The University of Texas at Arlington
College of Science
June 2017
Biology doctoral student O'Connell receives NSF DDIG award to support his research
Kyle O'Connell
Kyle O'Connell, a fifth-year doctoral student in biology, has received a pres-tigious award from the National Science Foundation to fund his research.
O'Connell 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. O'Connell's faculty advisor is Matt Fujita, assistant professor of biology.
"I was incredibly excited about receiving the DDIG because I had been turned down by NSF several times already and this was my last chance to receive the award," he said. "Plus, receiving a DDIG award is a huge step toward advancing in the evolutionary biology field, so it was very important to me."
The DDIG award, which is for $19,695, will support O'Connell's dissertation research, which focuses primarily on the promoters of speciation - the formation of new and distinct species in the course of evolution - on the Indonesian island of Sumatra using parachuting frogs of the genus Rhacophorus.
Read more of this story here.
Official opening of UTA's Greer Lab marks conversion process' increased product yield

From left are: Fred MacDonnell, professor and chair of UTA's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Raymond Wright, president of Greenway Innovative Energy; UTA President Vistasp Karbhari; Pat Six, vice president of Greenway; Brian Dennis, professor in the UTA Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; and Ron Elsenbaumer, interim provost and former UTA vice president for research.

As this region continues its trajectory to become a megacity, UTA's Conrad Greer Lab was officially showcased this week. Researchers intend to fill a profitable niche in the energy field by converting natural gas to high-grade diesel and jet fuel.
Fort Worth-based Greenway Innovative Energy gave The University of Texas at Arlington $750,000 last year to build the lab. The lab's official ribbon-cutting ceremony, held June 26 in the Chemistry & Physics Building, unveiled years of innovation that will help fuel the world.
Fred MacDonnell, professor and chair in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Brian Dennis, professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, have perfected a conversion process and created a proprietary technology that allows them to produce liquid fuel on a larger scale, a scale that eventually will move the lab on the road to where natural gas is available.
UTA President Vistasp Karbhari said this partnership signals a critical turning point for the University, Greenway and the world.
Read more of this story here.
Castoe lab group using supercomputers to learn about snake evolution, function
Members of the Castoe laboratory, including (from left to right): Drew Schield (Ph.D. student), Todd Castoe (PI), Daren Card (top; Ph.D. student), Blair Perry (bottom; Ph.D. student), Rich Adams (Ph.D. student), Andrew Corbin (Ph.D. student), and Marine Murtskhvaladze (visiting Fullbright Scholar). Credit: Todd Castoe
Evolution takes eons, but it leaves marks on the genomes of organisms that can be detected with DNA sequencing and analysis.
As methods for studying and comparing genetic data improve, scientists are beginning to decode these marks to reconstruct the evolutionary history of species, as well as how variants of genes give rise to unique traits.
A UTA research team led by assistant professor of biology Todd Castoe has been exploring the genomes of snakes and lizards to answer critical questions about these creatures' evolutionary history. For instance, how did they develop venom? How do they regenerate their organs? And how do evolutionarily-derived variations in genes lead to variations in how organisms look and function?
To uncover new insights that link variation in DNA with variation in vertebrate form and function, Castoe's group uses supercomputing and data analysis resources at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), one of the world's leading centers for computational discovery. The TACC is located at UT Austin's J.J. Pickle Research Campus in northwest Austin.
Recently, they used TACC's supercomputers to understand the mechanisms by which Burmese pythons regenerate their organs — including their heart, liver, kidney, and small intestines — after feeding.
Read more of this story here.
Musielak co-authors book on three-body problem and its applications to exoplanets
Zdzislaw Musielak
Zdzislaw Musielak, professor of physics, is co-author of a new book about exoplanets.
The book, titled Three Body Dynamics and Its Applications to Exoplanets, is published by Springer and combines the historically developed methods to solve the three-body problem with the most current developments in the field of orbital mechanics, driven by the recent discoveries of exoplanets and exoplanetary systems, according to the Springer website.
Musielak's co-author is Billy Quarles, a postdoctoral research associate in astrophysics and cosmology at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. Quarles earned his Ph.D. in Physics from UTA in 2012, with Musielak as his faculty advisor. A Springer editor suggested to Musielak that he write a book after he and Quarles published a review paper on a similar topic in the prestigious journal Reports on Progress in Physics.
"It is a very hard work to write such a book because it requires a historical overview of the 3-body problem and also solid knowledge of all current developments in the field of exoplanets, which is the most active field in astronomy," Musielak said. "We devoted one full year to write the book, in the first six months we collected papers and read them and spent six months writing the manuscript."
The book will be available in late July and can be ordered here.
Gatchel co-chairs conference on workplace safety, presents lecture and plenary session
Robert Gatchel
Robert Gatchel, distinguished professor of psychology, served as a scientific co-chair of the Conference on Safe, Healthy and Productive Workplaces, held June 1-3 at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
The conference was sponsored by the Canadian Institute for the Relief of Pain and Disability and included key-note and general sessions, academic and panel discussions, breakout sessions and poster sessions.
"All five members of our team are active members of my behavioral neuroscience laboratory," said Linda Perrotti, UTA associate professor of psychology and team mentor. "We made a victorious comeback to reclaim the title of Brain Bowl champions after having lost it to UT Dallas in 2015. We also get to house the Brain Bowl Trophy on our campus for another year."
Gatchel presented a lecture, titled "Economic Benefits of Early Intervention," during which he presented data from recent studies that have investigated the timing of early interventions for the treatment of chronic disabling musculoskeletal disorders. He also led a plenary session, titled "Addressing Work-place Stressors Contributing to Poor Health, Decreased Productivity, and Prolonged Work Absence," which provided an update on what is known about effects of workplace stress and effective prevention and intervention approaches to decrease work stress.
Find more information about the conference here.
On June 20, Gatchel was interviewed on the SiriusXM110 satellite radio program Doctor Radio by host Dr. Carol Bernstein, M.D., a past president of the American Psychiatric Association and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. The topic was "Psychological Impact of Pain on Older Adults" and included discussion of the impact of pain on the elderly; whether the elderly experience pain differently from those who are younger; the psychological impact of chronic pain on the elderly; how chronic pain impacts those with chronic anxiety or depression; how painful physical illnesses can impact patients; and pain management techniques for older adults.
Young students enjoy immersion in STEM education at Bernard Harris science camp

Dr. Bernard Harris Jr., middle center, stands with student campers, counselors and UTA faculty in the Chemistry & Physics Building lobby on June 21.

About 40 middle school students from around the D/FW area enjoyed two all expenses paid weeks of immersion in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education while also having lots of fun during the 2017 ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp, held June 11-23 at UTA.
Student campers lived in campus dorms and participated in interactive, project-based classes. They met university faculty and students, learned from secondary school teachers and STEM educators, and participated in experiments, museum visits and hands-on learning opportunities. They also got to meet Dr. Bernard Harris Jr., a former NASA astronaut and the first African-American to walk in space. He visited the camp on June 21 and helped the students as they constructed their own mini Mars landers by working in teams and using household items.
UTA has hosted the camp numerous times since it started in 2006. The camps run each summer at universities around the United States and are a project of The Harris Foundation. Harris started his nonprofit foundation in 1998 to invest in STEM education, particularly for minority and other students who are economically and/or socially disadvantaged.
"We're taking kids who have already demonstrated abilities in math and science, putting them in this group, and providing them with interactive activities to enhance their skills," Harris said.
Learn more about The Harris Foundation here.

COS Alumni

UT Arlington Alumni Relations

We invite you to become involved with the College

Hello, I'm Dr. Ignacio Nuñez, chair of the College of Science Advisory Council and a proud UTA alumnus (B.S. in Biology, 1975). I would love to help get you involved on campus again. I was a first-generation college student, and UTA made it possible for me to attend medical school and create a life vastly different than that of my parents. Did UTA change your life too? Let's work together to help the next generation of Mavericks. To learn more, please contact College of Science Director of Development Christie Mosley-Eckler at817-272-1497 or

COS Students

Student Spotlight
Cherokee Sauer

Cherokee Sauer took an interest in medicine at an early age. She's now working toward making that interest into a career. Sauer is a pre-med biology major who will be a senior this fall. "I decided to major in biology because I enjoy the big picture of science and studying how living creatures interact," she said. "I love learning about how the body functions and works." She plans to graduate in Spring 2018 and then go on to medical school. As a member of UTA's Joint Admission Medical Program (JAMP) — which supports highly qualified, economically disadvantaged students pursuing a medical degree — she's guaranteed admission to one of Texas' nine medical schools after receiving her bachelor's degree. At UTA, she has completed medical internships at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine (formerly UT Health San Antonio) in San Antonio. As a freshman she received an Honors College Scholarship. She's active in the Science Constituency Council and club soccer, and for the last three years she's been part of the Science Ambassador program, in which College of Science students put on entertaining shows utilizing various science demonstrations for groups of K-12 students. "I decided to become an ambassador after my FIG (Freshman Interest Group) leader told us about it and the impact that we could have on students from all walks of life," she said. "I have seen this experience first-hand. My greatest joy in being an ambassador comes from teaching students and helping them gain knowledge of and passion for science."
Birthplace: Royse City, Texas
Major: Biology, with minors in Chemistry and Psychology
Current Status Senior
Favorite professors:Barry Spurlock, lecturer in physics. "He genuinely appreciates science and loves to teach. He was always around to help when I had questions. When I doubted my abilities he was always there to push me so that I could do better."
Where she hopes to be in 5 years: "In 5 years I hope to be graduating from medical school and becoming a medical doctor. I hope to be traveling and exploring while I am on my path to becoming a physician."

COS Spring 2017 Dean's List

UTA student organizations

Calendar of events

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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