The University of Texas at Arlington
College of Science
September 2016
Welcome to the September 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 If possible, please include a high-resolution headshot photo of those mentioned in your items.
College of Science welcomes 11 new assistant professors, 6 new lecturers for 2016-17 year
An important aspect of being a nationally acclaimed university is recruiting top-notch faculty who will new ideas, expertise and energy to campus. The College of Science is certainly doing its part in this regard this fall.
In The University of Texas at Arlington’s campaign to become the model 21st century urban research university, attracting and retaining top-level faculty is one of its top priorities. The College of Science has hired nine new assistant professors for Fall 2016, with two more set to join the ranks in Spring 2017. The College has also added six experienced lecturers to bolster its award-winning teaching roster.
“Our new faculty members will augment the cutting-edge research and award-winning teaching already being done in the College of Science, and they will also help take the College in new and exciting directions in research,” said Morteza Khaledi, dean of the College of Science. “Their research interests align very well with the goals we have set out for the College and the University in the Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact. I’m very happy to welcome them all to UTA and the College of Science.”
Joining the faculty as assistant professors this fall are: Jason Kubinak, Mark Pellegrino, Sen Xu (biology); Kwangho Nam (chemistry & biochemistry); Hyeong-Moo Shin (earth and environmental sciences); Suvra Pal, Jonghyun Yun (mathematics); Benjamin Jones (physics); Kelsey Medeiros (psychology). Joining the faculty for Spring 2017 are Kai Zhu (biology) and Amber Schroeder (psychology).
Joining the College’s faculty this fall as lecturers are: Joy Jackson, Nick Pollock (biology); Kathryn Rhoads, Dan Warren and Esteban Diaz (mathematics); and Scott Boyd (psychology).
Read more of this story here.
UTA enzyme research opens door to creating new inhibitors for autoimmune diseases
Clay Clark
Biologists at The University of Texas at Arlington have demonstrated that removing water molecules can deactivate caspase-3 enzymes, which opens new doors for treatment of autoimmune diseases like arthritis, which have been linked to overactive enzymes.
Caspase enzymes have important functions in cell development and cell death. Imbalances in this enzyme’s activity can cause too many cells to be killed and not enough to be made, which is the case for arthritis and diabetes. Currently, the activity level required for cell death is undefined, which means that regulating these enzymes continues to be an issue for health professionals.
To facilitate research on the link between enzyme activity and cell development and cell death, the UTA researchers, led by Clay Clark, professor and chair of the biology department, developed a database of caspase-3 mutations that demonstrate different levels of activity, and focused in on the enzyme’s reactions with water molecules within the cell.
Read more of this story here.
UTA proves semiconducting organic polymers can harvest sunlight to split CO2 to alcohols
Krishnan Rajeshwar
Chemists at The University of Texas at Arlington have been the first to demonstrate that an organic semiconductor polymer called polyaniline is a promising photocathode material for the conversion of carbon dioxide into alcohol fuels without the need for a co-catalyst.
“This opens up a new field of research into new applications for inexpensive, readily available organic semiconducting polymers within solar fuel cells,” said principal researcher Krishnan Rajeshwar, UTA distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry and co-Director of UTA’s Center for Renewable Energy, Science & Technology (CREST). “These organic semiconducting polymers also demonstrate several technical advantages, including that they do not need a co-catalyst to sustain the conversion to alcohol products and the conversion can take place at lower temperatures and use less energy, which would further reduce costs.”
Rajeshwar and his co-author Csaba Janaky, professor in the Department of Physical Chemistry and Materials Science at the University of Szeged, recently published their findings in The Royal Society of Chemistry journal ChemComm as “Polyaniline films photoelectrochemically reduce CO2 to alcohols.”
Read more of this story here.
UTA receives $300K NSF grant to improve curricula for future mathematics teachers
Theresa Jorgensen, James Epperson and Kathryn Rhoads
Mathematicians at The University of Texas at Arlington are conducting research to refine and supplement curriculum materials used in college mathematics courses designed for students who plan to become high school math teachers.
The project specifically aims to enhance materials currently used in UTeach Arlington, UTA’s version of the highly successful science and mathematics secondary teacher preparation program which has been replicated at 43 universities across the United States. More than one third of UTeach nationwide is comprised of students historically underrepresented in science technology, engineering and mathematics courses.
“This project will impact the learning experiences of hundreds of thousands of socioeconomically disadvantaged students across the country, as 66 percent of UTeach program graduates nationwide go on to teach in schools where the majority of students are low-income,” said James Epperson, UTA associate professor of mathematics and leader of the project. “In addition, we will not limit dissemination to UTeach programs, so the project has the potential to impact an even larger and more diverse group of teachers and their students.”
Read more of this story here.
Dias developing catalysts to transform cheap hydrocarbons into more complex molecules
Rasika Dias
Chemists at The University of Texas at Arlington are developing novel ways to use metal ions to activate simple hydrocarbons present in natural gas or petroleum products to produce more complex molecules valuable to the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.
The research also involves developing a new portable, easy-to-use sensor to detect the presence of some specific gaseous hydrocarbons in plant product storage facilities. Current technology is more complex, expensive and not portable.
“We want to develop a new class of catalysts to do difficult chemistry, like activating inert molecules and converting them to more useful products,” said Rasika Dias, UTA Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and leader of the project. “Then we will study the properties of the reactive intermediates — chemical substances produced during the conversion process, which usually involves a series of steps. Finally, we will also develop the new portable sensor for specific gaseous molecules like ethylene, which is a plant hormone, in a specific environment.”
Read more of this story here.
UTA CLEAR lab study reveals abnormalities in drinking water in Eagle Ford Shale region
Kevin Schug
An initial study by University of Texas at Arlington chemists of well water quality in the Eagle Ford Shale region found some abnormal chloride/bromide ratios, alongside evidence of dissolved gases and sporadic episodes of volatile organic compounds, all indicative of some contamination from industrial or agricultural activities in the area.
“The infrequent detection of volatile organic compounds in the ground-water overlying the Eagle Ford Shale is certainly good news for citizens; however, there were instances of abnormalities on the water that we cannot quite explain,“ said Kevin Schug, UTA’s Shimadzu Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry and director of the University’s Collaborative Laboratories for Environmental Analysis and Remediation, or CLEAR lab.
The study identified two highly differentiated types of chloride/bromide ratios in the groundwater: samples classified as A, which had normal levels, and samples classified as B, which all showed very high levels of bromide, indicative of contamination events. There were also multiple cases of water effervescence indicative of dissolved hydrocarbon gases and a few volatile organic compounds in areas near oil and natural gas extraction sites.
Read more of this story here.
Castoe discusses use of dog DNA as evidence in fatal mauling case on KXAS TV newscast
Todd Castoe
Todd Castoe, assistant professor of biology, appeared on a KXAS NBC 5 newscast on September 9 to discuss the possibility of using dog DNA to bring charges in the death of a woman mauled by dogs.
Dallas police are seeking to use DNA to see if dogs that were seized soon after the attack are the ones responsible for the death of Antoinette Brown, 52, who was attacked by a pack of dogs on May 2 and died seven days later. If so, the dogs’ owner could face charges.
Castoe said that for dogs, DNA technology is much further behind than it is for humans. He added that it could be very difficult to recover enough DNA to make a positive match.
“There are a number of cases, where they have done exactly what they claim they are aiming to do here, and it has worked,” Castoe said in the report. “The level of patience that’s required here is different because what you are asking is not run of the mill, everyday forensics on systems that are well worked out. This is really specialized work and it’s going to take a lot more careful consideration.”
Watch the NBC 5 news segment here.
Gatchel presents talk on ways to assess, treat and prevent pain using biopsychosocial model
Robert Gatchel, Distinguished Professor of Psychology and director of UTA’s Center of Excellence for the Study of Health & Chronic Illnesses, presented a lecture on using the biopsychosocial model to assess, treat and prevent chronic pain at the 27th annual meeting of the American Academy of Pain Management (AAPM) in San Antonio on September 23.
In his talk, “The Whole Story: Biopsychosocial Approach to the Assessment, Treatment, and Prevention of Chronic Pain,” Gatchel explained that because of feedback between the central and peripheral nervous systems, treating pain is not “from the neck up.”
Central sensitization is a condition of the nervous system associated with chronic pain. When central sensitization occurs, the nervous system goes through a process called “wind-up” and gets regulated in a persistent state of high reactivity. In their research, Gatchel and his colleagues developed a “central sensitization inventory” to identify patients who show signs of central sensitization syndrome.
“To get rid of pain, it is not enough to sever a nerve, as this will leave a lot of scar tissue that will be sensitized and will linger, turning it into a nociceptor,” Gatchel said. “So you might cut out the original nociceptor, but you replace it with a central sensitization phenomenon.”
Gatchel has also been invited to present a talk on chronic pain and disability group at Harvard Medical School in Boston on October 28.
Learn more about the AAPM here.

For Alumni

Alumni Relations
You can help the next generation of Mavericks


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

Memorial fund honors late physics professor

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, Oct. 26
bionorthTX iC3 Life Science Summit, College Park Center. The summit will provide scientists, educators and community leaders a forum to network, learn, exchange ideas and promote business opportunities in the region. Find the full schedule and more information here.
Friday, October 28
Chemistry Biochemistry Society 6th Annual Poster Symposium – 2-5 p.m., CPB 3rd floor atrium. Open to all undergraduate students. Abstracts (250 words maximum) must be submitted by Oct. 24 to The winner receives a paid trip to the National ACS meeting to present their work. Cash prizes for 2nd and 3rd places; honorable mentions will receive T-shirts.
Tue.-Sat, Nov. 1-5
Science Week 2016 A week full of guest lectures, Q&A panels and special events designed to bring College of Science alumni, students and faculty together and to showcase the innovative work being done in the College. Schedule of events coming soon.
Thursday, Dec. 8
COS Holiday Luncheon 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Red River/Concho Rooms, 2nd Floor of the E.H. Hereford University Center Faculty and staff are invited to this holiday party hosted by the dean.
Friday, December16
COS Fall 2016 Commencement, 7-9 p.m., College Park Center The COS and COE will hold a joint ceremony. Full details coming soon.
Planetarium offering fun lineup of shows
Check out The Planetarium at UT Arlington’s lineup of fun and exciting shows for the fall! The Fall 2016 schedule runs through November 27.
6:00 pm - The Hot and Energetic Universe
7:00 pm - Pink Floyd
1:00 pm - Cosmic Colors
2:30 pm - Secret of the Cardboard Rocket
5:30 pm - The Hot and Energetic Universe
7:00 pm - Pink Floyd
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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