The University of Texas at Arlington
College of Science
January 2018
Pellegrino research team identifies proteins that may help stressed cell organs recover
Mark Pellegrino
UTA researchers led by Mark Pellegrino, assistant professor of biology, have identified proteins in a signaling pathway in mammals that help mitochondria recover from stress. The discovery could pave the way to the development of new treatments for cancer and some neurological diseases.
Mitochondria are cell organs with multiple functions, including the production of cellular energy and the metabolism of amino acids and lipids, as well as the regulation of programmed cell death.
When mitochondria are stressed by disease, toxins or infection, a signaling pathway is created whereby a protein enters the cell nucleus and binds to specific DNA sequences to unlock genes that help repair the mitochondria. This pathway is called the mitochondrial unfolded protein response or UPRmt.”
“We identified the protein ATFS-1 as the regulator of the UPRmt signaling pathway in C. elegans, a primitive worm that we study as it shares many characteristics with human biology. Recently ATF5 was found to encode a homologous protein in mammals, with similar mitochondrial and nuclear localization sequences,” said Pellegrino, lead author of the mini-review study in the Journal of Biological Chemistry that included the research.
Read more of this story here.
Psychology doctoral student Ta receives APA award to fund dissertation research

Vivian Ta

Vivian Ta, doctoral student in psychology, recently received a prestigious 2017 Dissertation Research Award from the American Psychological Association.
The award, in the amount of $1,000, is helping to fund Ta’s dissertation project, which is titled “Opposing Attitudes in Controversial Discussions: The Role of Latent Semantic Similarity in Computer-Mediated Interactions.” In her research, Ta is using a computational linguistics technique to examine the online discussions of a controversial social issue on which discussion partners have opposing views. Her faculty advisor is William Ickes, professor of psychology.
“I'm looking to see if the ability to get on the same page linguistically with others on a controversial social issue facilitates more productive and less contentious discussions over the internet,” she said. “This is a timely issue to investigate because many people are having or engaging in political discussions and debates over the internet, on social media, for example. And, as you might expect, it can lead to very heated and aggressive conversations, especially between people who don't agree with each other politically, which can then lead to other negative outcomes. This study would allow us to understand how language impacts the way we understand one another on controversial social issues, and how this influences our ability to engage in civil discourse over the internet.”
Ta previously earned B.A. and M.S. degrees in Psychology from UTA in 2012 and 2016, respectively. She plans to complete her Ph.D. this spring and graduate in May. She says she was surprised but excited when she found out she had received the APA award.
“It’s a pretty competitive award, and I feel very honored and grateful to have received it,” she said.
Gurdemir named to committee to help update planetarium industry standards

Levent Gurdemir

Levent Gurdemir, director of the UTA Planetarium, has been named by the International Planetarium Society to its Vision 2020 committee, which is updating the organization’s strategic plan to meet the changing needs of planetariums in the 21st century.
The committee is addressing six main goals, and Gurdemir is in charge of Goal 5, which is to “provide support and leadership in transitioning to next-generation planetaria design, technologies and content development.”
Gurdemir was invited to serve on the committee by its chair, Jon Elvert, director of the Irene W. Pennington Planetarium at the Louisiana Art and Science Museum in Baton Rouge. The committee is comprised of seven members and two ad hoc members, all of whom are well-known and highly respected in the industry.
“The other committee members are from the most prestigious institutions around the world and therefore it will be a great honor for me to serve in this capacity,” Gurdemir said.
Gurdemir’s committee assignment involves finding ways to improve the functionality of planetarium designs and projection systems, as well as to improve the content of planetarium shows. The committee meets periodically by teleconference and will convene in person during the IPS annual conference, scheduled for July 1-6 in Toulouse, France.
Learn more about the IPS here
Schug, Hildenbrand co-edit book examining environmental issues involved with fracking
Kevin Schug, Shimadzu Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry and director of UTA’s Collaborative Laboratories for Environmental Analysis and Remediation (CLEAR), and Zacariah Hildenbrand, a CLEAR consultant affiliate contributor, co-edited a new textbook from global publishing company Elsevier.
Schug and Hildenbrand were co-editors of the first edition of the book, Environmental Issues Concerning Hydraulic Fracturing, Volume 1. The book “captures the state-of-the-art research currently used to evaluate the potential impact of unconventional gas and oil gas extraction processes,” according to the Elsevier website.
Topics include chapters on the human health implications of unconventional oil and gas development; the use of noble gas analysis and other forensic techniques in characterizing contamination pathways associated with oil and gas development; well integrity; contamination mechanisms and groundwater impacts associated with unconventional oil and gas development; and advances in fracturing and well construction: improving efficiency and reducing risks.
It covers a wide variety of emerging and state-of-the-art technologies and provides a comprehensive set of reviews, covering the potential impact of unconventional gas and oil gas extraction processes.
The book is available for purchase here.
New study led by Armstrong of ethanol in kombucha drinks featured in online article

Daniel Armstrong

A recently published paper co-authored by Daniel Armstrong, Robert A. Welch Distinguished Professor in chemistry and biochemistry, was the focus of a January 15 online article in the blog Science Trends.
The paper, “Examination of the Varied and Changing Ethanol Content of Commercial Kombucha Products”, was published in Volume 10, Issue 12 of the journal Food Analytical Methods (December 2017). It focuses on kombucha, a fermented drink which is increasingly popular and purportedly has health-promoting properties. It is made by adding specific strains of bacteria, yeast and sugar to tea extract. As the blog story points out, it isn’t clear which ingredients are present but ethanol is believed to be among them. Even if present in only very low quantities, ethanol can raise a drink’s alcohol by volume above the legal standard, so that only adults 21 and older may legally consume them.
Armstrong and his co-authors performed tests using gas chromatography (GC) to analyze the amount of ethanol in samples of kombucha.
“Several factors may impact the amount of alcohol in kombucha beverages, including but not limited to the microbial composition of kombucha culture, the initial sugar content, the time course of fermentation, and incubation temperature,” the blog article says.
The blog article was written by Armstrong and two of his co-authors of the published study, Mohsen Talebi and Rahul Patil.
Read the Science Trends article here. Read the paper abstract in Food Analytical Methods here.
College of Science celebrates its newest graduates during Fall 2017 commencement
UTA President Vistasp Karbhari delivers the commencement address on December 15.
The College of Science welcomed almost 300 new graduates, including a record 23 Ph.D. recipients, to the ranks of its alumni during the Fall 2017 Commencement ceremony on December 15 at College Park Center.
The ceremony honored students who fulfilled the requirements for degrees during the Summer 2017 and Fall 2017 semesters. UTA President Vistasp Karbhari was commencement speaker for the event, and he encouraged the new graduates to embrace the ever-increasing amount of globalization and the diversity that goes along with it.
“You are our best and brightest,” Karbhari said. “You’ve already demonstrated that you have intellect and talent. You are determined and motivated; you are innovative and entrepreneurial, creative and committed. You’re focused not just on bettering your own lives, but those of your families and those of the communities in which you live and in which you will serve.”
Karbhari urged the graduates to keep five guiding principles in mind to “light the way along your journey of possibilities.”
“First, in everything you do, don’t just put an uncertain foot forward; jump in with both feet and with all your heart. … Second, be resilient. … Third, maintain your integrity. … Fourth, be thankful for what you have; thank people every day for the small things they do for you and for the things they don’t do. … The fifth and final principle I give you comes from one of my favorite authors, Richard Bach, who wrote, ‘When you have come to the edge of all the light you have and you step into the darkness of the unknown, believe that one of two things will happen to you: either you’ll find something solid to stand on, or you'll be taught how to fly.’ ”
He also encouraged the new graduates to believe in themselves.
“So as you get ready to leave these hallowed halls, remember that as Mavericks, there is nothing that cannot be achieved, no dream that is too big, or too far,” he said. “It’s in your hands; all you have to do is reach out, grab it, believe in it and in yourself, and make it happen.”
Watch video of the ceremony here.
UTA physics students make science fun for
K-12 visitors at DFW Airport Career Expo

UTA physics team members at the expo include, from left: Garrett Elrod, Dominic Kotzer, Nila Veerabathina, Thomas Davis, Edward Perez, Akshat Tripathi, Desiree Bates, and Deborah Tekell. Team members not pictured include Matthew Depalma, Niyousha Davachi and Adolfo Pacheco-Esparza.

A team of UTA physics students entertained and educated K-12 students at the 14th annual DFW Airport Aviation & Transportation Career Expo on November 10 at the American Airlines hangar No. 5 and at C.R. Smith Museum.
The UTA team, comprised of members of UTA’s chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) , was led by Nilakshi Veerabathina, associate professor of instruction in physics. Team members include: Desiree Bates, Niyousha Davachi, Thomas Davis, Matthew Depalma, Garrett Elrod, Dominic Kotzer, Adolfo Pacheco-Esparza, Edward Perez, Deborah Tekell, and Akshat Tripathi.
About 3,000 K-12 students and their teachers and administrators from schools across North Texas attended the expo, where they learned about aviation, transportation and science in general.
The UTA team presented physics activities including demonstrations associated with mechanical electrical generators, Tesla coil, wheels and rotating stools, super conductors, magnets and electricity related demos, bed of nails, and optical illusion.
Students attending the expo saw the latest in technology from many transportation fields, as well as view demonstrations from over 30 exhibitors representing industry, government and academic institutions. Aircraft and various vehicles were on display for visitors.
Learn more about the expo here.
Dillon receives Staff Advisory Council Star
of the Month Award for dedicated service

Yvonne Dillon, right, receives the STAR of the Month Award from Margie Jackymack, SAC chairperson, on January 25

Yvonne Dillon, UTeach Arlington business manager and administrative assistant in the College of Science dean’s office, received the Star of the Month Award from the UTA Staff Advisory Council for January.
The award recognizes UTA staff members for their “outstanding commitment and passion to the university and for embodying the true spirit of a UTA Maverick.”
“I would like to thank the Staff Advisory Council for selecting me as the Star of the Month. It is refreshing to have an organization on campus that seeks out ways to improve our work conditions and find new and exciting benefits,” she said. “I would also like to recognize all the faculty and staff who work together as a team every day in the true spirit of being a Maverick. Go Mavs!”
Dillon joined UTA in 2006. She started as an accounting clerk in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and in 2008 was promoted to accountant. In 2010 she helped launch UTeach Arlington as the program’s business manager. UTeach Arlington is UTA’s highly successful science and mathematics secondary teacher preparatory program, which enables students to earn a science or mathematics degree as well as teacher certification, all in a four-year period.
Learn more about the Staff Advisory Council here.

COS Alumni

Student Spotlight
Katie Gosa

When students enroll at UTA, they’re encouraged to become active in some of the many student organizations on campus. Katie Gosa definitely heeded the advice, summing things up thusly: “I’ve tried to do as much as possible in my undergraduate career.” The senior, who plans to graduate in May with a double major in Psychology and History, is Student Government president for 2017-18 and has served in numerous roles in a host of student organizations since her first semester as a freshman in Fall 2014. She joined Freshman Leaders on Campus (FLOC), which promotes involvement in student governance and community service and prepares students for active participation throughout their years at UTA. From there, she became involved in Student Government, serving as a science senator and then as Student Congress secretary before running for SG president last spring. “When I found out I won, I cried my eyes out,” she says. “I couldn't believe I was so fortunate. This position is such an honor and has been the biggest dream I’ve ever dared to dream, and actually winning the election I spent months planning for was surreal.” Her main responsibilities as president are implementing resolutions passed by the Student Senate, and representing UTA on the UT System Student Advisory Council and the Texas Student Government Coalition. She also organizes events such as the President’s Roundtable and Pizza with the President, serves as chair for the Tuition Review Committee, and also serves as student representative on a number of committees and task forces. Among the issues important to her is bringing down the high cost of textbooks and class materials for students. She advocates the use of open educational resources (OER) — free, openly licensed text, media and other digital assets used as teaching, learning, and research resources. “It can get very expensive very fast to get the materials you need for classes,” she said. “OER is one solution to this issue, and could really make a difference on our campus.” With so many demands on her time as SG president, Gosa admits it hasn’t been easy balancing her SG duties with her studies, but she credits support from her professors as well as from members of the SG leadership team with helping her to manage the demands on her time. She has received awards as Outstanding Student Leader, Outstanding New Maverick Orientation Leader and FLOC member of the year. She has worked as a peer advocate and counselor in UTA’s Relationship Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention (RVSP) Program, and as a volunteer in the Social Interactions Research Lab of William Ickes, professor of psychology. She has also excelled as a student, receiving the Presidential Charter scholarship and a scholarship sponsored by BNSF. She started at UTA as an engineering major, but came to a realization during her freshman year. “What I was really interested in was how people worked, not systems,” she says. “I made the switch to psychology and I've been happy ever since! History was an addition I made after an intro history course when I heard of a field combining psychology and history that seemed very interesting. It has made for a very well-rounded educational experience. Psychology theory is so easily applied time and time again to various historical events.” Following graduation, she plans to go to graduate school and earn a master’s degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Whatever her future holds, odds are it won’t involve a great deal of free time.
Birthplace: Amory, Mississippi; grew up in Amory and Beaverton, Alabama
Majors: Psychology and History
Current status: Senior
Favorite professors: Shannon Layman and Madeline Rex-Lear, lecturers in psychology. “I chose them because they had such engaging classes. I loved every minute of them!”
Where she hopes to be in 5 years: “I'm still working that out. I know I'll be active in the Arlington community, so I hope I can keep working on bringing that community together.”

UTA student organizations

We invite you to become involved with the College

Nu ñez
Hello, I'm Dr. Ignacio Nu ñez, 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 cmeckler@uta.edu.

Calendar of events

Tuesday, February 13
COS Retirees Luncheon
11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. E.H. Hereford University Center, Carlisle Suite
Monday-Friday, March 12-16
Spring Break vacation
Friday, March 30
Last day to drop classes; submit requests to academic advisors prior to 4 p.m.
Monday, April 2
Registration begins for Summer and Fall 2018 terms
Friday, April 13
COS Student Research Symposium
Full details coming soon!
Friday, May 4
Last day of classes for Spring 2018 semester
Saturday, May 5
Departmental final exams
Monday-Friday, May 7-11
Final exams for the Spring 2018 semester
Friday, May 11
COS Spring 2018 Commencement
7-9 p.m., College Park Center
The COS and College of Education will hold a joint ceremony. Full 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 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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