The University of Texas at Arlington
College of Science
March 2018
UTA physicists first to develop device using fluorescence to detect radioactive decay
Ben Jones, left, and Austin McDonald
UTA physics researchers are leading an international team developing a new device that could enable physicists to take the next step toward a greater understanding of the neutrino, a subatomic particle that may offer an answer to the lingering mystery of the universe's matter-antimatter imbalance.
Physics tells us that matter is created side by side with antimatter. But if matter and antimatter are produced equally, then all of the matter created in the early universe should have been cancelled out by equal amounts of antimatter, eliminating existence itself instantly. And we would not exist.
To explain this asymmetry, some particle physicists claim that the tiny subatomic particle, the neutrino, and its antimatter particle, the antineutrino, are in fact the same particle. This might account for the overall excess of matter in the universe as a whole — and why we are here.
UTA researchers including Ben Jones, assistant professor of physics, and graduate student Austin McDonald, are now taking advantage of a biochemistry technique that uses fluorescence to detect ions to identify the product of a radioactive decay called neutrinoless double-beta decay that would demonstrate that the neutrino is its own antiparticle.
    Read the full story here.
Passy examining the causes, consequences of abundance, rarity in freshwater species

Sophia Passy

A biologist from The University of Texas at Arlington is studying why the populations of some species are more adversely affected than others by various harmful factors in freshwater environments.
    Sophia Passy, associate professor of biology, received a two-year, $199,997 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Environmental Biology for her project, titled “EAGER: Global assessment of the causes and consequences of commonness and rarity in freshwaters”.
    Human activity has caused a decline in global biodiversity through resource overexploitation, habitat modification, and introduction of non-native species. When rare species are lost, communities exhibit decreased functionality and provide devalued services to humans, which is an environmental and a socioeconomic problem.
    “Although biodiversity loss is global and affects all ecosystems, biodiversity in freshwaters is threatened by much higher extinction rates compared to terrestrial habitats,” Passy said. “Therefore, a better understanding of the causes and extent of rarity in freshwaters is urgently needed.”
    Read the full story here.
Shin studying possible link between PFC chemical class, risk of autism in children

Hyeong-Moo Shin

An environ-mental health scientist at The University of Texas at Arlington is studying whether a link exists between the risk of autism in children and exposure to environmental chemicals.
    Hyeong-Moo Shin, assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, is using a $436,273, two-year grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences for his project, titled “Exposure to Perfluorinated Compounds and Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders”.
    While considerable research has been done into the genetic factors associated with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), much less is known of the non-genetic causes, including exposure to environmental chemicals. Shin’s project is focusing on perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) as a chemical class of interest, because they are used in a large variety of consumer products, including food packaging, textiles and non-stick coatings on cookware. PFCs are widely used to make everyday products more resistant to water, stains, and grease.
    “PFCs have neurologic or neuro-developmental toxicity in experiments with laboratory animals,” Shin said. “Also, at least 5 million people in the U.S. are currently drinking water contaminated with PFCs above a health advisory level. The overall goal of this project is to determine whether exposure to PFCs at an early developmental stage – in the pregnancy or breastfeeding periods – is associated with risk for ASD.”
    Read the full story here.
McNeely discusses biofuels research during first Distinguished Women in Science event
Kelsey McNeely during her presentation in Nedderman Hall.
An energy scientist who is doing innovative biofuel research with algae was the inaugural speaker of the College of Science Distinguished Women in Science Speaker Series on March 28.
    Kelsey McNeely, who holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Princeton, is head of ExxonMobil’s Emerging Energy Sciences section and says her work could be described as “energy farming.” Her research involves using genetic engineering of algae to produce an algae oil which can be used as a renewable energy source.
    Advanced biofuels have the potential to increase energy supplies and reduce emissions, McNeely said. She and her research team are trying to develop strains of algae that show greatly improved photosynthetic efficiency and oil production. A key part of their work is in looking for ways to increase the lipid content of algae while decreasing the starch and protein components without inhibiting the algae’s growth.
    In addition to her talk, titled “Biofuels Research: Genetic Engineering as Key Enabler,” McNeely met with a group of female College of Science graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to discuss issues and obstacles that women face when seeking STEM degrees or jobs in STEM fields.
    See more photos from the event on our COS Facebook page here.
Gatchel to present pair of plenary talks at World Institute of Pain biennial conference

Robert Gatchel

Robert Gatchel, the Nancy P. & John G. Penson Endowed Professor of Clinical Health Psychology and Distinguished Professor of Psychology, will present two plenary talks at the 9th World Congress of the World Institute of Pain (WIP), May 9-12 in Dublin, Ireland.
    Gatchel will be plenary speaker for a topical seminar titled, Neurobiology of Chronic Opioid Addiction and Prediction. He will be chair and plenary speaker for a topical seminar titled, Central Sensitization: Mechanisms and Clinical Assessment. In addition, he will be a panel member for a meet the expert session titled, Pro-Con Debate: Opioids in Chronic Non-Cancer Pain.
    The WIP World Congress brings together the most recognized experts in the field of pain medicine throughout the world for the advancement and standardization of interventional pain practice and achievement of improved standards of care. Gatchel has devoted much of his career to the etiology, assessment, and treatment of chronic pain behavior.
    Learn more about the WIP World Congress here.
Nobel Laureate astrophysicist George Smoot to speak at colloquium, public talk April 5-6
George Smoot
George Smoot, experimental astrophysicist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics, will present two talks at UTA this week.
    The first will be titled “Reinterpreting Low Frequency Ligo/Virgo Events as Magnified Stellar-Mass Black Holes at Cosmological Distances”, at a special physics colloquium at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 5, in Science Hall Room 121. The second will be a public talk suitable for a general audience titled “Gravitational Waves, Black Hole Mergers, and Neutron Star Mergers”, at 3:30 p.m. Friday, April 6 in Nedderman Hall Room 100.
    Smoot is a researcher in observational astrophysics and cosmology at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley. His lab group observes the galaxy and the cosmic background radiation that is a remnant from the fiery beginning of the Universe. Projects include ground-based radio-telescope observations, balloon-borne instrumentation, and satellite experiments. The most famous of these is COBE (the NASA Cosmic Background Explorer satellite), which has shown that the cosmic background radiation intensity has a wavelength dependence precisely that of a perfectly absorbing body, indicating that it is the relic radiation from the big bang origin of the universe.
    Smoot was also an executive producer of Phantom of the Universe: The Hunt for Dark Matter, a planetarium show which debuted in 2016 and showcases an exciting exploration of dark matter, from the big bang to its anticipated discovery at the Large Hadron Collider. Other executive producers included Kaushik De, UTA professor of physics; Michael Barnett of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and Reinhard Schwienhorst of Michigan State University. The UTA Planetarium will host a special private screening of the show with introductions by Smoot, Barnett and De on April 7.
COS Alumni

We invite you to become involved with the College


Hello, I'm Dr. Ignacio Nunez, 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 Eckler, LMSW, CFRE, at 817-272-1497 or cmeckler@uta.edu.

UTA Alumni Relations

COS Students

Student Spotlight
Echo Burrows

Echo Burrows had a rock collection as a kid. She didn’t know what all the specimens were, but she did know they looked cool and she enjoyed finding them. Fast forward a decade or so and when Burrows enrolled at Tarrant County College to start her first year of college, she needed a basic science credit but wasn’t sure which one to take. Geology wasn’t a subject offered in high school but she was already somewhat familiar with it, having known a veteran geologist for several years. She took two introductory geology courses while at TCC, and was hooked. “I loved every bit of it,” she says. “I decided that this was something that I could enjoy learning more about, and declared my major as geology.” After transferring to UTA in Fall 2015 and taking classes in earth and environmental sciences, her love for the field was confirmed. “How many other fields are there where you get to play in the dirt?” she says. At UTA she has been on several field trips, including two in a class taught by EES associate professor Majie Fan. “Dr. Fan’s class was great; she understands that geology is a skill as well as a science, and the field trips she took us on allowed us to apply factual knowledge to actual examples.” Burrows is taking classes part-time while also working, which she has done since starting college and which has allowed her to pay for tuition and books without having to take out student loans. “It’s taking longer but it’s been good because it allows me to really learn the subject in-depth,” she said. Her free time is limited, but she is serving as president of the UTA Geological Society this year, after having been the group’s social media officer last year. After she receives her bachelor’s degree, which she anticipates will be in May 2020, she says she’ll explore what job options are available, possibly in the oil industry, or go to graduate school and begin work on a master’s degree. By that time she’ll have no problem naming all the specimens from that childhood rock collection.
Birthplace: Fort Worth
Majors: Earth & Environmental Sciences
Current status: Junior
Favorite professors: Majie Fan, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences. “She took time to truly teach our class and seemed to enjoy it,” Burrows said. “She came down to whatever level we as students were currently at, and worked with us so that we could learn the processes and understand what we were observing in the field.”
Where she hopes to be in 5 years: “Putting my knowledge to use in a way that I enjoy and that will benefit people.”

UTA student organizations

Calendar of events

Monday April 2
Registration begins for Summer and Fall 2018 terms
Tuesday, April 3
Texas Swing Health Professions Fair
12-2 p.m. E.H. Hereford University Center, Rio Grande Ballroom
Representatives from medical, dental, pharmacy and other health professions schools will provide information on admissions and answer students’ questions.
Friday, April 13
COS ACES Research Symposium
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Chemistry & Physics Building Atrium and UTA Planetarium
Over 100 COS undergraduate and graduate students will present their research, with prizes going to the winners as determined by a panel of judges and audience vote. Full details here.
Friday, April 20
COS Spring Picnic
11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Central Library Mall
Join us for free hot dogs and drinks, along with fun games!
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 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. Find full details here.

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. 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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