The University of Texas at Arlington
College of Science
April 2018
Psychology alumna teaching unique summer class on companies’ mind control strategies
The Psychology and Mind Control Strategies course is believed to be the first of its kind to be offered anywhere. Courtesy illustration.
A College of Science alumna will teach a first-of-its-kind summer course which will focus on an important and timely topic — the use of people’s personal information by social media sites to attempt to influence what they think and buy.
    Helen Abadzi, who received a Ph.D. in Psychology from UTA in 1983, will teach the course, titled Psychology and Mind Control Strategies. It is being offered in Summer Session I (June 4-July 9) for both undergraduate and graduate students.
    “This will really be a blockbuster course,” Abadzi said. “Since the advent of social media, various organizations have used psychological research to try to ‘addict’ people to electronic devices, increase consumer spending, manipulate opinions, and influence voters. This course will present the science behind online engagement and its multiple implications. It will analyze the original research, its many applications to consumers, and the possibilities to reduce human vulnerabilities, given neuroscience.”
    The course will delve into the recent controversy in which Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm, gained access to the private data of millions of Facebook users and attempted to use the data to influence voter opinion in favor of politicians who hired the firm. The course will synthesize data from various articles and blogs published about the topic and will examine issues including ethics, implicit memory, evolutionary psychology, data analytics, social psychology, emotion, and motivation.
    “I’ve been researching this issue for some time and I’m shocked at this stuff,” Abadzi said. “The unfortunate thing is, it affects so many people and almost no one understands it.”
    The course is listed as PSYC 4359 for undergraduates and PSYC 6300 for graduate students. It will meet 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays.
Biology doctoral student earns prestigious NSF 2018 Graduate Research Fellowship

Marquerite Herzog

Marquerite Herzog, a biology doctoral student at The University of Texas at Arlington, has been awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to study the molecular genetic basis of changes in behavior seen when an individual loses during an aggressive conflict. These traits, which often include a period of time of isolation or submissiveness, are often referred to as the “loser” effect.
    “To date there are no studies that have documented the changes in gene expression from the time an individual loses a conflict and changes behavior to the time when he or she recovers,” Herzog said. “Finding out the molecular basis of the mechanism that produces the malaise and the switch that returns them to normal could have wide-ranging applications across multiple species.”
    Herzog’s interest in this issue grew from her experiences as a military veteran who also worked extensively with military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with combat-induced post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
    Herzog is studying the broad-horned flour beetle, Gnatoceros cornutus, an insect that fights other males for access to mating opportunities. When these insects experience social defeat, they go into a malaise for a few days and then return to normal activities, continuing to fight their peers for mates.
    Read the full story here.
UTA receives $998K NSF grant to continue undergraduate math scholarship program

SURGE students include, front row from left, Whittney Lebruce, Jodi Treszoks, Mariah Ochoa, and Jessica Bao; back row from left, Kristopher Connett, Amyn Karimi, Luke Jester, Henry Alvarez, and Andrew Soto-Levins.

The University of Texas at Arlington Department of Mathematics has received a new four-year, $998,652 grant from the National Science Foundation to continue a highly successful program that provides funds for high-achieving, financially disadvantaged undergraduate students to pursue degrees in mathematics.
    The new grant is the third for the math department’s System for Undergraduates to Reach Goals in Education or SURGE program, following awards in 2008 and 2013. The project includes a comprehensive mentoring system involving faculty, doctoral students and industrial scientists, as well as opportunities for undergraduate research.
    “Mathematics plays a very important role in so many different jobs and industries,” said Jianzhong Su, professor and department chair. “A thorough understanding of mathematics is critical for the technological advances that are happening so rapidly in our world. That is why encouraging students’ interest in studying mathematics through programs such as SURGE is so important.”
    Read the full story here.
COS celebrates its students’ excellence, innovation with ACES Research Symposium
COS ACES graduate awardees include, from left, Dylan Parks, Sarah Moorman, Julia Whitaker, and Mitali Gautam, with Kevin Schug, COS interim associate dean, at right.
College of Science under-graduate and graduate students presented their outstanding research projects during the COS Annual Celebration of Excellence by Students (ACES) Research Symposium on April 13.
    A panel of faculty judges selected award winners in the undergraduate and graduate poster categories, and first and second place awards were made in the oral presentation category via audience vote. Over 100 students participated in the event, which was held at the college level for the first time.
    “I think it was a great event and it really highlighted how much innovative and fascinating research is happening in the College of Science,” said Kevin Schug, COS interim associate dean and Shimadzu Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry. “The judges had a very difficult time selecting the winners because there were so many excellent entries.”
    Undergraduate poster awardees: (1st place) Michelle Reyes, chemistry/biochemistry; (2nd place) Halie Rion, chemistry/biochemistry; (3rd place — tie) Eman Alasadi, biology, and Josimar Hernandez Antonio, psychology.
    Graduate poster awardees: (1st place) Austin McDonald, physics; (2nd place) Julia Whitaker, psychology; (3rd place) Mitali Gautam, EES.
    Graduate oral presentation awardees: (1st place) Sarah Moorman, physics; (2nd place) Dylan Parks, biology.
    Event sponsors included Fresnel Technologies, Restek, and Shimadzu.
    See photos of the awardees and other participants on the COS website here and on the COS Facebook page here.
UTA’s CLEAR lab expanding its efforts to develop new water recycling technologies

Members of the CLEAR team include, front row from left, Tiffany Liden and Inês Santos; back row from left, Manny Varona-Torres; Zacariah Hildenbrand, and Kevin Schug.

The Collaborative Laboratories for Environmental Analysis and Remediation (CLEAR) at The University of Texas at Arlington has expanded its partnership with oil field equipment supplier Challenger Water Solutions to develop water recycling technologies that will transform waste from unconventional oil and gas development into reusable water.
    This collaboration has already resulted in a study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, where CLEAR evaluated a modular, multi-step water treatment system designed by CWS within the contexts of reuse for production well stimulation. The CLEAR research team determined that under a wide range of conditions, multiple treatment modalities were required to remove pertinent contaminants, the presence of which can preclude oilfield waste from being recycled and reused.
    “UTA’s ongoing efforts will include developing therapies for the treatment of harmful bacteria in the water that are resistant to traditional forms of disinfection,” said Zacariah Hildenbrand, co-founder and scientific contributor to CLEAR. A sponsored research agreement, the second within a year, from CWS to CLEAR, will pave the way for the development of new technology.
    Read more of this story here.
UTA HOSA students qualify for competition at International Leadership Conference
UTA HOSA chapter members attending the State Leadership Conference in Grapevine include, from left, Natasha Tamula, Monique Barnes, Laura Le, Quynh Tran, Jella Samonte, Raesha White, Vanessa Nolasco, Simpson Vu, and Dorian Trinh. Courtesy photo.
The UTA chapter of Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) competed at the annual State Leadership Conference at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine April 12-14, and 10 members qualified to move on to the HOSA International Leadership Conference in Dallas on June 27-30.
    The students competed in various healthcare related events, such as Dental Terminology and Prepared Speaking, against other pre-health students from universities across Texas. UTA team members qualifying for the international conference include Jennifer Corral, Heather Lake, Laura Le, Ivor Mosquera, Christina Onabajo, Jella Samonte, Natasha Tamula, Quynh Tran, Raesha White, and Simpson Vu.
    “This was the first time UTA HOSA has competed at the state conference, and they performed extremely well,” said Melissa Walsh, lecturer in biology and HOSA faculty advisor. “I’m very proud of how hard they have worked.”
    HOSA’s mission is to empower students to become leaders in the global health community through education, collaboration, and experience. Its purpose is to develop leadership and technical HOSA skill competencies through a program of motivation, awareness and recognition.
    Learn more about HOSA Texas here.
Nobel laureate visits UTA for pair of talks, special screening of planetarium show
Executive producers of the planetarium show Phantom of the Universe: The Hunt for Dark Matter, from left, Michael Barnett, George Smoot and Kaushik De, during the special screening gala for the show at the UTA Planetarium on April 7.
George Smoot, experi-mental astrophysicist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics, had a very eventful few days at UTA in early April.
    Smoot presented a pair of lectures on campus, the first to a packed lecture hall of faculty and students titled “Reinterpreting Low Frequency Ligo/Virgo Events as Magnified Stellar-Mass Black Holes at Cosmological Distances” on April 5. The second was titled “Gravitational Waves, Black Hole Mergers, and Neutron Star Mergers”, and was delivered to a standing room-only audience of faculty, staff, students, alumni and members of the general public in Nedderman Hall on April 6.
    On April 7, Smoot and Michael Barnett, a senior physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, were guests of honor at a special UTA Planetarium black-tie screening of Phantom of the Universe: The Hunt for Dark Matter. Phantom debuted in 2016 with Smoot, Barnett and Kaushik De, UTA professor of physics, serving as executive producers. The show highlights the exciting exploration of dark matter, from the big bang to its anticipated discovery at the Large Hadron Collider. The show is narrated by Academy Award-nominated actress Tilda Swinton.
COS Alumni

Alumni Spotlight
Helen Abadzi

Helen Abadzi has spent her career applying cognitive psychology to improve education in poor countries. She’s also a polyglot who has at least intermediate-level knowledge of 19 languages and uses her linguistic ability to delve into the instructional issues around the world. Her work helped raise early-grade reading fluency to a major international priority. She earned a Ph.D. in Psychology at UTA in 1983 and spent 27 years as a senior education specialist and evaluator with the World Bank, an institution that could be considered the bank of the United Nations. “I deal with many topics related to cognitive psychology applications in education,” she says. “I work a lot towards automaticizing skills, so that students can use their working memory to think creatively. I often work using challenging or unusual languages, notably Arabic.” Since 2014, she has been a visiting researcher at UTA, teaching summer courses in psychology and education. This summer she’ll teach a brand new course at UTA titled Psychology and Mind Control Strategies. The course will explore the psychological research behind companies’ use of social media users’ personal data for the purpose of influencing users’ opinions and buying habits. Abadzi was born in Greece and came to the United States at age 18 for college. She earned four degrees prior to UTA: a B.S. in Psychology from Georgia State University, an M.S. in Psychology from Auburn University, and an M.S. in Educational Psychology and a Ph.D. in Educational Administration, both from the University of Alabama. While at UTA she worked for four years for Fort Worth Independent School District as an evaluator and data analyst; she wrote her dissertation on ability grouping based on FWISD data. It was also while at UTA that she met her husband of 35 years, Theodore Vakrinos, at a Greek food festival in Dallas. After earning her Ph.D., she did postdoctoral research in Germany, worked as an evaluator in Greece and was a Fulbright Scholar for a year in Honduras before joining the World Bank in 1987. She retired from the World Bank in 2013 but continues to work with the organization on education initiatives, most recently in Madagascar. She and her husband split their time each year between Washington D.C., Greece and Arlington.
Birthplace: Thessaloniki, Greece
Years at UTA: 1979-83
Favorite professor: Paul Paulus, distinguished professor of psychology. “He was my favorite and has been a mentor since then. I request his opinion and guidance on many projects, including the ‘mind control’ course I will be teaching this summer.” Also has fond memories of Ira Bernstein, James Bowen and the late Harriet Amster.
Advice for students: “They need to be very intent on learning as much as possible from the courses they take. And they should take challenging rather than easy courses. In the current political climate, early self-control is indispensable. It is imperative to economize while at college. No matter who pays for tuition, students must learn to cook and prepare their own meals. They must adjust to living in subprime apartments with multiple roommates and thus pay less rent. The material obtained for the ‘mind control’ course shows that many corporations shrewdly take advantage of citizens. They have deep pockets and buy the smartest professionals to develop tactics that average minds cannot fathom. Students must somehow resist all spending temptations.”

UTA student organizations

We invite you to become involved with the College of Science


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
Ryne Dingler

“I think I’ve always kind of been a physicist at heart, as I’ve always been inspired by figures like Einstein and Neil deGrasse Tyson, and I’ve always had a physicist’s scrutiny,” Ryne Dingler says. “However, it took until my junior year of high school to discover my talent for it.” Dingler says he decided to major in physics because he wants to understand why things are the way they are. “That sounds very general but when you really look at it through a perspective guided by physics and mathematics, it’s the most well defined understanding there is.” The junior, who started at UTA in the fall 2016 semester, has taken advantage of some of the numerous research opportunities available on campus, including the Louis Stokes Association for Minority Participation (LSAMP), the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), and the McNair Scholars Program. He has also worked in the lab of Sangwook Park, associate professor of physics, where he focused on X-ray observational astrophysics. “My research team and I were conducting a survey of the Milky Way and neighboring galaxies to simulate and estimate luminosity upper limits of potential neutron stars,” he said. He presented this research at three conferences, including the 2017 LSAMP conference in El Paso, the 2018 National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) in Oklahoma City, and the 2018 COS ACES Symposium. This summer he plans to do research in the lab of Manfred Cuntz, professor of physics, studying infrared astronomy involving massive star formation. His outstanding efforts have been rewarded with a freshman distinction award as well as the Lockheed Martin Endowed Scholarship, the Chance Vought Engineering and Science Endowment, and most recently the B. Cecil and Jo Thompson Undergraduate Physics Scholarship. He’s also active in UTA’s chapter of the Society of Physics Students, and as a freshman he was a member of the Maverick Marching Band. Dingler plans to complete his bachelor’s degree and go on to graduate school, where he ultimately hopes to earn a Ph.D. in astrophysics or cosmology.
Birthplace: Weatherford
Major: Physics
Current status: Junior
Favorite professor: Haleh Hadavand, assistant professor of physics. “She’s been my professor for two semesters now and I can’t express my appreciation for how many recommendation letter she’s written for me. She truly takes a proactive approach to educating her students and preparing us for graduate school and has shown sincere care for her students’ progression,” Dingler says. “Besides the actual physics material, she has also taught me the importance of being proactive in my education as well as the importance of an abstract understanding of the material. As she says in class, ‘If [you] can understand the math, [you] can understand the physics.’ I also have to mention Drs. (Sangwook) Park, (Suresh) Sharma, and (Manfred) Cuntz.”.
Where he hopes to be in 5 years: “Hopefully I will be completing my graduate studies, but that may be jumping the gun a bit as I really am unsure how long they will take.”

UTA student organizations

Calendar of events

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
Wednesday, May 9
COS Faculty & Staff Spring Meeting
3:30 p.m. Central Library 6th Floor Atrium
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!

Maverick Science
E-Newsletter Archives

Follow us on social media