Transformation - 2008 President's Report

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The Urgency of Now - 2008 President's Report

Saving Lives with Sensors

Dr. J.C. Chiao is developing tiny sensors that use radio frequency identification technology to combat cancer and other diseases.

Defense industry and Homeland Security applications are important, but electrical engineering Professor J.C. Chiao is most excited about saving lives with his inventions that combine microelectromechanical systems and radio frequency identification (RFID).

The technology uses tiny, wireless, battery-free sensors to give readings almost instantaneously.

I'm convinced RFID can achieve breakthroughs in the diagnosis and treatment of many medical conditions, he says.

Dr. Chiao studies the technology and its uses in diagnosing, preventing and treating gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which can lead to esophageal cancer. The sensors are implanted comfortably into a patient's esophagus to monitor digestive fluids long term. They relay data wirelessly to a receiver outside the body and then to a computer where the data is analyzed. Chiao has tested the sensors with animal subjects and reported 100 percent detection in esophageal reflux episodes.

He also examines remote sensing to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and RFID implants to block chronic pain at the spinal cord or brain. Results presented at international medical conferences show a two-second response time to identify breathing abnormalities and near 100 percent pain inhibition.

Texas Instruments Helps Fund
$5 Million Nanoelectronics Chair

Renowned researcher and engineer Robert Magnusson has returned to UT Arlington as the Texas Instruments Distinguished University Chair in Nanoelectronics, a $5 million endowed chair. A $1 million gift from Texas Instruments and $1 million from UT Arlington comprise the $2 million permanent endowment for the chair. The state's Emerging Technology Fund provided $2.5 million in funding and the UT System added $500,000 to bring the total to $5 million. Dr. Magnusson has developed a new class of nanostructured photonic devices that have applications in lasers, sensors, solar cells and display technology. Near-term projects include commercialization of new biosensor platforms for drug discovery and medical diagnostics.

Green Buildings Save Resources

Architecture Assistant Professor Jane Ahrens says that destroying our natural resources eventually will leave us with no building materials. We are responsible for the built environment, she says. But it's the natural systems that the earth provides that allow us to have the resources we need. A recognized leader in sustainable building education and research, Ahrens has trained nearly 600 contractors as a Green Advantage Certified Professional. She educates about green-building techniques, which she also uses in her work as an architect. At UT Arlington, she teaches undergraduate architecture students about sustainable design integrated with natural resource conservation in her popular course on sustainability.

Pain Expert Studies Military Personnel

Department of Psychology Chair Robert Gatchel says 80 percent of all health-care visits are due to pain, from headaches and degenerating discs to fibromyalgia and cancer. That's why he has actively researched ways to prevent pain for more than 30 years. He recently received a $1.52 million Department of Defense grant to study the rehabilitation of military personnel returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with musculoskeletal extremity injuries. My research is translational, he says. Basically, I take what is found in the research lab and apply it to develop more effective ways to help patients living with chronic pain.

Biologists Jump on Gene Discovery

Maverick Activities Center

The discovery of the Maverick jumping gene by two genome biologists may help researchers understand why pathogens change and adapt to new environments and how they become resistant to drugs or other chemicals. Husband-wife duo Cédric Feschotte and Ellen Pritham, both assistant professors of biology, discovered the genes while studying Trichomonas vaginalis, which causes a sexually transmitted disease that affects more than 180 million women. Mavericks belong to a new class of mobile genetic elements related to DNA viruses that are able to replicate and propagate within the DNA of their host. The couple's work was featured on the cover of the prestigious Genome Research in May 2008.