Notes from the Dean's Office
Welcome to the first-ever UTEP College of Science E-newsletter! By reading it you will discover a diverse and vibrant community of faculty dedicated to scholarly activity and committed to developing our students to their fullest potential. It is an exciting time at UTEP as our world-class faculty, students, alumni and friends turn another page in our storied history, as it relates to research and education. The College of Science continues to be a leader in thought: our passion for knowledge and research has been energized by the awarding of multi-million dollar grant programs that help to reinforce our beliefs that our research has great potential. We are using these funds to invest in new learning opportunities for our students and to ensure that they are well prepared for a globally competitive marketplace. Our research laboratories are active, lively places where life changing discoveries are just around the corner. Our faculty continued to garner national recognition for their work on several campus-wide initiatives in different disciplines, including Physics, Biology, Computational Science, Geology, Chemistry, Math, and Bioinformatics. Currently, we are melding classroom knowledge with innovative research efforts in a broad range of critical areas from cancer biology to oil exploration. Through our diverse educational and research programs, we seek to solidify our mission to creatively improve education, human health, and learning within our binational community and beyond. Our classroom, online and research experiences will greatly impact the future of this country in ways we cannot yet imagine. It is an exhilarating time to be a scientist. We hope that you will stay engaged as we begin a second century of innovation and discovery at UTEP.
The Threat of the EBOLA Virus is Real and Hits close to Home
College of Science | E-Newsletter
Dr. Doug Watts
In 1976, Belgian Scientist Dr. Peter Piot named the Ebola filovirus after a river in Zaire, what is now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo. Almost 40 years later, this deadly virus has managed to capture the world’s attention yet again. The Ebola virus has resurfaced and many scientists are worried that this outbreak can spread all over the world because there is no vaccine or cure. As news breaks about the Ebola virus, questions arise as to what happened in previous outbreaks and to what are the chances of containing it again. What is the ecology that allows this virus to emerge, and what are the possible unknown transmission mechanisms? People worldwide are uninformed, scared, and fearful of this fatal virus. Many efforts are underway to find a vaccination for this crippling disease, but they are undermined by the very complex and dangerous nature of the virus that requires specially designed high containment laboratories. There are only a few labs in the world in which the virus can be worked with safely, and a limited amount of effort and funding has been devoted to the disease. Now that Ebola has caused such an unprecedented outbreak, affecting the lives of thousands, future efforts will warrant significantly more research and funding to develop effective intervention measures to prevent and treat this devastating disease. Here at the University of Texas at El Paso, there is a scientific researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences who was in Sudan, Africa in the 1970s during an Ebola outbreak: Dr. Douglas M. Watts, M.S., Ph.D., from the Department of Biological Sciences, Executive Director of Veterinary Services and Institutional Biosafety & Co-Director of Infectious Disease and Immunology.
// Biological Sciences
Briefly, what has been your experience with the Ebola virus?
What could potentially be the future of Ebola in the United States if it is not contained in an expedient fashion?
As an investigator at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Ft. Detrick, Frederick, Maryland, I conducted research on the Zaire strain of Ebola to develop bioassays for use to detect the virus in clinical samples from experimentally infected laboratory animals and for use, if needed, to diagnose Ebola infection in humans. Also, I conducted laboratory studies to determine if Ebola virus could be transmitted by arthropods, such as mosquitoes and ticks. My limited evidence indicated that the virus was not transmitted by arthropods.
What is your opinion on the quarantine issue with potential Ebola victims?
EBOLA Q&A WITH DR. DOUGLAS WATTS
According to the current understanding of the natural cycle of Ebola virus, the virus is maintained in a transmission cycle that involves fruit bats that serve as a reservoir for infection of wild animals such as gorillas. The wild animals, once infected, can develop illness and die, and the meat of these sick and dying animals (called bush meat) is eaten by humans and the humans become infected and are admitted to hospital where human-to-human transmission can occur by exposure to patient's secretions, as being observed in West Africa and possibly here in the United States (as it is not clear as to how the health workers here in the United States acquired infection). However, in response to your question, it is not likely that Ebola virus could become established (enzootic) in the United States unless the virus adapted to a cycle involving wild animals.
The quarantine of Ebola patients is absolutely necessary to reduce the risk of humans contracting the disease from Ebola patients and to prevent the spread of the virus among health care workers and the community.
What are some things you would like to let the public know about the Ebola virus?
College of Science | E-Newsletter
NAVY Lt. Jose Garcia In the War Against Ebola
If you want to learn about Dr. Watts and his research please log onto this link:
The public needs to know that in today's world, we are more at risk than ever before from diseases like Ebola and many other dangerous diseases that are found in Africa and many other regions of the world because infectious agents have no border. They can be introduced into the United States by infected humans and animals and insects because of the rapid modes of transportation. As an example, West Nile was most likely introduced into this country by a traveler who was infected with the West Nile virus in Europe, and who traveled to the United States and served as a source of infection for mosquitoes. That led to the establishment of a transmission cycle involving birds and mosquitoes, and as a result, humans and horses become infected and some developed the disease by being bitten by the West Nile virus infected mosquitoes. Let’s hope that a virus like Ebola cannot become established in this country as has occurred with the West Nile virus. Since I stated that we were more at risk than ever before, here are my suggestions as to what the public should do to protect themselves from infectious diseases:
1) Seek advice from your physician for required vaccinations;
2) Practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands and keeping your environment clean;
3) Avoid visiting areas of known outbreaks of diseases like Ebola; and
4) If you're a health care worker, follow infection-control procedures.
Scientists are working on a variety of treatment methods that may be effective for treating Ebola patients, as well as some vaccines that may protect people from Ebola virus, but further testing is needed.
For more on U.S. Navy Lt. Jose Garcia please log onto these two links:
Lt. Jose Garcia, a former UTEP student, is in the international limelight in the fight against the current Ebola virus. Garcia was a microbiologist from the Department of Biological Sciences in Dr. Manuel Llano’s lab for four years. According to Dr. Llano, Garcia was organized and methodic with his experiments. Dr. Llano states, “Jose Garcia always showed a genuine curiosity that forced him to finish experiments as soon as possible. He also had a strong work ethic and consistently tried to optimize laboratory procedures to perform experiments in a more efficient manner.” Lt. Garcia is at this moment in Monrovia, Liberia processing blood samples of people potentially infected with Ebola and assisting with the containing of this terrible outbreak that has devastated Western Africa. A high-tech mobile laboratory, supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), is where he spends his time working with blood samples, determining the status of the virus. Others participating with Lt. Garcia are Dr. Ketan Patel and U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Jerrold Diedrich, all from the U.S. Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, MD.
Geologists have long used seismology on the bottom of the ocean to look for oil and to collect data on the history of rocks. Basically, you sort of have to be a thrill seeker to be a Geologist. But now geologists here at the University of Texas at El Paso can conduct research in a whole different way; they are taking it to a different level, literally. Partially created by the Department of Academic Technologies, drones are being introduced that will be able to obtain information from places that are hard reach or are unsafe to access. These drones will be able to travel at relatively low altitudes so they can collect data at a level similar to what humans would do. Geology will certainly greatly benefit from these drones and their functions.
The future of drones on the UTEP campus is here. The Geology department will fund drones with a combination of research grant funds and departmental unrestricted funds. The cost for a drone is around $300 dollars, as for the cost of one unit it all depends on the capabilities, range and weight carrying capacity desired. A simple unit with video and still imaging with a flight time of at least 30 minutes can be easily built with just 300 dollars including the radio transmitter unit. Furthermore, using a 3-D printer to design parts for the frame and the structure of the device will reduce costs even more. The good thing is that because they are entirely designed from scratch they can be modified to fit the user's needs. “What most excites us about the drones is the fact that a group of students is working with Academic Technologies”, states Oscar Delgado (Instructional Technologist) and Steve Varela (Associate Director), the initiators of this project. “It is very innovative and original. It is the sort of thing that I would like to see a Ph.D. student do in the future,” says Dr. Laurie Serpa, Chair Department of Geological Sciences, about how she feels about the drone-geology connection. In the field of Geology, a drone can be truly efficient. “I think they will revolutionize the field of Geology. A long standing problem in doing field work is a problem of inaccessible areas -- a cliff face or area that can’t be accessed because of a major river that is in the way, etc,” said Terry Pavlis, Geology Professor. In many parts of the world, there are still things to be discovered; however, the assistance of a drone will make it quicker to establish noteworthy discoveries. Drones may very well revolutionize Geological Sciences at UTEP. On field trips, opportunities to gather data are not always possible due to inaccessibility. With drones, there will be a new way to collect information using photogrammetry. There are two types: aerial and close-range. Aerial is when the camera is mounted to the drone and takes pictures of the ground, taking multiple photos. Close-range is when the camera is close to the subject and typically hand-held or on a tripod. The Geological Sciences and Academic Technologies and drones connection? There is a strong tie between the two. Academic Technologies just happens to be the place where Master’s Geophysics student Guillermo Vargas is working. Vargas explains the vision of the drones for Geology field work: “The vision for the drones in Geology is that with the help of some funding and development, we will be able to create portable platforms. These platforms will be able to carry sensors and devices for field data collection. I want these drones to be like extensions of the Geologist on the ground that help us collect data and visit places that are difficult or dangerous to walk on.”
Students from different departments are participating in the creation of these drones and making data collection a reality in the field. Ramon Cardona, an Electrical Engineering Student, is working with drones and invents new ways to make these drones better and better every time. “My team and I started working with drones for the Senior Project of the College of Engineering. We have been working for one year, including this summer. The idea was to obtain aerial surveillance and fast delivery on campus. Also, we were required by Academic Technologies to implement 3-D printing in order to broadcast its use in these projects and new technologies. So far, we have the system ready to complete an autonomous mission, as well as a light package delivery,” says Cardona. Jesus Pacheco, a student from Mechanical Engineering, also contributes to the mission of these drones. This project really bridges the gap between academics and real life projects that will be used. He adds, “On the engineering tools and training environments, a quad copter is one of the most complete projects you can start working on as a student. It’s cheap and a lot of knowledge is obtained from it. Starting from the modeling of the parts that are going to be used, all the way to the programming of the controls and features of the flying patterns.”
Oscar Delgado from Academic Technologies uses a project based learning (PBL) approach to teaching and technology. He says, “It could become less ubiquitous without a student questioning the how’s and why’s attached to it. PBL would encourage the active and engaged learning that inspires students to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they are studying.” There lies a bright future ahead for Geology and drones, UTEP and other institutions worldwide have already implemented these kinds of research initiatives. It is just a matter of time before new discoveries can be directly attributed to the use of drones at UTEP.
Drones Will Help UTEP Geologists in Their Field Work
College of Science | E-Newsletter
Currently, he hopes to augment his vision with new significant advances in the Department, which consist of expanding and enhancing research programs, capitalizing on the obvious momentum that was generated by several of Physics faculty members who are active in research and have secured major research awards totaling more than $2M over the past year. One of Dr. Botez’s strategies is to build several core facilities that will increase research productivity, lead to interdisciplinary collaborations at UTEP as well as with outside partners such as academic institutions, industry and national laboratories. He views the overall research growth of the department coming years not only as a catalyst for further faculty development, but also as a key element for student success. He believes that generating new, high-level opportunities for graduate and undergraduate student research is a sine-qua-non condition for a sustainable growth of their academic programs.
As a staunch supporter of student mentoring, and fostering student success, he feels it is of the utmost importance to support students and secure them a bright future. Dr. Botez has supervised the work of 2 postdoctoral associates, 3 Ph.D. and 9 M.S. candidates. He has also overseen the research projects of more than 30 undergraduate students. Many of these mentees have been remarkably successful. For example, both his postdoctoral researchers secured tenure-track Assistant Professor positions upon completing their work with us, and his new Ph.D. student Heber Martinez who was very recently awarded a prestigious scholarship by the Mexican Government through an international research competition. Particularly important in terms of fostering undergraduate student success is the Crystal Structure Analysis Undergraduate Laboratory (CSAUL) he established in 2009. CSAUL is an annex to Dr. Botez’s main research laboratory, and was built with funding from the Research Corporation and UTEP. Over the past five years, it has offered research opportunities to more than 25 undergraduate students, most of whom received financial support. All these students presented their research at professional conferences or co-authored journal publications, and most importantly, either continued to graduate school or found employment in STEM disciplines upon graduation. Furthermore, the lab’s success was mentioned several times by grant-proposal reviewers as one of the chief reasons for their positive recommendations for funding. Botez states, “that such ‘core’ facilities for undergraduate students provide excellent opportunities to enhance the quality and diversity of their research, increase the number of participants, and improve the likelihood of securing external funding.”
Approaching ten years here at UTEP, Dr. Botez came to the Department of Physics right after finishing his postdoctoral studies as a beamline scientist at National Synchrotron Light Source, Brookhaven National Laboratory. He is originally from Romania and has a B.S. in Engineering Physics from the University of Bucharest, and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri-Columbia in Physics. His Ph.D. research was centered on in-situ single crystal metallic surface evolution investigated by synchrotron x-ray scattering. Most of this work was carried out at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) Brookhaven National Laboratory. Before coming to UTEP he continued his research at the NSLS as a postdoctoral associate with the powder x-ray diffraction group.
As a materials physicist Dr. Botez has a long history of studying structural and dynamic phenomena in various systems. His area of expertise is establishing connections between the crystal structure and chemical make of functional materials and their macroscopic properties. His main experimental research at UT-El Paso lies in the field of novel materials for clean energy, and currently centers on understanding the microscopic structures and proton conduction mechanisms that enable certain compounds to function as fuel-cell electrolytes at intermediate temperatures. In addition, Botez has carried out several experiments in nano-magnetism investigating the possibility of tuning the superspin relaxation dynamics in ensembles of magnetic nanoparticles, with the goal of enhancing their heat dissipation rates to values suitable for magnetic hyperthermia cancer therapy.
With his new position as Physics Chair, Dr. Cristian Botez is aiming to strive for excellence. With countless proposals and new initiatives in hand this presents a unique challenge for him to increase student enrollment, enhance research programs, and secure new and even more research grants just to name a few items on his ever-growing agenda.
Dr. cristian botez
James cearley b.s. geology '78
Geological Sciences Alum Gives Back and Establishes UTEP Field Geology Experience Fund Endowment
The Department of Geological Sciences has a distinguished history as UTEP’s oldest department since the University’s founding 1914 as the State School of Mines and Metallurgy. With a contribution to the UTEP Field Geology Experience Fund Endowment, which provides funding for students James Cearley B.S. Geology ’78 has established a philanthropic gift. This initiative will respond to lab fees, fieldtrips, industry conferences, equipment purchases, tablets, GPS mapping software and many other things.
Dr. Robert Kirken, Dean College of Science feels it is of the utmost importance to recognize alums such as James Cearley B.S. Geology ’78 who has generously given a gift and established an endowment for the College of Science. “It is such a pleasure to have someone as knowledgeable and insightful as Mr. Cearley take the lead on this important initiative. Mr. Cearley values geology field work and appreciates what that experience can mean to a geology student.
These opportunities are very inspiring to students and will forever shape and change their career path and lives. These funds allow us to support key activities that aren’t in our budget. We are thankful to Mr. Cearley and others that support this student fund.”
Ensuring the Department of Geological Sciences’ legacy and the continued strength of its position as a nationwide destination program will require expanded investment.
Dr. Laurie Serpa, Chair Department of Geological Sciences has been looking forward to something like this to come to fruition for the department. She states, “I am really excited about the opportunities that James Cearley has opened up for our students and for the department. His support is making it possible for more of our students to share his love of field work and learn to appreciate that side of geology. I hope that more of our alumni follow his example and share their love of geoscience with our students.” The goal is to raise $80,000 in outright gifts and financial commitments by December 31, 2014, to increase the funding level of the UTEP Field Geology Experience Endowment to $100,000.
By increasing the endowment’s principal, we can enlarge its annual distributions and multiply the fund’s impact on students and faculty and their contributions to our field and to society.
Whatever your funding preference, please join Mr. James Cearley in expanding the funding available to UTEP’s Geological Science Department.
To make your gift now, visit https://givingto.utep.edu or contact Audrey Price, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 915-747-8522.
The Department of Mathematical Sciences recently held a luncheon for Alumni at Bell Hall hosted by Dr. Maria C. Mariani. Notable alumni that participated were Evelyn Bell, Class of 1951-Mathematics and a Gold Nugget 1985 and Enrique Gomez, Class of 1976-Mathematics, and a Gold Nugget in 1999. Faculty, students and others were also present.
Thursday, October 9th in Bell Hall
College of science
Mathematical Sciences Homecoming Luncheon
Saturday, October 11th
at the Geology Reading Room
Dr. Laurie Serpa hosted an intimate gathering for Alumni at the Geology Reading Room on Saturday, October 10th. There were many alums, faculty and staff in attendance after participating in a hike in Hueco Tanks that same morning.
College of Science | E-Newsletter |
College of science
This grant requested by The University at Texas at El Paso (UTEP) will focus efforts on the development of a transformative center of excellence called BUILDing SCHOLARS (Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity: Southwest Consortium of Health-Oriented education Leaders and Research Scholars). The goal is to implement a suite of programs and activities that will positively transform the training of the next generation of biomedical researchers from US Southwest underrepresented groups through a multi- institution consortium in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, as well as several key extra-regional sites. The center aims to: (1) Improve institutional capacities to accomplish proposed activities; (2) Develop an intra- and cross-institutional mentoring-driven community of practice; (3) Implement strategic activities for student recruitment, research training and mentoring; (4) Support the development of participating faculty and postdoctoral personnel; and (5) Establish a collaborative relationship with the Coordination and Evaluation Center for tracking and evaluation purposes.
Once it is fully implemented, the center will support 135 undergraduate students on full scholarships every year. The activities are innovative in part because of the trans-disciplinary emphasis; the focus on early interventions; the use of an assets bundling approach to overcoming educational and research training barriers; integration of technology to link partners and enhance student connectivity; and the expansion of impacts through implementation of a research driven curriculum and a community of practice. All innovations will enable the proposed center to scale-up undergraduate research training and contribute directly to the diversification of the NIH-funded workforce. This proposal is significant because it takes a regional approach to designing a multi- institutional series of programs and activities that will meet the needs of underrepresented groups concentrated in the US Southwest in their path to becoming biomedical researchers.
TItle: BUILDing SCHOLARS.
Agency: National Institute on Minority Health and Health
Lourdes Echegoyen (Contact)
Dr. Wagler, with only being here at UTEP for only 5 years has achieved this exceptional feat of winning the coveted Outstanding Teaching Award. When asked about this award she stated, “ I am grateful to be recognized in this way. I realize that many of my students do not choose or want to take a class in statistics or probability and I have always attempted to draw in even the most reluctant learners. I teach for the benefit for all of my students, regardless of their preparation or natural ability, and I appreciate that my teaching efforts are acknowledged. “
Amy Wagler has been awarded the University of Texas Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award. This prestigious honor is a mark of Dr. Wagler’s dedication to teaching excellence and the UT Regents’ appreciation of her efforts. For more information please click on this web link:
Dr. amy wagler
As a Mathematician Dr. Wagler is very proud to a part of the Mathematical Sciences at UTEP and helping out future stellar students. She recognizes that Mathematical Sciences is not for everyone and has acknowledged that many of her students do not choose or want to take a class in statistics or probability and has always attempted to draw in even the most reluctant learners.
When one thinks of Mathematical Sciences you really do not think that the professor will try to engage students and go that extra mile in order to win them over and get the students’ attention. Dr. Wagler believes that part of the reason she received the award is due to her outreach to students who don’t naturally “think statistically”. She believes strongly in motivating an idea first so students understand the need for it and then drawing on their (correct) intuitions about statistical reasoning as a foundation for the theory. This draws in students who would find the statistical theory intimidating and benefits everyone by providing context. Wagler tries to invent something different and revolutionary every semester in order to retain the student’s attention, “I also teach in unexpected ways: I try to do something impactful each semester so that the students always associate that experience with the learned concept. This makes learning concepts, such as experimental design or conditional probabilities, memorable and not so boring.” Dr. Maria C. Mariani, the Department Chair of Mathematical Sciences said, “Dr. Amy Wagler is an excellent instructor; some highlights of her outstanding work include the development of a new course (Statistical Programming) and an online course (Basics of descriptive and inferential Statistics, Stat 1380). The ROTA award is proof of Dr. Wagler’s recognition and leadership in teaching, that are very unusual, especially for an untenured junior faculty member.”
DR. ROSA M. FITZGERALD
I have established an atmospheric physics line of research and introduced students to the field of atmospheric research. Through the activities in this field, it has led in time to UTEP’s establishment as a member of the NOAA Center for Atmospheric Sciences (NCAS), an excellent consortium of Universities throughout the US performing atmospheric research, and offered students an opportunity to participate in its research activities, internships.
Up to this point I have graduated 6 PhD students, 10 MS students and several under-graduates. These students have gone on to pursue successful careers.
One of my PhD students, Angel Esparza, won an international student competition at an AMS meeting during the time he was pursuing his PhD under my supervision.
4. Elaborate on your inventiveness and dedication to students.
UTEP’s academic excellence and bi-cultural strength enables it to serve well the nation and the El Paso border region. I believe that these valuable attributes can be used to further increase academic links and develop joint collaborations with Mexico, and with Central and South America. Such activities could include exchange visits by faculty and students and joint research programs. My own specialty, atmospheric research, seems particularly relevant to challenges facing large industrialized cities south of the US border, for example, Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Lima.
1. What do you think about UTEP’s future and its academic initiatives?
3. What has been your most significant accomplishment so far as a scientist?
I have a bachelor’s in Physics and Math, a Masters in Physics, a PhD in Physics, post-docs in electromagnetic scattering and atmospheric research. The rigid discipline derived from my background in Physics stands me in good stead in developing models for atmospheric research and for electromagnetic scattering.
2. What is your scientific background?
The development of robust models for atmospheric research and for electromagnetic scattering, and being recognized scientifically on these fields of research.
Science has always been a source of fascination and joy for Professor, Rosa M. Fitzgerald, a native of Lima, Peru. She has been here since the Fall of 1995, and is currently a Physics Professor and a contributing member of the UTEP’s Environmental Science and Engineering Ph.D. program and of the Computational Science PhD Program. At this time she is collaborating with NCAS institutions, with NOAA, JPL/NASA, the Desert Research Institute, UC Irvine, New Mexico State University, the University of San Marcos in Lima, Peru.
Sanghamitra Majumdar is very excited about her future. “Nanoceria exposure to kidney beans (Phaseolus vulgaris): implications on plant physiology, nutrition, and their transfer to next trophic level”. Mitra’s future in nanotoxicology has begun, in January 2015, she started a job with the federal agency The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Connecticut. All of these great opportunities are happening under the tutelage of Dr. Jorge Gardea-Torresdey. She is known simply as “Mitra” to her friends and colleagues. She has been here at UTEP since May 2010, and has enjoyed every minute of her time here. She exclaims, “UTEP has really great facilities and I could not have asked for anything better in coming from India from the National Environmental Research Institute.” She feels that the best part of being a student at UTEP has definitely been to be a part of Dr. Gardea’s group, which stands out in its field. However, the past four years at UTEP, away from home, has taught her lots of things and nurtured her towards being a better individual and expanding her horizons across different cultures.
Dr. Jorge Gardea-Torresdey, UTEP Chemistry Chair, knows Mitra has made a name for herself and will continue to succeed when she leaves UTEP. He states, “Mitra is an independent, hardworking, high energy and intelligent woman. In her time at UTEP, she has been sponsored by the NSF, EPA, and UCLA, just to name a few.” Dr. Gardea-Torresdey consistently assists students with their Ph.D.’s and connects them with jobs in industry and government after their graduation. Mitra will be taking advantage of this prospect: “She will be leaving for Connecticut to work for the FDA with my colleague, Dr. Jason White, and consequently is already well-connected in the field of Chemistry and has made numerous research contributions here at UTEP,” says Dr. Gardea-Torresday. Mitra has received numerous accolades, and has traveled extensively with Dr. Gardea-Torresdey promoting their research initiatives. Mitra has been honored as an executive board member of the Indian Student Association, where she served as President from 2013-2014. She also had the opportunity to be a part of the College of Science’s community outreach activities during Summer 2014 to encourage undergraduate research, especially at the freshmen level. She was a recipient of the George A. Krutilek Memorial Scholarship and Dodson Research grant from Graduate School for successful completion of her doctoral studies. Due to financial aid from the College of Science towards travel, she has been very fortunate to participate in various national and international conferences in United States to present our research and foster collaborations.
Mitra feels that this is a very important time in her scientific career. Her investigations are relevant to what other scientific researchers from around the world are studying. She is studying the impact of nanoparticles on plants and their associated food chain. For one thing, nanotechnology is being used in everything from electronics, sunscreen, cosmetics, medicine, and agriculture; however, scientists do not know how it is affecting humans and the environment, and there is no regulation on how much to use or release. There is very scarce knowledge in reference to nanotechnology’s fate in the wastewaters, sediments and the food chain. Therefore, scientists like Mitra are investigating the repercussions to the environment. She is also examining the toxicological effects of nanoparticles on plants and food, including the salads and vegetables that people are consuming. Being a part of Dr. Gardea’s research group Mitra along with other researchers have already proved that nanomaterials are being incorporated by edible plants like beans, rice, corn, cucumber, and alfalfa, among many. They are interested to know if these nanoparticles will transfer and bioaccumulate in the food chain, once the plants containing nanoparticles are consumed. Cerium oxide nanoparticles are currently one of the most produced nanoparticles due to their catalytic and established antioxidant properties. Kidney bean plants exposed to these nanoparticles were fed to Mexican bean beetles which feed on leaves and bean seeds voraciously. Spectroscopic studies confirmed that they are definitely getting accumulated in the beetle tissues throughout their lifecycle from larvae to adults. However, the adult beetles were seen to metabolize these particles through their digestive system and excrete better than the beetles at younger stages.
About the highlights of working at UTEP in Dr. Gardea-Torresdey’s lab, Mitra stated, “The most exciting thing about being a part of this research group is that we get the opportunity to interact directly and collaborate with the world’s experts in our field of research, due to Dr. Gardea’s contacts worldwide.” Mitra always manages to stay motivated and is high-energy during her meticulous research. “Dr. Gardea, as my advisor/mentor is a great inspiration as he strongly encourages innovative thinking and motivates us to publish our novel research in the top journals, which he says is the ‘gateway to success’ in academia. His research group is one of the most productive groups working on nanotoxicology in terrestrial plants and associated ecosystems. We have an excellent blend of researchers and peers in our group who also motivate each other with novel and interesting research ideas among ourselves.” Mitra’s future consists of currently living in New Haven, Connecticut on the East Coast and conducting research for the FDA under Dr. Jason White, an expert in the field of Chemistry. After graduating she joined the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station as a Post-Doctoral Research Scientist, funded through the FDA, working on food safety. Mitra plans to continue contributing to scientific research towards the safe use of nanomaterials and their applications in the field of nanomedicine. She adds, “I hope one day through my work I would be able to do some significant contribution towards mankind and welfare.”
“Committed to Making Mathematics and Science Accessible, Meaningful and Engaging” is their motto. The Department of Mathematical Sciences is ready for greatness and continuing on a path to ensure student success in the field of mathematics, creating new Ph.D. programs, while having a proven track record with grants that total over $ 23 million during the last five years. Consequently, faculty receiving prestigious awards time and time again for example, the fifth awardee in six years to receive the faculty UT Regents’ Outstanding Teacher Award-Dr. Amy Wagler, previous awardees include: Drs. Art Duval, Larry Lesser, Kien Lim and Mourat Tchoshanov. Also, Dr. Kien Lim was announced the winner of the MAA section’s Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics, he is the third winner of this coveted award in the last four years. The Department of Mathematical Sciences Chair, Dr. Maria Christina Mariani, a native of Buenos Aires, Argentina has been chair for five years and has been active in supporting research. There have been significant achievements in the Math Department their undergraduate program enrollment has increased from 152 to 269 undergraduates majors, and yielding nearly 350 peer-reviewed publications, and 23 million in grants during the last five years, when in fall 2009 the numbers were: 150 peer-reviewed publications and $1.5 million in grants during the last five years. In addition, during the last two years UTEP was ranked # 1 by Diverse Education for Mathematics and Statistics degrees conferred to Hispanic students both for undergraduate and graduate degrees. For more information on this please click on this link: http://diverseeducation.com/top100/
Mathematics is consistently striving for academic excellence and wants to help UTEP achieve Tier-One status. They are in the process of creating new Ph.D. programs which will enhance the students’ choices when they come here for their M.S. they can continue and receive their Ph.D. here at UTEP as well. They are augmenting and integrating Math’s research areas, and working in the development of new PhD programs, beginning with a PhD in Statistics: Drs. Staniswalis and Rosen together with our strong Statistics group have developed a proposal for this new program, and they hope to have it approved soon. Statistics is a major component of Mathematical Sciences, according to Dr. Joan Staniswalis Professor of Mathematical Sciences and coordinator of the Graduate Program in Statistics. Also, here at UTEP there is the largest core group of statisticians in the Southwest Metroplex. Along with the Math Department faculty, Dr. Mariani has worked very hard in increasing the Math Department’s national visibility, as well as the number of research collaborations outside the Department: The Faculty are being encouraged to present their research results in the American Mathematical Society, Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, Mathematical Association of America among others, and to organize sessions in national meetings. Another important ingredient is to invite Faculty from other institutions for colloquium talks at the Department. This interaction is extremely important for students and really enhances student opportunities for participating in research, as they can have a broad knowledge of what areas offer different problems/jobs in Math. At present, the Department counts with an active colloquium series with speakers from other universities (Claremont, University of New Mexico, Yale, University of California Santa Cruz, New Mexico State University, Arizona State University, Purdue University, among others). Credit should be given to the Math Colloquium organizer, Dr. Emil Schwab. “I want to remark that this is a very exciting time for science at UTEP with our new Dean of the College of Science Dr. Robert A. Kirken. I am very grateful to Dr. Kirken for supporting our Department and I am sure that his leadership will be a huge help for the Department of Mathematical Sciences to achieve excellence in research and teaching in accordance with UTEP’s goal to become the first national research university with a 21st century student demographic,” says Dr. Mariani.
1.) Define your area of expertise/research be very specific and meticulous.
I have a B.S. in Physics, Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, postdoctoral researcher in medical school on biomedical optics. My research focuses on applying nonlinear optics techniques on innovative optical microscopy development which can provide new imaging capabilities for biomedical researchers to study molecular and cellular information not obtainable before.
2.) What impact will your research have on the community?
By providing new tools to biomedical researchers my research can study the mechanisms of disease with deeper molecular and cellular level information.
3.) Are you involved in any collaborations? ExplaIN.
One project funded by NSF is on developing a fast 3D fluorescence microscope with Drs. Jorge Gardea-Torresdey, Chuan Xiao, Wei Qian, Kyung-An Han. Another project focuses on studying tuberculosis latent stage to active stage transition with fluorescence energy transfer microscopes, and involves Drs. Jianjun Sun, and Hugues Ouellet. The third project is on laser induced photochemistry in tissue engineering with Drs. Katja Michael, and Thomas Boland.
4.) What has been your most significant accomplishment as a scientist?
Developed a two-photon autofluorescence microscope on studying immune cell trafficking in vivo. This method eliminates fluorescence tagging and could possibly be used on human imaging. A US patent on non-invasive human white cell counting was awarded based on this method. I have developed innovative ideas to achieve high-speed three-dimensional fluorescence microscopes, and to image non-fluorescent molecules with nanometer resolution.
5.) Will you please elaborate on any grants you have received and its collaborators?
I got two grants, one from NIH $446,880 with me as the sole PI, and another one from NSF $650,127 with 4 others co-PIs, Drs. Wei Qian, Jorge Gardea-Torresdey, Kyung-An Han, and Chuan Xiao.
The NIH grant is to develop an innovative optical imaging modality which will greatly increase our ability to detect, visualize and quantify non-fluorescent molecules at nanometer (0.000000001 meter) resolution. To study single molecules in chemistry and biology with optical microscope, current techniques require labeling fluorescent molecules onto the target molecule we are interested in. However, this labeling cause a lot difficult in processing and the labeled molecule may interfere the target molecule function. Therefore it is important to eliminate labeling and directly image the target molecule. This project uses novel nonlinear optical techniques to achieve this goal.
The NSF Major Research Instrument (MRI) grant is to develop a major research instrument, a high-speed optical microscope for imaging fluorescent objects and simultaneously tracking their fast motion in three-dimensional (3D) space. This microscope eliminates slow laser beaming scanning in current fluorescence microscopes with two nonlinear optical techniques. This project will also develop a computerized image processing system that will automatically analyze high-speed videos. These capabilities, i.e. high-speed (50 volumes/s, volume size 100um × 100um × 100um) and 3D volumetric imaging, will enable researchers to explore and analyze previously unobtainable fast dynamic information from this automatic image analysis systems. Initial applications are in the areas of marine virus infection, nanoparticle transportation, and fly brain imaging. Applications could extend to many other fields where it is hard to study fast 3D dynamic processes using current laser beam scanning fluorescence microscopes.
DR. CHUNQIANG LI
RAYMOND A. FORD
I do not actually work in a research lab. The majority of what I do is computational: constructing FASTA files, searching through these files for DNA motifs, etc. I do however find the challenges that accompany these tasks to be very intellectually rewarding. Since we are working with a large number of files---with fairly long DNA sequences--and searching these files for DNA motifs, if the programming code is not written in an efficient manner, then our solar system's sun could very well burn out before the program has finished running. Ensuring that the code is efficient and correct has enabled me to improve my programming skills in several languages, mainly Python and GNU/R.
What is the most exciting thing about working in a research lab?
Who do you consider your mentors?
My two main mentors are Professors Kyung-An Han and Ming-Ying Leung. Professor Han has always been very patient with many of the biological questions that I have had related to our research. Professor Leung has also been very patient with some of the questions that I have had related to our research which we started in December 2013. Professor Leung has always motivated me to try different approaches and has provided words of wisdom related to my studies, research, and life in general. I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to learn from these two outstanding academics.
Mathematics major Raymond Ford is on his way to succeed in the prominent world of Mathematics. He recently traveled to New York City’s Hunter College to collect an award at the Bioinformatics: Medical Applications 27th Annual International Symposium. While at NYC’s Hunter College he presented his winning poster at the 27th Annual International Symposium on Bioinformatics: Medical Applications on May 29, 2014, and won the Best Poster award in the Basic Research category. This renowned symposium held each year featured distinguished bioinformatics scientists from the United States and around the world, who presented some of the latest applications of bioinformatics in medicine and health care. For more information please click on this web link:
Dr. Ming-Ying Leung, Professor and Director of the Computational Science Program, is extremely proud to have a stellar student like Raymond Ford. She exclaims, “Raymond is an exceptional student with strong intellect and sensibility. He has a broad range of talents and I am most impressed by his ability to think independently, and to learn new concepts quickly. It is a great pleasure to work with him.”
What is Anolis carliebi?
Dr. Carl Lieb Professor of Biological Sciences, has been honored by having a new lizard species named after him: Anolis carliebi. This patronym was applied to the lizard by a group of zoologists from Germany, Denmark and México who presented their findings in a September of 2014 monograph on the biodiversity of anolis lizards in western México The new species was identified by the authors as a distinct evolutionary lineage using morphological and mitochondrial DNA characters. It was found in the Ixtlán and Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Valleys in the north-central part of the state of Oaxaca. The monograph describes a total of six new species of anole lizards, and similarly honors with patronyms two other herpetologists who have made contributions to the study of this biodiverse group of reptiles in México Lieb has indicated that the newly described species also occurs in the Valle de Tehuacán in the state of Puebla (and provided the above image). The reference for the monograph is: Köhler, G., R. G. T. Perez, C. B. P. Petersen, and F. R. M. de la Cruz. 2014. A revision of the Mexican Anolis (Reptilia, Squamata, Dactyloidae) from the Pacific versant west of the Isthmus of Tehuantepéc in the states of Oaxaca, Guerreo, and Puebla, with a description of six new species. Zootaxa 3862(1):1-210.
Lieb has a long history to draw from with the study of lizards and other reptiles in Latin America, and, although he had no direct involvement in these recent discoveries, feels humbled by the fact that now there is a new species called ‘Anolis carliebi’. “It’s an honor to have a species of organism named after you by researchers who followed up on your own decades-old work with far better scientific results than you were ever able to attain – and it is a testament to the authors’ generosity of spirit in recognizing my efforts, flawed as those may have been,” says Dr. Lieb.
In 1978, when he was working on his doctoral dissertation out of UCLA, Lieb actually collected specimens in Puebla and Oaxaca of the lizards named currently after him. There was no way of knowing that years later a new generation of researchers would retrace his steps seeking the same reptiles. “When I was working on these lizards back in the late 1970’s in Puebla and Oaxaca, I was predicting that an understanding of within-species variation would eventually show that there were only a handful of species of anole lizards in this part of México Nevertheless, the application of new analytical techniques to these kinds of questions is now revealing all manner of hidden evolutionary phenomena, so I can’t say I’m really surprised at any of the novel findings in this impressive monograph.”
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