The University of Texas at Arlington
College of Science
April 2017
Jones receives APS Tanaka Dissertation Award in Experimental Particle Physics
Benjamin Jones
The American Physical Society has awarded Benjamin Jones, assistant professor of physics at The University of Texas at Arlington, the Mitsuyoshi Tanaka Dissertation Award in Experimental Particle Physics, which is widely considered the most prestigious dissertation award in the field.
Jones received the award for his doctoral thesis from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Sterile Neutrinos in Cold Climates,” which was based on his research on the IceCube experiment at the South Pole.
The award will be presented to Jones during the annual meeting of the APS Division of Particles and Fields, scheduled for July 31-August 4 at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) outside Chicago.
IceCube is an international collaboration of scientists from 48 institutions in 12 countries, dedicated to studying neutrino physics and neutrino astrophysics using the 1-billion-ton IceCube detector located at the South Pole. Neutrinos are subatomic particles that may offer an answer to the mystery of the universe’s matter/anti-matter imbalance.
Read more of this story here.
Chowdhury named to prestigious group of emerging investigators by ASMS journal
Saiful Chowdhury
The American Society of Mass Spectrometry has named Saiful Chowdhury, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at The University of Texas at Arlington, as one of the leading emerging investigators worldwide for his work developing new techniques using mass spectrometry to differentiate protein modifications linked to cancer and aging.
Each of the 14 early researchers chosen are “already making important contributions in their respective fields of research and are influencing future directions in our field,” according to the editorial published in the April 2017 Journal of the American Society of Mass Spectrometry, which includes the 2017 ASMS “Emerging Investigators” Focus.
Chowdhury has developed new strategies using mass spectrometry to identify prenylated proteins, or proteins modified by lipids, which are a biomarker of leukemia, pancreatic and colon cancers; genetic and aging-related illnesses; and parasitic, bacterial and viral infections. Mass spectrometry identifies proteins or peptide, which are small pieces of protein, sequences by fragmenting them into smaller pieces and analyzing the masses.
Read more of this story here.
Two COS students receive funds from NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program
Priscilla Glenn, left, and Mayowa Olawoyin
Two College of Science students at The University of Texas at Arlington have been named recipients of National Science Foundation funds to further their graduate education through the NSF’s prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) for 2017.
Priscilla Glenn, a senior biology major, and Mayowa Olawoyin, a secondyear Ph.D. student in mathematics, are among the awardees. The GRFP provides three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period ($34,000 annual stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the institution).
This year, 2,000 awardees were selected from a pool of over 13,000 applicants. Awardees come from all 50 states and Washington D.C., as well as U.S. commonwealths and territories. The group of awardees is diverse, including 1,158 women, 498 individuals from underrepresented minority groups, 75 persons with disabilities, 26 military veterans and 726 undergraduate seniors. The awardees come from 449 baccalaureate institutions.
Read more of this story here.
Biology Ph.D. student Beston receives NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant
Shannon Beston
A doctoral student at The University of Texas at Arlington has received a prestigious National Science Foundation award to help fund her research.
Shannon Beston, a third-year Ph.D. student in biology, was selected to receive funds from the NSF’s Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grants (DDIG) program, which typically awards funding to only 100-200 projects nationwide each year. Beston, who works in the lab of Matt Walsh, assistant professor of biology, learned that she had been named a DDIG recipient while doing research for her dissertation on the Caribbean island of Trinidad in January.
The DDIG award, which is for $19,604, will fund Beston’s dissertation project, titled “The evolution of complexity: tests of the ecological drivers of eye size and brain size evolution in nature”, which examines the evolution of complex traits in natural populations. Specifically, the work addresses how eyes and brains have evolved in response to predation in populations of killifish, Rivulus hartii, found in the waters of the Caribbean off the island of Trinidad.
Read more of the story here.
UTA, UTSW researchers’ findings challenge approach to pediatric neurological disorder
Jianzhong Su
Researchers at UTA and UT Southwestern Medical Center have discovered that diet changes and early diagnosis could help outcomes for patients with Glucose Transporter Type 1 Deficiency, a rare pediatric neurological disorder that can cause motor developmental problems and trigger seizures and epilepsy.
“We set out to clarify issues surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of the disease through the creation of the first registry to collect detailed medical and treatment history from a broad range of patients, including phenotypes or traits, treatment history and genetic information,” said Dr. Juan Pascual, a neurologist and director of the Rare Brain Disorders Program at UT Southwestern’s O’Donnell Brain Institute.
“Our data suggests that the single most important factor determining positive patient outcome is an early age of diagnosis, and also demonstrates that alternative dietary therapies can radically improve patient health over the long -term.”
The results were published April 24 in JAMA Neurology in an article titled “Clinical Aspects of Glucose Transporter Type 1 Deficiency: Information from a Global Registry.” UTA’s Jianzhong Su, professor and chair of mathematics, and Jian Hao, a member of Su’s research team, were co-authors on the paper.
Read more of the story here.
Kubinak finds body’s own immune system regulates bacterial communities in intestine
Jason Kubinak
Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Utah have concluded that the body’s own immune response regulates the composition of bacterial communities in the intestine that improve health and help fight off infections.
Differences in the quality of this immune response and the composition of the bacteria in the intestine determine an individual’s susceptibility to inflammatory diseases like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, as well as infectious diseases like Salmonellosis or Listeriosis. Because of genetic differences between people, this immune response is unique to each individual.
“This knowledge could be harnessed to treat diseases caused by an imbalance in the relationship between the host and the communities of bacteria in their intestine, otherwise known as gut dysbiosis,” said Jason Kubinak, UTA assistant professor of biology. “We can now imagine a world where oral vaccines or probiotics could be used to bolster natural defenses or control infection, reducing our need for long-term steroid or antibiotic use, both of which can have serious negative side-effects.”
Read more of this story here.
College of Science to honor newest graduates during Spring 2017 Commencement May 12

New College of Science graduates during the Spring 2016 Commencement ceremony.

Students, faculty, family and friends will join together on Friday, May 12 to celebrate with the Class of 2017 during the College of Science Spring 2017 graduation ceremony, starting at 7 p.m. in College Park Center.
Commencement is an opportunity for new graduates to celebrate with their families and friends while being recognized for their years of hard work.
Guest speaker for the event will be COS alumnus Dr. Ignacio Nuñez (B.A., Biology, ’75), who was named a UTA Distinguished Alumnus in 2010. Nuñez is an obstetrician and gynecologist with Family Healthcare Associates in Arlington and a 34-year veteran of health care. He chairs the College of Science Advisory Council and is a longtime supporter of the COS. In 2010 Nuñez and his wife, Lynda, honored his mother with the creation of the Carmen Trujillo Nuñez Pre-Med Scholarship, which is given annually to a COS pre-med major. Nuñez is a past president of the Fort Worth OB-GYN Society, and member of the Tarrant County Medical Society and other prominent health organizations.
Cuntz co-authors paper exploring orbital dynamics of system’s possible exocomets
Manfred Cuntz, professor of physics, is co-author of a paper that explores the orbital dynamics of possible exocomets in the HD 10180 star-planet system.
The paper, titled “Case Studies of Exocomets in the System of HD 10180”, was published in the April edition of The Astronomical Journal. Cuntz’s co-authors are Birgit Loibnegger and Rudolf Dvorak of the University of Vienna. The authors’ investigation of the HD 10180 system was motivated by the discovery of exocomets in various systems.
An exocomet is a comet which exists outside Earth's solar system, including interstellar comets and comets that orbit stars other than the sun.
“The center star [of HD 10180] is of spectral type G1 V, and is strikingly similar to the Sun regarding mass, surface temperature, metallicity and age, with some of the data even agreeing with solar values within their error bars,” they wrote.
The researchers found that “Exocomets appear to constitute a significant component of stellar systems as informed by previous theoretical and observational studies.” They also learned that “due to gravitational interaction with the planets, a substantial number of comets were ejected from the system, which allows us to conclude that not only planet formation mechanisms, but also the influence of passing stars with ensuing interactions of the comets with the planets and subsequent ejection from the system can account for a large number of interstellar comets.”
Read the article abstract here.

COS Alumni

Alumni Spotlight
Hannah Webber

Hannah Webber got hooked on biology as a high school freshman, “due to its complexity and how it helped me understand that the world around me truly operated on a microscopic level.” When it came time to select a college, Webber says she knew that UTA offered a wide variety of science and biology classes. There was also the fact that both of her parents were UTA alums — her dad received a bachelor’s in mathematics and a master’s in finance, and is a former faculty member in the College of Business, while her mom earned a B.A. in English and worked on campus as an advisor. Webber enrolled at UTA in the fall of 2008 and earned a B.S. in Biology in May 2012. From there she went on to doctoral work at UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth, doing her dissertation research in UNTHSC’s North Texas Eye Research Institute. Her dissertation project focused on the molecular mechanisms driving glaucoma. She successfully defended her dissertation earlier this month and will receive her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences in May. Then it’s on to a postdoctoral position at the Stanford School of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology, where she’ll be working at the molecular level on neuroprotection and neuroregeneration studies of the optic nerve. Following her appointment at Stanford, “I hope to secure a professorship as well as grant funding that allows me to explore aspects of neuroregeneration research that interest me and that can potentially cure central nervous system diseases such as glaucoma, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's.”
Birthplace: Fort Worth
Years at UTA: 2008-12
Favorite professor: Maeli Melotto, former assistant professor of biology. “I worked for her lab during my senior year and she was very inspiring in the way she treated her graduate students as well as her undergraduate students, how hard she worked and how organized she was, and how down to earth she was.” Webber also enjoyed her immunology and virology classes, taught by Michael Roner, associate professor of biology. “His classes challenged me and made me begin thinking about doing research in biomedical sciences.”
Advice for students: After taking a difficult summer chemistry course taught by Peter Kroll, associate professor, and working hard to receive an A, she was advised by Kroll to seek a biochemistry degree. She told him she was too scared and not smart enough to do it. “Dr. Kroll told me that by just saying that, I was making it true. He said that I was the only person holding me back. I didn't realize at the time how right he was, but always thought about his advice. I finally understand the power behind that attitude, and now I make sure to never be the person to hold myself back and to take every opportunity set in front of me, no matter how scared I am to fail.”

UT Arlington Alumni Association

COS Students

Student Spotlight
Austin McDonald

Austin McDonald took a circuitous path to physics, but says it was well worth the effort. After high school, he says he “had no idea what I would do with my life.” He enrolled at Tarrant County College and entered TCC’s aviation maintenance program, where he enjoyed taking planes apart and seeing how they worked. But he also wanted to know why they worked the way they did. After taking an algebra course and excelling, he was encouraged to become a TCC math tutor, which he did. He enjoyed it so much that he changed majors to mathematics. His calculus professor was fond of physics and this in turn spurred McDonald’s interest in it. He transferred to UTA in the summer of 2013 and received a B.S. in Physics in December 2015. He started work on his Ph.D. the following spring, with David Nygren, Presidential Distinguished Professor of Physics, and Benjamin Jones, assistant professor of physics, as his advisors. His research focuses on improving detector sensitivity for Neutrinoless Double Beta decay (NDB) searches. “NDB is only a theorized decay at this point in time but it seems to be one of the more promising ‘beyond the standard model’ searches,” McDonald said. “If NDB is discovered it will mean that the neutrino is its own antiparticle. If this is true this can explain why the universe is made of matter, not antimatter, and this would also give us a deeper theoretical understanding of neutrinos.” McDonald is developing a new type of sensor by combining single molecule imaging with a highpressure gas time projection chamber (Nygren invented the TPC in 1974). “This is a very interesting project that is proving to be very difficult, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Birthplace: Grapevine, TX
Current status: Second-year Ph.D. student
Started at UTA: Spring 2016
Major: Physics
Favorite professors: Aside from the obvious (Nygren and Jones), his favorites are Barbara Shipman, associate professor of mathematics, and Barry Spurlock, lecturer in physics. “They both have a way to convey complex topics in an intuitive way, they are also very energetic in class which makes it very enjoyable,” McDonald said.
Where he hopes to be in 5 years: “I hope I will have a position at a national lab or a university where I can continue to do research on detectors, and possibly develop new methods and techniques for the next generation of detectors.”

Calendar of events

Wednesday, May 3
COS Spring Faculty & Staff Meeting and Awards
3:30-5 p.m., University Center Bluebonnet South Room
All COS faculty and staff are invited to attend this meeting, where year-end awards will be presented.
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 here.
Monday, June 5
First day of classes for Summer
first 5-week session and 11-
week session
Thursday, July 6
Last day of classes for first
Summer 5-week session
Tuesday, July 11
First day of classes for second
Summer 5-week session
Thursday, August 10
Last day of classes for Summer
11-week session and second 5-
week session
Thursday, August 24
First day of classes for Fall
2017 semester

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 Spring schedule runs through May 28. 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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