Molecular Mania brings science to kids

November 2, 2015
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

University of Florida chemistry students and professors celebrated Halloween with young trick-or-treaters at the tenth annual Molecular Mania at the Oaks Mall. Shoppers got to experience creepy, fun and interactive science projects to learn how chemistry works.

Science & Wellness

Samuel Proctor Oral History Program earns two major awards

November 2, 2015
uf news

The Society of American Archivists and the Oral History Association each recently recognized the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at UF.

The SAA, North America's oldest and largest archival professional association, presented the SPOHP with the annual Diversity Award for its social justice research initiatives. The presentation took place at the annual meeting in Cleveland. The SAA's Diversity Award recognizes outstanding contributions in advancing diversity within the archives profession, SAA, or the archival record, as demonstrated by significant achievement in the form of activism, education, outreach, publication, service, or other initiatives. The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program was recognized for ongoing work documenting community organizing and social change, including the Latina/o Diaspora in the Americas Project.

LDAP coordinators Génesis Lara and Brittney Mejia accepted the award on behalf of SPOHP on August 21, 2015. Lara is a SPOHP alumna and graduate of the University of Florida History Honors program, beginning doctoral study in history at the University of California - Davis in September. Mejia is a senior studying history at the University of Florida.

The Oral History Association, the national professional organization for oral history practitioners, honored the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program and George A. Smathers Libraries Mississippi Freedom Summer Oral History and Library Curation Project with the Elizabeth B. Mason Small Project Award at its annual meeting in Tampa.

The award recognizes an outstanding oral history project of noteworthy scholarly and social value, and is offered biennially in memory of one of the association's original founders. The theme of this year's OHA meeting, "Stories for Social Change and Social Justice," focused special attention on the power of oral history to uncover links between political and cultural change and to inspire civic engagement.

Organized jointly between SPOHP and the University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries, the Mississippi Freedom Summer Oral History and Library Curation Project processed 100+ interviews from SPOHP's Mississippi Freedom Project between 2013-2014. The Mississippi Freedom Project, an archive of oral histories with civil rights veterans and notable residents of the Mississippi Delta, has been conducted since 2008 with the Sunflower County Civil Rights Organization, and brings undergraduate students, graduate students, and staff to the Delta on annual field research trips to conduct interviews.

Since its founding in 1967, the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program has conducted nearly 7,000 interviews. Its mission is to gather, preserve, and promote living histories of individuals from all walks of life. Oral histories are available online through the University of Florida Digital Collections.

To learn more, please visit oral.history.ufl.edu or call 352-392-7168.

Campus Life

Black Student Union hosts fall festival for Gainesville community

November 2, 2015
Desirae Lee

The University of Florida’s Black Student Union hosted a fall festival at Cone Park for the youth of east Gainesville.

With the goal of providing a “safe Halloween environment,” several groups including Leadership Development Institute, Faces Modeling Troupe, Progressive Black Men, Alachua County Health Department and Equal Access Mobile Clinic volunteered to set up games and activities for youth to play, dance, and of course, eat plenty of treats.

Over 100 kids from the surrounding area came out to participate with family members. Young superheroes and princesses joined in on games, arts and crafts and face painting.

winning at darts

Sable Toney, a fourth-year telecommunication major, appreciated the opportunity to volunteer and set an example for her mentees. Toney is a co-director of Leadership Development Institute, a mentorship program for freshmen affiliated with BSU.

“This is something we really pride ourselves on. One thing I wanted to instill in these freshmen is the importance of community service,” Toney said.

Toney also recognizes the significance of the location for the festival.

According to NeighborhoodScout researchers, the East University Avenue neighborhood stands out for having an average per capita income lower than 95.3 percent of the neighborhoods in the United States. Single mothers run 24.3 percent of this neighborhood’s households, which is a higher concentration than 98.1 percent of American neighborhoods.

Arifah Holmes, a mother of two and a resident of Gainesville for 20 years, said her family was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon the festivities when walking to the park Saturday afternoon.

“I think it’s really good for the kids to have somewhere other than going door-to-door tonight. Having a safe, central place helps.”

kids draw pictures

Third-year industrial engineering major and BSU philanthropy cabinet director Kirsten Elliott led of the event. 

Her overall goal was “for the community to see what black UF looks like, and to also know that the University of Florida is welcoming them.”

By hosting the festival, Elliott and her cabinet members were able to collect contact information from several residents. She intends to use the listserv as a means of creating action in the form of rallies and protests for social justice.

As the sun began to set, the festival came to a close and Elliot gave her closing remarks pointing out the importance of return investment: “The black community has invested way too much in me to not give back the same. Who are you if you don’t serve the community that best serves you?”

Campus Life

Composers from across the U.S. coming to UF

November 3, 2015
uf news

The University of Florida School of Music and the Florida Contemporary Music Festival welcome the Society of Composers, Inc. conference to campus Nov. 12-14.

The 50th anniversary conference will include 12 concerts, panel discussions, keynote addresses and several receptions taking place in the Music Building, University Auditorium and the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

Guest artists and UF’s own music students will perform more than 100 new pieces encompassing genres ranging from traditional to experimental. All events are free and open to the public.

The closing concert entitled “Music of Our Time” will take place Saturday, Nov. 14, at 7:30 p.m. at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Professor Will Kesling will conduct the UF Concert Choir, while Matthew Wardell, music director and conductor of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra, will conduct the UF Symphony Orchestra. Those attending can expect new works that are funny, audience-friendly and performed in five different languages.

Participants will include 90 composers, guest performing ensembles and UF student and faculty performers. The works of three winners of the SCI and American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Student Commission Competition will also be presented. The composer-in-residence for the festival will be the internationally acclaimed composer, educator and pianist Don Freund. This year’s guest performers will include North Carolina-based The Red Clay Saxophone Quartet, musicians from soundSCAPE, a new music festival in Italy, and esteemed pianists Mary Hellman and Dan Koppelman.

“One thing that distinguishes the UF School of Music from most programs around the country is the heavy emphasis placed on the composition and performance of music of our own time,” said event co-coordinator and UF professor of composition Paul Richards. “Part of the mission of a music school within a research university is to embrace and encourage new ways of creating and performing music, and this conference serves as a focal point for these activities.”

For the full schedule of events and to learn more about the SCI National Conference, please visit arts.ufl.edu/sci2015. Additional information about the “Music of Our Time” closing concert can be found at performingarts.ufl.edu.

To learn more about the UF College of the Arts, please visit www.arts.ufl.edu or contact Leah Spellman at lspellman@arts.ufl.edu or 352-273-1489.

Campus Life

Get your hobnob on

November 3, 2015
uf news

This year’s "/hobnob” event, Gainesville’s annual opportunity to “mix socially with Gainesville techies,” will take place Tuesday, Nov. 3, from 5:30-7 p.m. The gathering, sponsored by the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce and Gainesville Tech Council will feature the newest and second MADE@UF space at Infinity Hall, located at 978 Southwest 2nd Ave.

The /hobnob is a “non-traditional job and internship fair for sophomores and juniors specializing in science, technology, engineering, arts and math,” according to the organizers.

MADE@UF, or Mobile App Development Environment at UF, is a UFIT-based project implemented in collaboration with the George A. Smathers Libraries, and most recently, an additional location with additional partners, Student Housing and Infinity Hall. 

The Mobile App Development Environment at UF seeks to create an environment encouraging learning and creativity, while instilling procedures, policies and standards for mobile app publication. This space is intended to foster an experiential educational opportunity leading to contact with an entrepreneurial environment. 

Leonardo's by the Slice will serve specialty pizzas at /hobnob 2015 and a DJ will provide the music.

For further information, please contact Shareen Baptiste at shareen@gainesvillechamber.com or visit hobnobgnv.com.

Campus Life

UF study: More than half of Florida school districts lack social media policies for teachers

November 3, 2015
Charles Boisseau

A majority of Florida’s school districts have no policy on the use of social media by teachers and other employees, increasing the potential for misuse and inappropriate teacher-student relationships online, according to an analysis conducted by a University of Florida educational leadership scholar.

Doctoral candidate Jesse Gates found that only 32 of the state’s 68 school districts have a dedicated social media policy, and none is comprehensive enough to adequately address all the key elements of Florida’s case law concerning public school employees’ use of social media. Gates’ research covered the primary school districts in all of Florida’s 67 counties, plus Florida Virtual School, the state’s Internet-based public K-12 school.

The findings come at a time of growing awareness of social media “misdeeds” by teachers, Gates writes in his dissertation research report, as evidenced by a rising trend of teacher firings and suspensions due to inappropriate communications on Facebook and other social media outlets.

Teachers have been punished for posting inappropriate photos, engaging in unprofessional online interactions with students and participating in inflammatory blogs about supervisors and fellow teachers. In 2013, a South Florida high school teacher was arrested on charges of using Facebook to solicit sex from students ages 15 to 17.

Yet school districts have been slow to establish guidelines on what teachers can and cannot do on social networking sites.

While a social media policy isn’t an ironclad way to stop misdeeds, it provides employees protection and a more focused idea of what behavior is allowed on social media, Gates said.

“Realistically, in extreme cases, it's doubtful that a clear and concise social networking policy would have made a difference,” Gates said. “Many of the issues we read about really aren't violations of a social media policy, per se; they are usually violations of the code of ethics. Social networking just makes it easier for a teacher to prey on students.”

Gates makes several recommendations to improve district policies, including clarifying key terminology, explaining freedom of speech limitations for public employees, specifying enforcement of the policy and relating the policy to the teacher code of conduct.

Additionally, his work includes a sample social media policy based on current state statutes that could serve as a template for school districts’ development or improvement of their policies, said UF educational administration & policy Professor Craig Wood, Gates’ dissertation chair.

“In terms of public policy analysis and improving practices at the school board level, it’s a valid piece of work,” Wood said.

Gates said courts generally have given public schools the responsibility to decide how to balance public employees’ right to freedom of speech with their responsibilities as public servants.

“This is a huge responsibility,” Gates said. “Social networking has made this conflict more prevalent.”

Despite the challenges, Gates notes that studies have indicated that Facebook and other social media outlets can increase student engagement and improve cross-cultural collaboration and community building.

“When it comes to social networking and texting policies, I really do hate to see a complete ban on their use because studies have shown they can be beneficial to learning and engagement,” Gates said.

Gates, an assistant principal at an elementary school in St. Johns County, successfully defended his 145-page dissertation titled, “A Public Policy Analysis of Social Networking in Florida Public Schools." He will graduate in December with a doctorate in leadership in educational administration.

Society & Culture

UF Health researchers: Novel compounds kill biofilms, may eliminate persistent bacterial infections

November 3, 2015
Matt Splett

Researchers at the University of Florida have developed potent new compounds with aquatic origins that may offer relief for the 17 million Americans affected by biofilm-associated bacterial infections annually.

The series of compounds known as the halogenated phenazines, or HPs, can kill dangerous bacterial biofilms present in recurring and chronic bacterial infections such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. The discovery may one day offer a cure for persistent bacterial infections that are largely resistant to conventional antibiotic treatments.

“Using synthetic chemistry, we have developed a series of marine antibiotic-inspired molecules that target a problem conventional antibiotics are unable to address because cells housed within bacterial biofilms are tolerant of them,” said Robert Huigens, Ph.D., an assistant professor medicinal chemistry at the UF College of Pharmacy, a part of UF Health, and lead investigator of a study published in the Angewandte Chemie journal’s online edition. “We have been aware that biofilms greatly contribute to infections over the past 20 years, but there are no biofilm-eradicating therapeutic agents available. Discovering and developing potent biofilm-killing agents is the first step toward eradicating biofilms in patients.”

Biofilms are bacterial communities that accumulate and attach to surfaces, including live tissues in humans. The bacterial cluster is often slow or non-growing, encased in a protective layer of diverse biological molecules that form a ‘slime,’ and displays tolerance to every known class of antibiotic treatments available. Biofilm infections affect almost every tissue in the body, and without a way to eliminate the biofilm, chronic and sometimes fatal infections develop over time. Common biofilm infections include pneumonia in cystic fibrosis patients, chronic wounds and implant- and catheter-associated infections.

In the study, UF researchers tested in a laboratory the HP compound’s ability to eradicate biofilms of several major human pathogens, including MRSA; methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus epidermidis; or MRSE, and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium, or VRE. In addition, HP compounds proved to have potent antibacterial activity against the slow-growing pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis, or TB. HP compounds not only proved effective in eradication efforts but also selectively targeted the biofilms without breaking down the encasing cell membrane of healthy human cells.

Prior to his study, most compounds that have been able to kill biofilms operate by punching holes in cell membranes, Huigens said.

“Previous biofilm-eradicating compounds have been difficult to develop as they destroy cell membranes of both bacterial cells and healthy human cells,” he said. “Our discovery offers the potential for future drug therapies to selectively target the cells within biofilms without killing human cell types. This discovery could lead to a major breakthrough in biomedical research.”

The HP compounds developed by UF researchers originated in a marine environment. At the College of Pharmacy’s Center for Natural Products, Drug Discovery and Development, scientists are exploring the untapped biodiversity of the world’s oceans to aid in drug discovery and therapeutic treatments.

“In the center, we identify natural products with promising biomedical utility and oftentimes use them as a starting point to create compounds that are even more powerful or selective than what nature provides us,” said Hendrik Luesch, Ph.D., a professor and chair of the department of medicinal chemistry at the College of Pharmacy and the Debbie and Sylvia DeSantis chair in natural products drug discovery and development.

“This research is a prime example where the marine environment provided a template that upon further chemical modification resulted in excellent biofilm-eradicating agents. Through our expanding screening platform in the center, we were able to discover anti-tuberculosis activity for certain HP compounds, which opens up additional opportunities for drug development.”

A collaborative effort that included researchers from UF’s departments of medicinal chemistry, molecular genetics and microbiology, and epidemiology helped to learn more about the special biofilm-eradicating compounds that are also effective against TB. The team plans to continue synthesizing and developing the new compounds originating from the world’s oceans in pursuit of drug therapies that will finally offer a cure for persistent bacterial infections.

Science & Wellness

Winning research posters recognized

November 3, 2015
Paul Bernard

UF’s annual Graduate Student Research Day was held on October 27. The event, coordinated by the Graduate Student Advisory Council and the office of Graduate Professional Development within the Graduate School, showcases the research of graduate students. It also offers a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to share their contributions to UF’s research enterprise. The event was open to all graduate students, undergraduate students participating in research activities, postdoctoral fellows/associates, researchers and faculties.

In addition to a panel discussion with UF’s senior graduate students and a networking session, the highlight of the yearly event is the poster contest, which attracted more than 200 entries.

The posters are judged by a team of faculty, staff, community members and graduate students. Graduate and undergraduate students are judged in separate categories.

Research day poster winners

This year’s winning entries from the Graduate Student Category were:

• First Place: Ghadeer Dawwas, Department of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy (second from right)
• Second Place: Douglas M. Benion, Department of Physiology and Functional Genomics (third from right)
• Third place: Mohamed Solayman, Department of Pharmacotherapy and Translational Research (third from left)

The winning poster from the Undergraduate Student Category was submitted by Alex Dang in the Department of Physiology and Functional Genomics. (second from left)

Also pictured are Rhonda S. Moraca, assistant dean for administration, (far left) and Emma Hyddmark, GSAC president (far right).

GSAC is a graduate student group made up of students from diverse backgrounds, in various colleges and stages of their graduate career that helps identify missing elements in graduate student training at UF. GSAC provides feedback and helps improve the existing professional development opportunities for graduate students.

For more information on Graduate Student Research Day and the Graduate Student Advisory Council visit: http://i3.institutes.ufl.edu/2015-graduate-student-research-day.

To join GSAC, please visit: http://i3.institutes.ufl.edu/. Any questions about membership and GSAC activities should be addressed to GSAC secretary Morgan S. Harding at morgansharding@ufl.edu.

The 2015 Graduate Student Research Day was sponsored by the UF Graduate School, Office of Research, Office of the Provost, AGTC, Kerry Inc, Peterson & Smith, Espero Pharma and Banyan Biomarkers.

Campus Life

Finding beauty in biology

November 5, 2015
Alisson Clark
biology, student life, art, science

You see a worm. Lindsay Johnson sees art. In a new exhibition, University of Florida scientists aim to show the beauty they see in the systems they study, from sweeping landscapes to microscopic moss.

Ten UF graduate students and research staff contributed photos related to their work to the show, which opens at the Hippodrome Theatre in Gainesville Nov. 10-22. The photos are accompanied by descriptions of the scientists' work. 

Meet a few of the scientists and the images that inspire them. 

lindsay johnson with a nematode photo

Lindsay Johnson

studies host/pathogen relationships

"These nematodes are normally gray, but we use fluorescent dyes to show different systems. You can tag the digestive system to track the movement of nutrients. One of the things that's hard to illustrate in nematodes is the fan-shaped structure that differentiates a male from a hermaphrodite. I got this worm to hold still long enough to get a good tail shot. I've got another photo I'm working on that's a male/female mating event. I'm excited to work with some colors on that."   

cody howard with ledebouria photo

Cody Howard

studies Ledebouria, a plant in the hyacinth family

"These plants are mostly grown as ornamentals for their leaves. No one notices their individual flowers because they're only about 1/4 inch wide. We look this closely to see the difference between species, which is important for our understanding of biodiversity. There's so much we don't know about these plants. I've done three field work seasons in Namibia and I suspect I have 10-14 new species from that country alone. There's probably a ton of species we don't know about yet. Certain species have a really sweet smell. I didn't even know they had a fragrance until I was taking these pictures."

jonathan bremer with a photo of a butterfly pupa

Jonathan Bremer

research assistant at the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity

"I work on a project that looks at landscape plants for native pollinators. This is the pupa of a Schaus swallowtail, a butterfly that only lives in Florida. It's a species that could disappear completely if we don't do something about it. I started taking photos of the Schaus we rear in the lab and was blown away by how awesome they look. I hope the show gives people a greater appreciation for the beauty of what scientists do. We're not just wearing lab coats and staring at computer screens." 

sarah carey with a moss sporophyte

Sarah Carey

studies moss genetics

"This is a moss sporophyte: basically a baby moss. Sporophytes are important for determining what species you're looking at. Maybe this will get people to look twice at things they normally don’t notice, like moss growing on the side of a tree. One of the big things in science is being able to communicate what we're doing. The goal with this exhibit is not only to show that our stuff is cool, but to make sure all of us get better at taking what we do out of the lab and to the community."


Campus Life

Florida Museum presents free
star-studded event Nov. 13

November 4, 2015
Maria Espinoza

Some of the biggest (and smallest) stars in the universe will be on display as the Florida Museum of Natural History presents its ninth annual “Starry Night” event on Nov. 13, from 6 to 10 p.m. Admission is free.

Area astronomy experts will provide an opportunity to explore the wonders of the universe. Outside, weather permitting, visitors may gaze at binary stars and nebulas through professional-quality telescopes and learn about the universe with members of the Alachua Astronomy Club and University of Florida astronomy department.

Other free activities include a portable planetarium show, the opportunity to view the universe in 3-D and a 70-pound meteorite. Attendees also may travel back to the past through a “cosmic time tunnel.”

“Everyone looks up at the night sky and wonders what is out there,” said Florida Museum public programs coordinator Catherine Carey. “This event helps everyone investigate a little more about the universe we live in.”

The event also features a presentation by UF astronomy professor Ata Sarajedini, whose research focuses on galaxy evolution. During “The Eating Habits of Large Galaxies,” Sarajedini will discuss how galaxies form and continue to expand through the breakup and consumption of smaller galaxies. He will show film based on simulations that graphically illustrate this process of “eating and digestion.”

Participants who keep track and complete activities with a “passport to the universe” may earn a prize. High Springs Orchard and Bakery is the event food vendor.

“Starry Night” is produced by the Florida Museum, UF department of astronomy, Santa Fe College natural sciences department astronomy program, Kika Silva Pla Planetarium and the Alachua Astronomy Club Inc.

A cloudy sky may prevent stargazing, however the event and other activities will proceed regardless of the weather. For more information, please call 352-273-2064. 

Campus Life

UF grad students to host four authors November 13-14

November 4, 2015
uf news

The 2015 Florida Writers Festival will feature Denis Johnson, Averill Curdy, Joy Williams and Charles Simic.

The festival is presented by the 2016 class of MFA@FLA, the Creative Writing Program of the Department of English, University of Florida, and sponsored by The Center for Women’s Studies & Gender Research. The authors will read from their works and hold informal talks.

The festival is free and open to the public. All events will take place in the Ustler Hall Atrium.



Readings 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13


Craft Talks 1 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 14


Readings 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 14

The 2015 Florida Writers Festival is made possible by generous donations from Terry and Dorothy Smiljanich and the Office of the Provost of the University of Florida.

For further information, please contact Eileen Rush at rrush1378@ufl.edu. For general MFA@FLA program information, visit www.english.ufl.edu/crw/. For the latest in specific festival information, please go to http://www.english.ufl.edu/events.html.

Campus Life

The Phantom of Ocala?

November 4, 2015

The University of Florida Opera Theatre presents “The Phantom of the Opera” in Ocala November 19-21.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical masterpiece is coming to the stage of the newly renovated Reilly Arts Center. Vocal performers from the University of Florida College of the Arts and the School of Music as well as those from the School of Theatre + Dance graduate and undergraduate programs will comprise the cast and orchestra. Performance times are 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19 and 20, and 3 p.m. Nov. 21.

This production will feature the same singers and orchestra members from the college’s sold-out, semi-staged performance that took place in University Auditorium in Gainesville in January of this year. UF Opera Theatre, under the direction of Anthony Offerle, has a long, successful history of bringing musical dramas to the stage in North Florida. Among recent productions was the world premiere of “The Red Silk Thread” in 2014. Offerle brings many years of experience in the direction of both professional and university opera and musical theatre productions to UF.

“This ‘Phantom’ will be a beautiful gala concert production with a fantastic cast of singers and actors, and a full onstage orchestra under the baton of Maestro Wardell,” said Offerle. “The exquisite architecture of the Reilly Arts Center with its rich acoustics and regal ambiance makes for a perfect backdrop for this tale of mystery and love within the Paris Opera House.”

UF alumnus Matt Wardell, conductor of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra, will lead the full orchestra of UF students. Wardell is an award-winning conductor and graduate of the UF School of Music Master of Music program and the prestigious Pierre Monteux School for Conductors.

Graduate student of voice and choral conducting, Joshua Mazur, who will be singing the challenging role of the phantom, leads the cast onstage. Mazur was the winner of the 2014 State of Florida Artist Award Competition for advanced classical singers sponsored by the National Association of Teachers of Singing. A veteran cast of performers with numerous national credits and a strong ensemble of accomplished vocal musicians joins Mazur.

The UF Opera Theatre’s mission is to continue the School of Music’s rich tradition of opera performance by offering students numerous stage opportunities in a variety of operatic styles and performing venues. In addition to the educational and performing opportunities available to its students, one of the UF Opera Theatre’s foremost goals is to introduce the exciting world of opera to the regional community by producing musical dramas that appeal to a wide range of audiences.

The Reilly Arts Center is located at 820 E. Fort King Street in Ocala. Tickets, which are on sale now, range from $15-$35 and can be purchased at www.ocalasymphony.com, by phone at (352) 351-1606 or at the Reilly Arts Center.

For more information, please contact Leah Spellman at lspellman@arts.ufl.edu or 352-273-1489. To learn more about the Ocala Symphony Orchestra, please contact Pamela Calero at pamela.calero@gmail.com or 352-239-5888.

Campus Life

UF named to Victory Media’s 2016 Military Friendly Schools

November 5, 2015
Steve Orlando

The University of Florida has been designated a 2016 Military Friendly School by Victory Media, publisher of G.I. Jobs, STEM JobsSM and Military Spouse.

The Military Friendly Schools designation is awarded to the top colleges, universities, community colleges and trade schools in the country that are doing the most to embrace military students, and to dedicate resources to ensure their success both in the classroom and after graduation.

Now in its seventh year, the original, premier Military Friendly Schools designation provides service members and their families with transparent, data-driven ratings about post-military education and career opportunities.

The methodology used for making the Military Friendly Schools list has changed the student veteran landscape to one much more transparent, and has played a significant role over the past seven years in capturing and advancing best practices to support military students across the country.

“The University of Florida has a rich tradition as a place where veterans are welcome,” UF President Kent Fuchs said. “Helping the men and women who have served our country start the next chapter in their lives is an honor and a privilege, and I’m thrilled to know we’ve earned recognition as a veteran-friendly campus.”

Dave Kratzer, UF’s vice president for student affairs and a retired Army major general, said he takes personal satisfaction in the recognition.

"As a veteran, I'm especially proud all of our military students who are here taking advantage of the new GI Bill,” Kratzer said. “Our one-stop shop approach to veteran services, our Veteran Service Center and our active Collegiate Veteran Society combine to create a welcoming place for the hundreds of military veterans and active-duty personnel who are such important members of The Gator Nation."

UF counted nearly 800 veterans and more than 200 active-duty military personnel enrolled as full- or part-time students for fall 2015.

“Post-secondary institutions earning the 2016 Military Friendly School award have exceptionally strong programs for transitioning service members and spouses,” said Daniel Nichols, Chief Product Officer of Victory Media and Navy Reserve veteran. “Our Military Friendly Schools are truly aligning their military programs and services with employers to help students translate military experience, skills and training into successful careers after graduation.”

Institutions competed for the elite Military Friendly School title by completing a survey of over 100 questions covering 10 categories, including military support on campus, graduation and employment outcomes, and military spouse policies. Survey responses were scored against benchmarks across these key indicators of success. In addition, data was independently tested by Ernst & Young based upon the weightings and methodology established by Victory Media with guidance from an independent Advisory Board of higher education and recruiting professionals. A full list of board members can be found at MilitaryFriendly.com/advisory-board.

UF will be showcased along with other 2016 Military Friendly Schools in the annual Guide to Military Friendly Schools, special education issues of G.I. Jobs and Military Spouse Magazine, and on MilitaryFriendly.com.

For more information about UF’s commitment to attracting and supporting military students, go to the Collegiate Veterans Success Center website at www.dso.ufl.edu/veteran.

Campus Life

UF graduate research professor emeritus honored with Lucie Award for Achievement in Fine Arts

November 5, 2015
Leah Spellman

A University of Florida professor emeritus was honored at the 13th annual Lucie Awards, the premiere event honoring the greatest achievements in photography from around the globe.

Jerry N. Uelsmann, who taught at UF from 1960 to 1998, is the organization’s 2015 honoree in the Achievement in Fine Arts category. He accepted the award Oct. 27 at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

College of the Arts dean Lucinda Lavelli said the Lucie Award recognition accurately honors Uelsmann’s legendary career and accomplishments.

“Jerry Uelsmann has a distinguished national and international career in photography,” Lavelli said. “His work has touched the lives of students, colleagues and arts audiences across the world.”

One of Uelsmann’s signature accomplishments at UF was the launch of a creative photography program, one of the first of its kind in the United States. The College of the Arts honored him in 2012 with an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree.

“If I have an agenda,” Uelsmann said in a 2013 interview, “it is to amaze myself. I believe in photography in all its forms. It has become my way of relating to all the world and to myself.”

Born in Detroit on June 11, 1934, Uelsmann received a bachelor’s of fine arts degree at the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1957 and a master’s of science and master’s of fine arts at Indiana University in 1960. He became a graduate research professor of art at UF in 1974.

Uelsmann’s surreal, spiritual and thought-provoking images have been exhibited in more than 100 individual shows in the United States and abroad over the past 30 years. His photographs are in the permanent collections of museums worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Chicago Art Institute, the National Museum of American Art in Washington, the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Bibliotheque National in Paris, and the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto.

Uelsmann received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1967 and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1972. He is a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, a founding member of the Society of Photographic Education and a former trustee of the Friends of Photography.

Uelsmann’s work is currently featured in the Harn Museum’s exhibition NEXUS: Experimental Photography in Florida, on display until Nov. 29, as well as University Gallery’s UG at 50: Class of (circa) ’65 exhibition, which features the work of Mernet Larsen and Robert Fichter, students of Uelsmann’s. UG at 50: Class of (circa) ’65 is on view until Dec. 4.

To learn more about Uelsmann’s life and work, visit www.uelsmann.net. To learn more about the Lucie Foundation and this year’s other honorees, visit www.luciefoundation.org.

Society & Culture

'Personalized medicine' drives better outcomes for certain heart patients

November 9, 2015
Doug Bennett

In the weeks and months after a patient gets a heart stent, blood clots can pose a major threat to recovery. Now, University of Florida Health researchers have found that a quick genetic test can tell doctors early on whether a crucial anti-clotting drug will work, they reported today (Nov. 9) at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Orlando.

They also are hailing the finding as a significant gain for personalized medicine, which tailors medical decisions based on individual patients’ genetic information and other unique characteristics.

Their research focused on clopidogrel, a drug that can prevent blood clots after a heart artery is propped open with a coronary stent. Yet the drug doesn’t work on everyone: About 30 percent of all patients have a genetic deficiency that prevents them from activating it. Treating those patients with a drug their bodies can’t use is akin to providing no medication, said associate professor Larisa Cavallari, Pharm.D., director of the Center for Pharmacogenomics at the UF College of Pharmacy and associate director of the UF Health Personalized Medicine Program.

That’s where the genetic testing made available through UF Health Pathology Laboratories and studied by UF Health researchers comes into play.

A patient’s genetic information is analyzed quickly and economically using a process known as genotyping. That tells a physician if clopidogrel will work effectively, allowing doctors to more precisely personalize treatment by prescribing a different medication. The genotyping also has lifesaving implications: Every patient gets the best possible drug at the right time, Cavallari said.

“This is tailoring therapy based on the patient’s genetic makeup, and recognizing that not everyone is going to respond well to one drug,” she said.

The study is among the first to examine the effect of genotype-guided treatment on cardiovascular outcomes after a heart procedure known as percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI, researchers said.

During the two-year study, researchers tracked 408 patients who had genotyping and had a PCI to open narrow or clogged heart arteries. Of that group, 126 patients had the genetic deficiency that prevents clopidogrel from working effectively. Fifty-eight of them were treated with clopidogrel and 68 received an alternative medication.

After six months, the risk of major cardiovascular problems such as death, heart attack, stroke and having a stent become blocked by blood clots was significantly reduced among patients with the genetic deficiency who were prescribed an alternative drug, researchers found. None of those patients had a major cardiovascular problem within 30 days of the PCI procedure. In contrast, 12.5 percent of patients who got clopidogrel but could not activate it had problems such as a heart attack or blood clot.

That shows exactly how genetic analysis can be used for a more effective and personalized health care experience, said Julie A. Johnson, Pharm. D., dean of the UF College of Pharmacy, the project’s principal investigator and the director of the UF Health Personalized Medicine Program.

“This is a way to identify a medication that isn’t going to be very good for some patients and choose an alternative that’s better for them,” she said.

In addition to saving lives and preventing medical problems, genotyping has significant implications for the business side of health care. Simple genotyping that costs several hundred dollars can prevent a heart attack by getting a patient on the correct antiplatelet medication early on.

“You don’t have to prevent a lot of heart attacks to achieve a cost savings,” Johnson said.

The Personalized Medicine Program is expanding genotype-guided therapy at UF Health to include additional medications for which genetic variations are known to influence effectiveness. Genotyping patients to determine the best drug dose or the most effective medication can also be used for other diseases such as hepatitis C, some pediatric cancers, inflammatory bowel disease and pain management, Johnson said.

Personalized medicine, also known as precision medicine, is already delivering benefits for PCI patients at UF Health Shands Hospital because genotyping is standard practice for most of these patients, Cavallari said.

Next, researchers want to make cardiologists and other health systems aware of the benefits of genotyping PCI patients. No randomized, controlled trial with PCI patients has been done and Cavallari doesn’t believe it is necessary.

“We believe the current data are strong enough to support using genotyping in a clinical setting. It provides data to support the idea that other health care institutions should do this,” she said.

The Personalized Medicine Program is collaborating with other institutions to study outcomes of genotype-guided anti-clotting therapy in a larger group of PCI patients. To help spur broader adoption, the UF Health team also is evaluating education and implementation strategies so others can build on the program’s experience.

UF Health’s Personalized Medicine Program is a multidisciplinary initiative created in 2011 within the Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Led by College of Pharmacy faculty, researchers work with health professionals and patients at UF Health and across the state to study and implement methods that allow genetic information to be used as a routine part of patient care.

Funding and other support for the PCI research was provided by UF Health, its Clinical and Translational Science Institute and National Institutes of Health grants U01 HG007269, U01 GM074492, U01 HL105198 and UL1 TR000064.

Science & Wellness

African dance styles old and new
featured in “Agbedidi”

November 10, 2015
UF News

The UF School of Theatre + Dance invites dance lovers of all ages to “Agbedidi,” described as an invigorating dance experience that merges African and modern dance styles into one high-energy performance. Performances will take place in Constans Theatre located in the Nadine McGuire Theatre and Dance Pavilion on UF’s campus Nov. 19-20 and Nov. 22. Show times are 7:30 Thursday and Friday, and 2 p.m. Sunday.

This year’s production is directed by Mohamed DaCosta and will feature traditional West African dances staged by DaCosta as well as original compositions that blend African dance with African-American contemporary and ballet choreography by assistant professor Trent D. Williams, Jr. Visiting artists Iyun Ashani Harrison and Mouminatou Camara will also perform.

The word “agbedidi” stems from the Ewe language and translates to “long life.” Since the show’s premiere in 1995, each year’s ensemble gathers and performs in honor of Godwin Agbeli (whose last name means "there is life") to encourage the continued life of African-influenced performance around the world.

“‘Agbedidi’ is no longer just about showing people African dance,” said DaCosta. “I want people to see African choreography and African-American work coming together. “This year is a fusion of the contemporary and the African [movement].”‌

Agbedidi 2rows

The show will also feature the revival of a piece DaCosta and Williams choreographed for the School of Theatre + Dance’s Swamp Dance Fest 2015 as well as the work of Camara, a piece by Harrison and a script by Mandisa Haarhoff.

The School of Theatre and Dance’s production of “Agbedidi” is supported by UF’s College of the Arts, Center for African Studies, Center for World Arts and School of Music.

Tickets for the UF production are $18 for the general public, $15 for UF faculty/staff and seniors, and $13 for students. Season and group prices are also available. Tickets are available through the University Box Office located at Gate 1 of the Stephen C. O'Connell Center, by calling 352-392-1653 or at ticketmaster.com.

For more information, please contact Leah Spellman at lspellman@arts.ufl.edu or 352-273-1489.

Campus Life

UF education technology faculty researcher lands record number of NSF grants

November 10, 2015
Charles Boisseau

A UF College of Education faculty member has scored four National Science Foundation research grants – with a fifth award pending official announcement – all in the same funding cycle, setting a new record for a COE researcher.

The $4.5 million in total funding awarded Pasha Antonenko, an associate professor of educational technology, will be applied to research projects using a wide range of technologies in learning applications including 3-D scanners and printers to study prehistoric bones, drones to study construction projects, and computerized simulations to study the human body’s reaction to a wide range of stimuli.

Five National Science Foundation awards will set a single season record for grants awarded by a College of Education faculty researcher, according to associate dean of educational research Thomasenia Adams.

“Dr. Antonenko has blazed a trail we have not seen before,” Adams said.

The Ukrainian-born scholar, who specializes in exploring the promise and problems of educational technology including human-computer interaction and the design of learning environments, will work with dozens of collaborators at institutions from Massachusetts to Arizona – as well as the University of Florida – in fields as varied as construction engineering and paleontology.

Here are the projects for which Antonenko has been funded:

  • An exploration of the evolution of flagellate plants, the oldest known land-based fauna 
  • An investigation of how 3-D scanners and printers can impact science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education that will allow middle and high school students to scan bones in three dimensions and upload them to virtual collections that scientists can access worldwide and reproduce using 3-D printers 
  • A study of how multimedia resources in STEM education have benefited community college students 
  • Creation of an application that will allow human physiology students to use a computer-based tool to determine how variables such as exposure to carbon monoxide affect health 
  • Use of drones to study construction and engineering projects that will allow students to use drones equipped with video cameras to view structures under construction to tackle real-world construction issues

Antonenko is principal investigator on three of the NSF grants and co-principal investigator on two, one of which is led by UF’s David Julian, associate professor of biology, and the other by Emily Sessa, UF assistant professor of biology.

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency, created by Congress in 1950, that funds nearly one-fourth of all basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. It is the only federal agency that supports all fields of fundamental science and engineering with the exception of the medical sciences.


Science & Wellness

Sarasota homebuilder gives $1 million to UF journalism school

November 12, 2015
Diane McFarlin

Lee Wetherington, a Sarasota homebuilder and philanthropist, has made a bequest of $1 million to the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications for the advancement of watchdog journalism.

The gift will be in the form of a grant from the Lee Wetherington Foundation, administered by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. It will be used to provide faculty support in the areas of freedom of information and open government, to make the imperative for investigative reporting in a democratic society, to teach journalism students the skills and critical thinking needed to do their jobs well, and to advance the sort of public service journalism that deeply engages the public in civic matters.

"It's with great pleasure that the Lee Wetherington Foundation will provide the means to help our next generation of journalists continue the tradition of being on the front lines of making sure our government and leaders do not take advantage of the trust we have put in them,” Lee Wetherington said. “Investigative journalism is one of the best means to do this.”

Diane McFarlin, dean of the college, said Wetherington is a close follower of the media and has been deeply involved in civic life.

“This gift represents his belief that the tradition of watchdog journalism and investigative reporting is a cornerstone of American democracy,” McFarlin said. “We are at a crucial intersection of government and media. Governments are becoming more reluctant to release public records to the media and the public at large. At the same time, there is a precipitous decline in resources being spent on investigative journalism. This trend is undermining the people’s right to know.”

Journalism Department Chair Ted Spiker added: “This gift will serve a critical mission at a critical time: to hold government accountable to the public by making its decisions and actions transparent to the people it serves. We are grateful to Lee Wetherington, both for his generosity and for his belief in the importance of public access.”

Campus Life

Listening, Learning, and Eliminating Racism

November 12, 2015
Kent Fuchs

Racial tensions at the University of Missouri and Yale this week underscore the importance of fostering a welcoming and diverse campus community and encouraging regular dialogue on a range of topics. UF President Kent Fuchs shares his thoughts in today’s Independent Florida Alligator. The piece also appears below.

In 1902, two years before he became the University of Florida’s first president, Andrew Sledd lost his faculty position at Emory University in Atlanta because he spoke out against racism.

Although Sledd served for only four years at UF’s helm and was controversial and subsequently rarely celebrated, I admire his aspirations that UF and its students would be known for high academic standards and high moral character.

I especially respect the fact that he willingly paid a personal price early in his career for his opposition to racism.

My age and experience as a white man have given me privileges and powers that many others have not shared, and I know this has shaped my perspective of people and circumstances. Because of this, I feel a special responsibility to reach out to people from other races and backgrounds, to listen and learn from their lives and experiences, and to try to see the world through their eyes. As UF president, I also have a special responsibility and opportunity to make a difference in eliminating racism in our community.

Like Dr. Sledd in 1902, we have seen students at Mizzou and Yale in recent weeks speak out to oppose racism and seek to help others understand the heavy burden of its effects.  We have also seen acts of courage in the decision by University of Mississippi Interim Chancellor Morris Stocks to lower the state flag last month because it bears the Confederate flag, and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s signing a bill to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol.   I pray that all of us in the UF family will be similarly courageous when we have the opportunity to oppose and to eliminate racism, no matter how slight or subtle, including when it means a change in our own perspective, words and actions.

UF has an opportunity to be a national leader in creating a community that celebrates and benefits from the diversity and contributions of all its members.  To achieve this, we need leadership, goals and plans, continuous assessment of our progress and resources – and full participation by every member of The Gator Nation.  I intend to learn from and support our many excellent campus leaders such as Lloren Foster, executive director of multicultural and diversity affairs, and Vee Smith, director of black affairs, and others.

The Black Student Affairs Task Force is assessing and providing recommendations that will lead to sustainable positive change, and the town hall meetings and surveys underway this year are helping us understand our community and plan for the future.  For example, we know that we need to increase our numbers of African-American students and faculty and are working to do so. In addition, the Bias Education and Response Team stands ready to provide those who experience or are affected by bias incidents an opportunity to be heard and supported and to guide UF in responding decisively.

Hollywood portrays leadership as being bold and resolute. I agree that those qualities are important. But I have found in my own career that it’s equally important to listen to others, to try to think and feel outside my own personal experience, and indeed to be willing to change when it is the right thing to do. 

I hope that as president, I will apply that experience to my interactions with all those who challenge me or the university and wish to work with me to help our university do better and achieve more.  We all have a responsibility to listen and learn.   Please reach out to me at any time.  My personal email is kent.fuchs@ufl.edu.

Link to Alligator article: http://www.alligator.org/opinion/columns/article_cc0c354a-88ec-11e5-9289-1f9315f64e61.html  

Campus Life

Learning without borders

November 13, 2015
Alisson Clark
international education week, study abroad, globalization, international center

You don’t need a passport to benefit from a global education: Students who don’t plan on venturing outside the United States can still gain personally and professionally from an international curriculum, says Cindy Tarter.

Tarter, the assistant director of undergraduate academic programs at the University of Florida’s International Center, is excited to see students from a variety of majors gravitating toward a new effort to internationalize the undergrad experience: the International Scholars Program.

“Your whole life, you’ll be working in teams with people from very diverse cultural backgrounds. The ability to navigate that in a versatile and adaptable way is an incredible skill to have,” she said.

“It’s also a key piece of establishing UF as a global institution, one that recognizes the importance of global awareness as an important skill set for students as they make those next steps in their career path, whether they go on to an international career or not.”

ISP students take globally-oriented courses, participate in campus events and activities with an international focus, and either learn a foreign language or travel abroad to study or volunteer, creating an online portfolio of their activities and earning a medallion at graduation. They can also opt in to UF’s new Peace Corps Preparatory Program, which boosts their chances of acceptance into the Peace Corps through coursework and service hours in one of the Peace Corps’ six sectors: education, environment, youth in development, agriculture, health and community economic development.

UF is a top producer of Peace Corps volunteers, a distinction that Tarter hopes will be strengthened by the prep program, which is offered at 40 colleges nationwide.

Students who opt to serve overseas is a prime example of the Gator Good, she said.

“We’re in an era where climate change and poverty and war are all impacting us wherever we are. These students are recognizing that, as Gators, we can make a significant impact by serving resource-poor regions of the world.” 

During International Education Week Nov. 16-20, students can find out more about both programs at an information session Nov. 18 at 1:55 p.m. at the International Center. The week’s activities also include an exhibit of global photographs taken by students, faculty, staff and alumni  as well as images of the U.S. taken by international students  from the International Center’s annual global photography competition. (The photo above, “Mashambani Mwa Mwani/In the Seaweed Fields,” taken by linguistics student Jordan MacKenzie in Tanzania, is one of this year’s winners.)  

For a full list of International Education Week activities, visit https://www.ufic.ufl.edu/PD/IEW.html.

Global Impact

Public health journalist Maryn McKenna will be UF’s fall 2015 Science Journalist in Residence

November 13, 2015
Joe Kays

Maryn McKenna -- TED speaker, National Geographic contributor and author of “Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA” and “Beating Back the Devil: On the Front Lines with the Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service” -- will be UF’s fall 2015 Science Journalist in Residence.

McKenna will be on campus the week of Nov. 16-20 to share her experiences with journalism students and meet with UF faculty researchers. She will also speak on “The Impotence of Antibiotics” at the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at 6 p.m. Nov. 19. Among the topics the talk will explore are global health, emerging infections, antibiotic resistance and food-borne illnesses.

The event is free and open to the public.

McKenna is currently a contributor to National Geographic’s science site Phenomena, and was a founding blogger at the magazine’s award-winning science site The Plate. She was formerly a contributing writer at WIRED and a contributing editor at Scientific American and has also written for Slate, The Atlantic and Nature, among other publications. Her 2015 TED Talk, "What do we do when antibiotics don't work anymore?" has been viewed more than a million times. She is finishing a book on the history of antibiotic in agriculture, to be published next year by National Geographic Books.

As a newspaper reporter, she worked for 10 years at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she was the only U.S. journalist assigned to full-time coverage of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She reported from the Indian Ocean tsunami and from Hurricane Katrina, as well as from Southeast Asia, India, Africa and the Arctic, and embedded with CDC teams on Capitol Hill during the 2001 anthrax attacks and with a World Health Organization polio-eradication team in India.

Previously, she worked for the Boston Herald, where stories she co-wrote on illnesses among veterans of the first Persian Gulf War led to the first Congressional hearings on Gulf War Syndrome, and at the Cincinnati Enquirer, where her stories on the association between local cancer clusters and contamination escaping a federal nuclear weapons plant contributed to a successful nuclear-harm lawsuit by residents.

“I look forward to meeting students who may be interested in exploring possible careers in science writing,” McKenna said. “In addition, UF's location in one of the key food production centers in the U.S. makes it an especially fertile place to explore my core interests. I look forward to speaking with science and agriculture faculty, and I am keenly interested in the work being done at UF's Emerging Pathogens Institute.”

Diane McFarlin, dean of UF’s College of Journalism and Communications, said McKenna’s visit provides an opportunity for UF students to deepen their knowledge of science journalism by interacting with one of its most captivating practitioners.

“We are excited to hear Maryn’s stories from the front lines of science journalism and her take on our modern food and medicine culture,” McFarlin said.

Science & Wellness

Students rally together in support of Mizzou minority

November 16, 2015
Desirae Lee
mizzou, rally, progressive black men, naacp, dream defenders, black student union, black affairs

Wednesday was a quiet day of relaxation and veteran appreciation for most students. For fourth-year business management major Heather Jackson, it was a day for civil action.

Students gathered in Turlington Plaza at 5:30 p.m. wearing all black attire as part of the “Blacked Out UF” rally to show support for students feeling threatened at the University of Missouri. Jackson along with Daniel Clayton, both political action co-chairs for the University of Florida chapter of NAACP, heard about the controversy going on in Missouri and felt the need for a student gathering to unite and voice opinions.

“We found a way that we could make a difference and we made that difference,” said Jackson.  

With almost as little as two hours notice, dozens of students found their way to the event through text messages and social media. Members from Black Affairs, Black Student Union, Progressive Black Men and student body president Joselin Padron-Rasines were in attendance.

“It shows urgency. It shows the power of individuals saying we need to do something and we need to do something now,” said Padron-Rasines.

camera man

Padron-Rasines also recognized the event as a catalyst of sorts for University of Florida: “What happened in Missouri is not an anomaly. It is important for UF to acknowledge Missouri and to be there as a support system. I think today was a call to action,” she said.

The event began with the linking of hands and arms in a circle followed by performance poetry. The floor was opened up for about ten minutes, allowing students to speak on their views about the incidents taking place at the University of Missouri. Several students expressed ideas of increasing campus unity, and concerns about how similar the Missouri campus is to UF.

Both UF and Mizzou are affiliated with the Southeastern Conference. The University of Missouri is also a public research university with a student demographic that parallels UF. African Americans represent only seven percent of the University of Missouri population. University of Florida has a six percent African-American population, which has been on the decline since 2007.

Contrary to their similarities, UF’s president was hired just this year while the University of Missouri’s president resigned this week. The Missouri student body was not satisfied with the actions of the president after their homecoming parade. Student led protests and athlete strikes resulted in president Tim Wolfe and chancellor R. Bowen Loftin resigning on Monday. By Tuesday night, serious online and verbal threats were made towards African-American students, including threats of racially targeted terrorism.


Following the discussion, members of a campus activist group called Dream Defenders led the crowd in several chants. As the sun began to set and the bell tower chimed in the background, students shouted in unison; “I. I believe. I believe that. I believe that we will win!”

The rally ended with a short prayer and a group photo.


Society & Culture

Fulbright chair to speak Nov. 19

November 16, 2015
uf news

Betty Castor, chair of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, will speak Thursday, Nov. 19, in the Atrium at Ustler Hall.

Her lecture, “Developing Future Leaders and Solving Global Challenges,” will begin at 1 p.m. 

Complete Schedule:

12 p.m.  Registrant Check-in
12:15 p.m.  Light Lunch
1 p.m.  Betty Castor Lecture and Q&A with introduction by Dean Leonardo Villalón
1:30 p.m.  Betty Castor Meet and Greet Reception
2:30 p.m.   Departure  

Castor has a distinguished record of accomplishment, and as a leader in the advancement of education, internationally, nationally, and here in Florida. She has been a secondary school teacher in Uganda, served three terms in the Florida Senate, was first woman to be elected to the Florida Cabinet as Commissioner of Education serving from 1986-94. 

She was the first woman to be a university president in the State University System serving as president of the University of South Florida from 1994-99.

Castor was also president of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and more recently the executive director at the Patel Center for Global Solutions at the University of South Florida.  

She was appointed by President Obama to serve on the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board in 2011, and was appointed for a second term by the President in 2014.  She now serves as the chair of the Board.

For more information, please contact Charles Guy at clguy@ufl.edu or 352-273-4528.

Campus Life

New method may help detect avocado pathogen earlier

November 16, 2015
Brad Buck
Biology, Agricultural Production/Economics

University of Florida researchers have found an algorithm to help them detect laurel wilt, the deadly pathogen that threatens Florida’s $100 million-a-year avocado industry.

Reza Ehsani, an associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, said the algorithm finds laurel wilt-infected avocado trees before symptoms are visible to the naked eye. About 500 growers produce Florida’s avocado crop annually, and more than 98 percent of the fruit is grown in Miami-Dade County. UF scientists estimate laurel wilt could severely reduce the commercial avocado industry if they don’t find control strategies for the pathogen and ambrosia beetles.

UF scientists already know they can find infected trees through camera images taken from small planes at low altitudes.

In the study, published in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment, scientists determined the parameters necessary to take the image as well as the factors needed to develop and use the algorithm, said Ehsani, who works at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.

Ehsani and his postdoctoral research associate, Ana de Castro, worked on the study with professors Jonathan Crane and Randy Ploetz from the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead and the Avocado Administrative Committee’s administrator, Alan Flinn and their laurel wilt Coordinator, Don Pybas, in Homestead, where the study was conducted.

Researchers will take aerial photos and use the algorithm to analyze the images and create a map that shows the infected avocado tree.

“Knowing the location of infected trees at early stage is very critical in controlling and managing the disease,” Ehsani said. “The goal here was to find the optimal flight height that reduces the flight duration while maintaining the accuracy of detecting infected trees.”

Geometric parameters defined the optimum flight altitude, Ehsani said. Flight altitude defines the image resolution, and there is a tradeoff between image resolution and accuracy. Flying too low provides higher resolution and better accuracy in detecting the infected disease, but it also adds to the flight duration and overall costs of obtaining the aerial image.

The ambrosia beetle, which transmits laurel wilt, was discovered in the U.S., in Georgia, in 2002 and the link between the beetle and the fungal pathogen was made in 2003. The devastating disease has spread rapidly through the natural landscapes along the southeastern seaboard of the U.S. and has begun to slightly affect commercial avocado production in Florida.

Laurel wilt is spread by ambrosia beetles and among avocado trees through their interconnected roots of avocado trees. The time from infection to tree mortality ranges from four to eight weeks. To prevent spread of the disease, it is important that trees be destroyed as soon as they are affected by the disease.

Science & Wellness

How Congress is responding to businesses that sue for negative reviews

November 23, 2015
Clay Calvert

In late September, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint against two marketers of weight-loss supplements – Roca Labs, Inc., and Roca Labs Nutraceutical USA, Inc.

According to the FTC, Roca Labs, Inc “allegedly made baseless claims for their products, and then threatened to enforce ‘gag clause’ provisions against consumers to stop them from posting negative reviews and testimonials online.”

The gag clause that the FTC refers to – in which customers unwittingly sign away their rights to post online reviews after making a purchase – is becoming increasingly common. And it’s only one of several strategies that companies have used to suppress negative reviews of their products.

A bill that’s picking up steam in the US Senate – the Consumer Review Freedom Act – directly addresses these gag clauses. But while it represents a step in the right direction, the bill fails to address other shady practices of the online review industry.

The messy world of online reviews

Who knows what to believe these days about the authenticity and veracity of online – typically anonymous – reviews, which assess everything from restaurants to physicians.

Some reviews are fake (known as “astroturfed” reviews) and some are real. Some might contain truthful and honest views, while some might be bought and paid for, which includes fake positive reviews posted by the companies themselves.

But either way, let’s face it: most businesses, large and small, don’t want you to post negative comments about their products or services on internet sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List and the aptly named PissedConsumer.com. Even a short and damning tweet on your own Twitter account might tick off a business.

There’s a reason businesses care. One study in 2014 found that 39% of consumers read online reviews on a regular basis, up from 32% in 2013. Another survey found that 61% of shoppers will read product reviews before making a purchase.

So, what’s a company to do when faced with negative reviews, real or otherwise?

A typical strategy is to try to silence online critics by suing them for defamation and claiming the reviews contain false allegations.

In fact, some businesses may go even further and file meritless defamation cases against reviewers, hoping the high costs of litigation will squelch the critics and cause them to retract their comments. These baseless libel suits are known as SLAPPs – strategic lawsuits against public participation.

A 2010 New York Times article first called public attention to the issue. It told the story of a young man who posted a negative review about a towing company and soon found himself facing a defamation suit, with the company seeking US$750,000 in damages.

Today, many states now have anti-SLAPP statutes that allow victims to quickly dismiss these frivolous cases, thus taking some sting out of defamation as a remedy for negative reviews.

Read the fine print

Now, there’s a new technique that some thin-skinned businesses are adopting to prevent peeved customers for speaking out: the use of gag clauses, in which customers sign away their rights to criticize a company when they enter into a contract with it.

These gag clauses are usually buried in the fine print and often go unread. According to Chris Morran of The Consumerist, they’re appearing in contracts for “everything from cheapo cellphone accessories, to wedding contractors, to hotels, to dentists, to weight-loss products, to apartment complexes.”

A major problem, attorney Jonathan Tung observes, is that “there is no national consensus on whether such gags are legal or not,” as “some courts have deemed such clauses unconscionable while other courts have been very reluctant to interfere, citing freedom to contract.”

In other words, some courts consider gag clauses invalid and unenforceable, while others uphold them. A customer who violates a gag clause by posting a negative review of a company thus risks paying the company whatever amount was specified in the contract for breaking the gag clause.

Congress steps in

The US Congress has entered the fray with the Consumer Review Freedom Act of 2015. Sponsored by Senator John Thune (R – South Dakota), the bill renders contractual gag clauses void if they prohibit consumers from reviewing products or assessing performance, and if the clauses constitute “form contracts.” (Many lawyers would term these adhesion contracts because the consumer has almost no power or leverage to negotiate a better deal.) The Consumer Review Freedom Act also gives the Federal Trade Commission the power to enforce the law on behalf of gagged consumers.

Here, Congress is following the lead of California, which in 2014 became the first state to adopt a statute forbidding businesses from gagging their customers. The measure is also supported by Yelp, where more than 90 million reviews have been posted.

A matter of contract, not the First Amendment

Surprisingly, perhaps, this is not a First Amendment free speech issue. The First Amendment certainly protects our ability to express our opinions, and opinions – as opposed to false allegations – are also typically shielded from defamation liability.

For example, posting online that a restaurant has “horrible service” or that it is “too loud” are matters of protected opinion. Conversely, claiming that the restaurant has “rats in the kitchen” or that it uses “stale products” in its recipes are factual allegations that, if false, are not protected.

But the First Amendment only protects speech from government censorship. The companies including gag provisions in their contracts are not government entities. Gag clauses thus are a matter of contract – not constitutional – law.

Although it has some quibbles with the language used in the Consumer Review Freedom Act, the Electronic Frontier Foundation says “it’s great to see lawmakers addressing some of the most overtly unfair contract clauses.”

There are, of course, many more problems with online reviews not addressed by the new bill, such as how to deal with completely fake and paid-for reviews. But some companies are taking action on their own.

In April, the Seattle Times reported that Amazon “sued three websites it accuses of purveying fake reviews, demanding that they stop the practice.” It was only the first legal punch thrown by the giant Internet-based retailer. Last month, Amazon sued “more than 1,000 unidentified people selling fake reviews on its Web store.”

Make no mistake: the Consumer Review Freedom Act is a great step forward for consumers who want to speak out, and it is wonderful to see Yelp supporting it. But by failing to address fake posts and preventing companies from filing SLAPPs, it only nibbles at the edges of the larger problems in the Wild West of online reviews.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Society & Culture

Call for entries

November 16, 2015
Maria Espinoza

The University of Florida Elegance of Science art competition is now accepting submissions until Dec. 20 for work that emphasizes the connection between artistic and scientific perceptions of reality.

Organized by the Marston Science Library and Florida Museum of Natural History, the contest is open to UF students, staff and faculty who create two-dimensional images as part of their research or incorporate scientific tools or concepts in their artwork.

The contest aims to teach the community about science in a casual way while bridging gaps between people from diverse disciplines across campus, said Andrei Sourakov, a collection coordinator at the Florida Museum’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity and one of the event organizers.

“In these days of high-tech imaging, researchers in many fields routinely produce intriguing images that are also aesthetically beautiful,” Sourakov said. “The contest challenges not only to recognize that beauty, but also to describe an image so that a layperson would become interested in the science behind it.”

Each participant may submit a maximum of five entries, which must be high-resolution and accompanied by a description of no more than 150 words on the artistic, scientific and educational value of the image. Descriptions should be written for a high-school reading level.

Prizes include $150 for first place, $100 for second place and $50 for third. Entries will be independently and anonymously evaluated by a panel of judges from Gainesville’s science and art communities, who will determine the winning entries based on scientific and artistic merit.

Artwork must be original, created by the contestant and submitted using the official entry form. All contestants retain copyright for submitted entries.

Winners will be announced in February 2016 at the reception and awards ceremony to be held at the Marston Science Library. At the end of the contest, participants will have the opportunity to share their work in a single online forum and present their topics.

For more information on contest rules or to view past entries, please visit www.flmnh.ufl.edu/elegance-science/overview.

Campus Life

UF's HiPerGator 2.0 among the world’s most powerful supercomputers

November 17, 2015
Steve Orlando

The University of Florida is the home of the most powerful supercomputer in the state, the most powerful university supercomputer in the Southern U.S. and the third-fastest university supercomputer in the country, according to the latest world rankings.

HiPerGator 2.0, the 30,000-core addition to the existing 21,000-core HiPerGator that went online 2 1/2 years ago, also ranked No. 114 in the world, according to the Top 500, the widely recognized list of the world’s fastest supercomputers since 1993. This year’s compilation was released Monday and is available at http://www.top500.org/list/2015/11/.

“This is a ranking and an accomplishment that every Gator can take a lot of pride in,” said Elias Eldayrie, UF’s vice president and CIO. “Our world-class faculty have access to world-class computing, and they’re using it to crack the world’s toughest and thorniest issues.”

Speedwise, HiPerGator 2.0 is seven times faster than its predecessor, which was already capable of processing every federal income tax return in the U.S. in a fraction of a second.

To put things further in perspective, the expanded HiPerGator can hold:

  • More than all the books in the Library of Congress and the nation’s Top 25 public libraries (including the New York Public Library) combined -- with about 86 million books to spare.
  • Nearly 21 million times more than the computer program on Apollo 11 that put man on the moon
  • Nearly 40 years of HD-TV video

But while power is important, it’s what researchers can do with that power that really matters, said David Norton, UF’s vice president for research.

“Solving the world’s most perplexing challenges is where HiPerGator shines,” Norton said. “This incredible machine makes it possible for our scientists to tackle climate change, hunger, poverty, disease and other puzzles in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago.”

S. “Bala” Balachandar, the William F. Powers Professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UF, knows firsthand what a boon HiPerGator is.

“Our goal is to focus all of our energies on the Laws of Motion, not on the computers,” Bazlachandar said. “International research alliances with universities in France and Japan mean we need the ability to compute, store, and move Big Data. With HiPerGator we can do it all. That’s what you want -- the most powerful computing machines at work for you.”

Caroline G. Storer, a Ph.D. candidate in UF’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation, said HiPerGator has made her work infinitely easier and faster.

“HiPerGator is mobile computing power and support at my fingertips,” she said. ”Using HiPerGator, I can analyze anywhere from one to 1 million DNA sequences from beetles around the world without worrying about the computing environment or resources. The ease and efficiency of using HiPerGator allows me to spend less time processing data and more time determining where new exotic pest beetles are arriving from and how they are spreading through a new environment.”

Campus Life

Before the Pilgrims, Floridians celebrated the ‘real’ first Thanksgiving

November 18, 2015
Stephenie Livingston
Thanksgiving, St. Augustine, Native American, Florida Museum of Natural History

It’s that time of year when children make cardboard turkeys and draw the Mayflower, while we prepare to fill our tables with stuffing and pumpkin pie the way most of us imagine the Pilgrims did at the first Thanksgiving in 1621.

But there’s just one catch, according to archaeologists at the Florida Museum of Natural History: The Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving wasn’t the first.

The nation’s real first Thanksgiving took place more than 50 years earlier near the Matanzas River in St. Augustine, Florida, when Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and 800 soldiers, sailors and settlers joined local Native Americans in a feast that followed a Mass of Thanksgiving, according to Kathleen Deagan, distinguished research curator emerita of historical archaeology at the museum, located on the University of Florida campus.

Instead of flat-top hats and oversized buckles, conquistadors wore armor and colonists dressed in 16th-century Spanish garments. There wasn’t any cranberry sauce or pie — not even turkey. Instead, the meal consisted of an assortment of food, from salted pork and red wine shipped from Spain to yucca from the Caribbean, Deagan said.

“The holiday we celebrate today is really something that was invented in a sense,” she said. “By the time the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, the people who settled America’s first colony with Menéndez probably had children and grandchildren living there.”

UF retired history professor Michael Gannon wrote in his influential book on the subject that the event “was the first community act of religion and thanksgiving in the first permanent settlement in the land.”

This little-known chapter of history challenges the traditional Thanksgiving story, which reflects an Anglicized version of history and supports America’s colonial origins being viewed as solely, or at least primarily, British, said Gifford Waters, historical archaeology collection manager at the Florida Museum.

“The fact is, the first colony was a melting pot and the cultural interactions of the many groups of people in the colony were much more like the U.S. is today than the British colonies ever were,” Waters said. “I think the true story of the first Thanksgiving is especially important, since there is a growing Hispanic population in the U.S. and the role of the Spanish colony in La Florida is often neglected in the classroom.”

Historical eyewitness accounts describe the first Thanksgiving as a scene marked by diversity, with colonists and local Timucuan people in attendance. More than 400 artifacts left behind by the various cultural groups that made up the first colony are currently on display in the Florida Museum’s exhibit, “First Colony: Our Spanish Origins.”

Waters said the meal probably took place near the mouth of present-day Hospital Creek on the Matanzas River, where today the Mission of Nombre de Dios and the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park – the site of Menéndez’ original encampment and the first colony – are located. The feast followed a Thanksgiving Mass, which Deagan said was a common practice of sailors after a tumultuous expedition.

The 68 days that it took Menéndez and his followers to get to Florida’s shore had not been easy. After leaving Spain with eight ships, the group arrived in Florida with only four. Half of the original expedition was lost to hurricanes and other hardships.

Of those who made it to Florida, whether in search of riches and improved social standing or new opportunities like owning land, all were probably thankful to be alive and on dry land, Deagan said.

“A Mass and feast of Thanksgiving was the first thing Menendez did, and he invited all of the local native people who were so curious about them,” she said.

Besides salted pork and red wine, those in attendance ate garbanzo beans, olives and hard sea biscuits. The meal may have also included Caribbean foods that were probably collected when Menéndez stopped to regroup and resupply at San Juan Puerto Rico before continuing to Florida, Deagan said. If the Timucua contributed, it would likely have been with corn, fresh fish, berries or beans, she said.

Archaeologists have not recovered any artifacts or other archaeological data clearly associated with the first Thanksgiving, although they have found remains of the types of food that would have been eaten, Waters said.

“It is very rare to be able to pin down archaeological remains with a specific event, especially something as ephemeral as a single meal,” he said.

Waters said he hopes spreading word about the original Thanksgiving will spark interest in having a more complete understanding of American history.

Society & Culture

Florida Biologix spins off from University of Florida

November 19, 2015
Joe Kays

Ampersand Capital provides Growth Equity to Expand Business

Florida Biologix, a contract development and manufacturing organization focused on complex biological products, has been spun off from the University of Florida to FB2 Services Inc., a newly formed entity that will continue to operate as Florida Biologix.

FB2 is backed by an investment from Ampersand Capital Partners a Massachusetts-based private equity firm with extensive experience in the contract manufacturing of complex biologics. Ampersand’s investment will be used to further expand the company’s manufacturing capabilities in the areas of gene and cell therapies.

Under the deal FB2/Florida Biologix  will continue to manufacture complex biopharmaceutical products in the existing Progress Park facility and lease UF facilities on Innovation Drive in Alachua

Florida Biologix was established in 2006 as a component of the UF Center of Excellence for Regenerative Health Biotechnology with a mission to provide drug development services to the biotechnology industry.  The state of Florida, the University of Florida and the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration provided the center with seed funding as part of Florida’s effort to grow its biotechnology industry.  

Florida Biologix will continue to operate out of its existing Progress Park facility and will lease UF facilities on Innovation Drive in Alachua.  Most of the more than 100 UF Florida Biologix employees have joined FB2, including founding director Richard Snyder and all of the senior scientific team.  In addition, new members have been added to the senior team.

“After surveying the contract development and manufacturing services industry that focuses on complex biologics, we are very excited to be acquiring Florida Biologix,” FB2 CEO Tim Martin said.  “The company has extensive expertise in a wide array of biopharmaceutical products with an emphasis on the emerging area of gene and cellular therapy.”

David Day, assistant vice president and director of UF’s Office of Technology Licensing, said,  “What started as a division of a UF center is now a flourishing private company with more than 100 employees delivering cutting edge science to some of the most innovative biotechnology companies in the world.”

David Norton, UF’s vice president for research, said the spin-off is just the outcome the university strives for.

“This is exactly what we want to happen with an initiative like this,” he said. “We nurtured Florida Biologix until it was able to operate successfully on its own, now we’re handing it off to the private sector.”

David Anderson, partner at Ampersand, called Florida Biologix  a leading company in its field.

”Given the exciting developments within the complex biologics market, this is an excellent time for UF to pass the stewardship to the private sector,” Anderson said. “We are looking forward to working with the team at Florida Biologix to accelerate and continue its success and leadership”.

About Florida Biologix (FB2 Services, Inc.)

Florida Biologix, offers a wide range of cGMP-compliant biopharmaceutical development, manufacturing and analytical testing services.  As a Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization (CDMO), Florida Biologix manufactures complex biological drug products for pre-clinical studies, early human clinical trials, and late stage and commercial sale. 

About Ampersand Capital Partners

Ampersand is a middle market private equity firm with a focus on growth equity investments in the healthcare sector.  Over the past two decades, Ampersand has managed $1 billion in private equity partnerships.  Ampersand leverages its unique blend of private equity and operating experience to build value and drive superior long-term performance alongside its portfolio company management teams.   Additional information about Ampersand is available at www.ampersandcapital.com

Campus Life

The man who watches Mars

November 19, 2015
Paul Bernard

The University of Florida welcomes Roger C. Wiens, of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and University of New Mexico as a Distinguished Visiting Professor from December 9-11. The event will be hosted by professor Nicolo Omenetto.

Since 2004, Wiens has been the leader of the ChemCam laser instrument on the Curiosity rover, which landed in August 2012. He has directed the US and French team operating ChemCam and interpreting the data returned from Mars. Wiens has been involved in other NASA robotic missions as well, including Stardust, Mars Odyssey, Lunar Prospector, and Deep Space-One, which include missions to the Moon, Mars, and two comets. In 2014 NASA selected the SuperCam instrument, a successor to ChemCam, to be built for its new Mars rover, scheduled to launch in 2020. Wiens is now leading this new instrument development.

Wiens started his scientific career by writing the first dissertation on the Mars atmosphere based on samples analyzed in the laboratory, from Martian meteorites. He has worked as a scientist at Caltech, the University of California, and Los Alamos National Laboratory, and has made extended research visits to NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the University of Bern, Switzerland, and Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse, France.

To learn more, please visit https://www.chem.ufl.edu/about/seminars-and-events/.

Campus Life

Federal Settlement Comes Long After UF Overhauls Its Research Accounting System

November 20, 2015
UF News

The University of Florida said today’s settlement with the federal government primarily deals with bookkeeping deficiencies that were first discovered nearly nine years ago and have since been remedied with significant upgrades in systems and procedures.

“UF cooperated fully with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice, and has thoroughly revamped its bookkeeping procedures,” said UF Vice President for Research David Norton. “UF recognized that certain compliance systems had weaknesses and was in the process of addressing them when HHS began its audit years ago. UF has added automated support systems, personnel and training to make its compliance systems fully responsive to the expectations of federal agencies.”

“The university’s research budget – totaling $6 billion over ten years – continues to grow and produce groundbreaking results. UF proudly remains one of the top public research institutions in the country with its research awards last year reaching a record $706 million,” Norton added. “From breakthroughs in the treatment of Hepatitis C, Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis to advances in nerve regeneration and the fight against Ebola, UF research continues to save and improve lives, enhance agricultural output and advance technology.”

During an internal audit in 2006, UF officials first uncovered weaknesses in the system under which researchers confirm the allocation of salaries charged to research grants.  This shortcoming was also an area of focus during a routine federal audit of the university’s fiscal 2008 federal grants.  HHS indicated that UF’s bookkeeping system failed to consistently verify the amount of time and expenses UF employees charged against grants from 2005 to 2010. “Rapid expansion of the university’s sponsored research and an unexpectedly difficult rollout of a complex new university-wide accounting system significantly contributed to these issues,” Norton said. “This lack of specificity was unintentional but resulted in technical errors respecting the government’s accounting requirements. In the end, the settlement announced today is about 2 percent of the amount of funding UF received from HHS during the affected period.” 

In response to the internal audit findings, the university began to upgrade its procedures and processes in 2007. Since then, a new software platform was installed that significantly improved the university’s capacity to manage the verification process for all federally funded projects.  The university also started a comprehensive initiative to assess and improve all fiscal compliance functions relative to research contracts and grants. New processes and policies were implemented.  Researchers now receive mandatory training about federal accounting requirements.  The university developed and launched myinvestiGator, a web-based project-management tool that was a finalist last year for the Prudential Productivity Award, which is given by Florida to state employees who find ways to increase productivity.

UF will pay the nearly $19.9 million settlement from investment earnings and other non-state funds that would have been invested in research, much of which had been put aside for years in anticipation of today’s settlement, Norton said. None of the money will be paid by state taxpayers; the settlement will have no effect on tuition rates. Norton added that the university agreed to settle the matter to avoid years of litigation that would have needlessly drained resources over an issue that was long in the past. The audit findings have not affected the federal government’s level of research funding to the University of Florida. Over the past 15 years, UF’s research has more than doubled with renewed and new awards.

Science & Wellness

UF creates trees with enhanced resistance to greening

November 23, 2015
Kimberly Moore Wilmoth
Agricultural Production/Economics

After a decade of battling the highly destructive citrus greening bacterium, researchers with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have developed genetically modified citrus trees that show enhanced resistance to greening, and have the potential to resist canker and black spot, as well. However, the commercial availability of those trees is still several years away.

Jude Grosser, a professor of plant cell genetics at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Citrus Research and Education Center, and Manjul Dutt, a research assistant scientist at the CREC, used a gene isolated from the Arabidopsis plant, a member of the mustard family, to create the new trees. Their experiment resulted in trees that exhibited enhanced resistance to greening, reduced disease severity and even several trees that remained disease-free after 36 months of planting in a field with a high number of diseased trees. The journal PLOS ONE recently published a paper on their study.

“Citrus crop improvement using conventional breeding methods is difficult and time consuming due to the long juvenile phase in citrus, which can vary from four to twelve years, “Grosser said. “Improvement of citrus through genetic engineering remains the fastest method for improvement of existing citrus cultivars and has been a key component in the University of Florida’s genetic improvement strategy.”

Citrus greening threatens to destroy Florida’s $10.7 billion citrus industry. The diseased bacterium first enters the tree via the tiny Asian citrus psyllid, which sucks on leaf sap and leaves behind the greening bacteria. The bacteria then move through the tree via the phloem – the veins of the tree. The disease starves the tree of nutrients, damages its roots and the tree produces fruits that are green and misshapen, unsuitable for sale as fresh fruit or, for the most part, juice. Most infected trees eventually die and the disease has already affected millions of citrus trees in North America.

Citrus greening was first detected in Florida in 2005. Florida has lost approximately 100,000 citrus acres and $3.6 billion in revenues since 2007, according to researchers with UF/IFAS.

Grosser and Dutt’s research team used sweet orange cultivars Hamlin and Valencia and created plants that defend themselves against pathogens utilizing a process called systemic acquired resistance, or SAR. SAR provides protection against a broad spectrum of microorganisms and is associated with the production of anti-pathogen proteins. Utilizing SAR has already resulted in the production of transgenic canker-resistant trees. Transgenic trees are those into which DNA from an unrelated organism has been artificially introduced.

Disease resistance to greening, also known as huanglongbing or HLB, in this study was evaluated in two ways.

First, in a greenhouse study conducted with Southern Gardens Citrus in Clewiston, several hundred trees (clones from several independent transgenic plant lines) were exposed continuously for two years to free-flying, greening-positive psyllids. Trees were routinely pruned and fertilized to stimulate new leaf production. These trees were evaluated every six months for two years for the presence of greening. The insects were also randomly evaluated during this study for the presence of the greening bacterium.

Approximately 45 percent of the trees expressing the Arabidopsis gene tested negative for greening. In three of the transgenic lines, the greening bacterium was not detected at all. Control trees tested positive for the presence of greening within six months and remained positive for the entire duration of the study.

In the second concurrent study, selected transgenic trees and controls were cloned, grown and planted in fields with a 90-percent HLB infection rate. These trees were similarly evaluated every six months for three years for the presence of the greening bacterium.

In this study, one transgenic line remained greening-free for the duration of the study, except for the 24-month sampling period when it tested positive. A second line tested positive at the 30-month sampling period while a third line tested positive at 30 months, but was greening-free at 36 months. Neither of these lines declined in health, and both showed continued growth with periodic flushes.

“In addition to inducing resistance to greening, this transgenic line could potentially protect our trees from other important citrus fungal and bacterial diseases such as citrus canker and black spot,” Dutt said.

The next steps include transferring this gene into additional commercial varieties and rootstocks that are commonly grown in Florida. In addition, researchers must ‘stack’ this gene with another transgene that provides resistance to the greening bacterium by a completely different mechanism. That will prevent the pathogen from overcoming the resistance in the field. It will still be several years before such trees will be available for commercial use.

The research was funded by the Citrus Research and Development Foundation, established by the University of Florida in 2009 to combat greening. The foundation is funded by the citrus box tax, a tax growers pay on each box of citrus they sell. The proceeds help to pay for citrus greening research at the University of Florida’s Citrus Research and Education Center and other institutions.

Science & Wellness

Climate Can Grind Mountains Faster Than They Can Be Rebuilt

November 23, 2015
Steve Orlando

Researchers for the first time have attempted to measure all the material leaving and entering a mountain range over more than a million years and discovered that erosion caused by glaciation during ice ages can, in the right circumstances, wear down mountains faster than plate tectonics can build them.

The international study conducted by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program and led by scientists from the University of Florida, The University of Texas at Austin and Oregon State University, adds insight into a longstanding debate about the balance of climate and tectonic forces that influence mountain building. It is published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers studied the St. Elias Mountains on the Alaskan coast and found that erosion accelerated sharply about 1 million years ago when global climate cooling triggered stronger and more persistent ice ages than times past.

"Humans often see mountain ranges as static, unyielding parts of the landscape,” said co-chief scientist John Jaeger, an associate professor of geology at the University of Florida. “But our work has shown that they are actively evolving along with, and responding to, Earth's climate, which just shows how truly dynamic and coupled this planet is."

The study, conducted by a team of scientists from 10 countries, culminated more than a decade of field work. Researchers first used seismic equipment to image and map a huge fan of sediment in the deep sea in the Gulf of Alaska caused by erosion of the nearby mountains and took short sediment cores to understand the modern system. They then collected and dated almost 4 kilometers of sediment from the floor of the gulf and the Alaskan continental shelf, revealing millions of years of geologic history.

“It turned out most [sediments] were younger than we anticipated, and most rates (of sediment production and thus erosion) were higher than we anticipated,” said lead author and co-chief scientist Sean Gulick of the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, a unit of the Jackson School of Geosciences. “Since the big climate change during the mid-Pleistocene transition when we switched from short (about 40,000-year) ice ages to super-long (about 100,000-year) ice ages, erosion became much greater... In fact, there was more erosion than tectonics has replaced.”

“We were pleasantly surprised by how well we could establish ages of the sediment sequences as we were drilling, and the composition of the sediment gave clear evidence of when the glaciation started and then expanded, in synch with global climate trends over the past several million years,” said co-author Alan Mix of Oregon State University. “Only by drilling the sea floor where the sediment accumulates could we see these details.”

Mountain ranges form when tectonic plates thrust into one another over millions of years and scrunch up the Earth’s outer crust. But even as mountains are built by these titanic forces, other agents -- some combination of tectonic and climate processes -- work to remove the accumulating crust.

Since the mid-Pleistocene, erosion rates have continued to beat tectonic inputs by 50 to 80 percent, demonstrating that climatic processes, such as the movement of glaciers, can outstrip mountain building over a span of a million years. The findings highlight the pivotal role climate fluctuations play in shaping Earth’s landforms.

The study was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program.

Science & Wellness

Study: With climate change, malaria risk in Africa shifts, grows

November 24, 2015
Steve Orlando

A larger portion of Africa is currently at high risk for malaria transmission than previously predicted, according to a new University of Florida mapping study.

Under future climate regimes, the area where the disease can be transmitted most easily will shrink, but the total transmission zone will expand and move into new territory, according to the study, which appears in the current issue of the journal Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases.

By 2080, the study shows, the year-round, highest-risk transmission zone will move from coastal West Africa, east to the Albertine Rift, between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. The area suitable for seasonal, lower-risk transmission will shift north into coastal sub-Saharan Africa.

Most striking, some parts of Africa will become too hot for malaria.

The overall expansion of malaria-vulnerable areas will challenge management of the deadly disease, said lead author Sadie Ryan, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Florida who also is affiliated with UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute.

Malaria will arrive in new areas, posing a risk to new populations, she said, and the shift of endemic and epidemic areas will require public health management changes.

“Mapping a mathematical predictive model of a climate-driven infectious disease like malaria allows us to develop tools to understand both spatial and seasonal dynamics, and to anticipate the future changes to those dynamics,” Ryan said.

Cerebral malaria, caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum transmitted by the Anopheles gambiae mosquito, is the most deadly form of the disease, killing around 584,000 people each year. Malaria can cause organ failure, unconsciousness, and coma, if left untreated, and is a major cause of decreased economic productivity in affected regions.

The study uses a model that takes into account the real, curved, physiological responses of both mosquitoes and the malaria parasite to temperature. This model shows an optimal transmission temperature for malaria that, at 25 degrees Celsius, is 6 degrees Celsius lower than previous predictive models. 

This work will play an important role in helping public health officials and NGOs plan for the efficient deployment of resources and interventions to control future outbreaks of malaria and their associated societal costs, Ryan said.

The collaborative research team includes experts in epidemiology, public health, ecology, entomology, mathematical modeling and geography. In addition to Ryan, other team members are Amy McNally (NASA), Leah Johnson (University of South Florida), Erin A. Mordecai (Stanford University), Tal Ben-Horin (Rutgers), Krijn Paaijmans (Universitat de Barcelona) and Kevin D. Lafferty (U.S. Geological Survey).

The work expands upon the team’s prior work at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Science & Wellness

Three UF faculty members named AAAS Fellows

November 24, 2015
Donna Winchester

Three University of Florida professors have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an honor given to AAAS members by their peers for their efforts to advance science or its applications. The three join 43 UF professors listed by the AAAS as fellows, a distinction also earned by UF President Kent Fuchs in 2010.

Jon Dobson, a joint professor in the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, for outstanding contributions to the development of magnetic micro- and nanoparticle-based technologies in cell engineering, regenerative medicine and gene transfection.

Yuguang “Michael” Fang, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, for distinguished research and teaching contributions to the field of electrical and computer engineering, particularly for wireless network design and cybersecurity.

Frank F. White, a professor of plant pathology in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, for distinguished contributions to the field of plant-pathogen interactions, with emphasis on determining the genetic bases of bacterial pathogenesis and plant disease resistance.

This year’s 347 fellows will be honored in February at the 2016 AAAS annual meeting in Washington, D.C. The AAAS, the world’s largest general scientific society, has named fellows since 1874.

For more information, visit aaas.org.

Science & Wellness

UF researchers develop way to treat urine, save drinking water

November 24, 2015
Steve Orlando

UF researchers have developed a low-cost treatment system to remove pharmaceuticals in source-separated urine using water materials. The final result is a local fertilizer for use in developed and developing countries and resulting in substantial water savings. The process would offer many benefits, including conserving drinking water, cutting fertilizer expenses, and offering the University of Florida the opportunity be a leader in the important sustainability effort, said Treavor Boyer, an associate professor of the University of Florida’s Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences


Global Impact

Florida consumer sentiment ticks up in time for holidays

November 25, 2015
Colleen Porter

Consumer sentiment among Floridians rose more than two points in November to 91.5, up more than five points compared with November last year, according to the latest University of Florida consumer survey.

Among the five components that make up the index, four increased and one declined.

Perception of personal finance now compared with a year ago showed the greatest increase, surging 6.4 points to 86.2.

While all income groups had improved readings regarding personal finances, the increase was particularly strong among those with incomes under $50,000. That group’s sentiment regarding their personal financial situation now compared with a year ago rose 7.7 points, and its expectations of personal finances in the next year was up 7.8 points.

Expectations of U.S. economic conditions also rose by 2.6 points over the next year and two points for the next five years.

The positive view of national economic conditions, both in the short- and long-run, was more pronounced among men than among women.

“On expected national economic conditions in the upcoming year, the reading went up 8.7 points for men but declined 3.3 points among women,” said Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

The only component to drop overall was whether now is a good time to buy a big-ticket item, such as a car, which was down four-tenths of a point from October. This may be a seasonal effect reflecting consumers who expect price drops closer to the end of the year. 

The Florida unemployment rate declined again in October to 5.1 percent, still slightly higher than the national rate of 5 percent. Moreover, 239,900 jobs were added statewide in October, a 3 percent increase compared with last year.

However, the Florida underemployment rate, which takes into account all the workers who are marginally attached or are employed part-time for economic reasons, remains high at 11.9 percent for the third quarter of 2015, significantly higher than the U.S. rate of 10.2 percent.

There are also labor market differences within the state of Florida. At the county level, the unemployment rate ranges from 3.4 percent in Monroe County to 9.4 percent in Hendry County.

“These are signals that the labor market still needs further recovery, but the overall economic climate and consumer sentiment are very favorable,” Sandoval said.

The National Retail Federation has forecasted sales in November and December to increase 3.7 percent, and the Florida Retail Federation expects an increase of 4.5 percent.

“All these positive signals for the holiday sales season will help labor market recovery and may further improve economic perceptions in the following months,” Sandoval said.

Conducted Nov. 1-22, the UF study reflects the responses of 454 individuals who were reached on cellphones, representing a demographic cross section of Florida.

The index used by UF researchers is benchmarked to 1966, which means a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year. The lowest index possible is a 2, the highest is 150.

Details of this month’s survey can be found at http://www.bebr.ufl.edu/csi-data

For more information, please contact Hector Sandoval at hsandoval@ufl.edu or 352-392-2908, ext. 219. 

Society & Culture

The anthropologist will see you now

November 30, 2015
Alisson Clark
Emerging Pathogens Institute

Kevin Bardosh isn’t like a lot of his co-workers at the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute. Not only is he a qualitative social scientist in a sea of quantitative types, he’s also a long way from his home institution, the University of Edinburgh.

An applied anthropologist with a background in development studies, Bardosh is embedded at UF as part of a unique international exchange sharing expertise between the two institutions. In September, he began a year-long project in Haiti, working on a grant to improve disease-elimination efforts there. The grant is part of Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We asked him what brought him to UF and what his hopes are for his work in Haiti.  

What’s an anthropologist doing at the Emerging Pathogens Institute?

Social scientists bring a different perspective to fighting disease, especially when it comes to implementation. Once we know how to treat or prevent a disease, the problem is doing it. The process of implementation is really one of social transformation, and that’s something the social sciences are quick to understand and foster. I would challenge more social scientists working in academia to apply their knowledge. There’s great room for positive change.

How do the quantitative and qualitative sides come together to fight disease?

We need to understand the political, economic and ecological issues around these diseases. In global health, there’s a lot of emphasis on metrics, and that needs to be tempered with a more qualitative understanding of the people and context you’re working in. Large-scale disease programs often don’t have a large amount of community participation, but you need community ownership to make it effective and sustainable. If a vector control person came to your house in the US and wanted to spray chemicals around, would you say yes? You’d have questions. So you’ve got to get to terms with what people in the area think is feasible and what they’re willing to do.

Why UF?

The level of interdisciplinary work here is quite high. When I presented my plan for Haiti, 10 or 15 people all from different disciplines and backgrounds took time to provide input. There were people from epidemiology, clinical medicine, vet med, geography, environmental health; there was a biostatistician, an economist. There’s a great sense of teamwork here. I think that will become more and more the case as we try to address problems in global health.

You’re looking at ways to combine efforts that combat elephantiasis, malaria and cholera in Haiti. What do you hope to accomplish?

First, we’re going to look at the political economy of global health in Haiti, from policy and implementation issues to donor priorities. Then we’ll look at community priorities and perspectives so we can design policy interventions that are locally acceptable. We’ll implement pilot studies and assess their impact, then model those at a larger scale. This will tells us about acceptability, cost, sustainability and epidemiological impact. Our goal is to help build on existing efforts, and to see where greater coordination and collaboration can help improve elimination efforts as well as other public health issues. The hope is that, after a year, we’ll have a compelling model to show what can work in a country like Haiti.


Global Impact

Covering Gainesville

November 30, 2015

Earlier this fall, With a Purpose, makers of the Florida Gators® Blanket for a Blanket line, donated 450 solid color blankets to St. Francis House. These donations are all being made possible by purchases of the licensed blankets made at the University of Florida Bookstore and elsewhere.

District Director Bob Blake who runs the UF Bookstore and Nick Bundra of With a Purpose visited St. Francis House on the last Friday in October to meet with Kathie DuPree. She provided a tour of part of the facility and described how the blankets will be used to benefit their various clients. As an added gesture, Blake also gave DuPree three of the licensed Florida Gators Blanket for a Blankets for her to give as surprises to a few of St. Francis House’s clients.

Opened in 1980, St. Francis House's main shelter is home to 35-40 residents. The organization also runs Arbor House, a haven for single women and women with children; an apartment complex with more than 30 units for single men and women; and a duplex and several homes for families in need.

With a Purpose uses the 1-for-1 model for its Blanket for a Blanket line. For each licensed blanket purchased, a non-branded, solid color blanket is donated to a local nonprofit. With a Purpose works with nonprofit partners who focus on one or more of three main initiatives: housing agencies, veterans in need and disaster relief. The Florida State® Seminoles® Blanket for a Blanket line also has made a large blanket donation possible to City Rescue Mission in Jacksonville.

With a Purpose launched its first collegiate Blanket for a Blanket lines in 2013 and has donated more than 17,000 blankets nationally. They currently offer 37 collegiate lines and four specialty lines.

For more information, please contact Nick Bundra at nick@withapurpose.us or 310-266-0340; Bob Blake at rcblake@follett.com or 352-392-0194,  Ext: 105; or Kathie DuPree at sfhaccount@stfrancis.cfcoxmail.com or 352-378-9079.

Campus Life

UF among nation’s leaders in startups, licensing and life-sciences tech transfer

November 30, 2015
Sara Dagen

Jaundice, chronic bronchitis, and other lung and liver problems are a daily struggle for the 1 in 2,500 Americans with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a genetic condition that can cause serious lung disease in adults or liver disease at any age.

About 19 million people in the U.S. who do not have these symptoms carry the defective gene that causes this disorder and could pass the gene on to their children.

A University of Florida startup, Geneaidyx hopes to improve the lives of individuals with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency and their families by developing cutting-edge technologies to improve early detection. It’s one of 16 startups based on UF research discoveries launched by the UF Office of Technology Licensing in fiscal year 2014.

According to statistics recently released by the Association of University Technology Managers as part of its annual licensing survey, those 16 startups put UF eighth in the nation among leaders in life-science technology transfer, ranked among public and private institutions as well as systems such as the University of California and the University of Texas.

Breaking into the top 10 in two categories in the survey, UF also ranked seventh for licenses and options executed with 147. That statistic includes agreements completed by UF's Office of Technology Licensing and the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

UF also ranked among the most productive biomedical research universities in an analysis of the same data by the journal Nature.In the life sciences alone, UF ranked 10th  in licenses and options executed with 31, just ahead of Caltech and behind New York University, which topped the list by licensing revenue received.

These inventions are the result of a UF’s strong research base, which reached a record $707 million in fiscal year 2015.

“Our relationships with industry and other financial supporters are enabling our researchers to move new discoveries from the lab to the marketplace, where they are able to make a difference for society,” said David Norton, UF’s vice president for research. “While we are happy about our numbers, we are more excited about the impact those numbers have on the world around us.” 

Key to UF’s licensing efforts are startup companies like Genaidyx, which bridge the gap between lab and market for technologies that aren’t ready for commercialization by larger, established corporations.

In addition to the 16 startups launched in 2013-14, the university helped launch 15 more startups in the fiscal year that ended in June 2015.

”The birth of so many startups is indicative of the incredible environment the university and Gainesville provide for the innovation ecosystem,” said David Day, assistant vice president and director of the UF Office of Technology Licensing. “It takes facilities, capital and management plus talented people and organizations working together to successfully launch a startup. These companies are vehicles for bringing UF research into the marketplace.”

The Office of Technology Licensing was established in 1985 to work with inventors to facilitate the transfer of technologies created at UF to industry partners who turn the discoveries into products that are changing the world. Technology licensing staff work with UF faculty members who disclose an average of 300 new discoveries annually. In the past 14 years, UF OTL has launched more than 175 biomedical and technology startups. They include:

Applied Genetic Technologies Corp.  

AGTC uses gene therapy to develop long-lasting treatments for patients with genetic disorders. Gene therapy replaces broken genes with normal functional genes, allowing a patient’s own body to produce proteins to treat their illness. A single treatment provides long-lasting benefit – sometimes even for a lifetime - leading to a better quality of life for patients worldwide.


AxoGen Inc. seeks to provide surgeons with solutions to repair and protect peripheral nerves. The company has created and licensed a unique combination of patented technologies and has a rich pipeline of new products to change the standard of care for patients with peripheral nerve injuries.


Prioria Robotics is an unmanned systems company dedicated to making unmanned aerial vehicles smarter. Prioria believes a smart UAV is more useful, more efficient and improves the lives of customers. The company delivers cost-effective and innovative solutions to civilian and commercial markets, and to the nation's military.

Shadow Health

Shadow Health is a multidisciplinary educational software developer of rich learning environments and digital clinical experiences. Using the Shadow Health digital clinical experience, educators increase clinical efficiency giving them more time to focus on student achievement. Shadow Health develops these educational environments to address the critical issues facing the national and global health care systems - maintaining quality of care in the face of increasing provider shortages.


Xhale creates novel patient-centric monitoring solutions, from patient monitoring to medication adherence to anesthesia monitoring. Led by a highly experienced management team with a proven track record of success, the company is driven by quality, innovation and excellence.

See more UF startups at http://research.ufl.edu/otl/for-investors-and-entrepreneurs/engage-with-uf-startups.html.

Global Impact

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