The University of Texas at Arlington
College of Science
January 2017
Thompson, Herrmann honored for efforts in establishing first planetarium at UTA
Cecil Thompson, left, and Ulrich Herrmann are shown inside the Roundhouse Planetarium soon after it opened in 1981.
The University of Texas at Arlington has one of the finest planetariums in the nation, a facility which in 2016 celebrated its 10th anniversary. It boasts the latest in digital technology and hosts thousands of school-children and visitors for its public shows every year.
The Planetarium at UTA is a direct legacy of the work of Ulrich Herrmann and Cecil Thompson, two former physics professors who teamed to create the University’s first planetarium, in the Roundhouse building adjoining Preston Hall, back in 1981. The contributions of Herrmann, who died in January 2015, and Thompson were honored at a December 19 ceremony during which a plaque commemorating their efforts was unveiled in the lobby of the Chemistry & Physics Building, directly across from the entrance to the planetarium.
The plaque includes a sketch of the Roundhouse, and its inscription reads: “In recognition of the contributions of Dr. Ulrich Herrmann, Professor Emeritus, and Dr. B. Cecil Thompson, Professor Emeritus, in establishing the first UT Arlington Planetarium in 1981”.
Thompson, his wife Jo, their two daughters and members of their family, as well as Herrmann’s widow, Marianne, and members of their family, were guests of honor. Over 100 friends, former colleagues and former students of Herrmann and Thompson – from all over the country – attended the event.
Read more of this story here.
COS alumnus Ray urges newest graduates to maintain a passion for lifelong learning
Michael Ray delivers the commencement address during the College of Science Fall 2016 graduation ceremony.
The College of Science welcomed its newest alumni during the Fall 2016 commencement ceremony on December 16 at College Park Center.
The College of Science and College of Education held a joint ceremony, with COS alumnus Michael Ray delivering the commencement address. Ray received B.S. (’76) and M.S. (’78) degrees in Mathematics and a Ph.D. (’81) in Mathematical Sciences, all from UTA. He is a Distinguished Scientific Advisor with ExxonMobil’s corporate strategic research division and has worked in various capacities for ExxonMobil and Mobil Oil since 1981. He began his career applying mathematical techniques to many of the problems the company faced in exploration and production, and transitioned into management.
“When I graduated, I had a nice, neat picture of what my career was going to be,” Ray said. “ None of it happened. Life doesn’t have a degree plan; from here on out there is no syllabus.”
Ray encouraged the new graduates to be flexible and keep an open mind, and urged them to keep a passion for learning throughout their lives. He also encouraged them to find mentors to help them in their careers, but to also be mentors to others.
“Whatever you choose, seek out experiences that will help you grow in dimensions where your experience is limited,” he said. “Never lose your curiosity. If you aren’t afraid from time to time that you’ve gone out too far, then you aren’t pushing hard enough.”
Watch video from the ceremony here.
Gatchel receives Goldstein Lecture Award from UNTHSC Osteopathic Research Center
Robert Gatchel, the Nancy P. & John G. Penson Endowed Professor of Clinical Health Psychology and director of UTA’s Center of Excellence for the Study of Health & Chronic Illnesses, received the Goldstein Lecture Award from the UNT Health Science Center’s Osteopathic Research Center on January 26 in Fort Worth.
The award was established in honor of Murray Goldstein, DO, for his many contributions to the field of osteopathic medicine.
In conjunction with the award, Gatchel will present the Goldstein Lecture, titled “The Biopsychosocial Model of Chronic Pain: Past, Present, and Future Clinical Directions.” Gatchel is a pioneer in stress reduction and wellness therapy, and in the biopsychosocial aspects of chronic pain.
Gatchel will also present a webinar at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, January 31 titled “Fear-Avoidance Beliefs and Chronic Pain”. The webinar is sponsored by the Canadian Institute for the Relief of Pain and Disability. Among the topics Gatchel will address in the webinar are: the significance of fear-avoidance beliefs in chronic pain patients; methods for measuring fear-avoidance beliefs; and methods for treating fear-avoidance beliefs in chronic pain patients. Register for the webinar here.
Jeon leading research to improve chemical compounds for faster, cheaper production
Junha Jeon
Junha Jeon, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, is leading a team in developing new methods to synthesize groups of chemical compounds in order to provide faster, less expensive routes to produce the compounds for subsequent use in medical drug discovery and development.
The project focuses on compounds containing carbon-silicon bonds, which are called organosilanes or organosilanols. These molecules are in increasingly high demand for use in a variety of applications, including pharmaceutical and other medical-related activities. They are widely used in organic chemistry, particularly as protecting groups, reducing agents and synthetic intermediates.
Jeon is a principal investigator for the project, which is titled “Catalytic Reductive C-H and C-C Silylation with Silyl Acetals”. The work is funded by a three-year, $424,720 grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, one of the National Institutes of Health.
“The goal of our research is to develop novel compounds from readily accessible, simple chemical building blocks,” Jeon said. “The synthetic methods developed in this research will provide broadly applicable, time- and cost- saving, synthetic routes to provide rapid access to such compounds for subsequent use in drug discovery and development, thus contributing to the promotion of human health.”
Read more of this story here.
UTA hosts launch of program focused on increasing number of minority faculty
UTA President Vistasp Karbhari made opening remarks at the launch of the initiative.
UTA hosted the launch of a multi-year collaborative project among 10 leading educational institutions that aims to increase the number of university faculty from under-represented minority groups.
In the project, held on January 14, under-represented minority groups include African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Native Pacific Islanders.
UTA is now working alongside Cornell University, Howard University, Northwestern University, Michigan State University, Boston University, Iowa State University, the University of Buffalo, the University of Georgia and the University of Maryland at College Park, to devise a series of new initiatives focused on faculty and postdoc advising/mentoring and graduate peer initiatives to support under-represented minority groups’ students who are interested in faculty careers.
The new initiative, funded by the National Science Foundation’s Alliances for Graduate Education and Professoriate program, forms part of $5.9 million in funding for three new alliances consisting of 14 partner universities.
Read more of this story here.
Ph.D. graduate Wang credits UTA-Shimadzu partnership for immediate job opportunity
Evelyn Wang
Evelyn Wang credits UTA's unique partnership with Shimadzu Scientific Instruments for the job offer she received before she even graduated.
Wang was a prepharmacy major who became interested in research due to the mentorship of chemistry Professor Carl Lovely. She likened it to “putting a puzzle together.” She changed her major to biochemistry and served as a tutor for general and organic chemistry courses while working in the lab of Kevin Schug, UTA’s Shimadzu Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry.
She received various scholarships and awards, including the 2008-09 John T. Murchison Award for Outstanding Senior and the Academic Excellency Award. She was also a scholar in UTA’s LSAMP (Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation) program in 2008-09. Wang earned a B.S. in Biochemistry in 2010 and then began work on a Ph.D.
She worked in UTA’s Shimadzu Institute through industrial funding provided by Restek Corp., which led to a successful job interview with Shimadzu Scientific Instruments. She received her Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry in May 2016 and is now an application scientist at Shimadzu's North American headquarters in Maryland.
Watch a video detailing Wang’s story here.
Lopez among panelists providing details about total solar eclipse coming in August
Ramon Lopez, professor of physics, was among the scientists who presented an overview of the total solar eclipse happening later this year during a press conference at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting on December 14 in San Francisco.
Lopez was joined by scientists from NASA and the University of Hawaii during the presentation, which gave details about the total solar eclipse which will occur on August 21. They discussed the geometry of eclipses, eclipse science today and throughout history, and how to safely view the eclipse, which will be visible in the United States from coast to coast.
Lopez discussed how total eclipses over the centuries have paved the way for major scientific findings.
“Ancient people in different civilizations were able to discern celestial patterns and predict eclipses without understanding the science,” Lopez said. He went on to describe landmarks in the history of eclipse science, including the expedition to confirm the theory of general relativity and the discovery that the sun’s corona is much hotter than the surface of the sun.
The event will be the first total solar eclipse visible across the entire U.S. since 1918.
Watch a video of the press conference here.
Ph.D. student Russell co-authors article on friendships between gay men, straight men
Eric Russell, a Ph.D. student in experimental psychology, coauthored an article titled “The emerging science of ’bromosexual’ friendships” that was published in the December 12 edition of the independent online news website The Conversation.
In the article, Russell and co-authors Marjorie Prokosch and Raymond McKie write that while friendships between gay men and straight men have traditionally been uncommon, lately these “bromosexual” friendships have started to receive more acceptance and interest. Social scientists, however, haven’t studied why these friendships develop or how they’re maintained.
Russell and his co-authors are part of a team of psychologists are studying the topic and are conducting a survey investigation that looks at some of the positive outcomes of “bromosexual” friendships.
The authors theorize that among the factors that could foster friendships between gay and straight men are the fact that many gay men are coming out at an earlier age, as well as the ability to give and receive advice from one another. The possibility that gay men could serve as the perfect “wing men” for their straight male friends is another issue the authors want to investigate.
Read the Conversation article here.
Schug offers test of readers’ knowledge of chromatography concepts in LCGC Blog
Kevin Schug, UTA professor and Shimadzu Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry, tested readers on chromatography concepts in the January 9 edition of the LCGC Blog.
The true-false questions tested readers’ knowledge of a variety of topics in chromatography. Schug wrote that although he is not a fan of multiple-choice questions on exams, he does like to include some true-false questions, because “they get right to the heart of a student’s understanding of important fundamental concepts.”
The 15 questions presented in the column are taken from the
senior level Instrumental Analysis class taught by Schug. The course covers
chromatography, spectroscopy, and mass spectrometry.
Schug also wrote that he is always on the lookout for new true-false questions
and encouraged readers to submit their own.
Read the LCGC Blog column here.

COS Alumni

Alumni Spotlight
Chris Riley

Riley earned B.S. degrees in Chemistry and Biology at UTA in 2010 and went into pharmaceutical research and development as a research chemist. He eventually left to work for a startup company focused on commercializing emerging technologies into business packages. When the company began focusing more and more on oilfield technologies he decided to return to the healthcare field and joined the American Heart Association to help form its Institute for Precision Cardiovascular Medicine. He is research administration manager for the Institute, which he describes as “another startup environment within a long-standing and established organization dedicated to improving cardiovascular and brain health around the world.”
Birthplace: Brownwood, Texas
Years at UTA: 2005-10
Favorite professor/class: Subhrangsu Mandal, associate professor of chemistry & biochemistry, Biochemical Genetics. “I really enjoyed his thoroughness in teaching mechanisms and the downstream effects of the biochemical pathways on genes. I feel it spurred an inquisitiveness for my investigative methods to think about direct effects on genes as well as ancillary activations/deactivations. This critical thinking style has helped me in many fields beyond genetics and chemistry, but into predictive business models and strategies. I’m forever grateful for Dr. Mandal’s fun approach to class and also his structured and intensive course regimen.”
Advice for students: “Read your textbooks and then compare what you read with the notes from lectures. The books will lay the foundation, and your professors can add nuanced detail to help you begin to pull everything together in your brain. Also, if the text isn’t working for you, buy an extra book on the same subject! Not all books are written equally. I can remember buying two additional books for Biophysical Chemistry just to find the writing style that worked best for me.”

COS Students

Student Spotlight
Troy Barber

Barber already has two degrees from UTA and just started work on his third, a Ph.D., with EES assistant professor Ashley Griffith as his primary thesis advisor. In Griffith’s lab, Barber is studying the micromechanics of high strain rate rock deformation. He will take part in a new project at a massive landslide field site in Utah starting this summer. He’s also working on a project with EES associate professor Qinhong Hu which focuses on understanding how multiphase fluid wettability affects flow pathways and pore accessibility in gas bearing shale rocks. Barber is married and has two young children, and manages to balance a very busy family and work schedule while also helping to mentor high school physics and engineering teachers as well as undergraduate EES students. He has earned various awards for his research, including Best Paper in the Coal Geology Division at the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting in 2014; a prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation in 2015; and Outstanding Student Paper (Tectonophysics Division) at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall meeting in San Francisco in December. He’s even finding time to give guest lectures this semester while Griffith is doing field work in Chile.
Birthplace: Fort Worth
Current Status: First-year Ph.D. student in Earth & Environmental Science
Degrees earned:: B.S. in Geology from UTA, December 2014; M.S. in EES from UTA, December 2016
Favorite professor/class: Ashley Griffith’s Geodynamics class (“Who knew that using boundary value problems and differential equations to solve global tectonics problems could be so fun?”)
Where he hopes to be in 5 years: “With some elbow grease and a little luck, I hope to be starting a postdoctoral appointment somewhere exciting. This will be the first time that I or my family would move away from Texas, and we are all excited about that adventure when it comes.”

Calendar of events

Tuesday, January 17
First day of classes for Spring 2017 semester
Monday-Friday, March 13-17
Spring Break
Wednesday, March 22
Annual Celebration of Excellence by Students (ACES) symposium — All day, E.H. Hereford University Center UTA’s annual showcase of student research will include poster and oral presentations in a variety of categories, with judges awarding winners in each category. Deadline to submit abstracts is February 13. Complete information here.
Friday, March 31
Final day to drop classes; students must submit requests to their academic advisor prior to 4 p.m.
Monday, April 3
Registration for Summer and Fall 2017 terms begins
Friday, May 5
Last day of classes for Spring 2017 semester
May 6, 8-12
Final exams for Spring 2017 semester
Friday, May 12
College of Science Spring 2017 Commencement ceremony 7 p.m., College Park Center. Complete details coming soon.

Planetarium at UTA

The Planetarium at UTA, one of the finest facilities in the nation, is equipped with a state of the art Digistar 5 DLP Projection system. The facility hosts shows, school field trips, special events and private functions. The Fall 2016 show schedule runs now through November 27. For show schedule, tickets, reservations and more, visit The Planetarium at UT Arlington and plan your trip to the stars today!

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