The University of Texas at Arlington College of Science March 2015  
Welcome to the March 2015 edition of Maverick Science E-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 If possible, please include a high-resolution headshot photo of those mentioned in your items.
Fan receives $485K CAREER grant from NSF to study how Rockies’ topography developed  

For Alumni

Alumni Relations
You can help the next generation of Mavericks

Andrew Baum

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. You can contact Nuñez at or leave a message for him at 817-272-1497.

Memorial fund created
to honor Truman Black

Andrew Baum
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

Wednesday, April 1
7:30 p.m. Planetarium
at UT Arlingto
Astronomer, educator
and author Jeffrey Bennett
will give a talk titled
“What is Relativity? An
Intuitive Introduction to
Einstein’s Ideas and Why
They Matter”. The talk is
free and open to the
Monday, April 6
Registration begins for Summer and Fall 2015 semesters
Friday, April 10
College of Science
Spring Picnic
11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Library Mall

Come by for hamburgers,
hot dogs, sodas and all
the fixings while supporting
the Science Constituency
Council during its
annual fundraiser!
Thursday, April 30
5-6 p.m. Nedderman
Hall Room 100

David Eisenbud, a professor
of mathematics at UC
Berkeley and director of
the Mathematical Sciences
Research Institute,
will give a talk titled
“Counting from Infinity:
A non-technical account
of a mathematical and
personal triumph”. The
talk is intended for a
general audience and is
free and open to the
Friday, May 8
Last day of classes for the Spring 2015 semester
May 9, 11-15
Finals exams for the Spring 2015 semester
Friday, May 15
3 p.m. COS Spring 2015
College Park Center

The College of Science
will celebrate its newest
group of graduates with
the Spring 2015 graduation
ceremony. Find
more information here.
Planetarium’s Spring schedule is under way
Looking for something fun and educational for the whole family? Come see a show at the Planetarium at UT Arlington! The facility, one of the finest in the nation, offers a variety of exciting shows and programs year-round and is equipped with Digistar 5, the latest in planetarium software. The Spring schedule runs through May 24. See the schedulehere.
Maverick Science
Keep up with the COS with Maverick Science
Read the 2013-14 edition of Maverick Science for the latest College of Science faculty, student and alumni news. Copies are available in the Dean’s Office (Life Sciences Room 206) and in LS 112. The online version can be shared via social media and is available here.
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Maverick Science
E-Newsletter Archives
Majie Fan
A UT Arlington assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences wants to better understand the Rocky Mountains and how their modern, elevated landscape came to be.
The Rockies, based on plenty of marine fossils, were at sea level about 80 million years ago. They now sit high above sea level, hitting the 14,000-foot range in most areas.
Majie Fan has been awarded $485,627 from the National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program to study the vertical movements that formed the Rockies’ present topography and the influence of topography on climate. During the next five years, she will use the new grant to conduct field investigation and collect rock samples from the mountain range, which stretches from Canada into central New Mexico. She also will develop a camp for local high school students traditionally underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but who are interested in STEM fields.
“NSF CAREER grant recipients like Dr. Fan are held in esteem for their dedication to research excellence in the lab combined with a desire to advance science education in the community,” said James Grover, interim dean of the College of Science. “Her research will help us to learn more about how the Earth’s surface has been shaped. By involving young people, Dr. Fan also will expose future scientists to the preparation they need to pursue this field of study.”
Read more on this story here.
Fujita receives $670K NSF grant to study biodiversity of African reptiles, amphibians
Matthew Fujita
A UT Arlington biologist will use a National Science Foundation grant to study and identify the processes that have generated the high species diversity in West and Central Africa. He also hopes to discover new reptiles and amphibians in what is considered one of the most biologically diverse regions on Earth.
Matthew Fujita, an assistant professor of biology, is principal investigator of the $670,797 grant awarded in March by the NSF’s Division of Environmental Biology. The funding will support research that aims to address outstanding questions in biodiversity research and accelerate the pace of biodiversity discovery of the amphibian and reptile wildlife that inhabit the West and Central African regions.
“I was absolutely thrilled when I learned our grant would be supported by the NSF, as it demonstrates that our efforts are valued for making important contributions to understanding the patterns and processes driving biodiversity in West Africa, one of Earth’s biodiversity hotspots,” Fujita said.
“By using genomic approaches, including high throughput DNA sequencing, we will be able to rapidly assess the genetic diversity in several frog and lizard species, an endeavor with immediate conservation implications.”
Read more on this story here.
Trio of doctoral students in biology receive NSF funding for Ph.D. research projects
From left, Drew Schield, Daren Card and Alex Hall.
Three UT Arlington doctoral students in biology have received funding from the National Science Foundation to further their dissertation research.
Daren Card, Drew Schield and Alex Hall were selected to receive funds from the NSF’s Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grants (DDIG) program, which typically awards funding to 100-200 projects nationwide each year. Card and Schield each will receive $19,695, while Hall was awarded $16,993. Few institutions receive multiple DDIG awards each year, and the fact that UT Arlington earned three speaks highly of the level of work being done by its student researchers, said Laura Gough, professor and interim chair of the Department of Biology.
“These students and their mentors are conducting world-class research into important evolutionary biology questions,” Gough said. “These grants bring prestige and accolades to the students and their mentors, as well as to our department and the University.”
Read more on this story here.
Fordjour earns first place award for project at Emerging Researchers STEM conference
Emmanuel Fordjour
Emmanuel Fordjour, a UT Arlington senior double majoring in biology and microbiology, earned top honors recently at the Emerging Researchers National Conference in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in Washington, D.C.
The conference was hosted in February by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Education and Human Resources Programs, and the National Science Foundation Division of Human Resource Development, within the Directorate for Education and Human Resources. It included more than 750 poster and oral research presentations from undergraduate and graduate students from institutions across the United States.
Fordjour received a first-place prize in the Biological Sciences division after delivering a platform presentation of his research project titled, “Anti-Clostridium difficile Activity of Paired Rifaximin-based Antibiotic Combinations.”
Read more on this story here.
Russell co-authors paper detailing why men prefer women with more lumbar curvature
Eric Russell, a UT Arlington graduate teaching assistant in psychology, is co-author of a new paper that examines why men prefer women with lumbar curvature.
The study was published in the February 4 online edition of the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. It is coauthored by researchers at UT Austin, American University of Beirut and Bilkent University in Turkey.
The researchers found that when seeking a mate, men are inclined towards women with a “theoretically optimal angle of lumbar curvature,” - a 45.5-degree curve from back to buttocks, allowing ancestral women to better support, provide for, and carry out multiple pregnancies.
“The findings enable us to conclusively show that men prefer women who exhibit specific angles of spinal curvature over buttock mass,” Russell said.
This adds to a growing body of evidence that beauty is not entirely arbitrary, or “in the eyes of the beholder” as many in mainstream social science believed, but rather has a coherent adaptive logic, added UT Austin professor of psychology David Buss, another of the paper’s co-authors.
The study is titled “Lumbar curvature: a previously undiscovered standard of attractiveness.” An abstract of the paper can be found here.
Astronomer Bennett to discuss Einstein’s Theory of Relativity during April 1 lecture
Noted astronomer, educator and author Jeffrey Bennett will give a talk on Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity during a special lecture at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 1 at the Planetarium at UT Arlington.
Bennett’s talk, “What is Relativity? An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein’s Ideas and Why They Matter”, is part of Bennett’s “National Relativity Tour,” which marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity in 1915. The presentation is based on Bennett’s book, What is Relativity? Bennett will introduce the audience to the basic ideas behind Einstein’s theories and discuss why they are important to everyone. He will also help the audience to understand last year’s blockbuster film Interstellar.
Bennett has written numerous bestselling college textbooks in astronomy, astrobiology and mathematics, as well as critically acclaimed titles for the general public, including five children’s books.
The talk is intended for a general audience and is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by Big Kid Science, Columbia University Press, Fiske Planetarium and Story Time from Space.
Mathematician Eisenbud to give talk April 30 on breakthrough in prime number research
David Eisenbud, professor of mathematics at UC Berkeley and director of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, will give a special lecture on a recent breakthrough in prime number research at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 30 in Nedderman Hall Room 100.
Eisenbud’s talk, “Counting from Infinity: A non-technical account of a mathematical and personal triumph”, will discuss the history of prime numbers and their importance to mathematicians, leading up to a 2013 breakthrough in research by a mathematician who had worked in obscurity in the U.S. for years. Eisenbud will describe the story of this researcher as well as show clips from a new film, Counting from Infinity: Yitang Zhang and the Twin Prime Conjecture, which features comments from Eisenbud and others.
Eisenbud is an American mathematician and a renowned expert in algebraic geometry and commutative algebra who began his second stint as MSRI director in 2013, having previously served in the post from 1997-2007. He spent 27 years as a professor at Brandeis University before joining UC Berkeley in 1997.
The talk is intended for a general audience and is free and open to the public. A half-hour has been set aside for socializing both before and after the talk, which will run from 5-6 p.m. The talk is sponsored by the UT Arlington Office of the Provost as part of the Prestigious Speaker Seminar Series.
Physics doctoral student Dhakal’s research featured in webcast at APS annual meeting
Kamal Dhakal, a doctoral candidate in physics, was selected to summarize his research during a special webcast news conference at the March Meeting 2015 of the American Physical Society, held March 2-6 in San Antonio.
Dhakal, whose research mentor is Samarendra Mohanty, assistant professor of physics, presented a non-technical summary of his project, titled “Optoporation of impermeable molecules and genes for visualization and activation of cells”, for reporters, scientists and a general audience on the webcast, which featured selected students whose work was tabbed as newsworthy by conference organizers.
“My research is focused on developing all-optical methods for manipulation of cells (delivery, stimulation, and detection). Plasma membrane is a major barrier for the entry of many molecules, dyes and plasmids due to their size and hydrophobicity,” said Dhakal, who plans to graduate with his Ph.D. in May. “However, selective and reversible permeabilization is prerequisite for many studies. Recently, we have overcome this barrier by creating a micron-sized transient hole from ultrafast NIR laser beam for delivery of opsin-encoding plasmids and impermeable actinstaining molecules into the cells.”
Watch the webcast here (Dhakal’s portion begins at the 8:20 mark).
Armstrong quoted in Forbes story about testing on store-brand herbal supplements
Daniel Armstrong, professor and UT Arlington Robert A. Welch Chemistry Chair, is quoted in a March 14 story by Forbes magazine about analytical testing that the New York Attorney General’s office performed on store-brand herbal supplements.
The article states that the AG’s office might have used the wrong kind of test when it announced an investigation into the supplements that contained little to none of the DNA of the plant or herb advertised on the label.
“There shouldn’t be much DNA in there. If the stuff is truly purified material, you wouldn’t expect there to be DNA material,” said Armstrong, who is an expert in molecular analysis.
That’s because extracts by definition take and refine the desired molecules from a substance, eliminating other elements, including DNA, in the process, the article states. Unless ground up plant material was used rather than extract, you wouldn’t expect DNA to show up. Ironically, if DNA does exist, it may indicate the supplement extract was poorly made.
“If it was a very good extract, you could conceivably eliminate all DNA. If it was a sloppy or poor extract, you might expect some DNA to leak into the extract,” said Armstrong, who is typically skeptical of the herbal supplement industry and believes the products offer customers little more than a placebo effect, the article says.
Read the Forbes article here.
William L. Hughes Jr., former judge, lawyer and friend of UT Arlington, dies at age 83
William L. (Bill) Hughes Jr., an alumnus of Arlington State College who established a scholarship for UT Arlington biology students in honor of his parents, died on March 9 in Arlington. He was 83.
A funeral was held March 12 at First Presbyterian Church, followed by burial at Moore Memorial Gardens in Arlington.
Dr. Hughes was born March 17, 1931, to the late William L. Hughes and Martha Woodson Hughes. He was a lifetime resident of Arlington, where he attended public schools and then Arlington State College (ASC), which is now UT Arlington and was at the time a two-year college. He played on the football team and was a member of the Cadet Corps. He served during the Korean War, then transferred to UT Austin, where he graduated and received a law degree from UT Law School.
In 1993, he and his wife, Barbara, established the William L. and Martha Hughes Award for the Study of Biology, an annual scholarship for UT Arlington biology students in honor of his parents, who were both longtime educators with deep ties to UT Arlington. Hughes Sr. was a biology faculty member for 40 years and served as department chair, retiring in 1965 when he was named professor emeritus. Early in her career, Martha Hughes was a teacher in the university’s physical education and chemistry departments. Later, she served as a science teacher in the Arlington Independent School District for nearly 20 years and was named a UT Arlington Distinguished Alumna in 1975.
Dr. Hughes and his wife also supported the University in numerous other capacities with their time and donations.
Survivors include his wife of 59 years, Barbara; son, W.L. "Bill" Hughes III and wife, Beth; grandsons, Travis and wife, Sarah, Reid and Patrick; great-grandson, William Grayson Hughes; sister, Helen Hughes Schrickel; three nieces and a nephew.
Memorials in Dr. Hughes’ name may be made to the charity of your choice.