The University of Texas at Arlington
April 2015
Welcome to the April 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.
Lopez receives $502K grant from NASA to study effects of fluctuations in solar wind  

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

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.
Wednesday, May 20
First day of classes for Summer 14-week session
Monday, June 8
First day of classes for Summer first 5-week session
Monday, June 8
First day of classes for Summer 11-week session
Thursday, July 9
Last day of classes for Summer first 5-week session
Tuesday, July 14
First day of classes for Summer second 5-week session
Thursday, August 13
Last day of classes for Summer second 5-week session
Thursday, August 13
Last day of classes for Summer 11-week session
Thursday, August 13
Last day of classes for Summer 14-week session
Thursday, August 27
First day of classes for Fall 2015 semester
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
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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
Ramon Lopez
UT Arlington physicist Ramon Lopez has received a $502,956 NASA grant to study the role of solar wind fluctuations in solar wind-geospace coupling.
The highly competitive grant is sponsored by NASA’s Heliophysics Supporting Research Program, which selected 30 of 221 proposals submitted for consideration. A total of $5.4 million was awarded for the new class of projects.
Heliophysics is the science of the Sun-Earth connection through the space environment. This fast-developing field of research covers many traditional sub-disciplines of space physics, astrophysics and climate studies.
“This grant that will support our ongoing work in understanding the near-Earth space system and space weather, and it provides opportunities for UT Arlington students to be involved in cutting-edge research,” said Lopez, who joined the College of Science in 2007. “Understanding the processes that transfer solar wind energy and momentum to the magnetosphere and ionosphere is central to heliophysics science.”
Read more on this story here.
Nygren receives Aldo Menzione Prize for his invention of the Time Projection Chamber
David Nygren
David Nygren, Presidential Distinguished Professor of Physics at UT Arlington and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, has been named a recipient of the Aldo Menzione Prize for 2015 by the executive board of the Frontier Detectors for Frontier Physics Association.
Nygren is being honored for his invention of the Time Projection Chamber, which has been used worldwide for more than three decades in a variety of applications in particle detection and discovery, ranging from relativistic heavy ion collisions to the search for Dark Matter and extremely rare nuclear decays.
The Aldo Menzione Prize is awarded to distinguished scientists who have contributed to the development of detector techniques with outstanding achievements.
“I was completely surprised and more than a bit overwhelmed,” Nygren said of his reaction when he learned he was named a recipient. “When one is selected by your peers for recognition, it is particularly meaningful.”
Read more on this story here.
Three College of Science students receive prestigious Graduate Research Fellowships
John Gurak, Lauren Fuess and Troy Barber, from left
Three College of Science students have been awarded prestigious Graduate Research Fellowships (GRF) by the National Science Foundation to further their graduate education.
Troy Barber, a master’s student in earth and environmental sciences; Lauren Fuess, a doctoral student in quantitative biology; and John Gurak, a senior in biochemistry, were among the 2,000 students nationwide selected from 16,500 applicants for the awards.
“The application process for NSF Graduate Research Fellowships is highly competitive, so these students are obviously all very deserving,” said James Grover, interim dean of the College of Science. “It’s a testament to the quality of students we have in the College of Science, and all of us in the College are extremely proud of them for this achievement.”
Awardees represent a diverse group of scientific disciplines and come from all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, and commonwealths and territories of the United States. They are also a diverse group of individuals. Among the 2,000 awardees, 1,053 are women, 494 are from underrepresented minority groups, 43 are persons with disabilities, and 31 are veterans.
Read more on this story here.
NASA selects UT Arlington to participate in project to improve oxygen recovery, reuse
Rajeshwar, Dennis and Tacconi, from left
NASA has selected UT Arlington as one of four U.S. institutions to develop improved methods for oxygen recovery and reuse aboard human spacecraft, a technology the agency says is crucial to “enable our human journey to Mars and beyond.”
NASA’s Game Changing Development Program awarded $513,356 recently to the UT Arlington team. UT Arlington and three other teams are charged with the goal of increasing oxygen recovery to 75 percent or more.
Principal investigators on the UT Arlington project are Brian Dennis, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the College of Engineering; Krishnan Rajeshwar, distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry; and Norma Tacconi, a research associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry.
They will design, build and demonstrate a “microfluidic electrochemical reactor” to recover oxygen from carbon dioxide that is extracted from cabin air. The prototype will be built over the next year at the Center for Renewable Energy Science and Technology, CREST, at UT Arlington.
Read more on this story here.
Winguth co-authors study on climate change impact on transportation infrastructure
Arne Winguth
A team of UT Arlington scientists has completed a study which provides an assessment of the impact which climate change and extreme weather could have on transportation infrastructure in the Metroplex by the end of the 21st century..
Their findings led the researchers to conclude that there is a high likelihood that extreme storms and higher precipitation will lead to service disruption and damage to roads, railways and airport runways, particularly in the spring season. They also found a higher likelihood of heat-related risks for infrastructure, particularly during the summer season.
Arne Winguth, a UT Arlington associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, served as lead author of the study, titled “Climate Change/Extreme Weather Vulnerability and Risk Assessment for Transportation Infrastructure in Dallas and Tarrant Counties.” The report was submitted in March to the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), an association of counties, cities, school districts and special districts in a 16-county area which assists local governments in planning for common needs, cooperating for mutual benefit, and coordinating for sound regional development.
Read more on this story here.
Research shows importance of carbon in ocean life survival during Permian-Triassic
Galina Nestell Merlynd Nestell
A new study led by scientists with UT Arlington demonstrates for the first time how elemental carbon became an important construction material of some forms of ocean life after one of the greatest mass extinctions in the history of Earth more than 252 million years ago.
As the Permian Period of the Paleozoic Era ended and the Triassic Period of the Mesozoic Era began, more than 90 percent of terrestrial and marine species became extinct. Various proposals have been suggested for this extinction event, including extensive volcanic activity, global heating, or even one or more extraterrestrial impacts.
The work is explained in the paper, “High influx of carbon in walls of agglutinated foraminifers during the Permian–Triassic transition in global oceans,” which is published in the March edition of International Geology Review.
Researchers focused on a section of the latest Permian aged rocks in Vietnam, just south of the Chinese border, where closely spaced samples were collected and studied from about a four-meter interval in the boundary strata.
Merlynd Nestell, professor of earth and environmental sciences in the College of Science and a co-author of the paper, said there was extensive volcanic activity in both the Northern and the Southern Hemispheres during the Permian–Triassic transition.
Read more on this story here.
ON-TRAC program receives new funding to train next generation of STEM teachers
UT Arlington has received a new source of funding as it looks to expand its endeavor to improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in the United States by effectively training those who will be teaching the students of tomorrow.
UT Arlington’s Organizational Network for Teaching as Research Advancement and Collaboration (ON-TRAC) program will receive $43,100 a year for the next three years from the non-profit Great Lakes Higher Education Corp., one of the largest student loan providers and guarantors in the United States.
UT Arlington created ON-TRAC in 2011, when it joined the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL), a national network of 22 institutions committed to provide students with better tools so that as future faculty members, they can better teach students in STEM fields. To do this, ON-TRAC helps STEM graduate and postdoctoral students develop effective teaching strategies for diverse learners.
“This new funding will help us to offer incentives so that more students and faculty can become involved in the program,” said James Grover, interim dean of the College of Science and principal investigator of the ON-TRAC steering committee.
Read more on this story here.
College of Science students earn acclaim for research presentations at ACES symposium
The College of Science was well-represented among the winners of the 2015 Annual Celebration of Excellence by Students (ACES) symposium, held March 25 in the E.H. Hereford University Center.
ACES showcases the best of UT Arlington students' research and creativity. Undergraduate and graduate students work with faculty mentors to write and submit abstracts for the competition. The approved abstracts are then turned into poster or oral presentations to be presented at the symposium. Monetary awards are given in graduate and undergraduate categories.
James Grover, interim dean of the College of Science, commended all those who participated in the symposium and said the number of winners from the College of Science is testimony to the high quality of research being done by its students.
“It is great to see how many College of Science students worked so hard to prepare abstracts and then present their work at ACES,” Grover said. “Congratulations to all of our students who received awards and to all who took part in the symposium. Every year our students make us proud with the level of work they’re doing, and this year is certainly no exception.”
College of Science winners include:
(Morning Undergraduate Session Winners) Dean’s Award - John Crouch, Physics
(Afternoon Graduate Session Winners) President’s Award - Evelyn Wang, Chemistry and Biochemistry; Provost’s Award - Collin Funkhouser, Biology; Honorable Mention - Meredith Hartzell, Psychology.
(Afternoon Undergraduate Session Winners) President’s Award - Yu-Sheng (Sam) Sung, Chemistry and Biochemistry; Honorable Mention - Justin McCullars, Biology; Honorable Mention - Nicky Hales, Chemistry and Biochemistry.
(Undergraduate Poster Awards) Provost’s Award - Stephanie Gutierrez, Biology; Dean’s Award - Raj Mehta, Biology; Honorable Mention - Soha Aslam, Physics; Honorable Mention - Gaurang Gupte, Biology.
See the full list of ACES winners here.
Alumnus Montgomery to deliver address at College of Science Spring Commencement
The College of Science will toast its newest graduates during the Spring 2015 Commencement ceremony, at 3 p.m. Friday, May 15 at College Park Center.
Commencement is a special time of celebration when family and friends can come together and cheer on students whose hard work and dedication have earned them bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees.
Guest speaker for the ceremony will be College of Science alumnus Joel Montgomery, a microbiologist and epidemiologist as well as director of the Division of Global Health Protection and principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Kenya.
Montgomery, who earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at UT Arlington, spent much of 2014 helping to lead the ongoing fight against the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. The disease has killed at least 11,000 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone since March 2014.
Find complete details about College of Science Spring 2015 Commencement here.
New StartUp Lounge opens as place where research ideas can be shared, advanced
UT Arlington has launched the new StartUp Lounge, a meeting place where ideas may begin the journey toward becoming inventions, products or processes.
The StartUp Lounge is collaborative effort among the Shimadzu Institute for Research Technologies, the College of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Science and TechFW through TechFW@UTA.
Its official grand opening was held April 29 in the Campus Center, the one-story building between the Nanotech and Architecture buildings.
Joe Barrera, director of the Shimadzu Institute for Research Technologies, said the open access meeting space serves as a location where researchers can meet in the middle of the campus setting..
“If you have one person from the UT Arlington Research Institute, someone from the Office of Research Administration and three or four people on campus, the StartUp Lounge offers those people a centralized location where they can share or advance ideas,” Barrera said. “This could include anything from vetting and refining ideas to forming management teams to take technologies to market.”
Read more on this story here.
Johnson featured in online article focusing on African-American women in STEM fields
Ashanti Johnson, assistant vice provost for faculty recruitment and associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, was featured in an April 17 article titled “9 Black Women Game-Changers in the STEM Fields” on the website For Harriet, an online community for women of African ancestry.
The article spotlighted “nine Black women who have or who currently are changing the world of STEM and serve as motivation for other Black and Brown girls to pursue their interests in the same fields”.
In addition to her roles at UT Arlington, Johnson also serves as executive director of the Institute for Broadening Participation. She is the first African-American woman to graduate with a doctorate in oceanography from Texas A&M University. In January 2010, Johnson received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring at the White House, in recognition of her professional achievements and diversity-related activities.
Read the For Harriet article here.