has helped me do the same in medical school and ultimately is how I earned this position,” Haider said. “I am dedicated to neurosurgery and have been applying all of my effort and talents into one day having the honor of joining this select and prestigious vocation.”
The committee convenes each year during the AANS Annual Scientific Meeting. This year’s meeting is April 30-May 4 in Chicago.
Learn more about the AANS Young Neurosurgeons Committee here.
Strom co-edits ACS Symposium book about history of the James Flack Norris Award
Strom
Thomas Strom, adjunct professor in chemistry and biochemistry, is co-editor of an American Chemical Society (ACS) Symposium Series book which will be released in hard copy in March.
The book, titled “The Foundations of Physical Organic Chemistry: Fifty Years of the James Flack Norris Award”, was published electronically in November. This is the third ACS Symposium Series book which Strom has edited. Strom’s co-editor is Vera Mainz of the University of Illinois.
The James Flack Norris Award in Physical Organic Chemistry was established in 1965 by the Northeastern Section of the ACS to honor the memory of James Flack Norris (1871-1940), a professor of chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The book includes chapters about Norris as well as about living and deceased winners of the James Flack Norris Award. Strom co-wrote a chapter on the late Glen Russell, a friend and former mentor of Strom’s who received the award in 1983.
Strom previously co-edited ACS Symposium Series books on the history of polymer chemistry (2011) and the history of quantum chemistry (2013). He has organized a symposium on “The Posthumous Nobel Prize in Chemistry: Correcting the Errors of Oversights of the Nobel Prize Committee,” to take place in March.
Learn more about the James Flack Norris Award here.
UTA’s role in Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment profiled in Star-Telegram story
Physicists from around the world convened at UTA for the DUNE conference January 12-15.
A story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s February 13 edition focused on UTA’s involvement in the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) and the international DUNE conference which UTA hosted in January.
About 150 physicists from around the world gathered last month at UTA to discuss plans for an estimated $1 billion project to investigate neutrinos, the article says. DUNE would be the first major high energy physics project on U.S. soil since the superconducting super collider project near Waxahachie was canceled in 1993.
“DUNE is the next big thing in particle physics,” UTA physics professor Jaehoon Yu said in the article. Yu was chairman of the DUNE conference. Within DUNE, Yu leads a working group that will search for dark matter, while UTA associate professor Amir Farbin has a leading role in designing the computing systems. Both are members of UTA’s High Energy Physics Group.
Read the Star-Telegram article here.
UTA physicists’ role in discovery of Higgs boson particle detailed in online publication
Members of the UT Arlington high energy physics group include, clockwise from left, Professors Andrew White, Andrew Brandt, Kaushik De, Associate Professor Amir Farbin and Professor Jaehoon Yu.
The role of researchers from UTA’s Center for Excellence in High Energy Physics played a key role in unearthing the Higgs Boson, or “God Particle,” in 2012 was featured in a story in the January 27 edition of the new online news source Dallas Innovates.
“The UTA team contributed to many aspects of the ATLAS experiment,” UTA physics professor Kaushik De said in the story. “We have contributed to detector technology, to supercomputing technology, to software expertise, to new techniques in data analysis.”
The scientific breakthrough was the culmination of a 40-year effort and was awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics for “the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles.” Fifteen of the authors on the published Higgs boson paper associated with the Nobel Prize came from UT Arlington, the story said.
Dallas Innovates is a new, online news source supported by the Dallas Regional Chamber and D Magazine. It covers the innovation ecosystem in North Texas.
Read the Dallas Innovates story here.
Maverick Speaker Series to feature eminent primatologist, anthropologist Jane Goodall
Goodall
Jane Goodall, the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees, will visit UTA as part of the Maverick Speaker Series on Thursday, March 31..
Goodall will speak at 7:30 p.m. at College Park Center. A primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist and U.N. Messenger of Peace, Goodall is best known for her more than five decades of scientific exploration on the behavior of wild chimpanzees at Gombe National Park in Tanzania, which redefined the relationship between humans and animals. She began studying chimps at Gombe National Park in 1960.
She is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and their environmental and humanitarian youth program, Roots & Shoots. Today Goodall travels nearly 300 days each year, devoting herself to conservation and animal welfare issues while sharing stories of hope and inspiring millions globally to make the world a better place for all living things.
A student Q&A session will follow Goodall’s talk. Tickets for the event are sold out.

For Alumni

Alumni Relations
You can help the next generation of Mavericks

Nunez
Nuñez

Did the University of Texas at Arlington change your life? Do you want to help a future Maverick? Call Dr. Ignacio Nuñez, the chair of the College of Science Advisory Council. He’d love to help get you involved on campus again. The Advisory Council is issuing a challenge to each alumnus and to each member of our North Texas community who believes in our mission. The challenge: Give one day a year and $1,000 annually (that’s just $83.33 a month) to benefit the students of UT Arlington. Dr. Nuñez was a first-generation college student, and UT Arlington made it possible for him to attend medical school and create a life vastly different than that of his parents. Did UT Arlington change your life too? Let’s work together to help the next generation. To learn more, please contact College of Science Director of Development Christie Mosley-Eckler at 817-272-1497 or cmeckler@uta.edu.

Memorial fund created
to honor Truman Black

Andrew Baum
Black
A special fund has been created to honor the memory of Dr. Truman Black, professor of physics and beloved member of the UT Arlington family, who died on Sept. 12, 2012.
Donations to the fund may be mailed to:
Truman D. Black Scholarship Fund at The University of Texas at Arlington
Office of Development
P.O. Box 19198
Arlington, TX 76019-0198

Calendar of events

Thursday, March 31
Maverick Speaker Series: Jane Goodall, primatologist and conservationist, “Gombe and Beyond: An Evening with Dr. Jane Goodall” 7:30 p.m., College Park Center. Audience Q&A to follow lecture.

Monday, April 4
Registration begins for Summer and Fall 2016 terms.

Friday, April 15
COS/SCC Spring Picnic, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Library Mall. Food and drinks along with snow-cones, interactive games and activities on the lawn.

Friday, May 6
Last day of classes for Spring 2016 semester
May 7, 9-13
Final exams for Spring 2016 semester

Friday, May 13
College of Science Spring 2016 Commencement ceremony, 3 p.m., College Park Center. Find full details here.

Planetarium
Planetarium offering exciting Spring lineup

Check out The Planetarium at UT Arlington’s lineup of fun and exciting shows for the Spring semester, including our newest show, Dark. The Spring 2016 schedule runs now through May 29.
Thursdays
6:00 pm - From Earth to the Universe
Fridays
6:00 pm - Dark
Saturdays
1:00 pm - Cosmic Colors
2:30 pm - From earth to the Universe
5:30 pm - Dark
7:00 pm - Pink Floyd
Sundays
1:30 pm - Astronaut
3:00 pm - Spacepark 360: Infinity

For tickets, reservations or further information, please contact The Planetarium at UT Arlington.
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