Harn's 25th anniversary celebration continues

February 1, 2016
Donna Winchester

Visitors to the Harn Museum of Art who missed “Conversations: A 25th Anniversary Exhibition,” which closed Jan. 3, can still enjoy a long-lasting legacy of the museum’s birthday celebration by viewing a portion of the Harn’s 100 new and promised gifts of African, Asian, Oceanic, modern and contemporary art on display throughout the galleries as the celebration continues.

Among the many donations and promised gifts:

  • Eighteen works of Tiffany glass and 12 works of Steuben glass given by Relf and Mona Crissey
  • Ten contemporary Japanese ceramic works promised by Jeffrey and Carol Horvitz
  • Five Oceanic works, three African works and one modern painting promised by C. Frederick and Aase B. Thompson
  • Five photographic works given by artist Doug Prince
  • An oil on canvas and three acrylic paintings by Tony Robbin given by Norma Canelas Roth and William D. Roth
  • A sculpture by Joel Shapiro given by Steve and Carol Shey.

“We are honored by the overwhelming response from UF alumni and students, the Gainesville community and beyond,” said Rebecca Nagy, director of the Harn Museum of Art. “These gifts impact the museum in a significant way, enhancing our offerings and the ability to provide great art for the community to study and enjoy for decades to come.” 

“Conversations” was just one of seven exhibitions representing the Harn's 25th year of programming. Other exhibitions included “NEXUS: Experimental Photography in Florida;” “Contesting Terrain;” “Dancing in the Moonlight: Zara Masks of Burkina Faso;” “Elusive Spirits: African Masquerades;” and an exhibition of Michael Kenna's photography.

A new exhibition, “Framing Nature: The Living World in Art,” opens Feb. 2. The exhibition will focus on artistic engagement with nature across cultures featuring 100 objects organized around four themes: inspiration, discovery, power, and refuge.

The Harn Museum of Art, at 3259 Hull Road, is part of the University of Florida’s Cultural Plaza, home to the Florida Museum of Natural History and the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Museum admission is free. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. The museum is open until 9 p.m. the second Thursday of every month for Museum Nights.

For more information, call 352-392-9826 or visit www.harn.ufl.edu.

You can view a timeline of the Harn’s 25-year history at http://www.harn.ufl.edu/timeline.

Campus Life

Reitz Union renovation, expansion now complete

February 1, 2016
UF News

UF students, faculty and staff can finally enjoy a renovated and expanded J. Wayne Reitz Union following a $70.7 million, 2 1/2-year project.

A host of Reitz Union staff and student representatives wearing bright blue T-shirts will be on hand the week of Feb. 1 to answer questions and provide directions for visitors exploring the new space as construction crews put the finishing touches on a brand-new interior.

"We have been looking forward to this day for a long time,” said Eddie Daniels, executive director of the Reitz Union. “Now that it's here, we couldn't be more excited. The building is absolutely beautiful and will enhance the student experience on our campus for many years to come."

To mark the completion of the construction project, UF’s Division of Student Affairs invites all Gators to participate in a Reitz Union Grand Re-opening Celebration Feb. 15-20. The celebration will include:

  • Re-opening of the Game Room, Monday, Feb. 15
  • A student organization fair, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 17
  • A department open house, noon-2 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 18
  • Guest speaker Lil B in the Reitz Union Grand Ballroom, Thursday, Feb. 18; doors open 8 p.m., show starts 8:30 p.m.
  • GatorNights – Wonderland: Celebrating 15 Years, Friday, Feb. 19
  • A ribbon-cutting ceremony, 2 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 20
  • Center for Leadership and Service non-profit reception and tour, 4:30-5:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 20

Recently selected to receive a 2016 award from the city of Gainesville’s City Beautification Board for its contribution to improving the attractiveness of the city, the Reitz Union expansion boasts about 138,000 square feet of new space.

Included is office and support space for student organizations including Student Government, the Center for Leadership and Service, the Department of Student Activities and Involvement, the Office of Multicultural and Diversity Affairs and GatorWell Health Promotion Services.

The expanded space also features new lounges, study spaces, meeting rooms, a game room, dance studios and a reflection room.

Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to RSVP for the ribbon-cutting ceremony at http://www.ufsa.ufl.edu/about/initiatives/all_campus_reitz_union_grand_reopening_celebration_rsvp/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/1178476048847957/.

For more information about celebration events, go to http://www.union.ufl.edu/itstime.

Campus Life

Research links prenatal stress to babies’ health in war zones

February 2, 2016
Michelle Neeley

Children from war-torn areas of the globe are affected by trauma even before they are born, according to a new University of Florida study.

To gather their results, researchers went to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a region routinely called “the worst place in the world” to be a woman, said Darlene A. Kertes, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor in UF’s department of psychology. Women in this unstable region are routinely the target of rape and other war-related traumas.

“Our research shows that stressful life experiences affect our bodies all the way down to our genes,” said Kertes, who also is affiliated with the University of Florida Genetics Institute.

The study was published in the January/February issue of Child Development, the flagship journal for the Society for Research in Child Development. The results showed that mothers’ stressful life experiences were linked with epigenetic markers in key genes that regulate the body’s response to stress, in both mothers and newborns.

“The study is one of the first of its kind to be conducted in a developing country,” Kertes said. “Most information to date about effects of stress and trauma on prenatal development has been gathered in a Western context.”

Samples of umbilical cord blood, placenta and the mothers’ blood were collected at birth and tested for impacts of war trauma and chronic stress. The researchers looked at DNA methylation, an epigenetic process that makes genes more or less able to respond to biochemical signals in the body.

During pregnancy, a mother’s bodily responses to stress are passed onto the fetus, affecting a child’s brain development, birth weight and functioning of the children’s own HPA axis even after they are born.

The researchers looked at the babies’ birth weight as an indicator of children’s overall development. They found that stress-linked DNA methylation differences predicted lower birth weight.

“The stress exposure affected the maternal and fetal tissues differently, which shows that the impact of stress differs depending on an individual’s life phase,” Kertes said, adding that stress experienced at very young ages affects the way the body responds to stress throughout life.

This is the first time researchers have documented stress effects, either pre- or postnatal, on methylation of a gene called CRH in humans. CRH makes a hormone that triggers the body’s stress response. The study also confirmed stress effects on several other genes known to be involved in the stress response.

Kertes and her colleagues have started to examine the longer term effects of stress on child development in conflict-ridden regions. She emphasized that traumatic events can also have cross-generational impacts.

“War and conflict do not just impact the health and well-being for people who experience it directly,” she said. “It can potentially have long-term consequences for future generations.”

Science & Wellness

Art and nature converge for six months

February 2, 2016
uf news

The Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida will bring together more than 100 works of art that offer challenging and enriching perspectives on how we see and understand the natural world through the eyes of artists and makers from across time, places and cultures. “Framing Nature: The Living World in Art” will include drawings, prints, paintings, photographs and sculptures drawn from the Harn’s main collecting areas of modern, contemporary, African and Asian art, and photography, as well as the collections of Oceanic art, Ancient American art, and Prints and Drawings before 1850. The exhibition will be on view from Feb. 2 to July 17.

“Framing Nature will be organized along four thematic groupings:

·         Inspiration considers how artists have explored, interpreted and reinterpreted nature in their work. Featured artists in this grouping include Herman Herzog, William Henry Jackson, Evon Streetman, Toshiko Takaezu and Edward Weston.

·         Discovery addresses how humans have made sense of the world through observation and documentation. A sample of artists in the exhibition who have contributed to the dissemination of this knowledge through their art includes Elizabeth Blackwell, Paul Jacoulet, Bisrat Shibabaw, Carleton E. Watkins and Ellis Wilson.

·         Power features artistic expressions reflecting the symbolic powers vested in nature by the human mind. A highlight of artists in this grouping includes Berenice Abbot, Skunder Boghossian, Rockwell Kent, Sebastião Salgado and Massimo Vitali.

·         Refuge depicts the impulse to escape into nature as well as the experience of living in close harmony with the living world. A sampling of artists in this section includes John James Audubon, Milton Avery, Jamini Roy, Maggie Taylor and Jerry Uelsmann.

“Drawing from a collection of more than 10,000 works of art, we have created dynamic groupings that encourage new ways of thinking about the encounter between art and nature,” said Dulce Román, co-curator of the exhibition and Harn Curator of Modern Art.
 “Framing Nature”is the second of two exhibitions celebrating the Harn Museum of Art’s 25th anniversary.

 “Since its opening in 1990, the Harn has brought hundreds of inspiring exhibitions, educational programs as well as internationally recognized collections to our audiences,” said Eric Segal, co-curator of the exhibition and Harn Curator of Academic Programs. “This exhibition will continue that tradition.”
This exhibition is made possible by the UF Office of the Provost with additional support from an anonymous donor, Robert and Carolyn Thoburn, the John V. and Patricia M. Carlson Program Endowment, the Alachua County Visitors and Convention Bureau, Visit Florida, and the Harn General Program Endowment. Admission to the museum and the exhibition is free.

Free and open to the public, unless noted otherwise.


“The Cultures of Nature”

Sunday, February 7, 3 p.m

“Environments of Power: Ancient American Ceramics and Photographic Images”
Sunday, April 3, 3 p.m.

“Scientific Illustration: Aesthetics and Abstraction”
Sunday, June 12, 3 p.m.

Educator Workshop
“The Science and Art of Nature Journals”

Wednesday, February 17, 2:30 – 4:30 p.m

Member pARTy

Thursday, February 25, 6 – 8:30 p.m.

352Creates: Framing Nature
Friday, February 26, 11 a.m.
– 5 p.m.

 “Museum Nights: Discover Europe”
Thursday, March 10, 6 – 9 p.m.

“Access Art: Touch Tours ”
Saturday, March 12, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.


“Spring into Nature”
March 21-25, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

“MASH: Mathematics→Art←Science at the Harn”
Saturday, April 2

“Framing Nature in Florida Panel Discussion”
Sunday, April 10, 3 p.m.

“Family Day: Earth Day”
Saturday, April 16, 1 – 4 p.m.

Tot Time
Tuesday, February 23, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. p.m.:
Art & Nature
Friday, March 4, 11 a.m. – noon:
Art & Nature
Tuesday, April 26, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.: Wings & Things
Friday, May 6, 11 am – noon: Wings & Things

Story Time
Wednesday, February 24, 11 a.m.: Butterflies
Wednesday, March 30, 11 a.m.: Underwater Adventures

Elementary Art at the Library
Wednesday, February 3, 2 – 3 p.m.: Underwater Landscapes
Wednesday, March 2, 2 – 3 p.m.: Yoruba Textiles
Wednesday, April 6, 2 – 3 p.m.: Botanical Prints
Location: Alachua County Library District Headquarters, 405 East University Avenue

Docent-led Tours
Every Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m.

For more information, please call 352-392-9826 or visit www.harn.ufl.edu.


Campus Life

Who’s talking in the library?

February 3, 2016
Paul Bernard

Two prominent authors will visit UF the week of Feb. 8 and speak in the Judaica Suite (Smathers Library, second floor in Special Collections Grand Reading Room).

On Monday, Feb. 8, 
at 4 p.m., Olive Senior will a selection of her poetry and fiction, and then discuss “Dying to Better Themselves: West Indians and the Building of the Panama Canal.” Her recent prize-winning book exposes a little known side of a major historic accomplishment.                    

The author of more than 16 books, Senior is one of the most recognized contemporary Caribbean writers, having won prizes for her fiction, poetry and non-fiction. She has worked internationally as a creative writing teacher and lecturer on Caribbean literature and culture. Senior is on the faculty of the Humber School for Writers, Toronto, and has taught in the writing programs at University of Toronto, St Lawrence University, Barnard College and Columbia University.

Her work in recording and disseminating the cultural heritage of Jamaica was honored in 2003 with the Norman Washington Manley Foundation Award for Excellence and in 2004 with the Gold Medal of the Institute of Jamaica. Senior’s writing is represented in numerous anthologies worldwide and has been translated into several languages.

This event is sponsored by the George A. Smathers Libraries, the Department of English, the Department of History, the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere, MFA@FLA, Amherst College and the University of Miami.

The Judaica Suite welcomes Sidney Homan on Wednesday, Feb.10, from 3:30-4:30 p.m.  In commemoration of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, Sidney Homan will present a lecture on “Directing Shakespeare: A Scholar on Stage.”

Homan is professor of English at the University of Florida and visiting professor at Jilin University in the People's Republic of China. An actor and director in commercial and university theatres, he is the author of some eleven books on Shakespeare and the modern playwrights. His “A Fish in the Moonlight: Growing Up in the Bone Marrow Unit” combines stories of his youth in South Philadelphia with his experience as artist-in-residence telling those stories to children on the bone marrow unit of his university's hospital.

He is a member of the Academy of Distinguished Teaching Scholars, and was chosen as the University of Florida's Teacher/Scholar for 2014-2015. With his son Daniel, he has completed a novel about a German resistance group that attempts with a theatrical trick to overthrow Hitler.

Officially opened by President Bernie Machen on January 19, 2014, the Judaica Suite was designed by world-renowned architect, artist and UF alumnus Kenneth Treister. 

Campus Life

Discussing the unspeakable

February 3, 2016
Matt Walker

Between 1900 and 2011, the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys served as a state reform school and detention center in Marianna, Fla. Behind its brick walls those in charge committed unspeakable acts of abuse, rape, torture and even murder of the boys over the years.

Though rumors of abuse swirled for decades, it wasn’t until University of South Florida forensic anthropologist and professor, Erin Kimmerle, began investigating the campus that the full extent of the abuse was revealed. This included the remains of 51 bodies – 20 more than was officially stated in a 2008 investigation.

Kimmerle will participate in a panel discussion of this horrific case at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, along with journalist and Pulitzer Prize finalist Ben Montgomery, UF law professor Darren Hutchinson and UF history professor Paul Ortiz.

“Death at Dozier: Unearthing, Remedying, and Preventing Human Tragedies” will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 10 at 1 p.m. in UF Law’s Chesterfield Smith Ceremonial Classroom, Room 180 in Holland Hall. The event is free and open to the public and will include an audience Q&A. A webcast is also availalbe. 

Montgomery, a reporter at the “Tampa Bay Times” covered the Dozier saga in detail after learning about the work Kimmerle was doing to investigate and excavate the recently closed school.  His reporting illuminated the issue for many and allowed the victims to tell their tragic stories.

Hutchinson, who teaches constitutional law and civil rights, organized the conference. He said he believes law students should be exposed to complex social problems such as this one that implicate issues from social sciences, humanities, law and other disciplines. Hutchinson also said he hopes that this program will encourage students to use their professional training to solve and remedy the pervasive and systematic social problems that exist in the world today.

Ortiz is the Director of the Samuel Proctor History Program at UF. Ortiz’s research analyzes violent human tragedies in Florida and other parts of the Southeast. Ortiz is immensely qualified to place the Dozier school tragedy within the broader historical context of economic and racial injustice in Florida. 

For more background on the Dozier School and its tragic past, read Montgomery’s award-winning investigative series, “For Their Own Good.”

Campus Life

Plastic debris crossing the Pacific can transport more species with the help of barnacles

February 3, 2016
Michelle Neeley

The smooth surfaces of much of the plastic waste rapidly increasing in the ocean appear to provide poor habitat for animals -- that is, until barnacles step in.

University of Florida researchers discovered that diverse communities of rafting animals can inhabit even the smoothest pieces of plastic debris if barnacles step in first to create complex habitat, similar to trees in a rainforest or corals in a reef. That means plastics could better transport foreign species across oceans than previously believed, said Mike Gil, who, as a doctoral candidate at UF, led the study published Jan. 27 in Scientific Reports.

Now the bad news: While conservationists generally aim to preserve biological diversity, Gil said, the diversity found on plastic debris could be harmful.

“Plastic waste provides an unprecedented amount of artificial oceanic ‘rafts’, which could allow foreign species to invade and compromise the biological diversity of natural coastlines,” he said.

This claim and its broad economic implications are underscored by a piece of plastic debris, which Gil sampled near the coast of California, that was home to both an isopod from the Americas and a crab from Asia.

Before plastics, rafting communities in the ocean were limited because of a limited number and lifespan of natural floating rafts, like downed trees, seaweed or pumice. Over the last 40 years, however, the amount of oceanic plastic waste has increased at an alarming rate, and the lifespan of these artificial rafts can vastly exceed that of natural rafts.

In fall 2012, Gil and his colleagues sailed from California to Hawaii to survey communities of organisms residing on plastic debris, some of which likely originated from the Japanese tsunami, which took place over 4,000 miles away and a year and a half earlier.

Their findings show that stalked barnacles on smooth plastic rafts, ranging in size from 1 inch to several feet in diameter, create a foundation on which other species can attach and thrive.

In addition, Gil says his study points to a bigger, often overlooked issue.

“Even if people are responsible with the disposal of plastic, natural disasters can deposit incredible amounts of plastic waste into natural ecosystems,” Gil said. “Thus, if we truly want to remediate harmful effects of plastics on nature, reductions in plastic dependence and, ultimately, production may be the only answer.”

Photo information: (left to right) Tyson Bottenus, Mike GIl, and Laura Hansen examining species rafting on a piece of plastic debris.

Global Impact

A gathering of successful Gators

February 4, 2016
Milenko Martinovich

The Warrington College of Business and its Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center will present the second annual Gator100 Awards Luncheon at noon on Feb. 19 at the Reitz Student Union Grand Ballroom. The entire UF community is invited.

The Gator100 ranks the 100 fastest-growing, Gator-owned or Gator-led businesses each year. The event allows UF and the entrepreneurial community to celebrate and engage with these successful Gators and learn about their innovative ventures.

“The Gator100 is a celebration of entrepreneurship across the UF campus,” said Nola Miyasaki, executive director, Outreach and Incubation at the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center. “We are excited to welcome back the Gator100 honorees to meet students and faculty, and network with each other.  The Gator100 honorees are true drivers of economic development and job creation in the U.S., as well as all over the globe.  We are proud of what they have achieved as entrepreneurs, and they serve as wonderful role models for the entire UF community.”

More than 600 guests attended last year’s inaugural event. All but one of UF’s 16 colleges were represented on the 2015 Gator100, which was led by SoloHealth, an Atlanta-based health wellness company founded by Warrington College of Business alumnus Bart Foster (BSBA ’97).  Companies from 13 U.S. states made last year’s list.

To be considered for the Gator100, companies must have been in business for five years or more as of Oct. 1, 2015, and have had verifiable annual revenues of $250,000 or more in 2012.

Additionally, a UF alumnus or alumni must have met one of the following three leadership criteria:

  • A University of Florida alumnus* or group of alumni must have owned 50% or more of the company from Jan. 1, 2012 through Oct. 1, 2015
  • A University of Florida alumnus must have served as the Company’s chief executive (for example: chairman, CEO, president or managing partner) from Jan. 1, 2012 through Oct. 1, 2015
  • A University of Florida alumnus must have founded the company and been active as a member of the most senior management team from Jan. 1, 2012 through Oct. 1, 2015.

A day and a half of entrepreneurial celebration is planned around the Gator100 Gala Awards Luncheon, including a welcome reception at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, a Startup Hour in downtown Gainesville – where local entrepreneurs can network with Gator100 honorees – and entrepreneurship breakout sessions.

Individual seats, preferred table seats and corporate sponsorships are still available. Certain tickets and sponsorships allow for access to the awards lunch and breakout sessions.

For more information, please contact Michelle Helmer, director of outreach, at michelle.helmer@warrington.ufl.edu or Nola Miyasaki, executive director of outreach and incubation, at nola.miyasaki@warrington.ufl.edu. You may also visit gator100.ufl.edu/events.asp to learn more.


Campus Life

The disease detectives: Unraveling how viruses go viral

February 5, 2016
UF News

Most people think about an infectious disease like the flu only when it knocks them flat.

Or they worry about a deadly virus like Ebola after it shows up in the headlines.

But scientists at the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute are always anticipating the next possible epidemic, tracking viruses and bacteria that can trigger a fast-moving chain of infection.

Then the team at EPI tries to stop them.

Like scientists before them who devised ways to rid the world of smallpox, EPI’s researchers are working on ways to eradicate malaria from Zambia, control cholera in Haiti, and even minimize influenza outbreaks in Alachua County.

Their work involves identifying disease-carrying microorganisms that are constantly evolving, becoming ever more virulent and resistant to treatment.

At the same time, the world that serves as host to these bacteria and viruses is continually changing, its population growing, the opportunities for infection multiplying exponentially.

Dr. J. Glenn Morris, EPI’s director and a specialist in infectious disease, said a perfect example of this dynamic is the Ebola crisis in which a virus present in monkeys and fruit bats for thousands of years suddenly crossed over to humans in West Africa.

“Jungles have been cleared and there’s increasing pressure from population,” Morris said. “Changes in the ways people behave allow the microorganism to spread.”

There were more than 19,000 reported Ebola cases and more than 7,000 deaths from the epidemic as of late 2014.

To understand how diseases emerge and are transmitted, EPI’s researchers analyze a pathogen’s genetic structure in the lab, then create computer models that show how the virus or bacteria might be spread by insects, other animals, or humans. Finally, the scientists at EPI collaborate with colleagues down the hall and around the world to design ways to intervene and block the spread of the disease. No sooner is one puzzle solved than another emerges.

Among the riddles currently being unraveled by EPI’s researchers:

How is a pig-borne disease transmitted in a Muslim country?

What kinds of parasites do Florida ticks carry?

How has a cholera strain from Nepal evolved in Haiti?

And when an Ebola vaccine becomes available, who should get it first to have the greatest impact?

Founded in 2006, EPI has about 200 investigators, drawn from 11 different colleges on UF’s campus. They work out of a $55 million, four-story facility that’s equal parts high-tech labs and high-speed computers. Glass-walled offices house a geographer next to a pediatrician next to an epidemiologist next to an ecologist. Morris, EPI’s director since its inception, said the building was deliberately designed to encourage the collaboration needed to move infectious disease research from the lab to the wider world.

To read more of the story, go to http://www.upf.com/book.asp?id=SILMA001, where you can download the complete text, available from University Press, for $5.95.

The stories chronicled in GATORBYTES span all colleges and units across the UF campus. They detail the far-reaching impact of UF’s research, technologies, and innovations—and the UF faculty members dedicated to them. Gatorbytes describe how UF is continuing to build on its strengths and extend the reach of its efforts so that it can help even more people in even more places.

Gatorbytes are available from University Press of Florida [URL: www.upf.com] and can be found wherever books and ebooks are sold.

Global Impact

Designing tomorrow’s travel

February 8, 2016
Jen Ambrose

A group of University of Florida engineering students has made it to the finals in an international competition to come up with the best design for the next big thing in transportation: super-fast ground travel.

“Hyperloop” is a high-speed transportation design concept introduced by engineer and entrepreneur Elon Musk. In 2013, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla challenged the world to develop the concept from his open-source designs. In the first round of competition in Texas in late January, over 120 teams from around the world presented plans for moving forward – specifically on designs for the pods that will carry passengers and cargo.

Only 29 college teams were selected to build prototypes for a final round of competition this summer. The University of Florida’s Gatorloop team was one of them. 

“When they said our name, it was so surreal,” said Taylor Waber, captain of UF’s Gatorloop team. “There were so many great designs presented, we really weren’t sure that we’d make the cut.”

The students represent six different majors, all housed within the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering.

Global Impact

Run to honor those who have fallen

February 8, 2016
paul bernard

For the ninth year, the midshipmen of the University of Florida’s NROTC program will host the Fallen Heroes 5K run to benefit the UDT-SEAL Association and the Gainesville Fisher House Foundation.

The run will take place Sunday, March 20, at 9 a.m., starting and finishing in the UF commuter lot at 1273 Gale Lemerand Drive. Day-of-race registration will open at 7:30 a.m. The cost is $20. Participants may also register at active.com/gainesville-fl/running/distance-running-races/the-9th-annual-fallen-heroes.

The UDT-SEAL Association is a Veterans Support Organization whose members include those who have served, are presently serving or who strive to serve the Naval Special Warfare community. Their goal is to assist members and their families by improving quality of life. The Gainesville Fisher House Foundation supports America’s military personnel by providing a living facility that allows family members to be close to their loved ones during hospitalization.

The Fallen Heroes 5K run also honors Petty Officer 2nd Class James Suh, USN SEAL, Lt. Thomas Fouke, USN, and all others who gave their lives in support of the global war on terror.

The race is sponsored by Fit2Run, who will present a $50 gift card to the first-place male and female contestants.

Campus Life

Shark attacks hit all-time high in 2015

February 8, 2016
Alisson Clark
sharks, shark attacks, conservation, Florida Museum of Natural History

It’s the kind of record no one wants to break: the most shark attacks in a single year. But 2015 did just that, with 98 unprovoked attacks worldwide, beating the previous record of 88 set in 2000, according to the International Shark Attack File housed at the University of Florida.

Six of the attacks were fatal.

The all-time high came as no surprise to George Burgess, curator of the world’s clearinghouse of shark-attack data housed at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. With shark populations rebounding and more and more people in the ocean, bites are inevitable, he says.

“Sharks plus humans equals attacks. As our population continues to rapidly grow and shark populations slowly recover, we’re going to see more interactions.”

Although fatalities rose from last year’s low, which saw only three shark-related deaths, they remained stable when looking at the big picture, precisely matching the decade average, Burgess said. Of the six fatalities, two happened off the Indian Ocean island of Réunion, bringing its total deaths to seven since 2011. Australia, Egypt, New Caledonia and the United States each had single fatalities.

The U.S. led the world in attacks with 59, driven by an abundance of coastline with an ever-growing number of swimmers, surfers and divers in the water, Burgess said. As usual, Australia and South Africa rounded out the top three, with 18 and 8 attacks, respectively.

Within the U.S., Florida had the most attacks with 30, followed by North and South Carolina with eight each. Hawaii saw seven attacks and the country’s only fatality, with the remaining incidents occurring in California, Texas, Mississippi and New York.

The New York attack brings to light another factor in the increase in attacks: warming ocean waters. Ocean temperatures that spike earlier in the season and warm a larger range of coastline draw both sharks and humans to the same waters, Burgess said.

“We can and should expect the number of attacks to be higher each year,” he said. “When we visit the sea, we’re on their turf.”

shark attack statisticsSource: George Burgess, gburgess@flmnh.ufl.edu

Science & Wellness

Gravitational waves detected 100 years after Einstein’s prediction

February 11, 2016
Steve Orlando

LIGO opens new window on the universe with observation of gravitational waves from colliding black holes

University of Florida scientists' role essential to LIGO discovery

For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at the earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.

Gravitational waves carry information about their dramatic origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained. Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed.

The gravitational waves were detected on Sept. 14, 2015, at 5:51 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (9:51  UTC) by both of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, USA. The LIGO Observatories are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and were conceived, built, and are operated by Caltech and MIT. The discovery, accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters, was made by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (which includes the GEO Collaboration and the Australian Consortium for Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy) and the Virgo Collaboration using data from the two LIGO detectors.

How the detection happened

On Sept. 14, the LIGO Hanford, Wash., and Livingston, La, observatories detected the coincident signal referred to as GW150914. It was just past 4:50 a.m. in Livingston and just past 2:50 a.m. in Hanford. The signal arrived at Livingston about seven-thousandths of a second (0.007 seconds) before it reached Hanford. The signal was discovered by the real-time search program Coherent WaveBurst, which identifies gravitational wave signals in the LIGO data. The coincident detection was reported by Coherent WaveBurst within three minutes of the signal arrival.

Coherent WaveBurst reconstructed the signal shape revealing a spectacular signature of two colliding black holes. In a fraction of a second they merged into a single more massive black hole releasing energy equivalent to a few times the mass of our Sun in a burst of gravitational waves.

Coherent WaveBurst, was developed at the University of Florida by physics professors Sergey Klimenko and Guenakh Mitselmakher, and their graduate students and postdoctoral research associates. Klimenko and Mitselmakher have been leaders in LIGO’s search for gravitational-wave bursts since 1997. The burst search seeks to detect short gravitational-wave signals from supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, mergers of binary neutron stars and black holes, and other catastrophic astrophysical events.

Coherent WaveBurst conducts a search for signals with poorly known or unexpected shapes, making no assumptions about the form of the gravitational wave signal. The search algorithm, which has been used in LIGO since 2004, was invented and developed at UF.

LIGO data analysis is a big part of Florida’s gravitational wave portfolio.  UF physics professor Bernard Whiting has been active in the search for stochastic gravitational waves, relic gravitational waves produced a tiny fraction of a second after the formation of the universe in the big bang.

UFs LIGO contributions

The University of Florida has been involved with LIGO since its inception.

That involvement began with an email message sent in October 1995 to the physics faculty by Mitselmakher, who had just joined the Physics Department as a senior professor. The message was about research opportunities in LIGO and was motivated by Mitselmakher’s knowledge of the LIGO project from his work with Barry Barish (then LIGO Laboratory Director) in high energy physics.  A number of faculty responded.  The initial group of active participants consisted of Mitselmakher, Whiting, and physics professors David Reitze and David Tanner.  Shortly after this beginning, two other current faculty members joined the UF LIGO group: Klimenko in 1997 and Guido Mueller in 1998.

Florida’s interest was well timed, as the LIGO Laboratory, the consortium managed by Caltech and MIT, was just beginning to design the initial LIGO detector. There were a number of meetings, conferences and lab visits between UF scientists and LIGO scientists.

A critical meeting took place in February 1996, when Mitselmakher, Reitze, Tanner and Whiting visited the LIGO laboratory to discuss whether and how UF could contribute to the initial LIGO detectors, then beginning their construction.  The outcome of this discussion was that the University of Florida took responsibility for the Input Optics (IO) of LIGO, one of the most complex and diverse systems in the entire interferometer. In doing so, Florida was the first institution outside the original Caltech-MIT collaboration to have an essential role in LIGO.

The input optics system is composed of all the components between the high power laser and the LIGO interferometer itself. It provides laser modulation needed for the controls, a mode cleaner to improve the quality of the beam, a Faraday isolator to prevent reflected light from returning to the laser, beam expansion and mode matching so that the laser light fills the main interferometer, laser power control, and a number of other functions. Beginning in the fall of 1996 and continuing to today, Florida has designed, built, delivered and installed the input optics for the three interferometers in  initial LIGO (completed 2001), upgrades to two of these for Enhanced LIGO (2007–2009), and for the three interferometers (with one, intended for LIGO-India, in storage) of Advanced LIGO (2011–2014). Reitze was the initial leader of the IO team; Guido Mueller took over in 2011.

Advanced LIGO: construction and initial operations

The Florida-supplied input optics of Advanced LIGO was designed, built, delivered, installed, and commissioned at both LIGO locations during 2012 to 2014. In parallel, other LIGO teams followed similar steps to make the laser, prepare the vacuum system and construct seismic isolation systems, the multi-pendulum mirror suspensions, photodetectors, control electronics, data acquisition systems and analysis software. A simplified diagram of the detector is in the image below.

diagram of the advanced LIGO detector

Simplified diagram of the Advanced LIGO detector.  The instrument is essentially an ultrasensitive laser rangefinder, measuring the difference in lengths of two 4-km optical cavities formed by mirror surfaces on the test masses in horizontal (x) and vertical (y) arms. An incident gravitational wave will have the effect of lengthening one 4-km arm and shortening the other during one half-cycle of the wave; these length changes are reversed during the other half-cycle. The output photodetector records these differential cavity length variations.   Inset a: Location and orientation of the LIGO detectors at Hanford, WA (H1) and Livingston, LA (L1). Inset b: Instrumental noise versus the frequency of the wave.  The detectors are most sensitive around 190 Hz (G below middle C).

UF is proud to have worked with many outstanding scientists at other universities to have brought LIGO to the sensitivity to make this detection. The list in the US is long and includes Louisiana State University, UF, Georgia Tech, the University of Mississippi, Fullerton, Columbia, Stanford, Oregon, Maryland, Michigan, Carleton, Minnesota, Texas Rio Grande, Penn State, American, Hobart & William Smith, Syracuse, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, MIT, and Caltech.

The Advanced LIGO detectors construction was finished and accepted by the National Science Foundation in late 2014. An official dedication took place at Hanford in May 2015, transitioning the facilities from a construction project to functioning observatories. By August 2015, the two detectors were working well, only a bit short of their designed sensitivity (as is normal at the early stage of such a complex project).

The diagram above contains a graph of LIGO’s sensitivity as a function of the frequency of the wave.  The frequencies to which LIGO is sensitive are in the audio frequency range, 30 Hz to 4000 Hz, or B0 (third piano key from the bottom) to B8 (second from top).

An “engineering run” began in late August. The goal was to operate the interferometers in a mode where scientists responsible for commissioning the detectors could study their performance and, if necessary, make small changes to procedures and operating conditions.

A full “science run” called O1 for Observing Run One was planned to begin in late September. The LSC collaboration was confident in detector performance and hopeful that the long-stated goal of the collaboration, to detect gravitational waves, would be reached in the next few years.

Details of the detection

On Sept. 14, everything changed.

Even though the detectors were being operated in engineering rather than science mode, data were being recorded and an online analysis program (Coherent WaveBurst, as described above) was operating.

Two black holes, orbiting each other more than 20 times per second, emitted an oscillating force field that shook the mirrors by a tiny amount. The shaking was detected because of the sensitivity of the LIGO detectors. (They can detect mirror motions that are 10,000 times less than the diameter of a proton.) The signal shows the two black holes spiraling into each other, moving faster and faster, reaching more than 100 orbits per second.  Then, they merged, forming a single, heavier, rapidly spinning black hole, ringing down to invisibility.

The diagram below shows for both observatories the measured signal, simulations using Einstein’s theory of general relativity, the background noise, and a false color plot showing signal frequency as a function of time. The duration of the signal was only 0.12 seconds. The strain (the change of arm length divided by the arm length itself) was one part in 1021, meaning that the arm length changed by 4 attometers. (Atto is a unit prefix in the metric system meaning a factor of 10−18 or 0.000000000000000001.)  

GW150914 (filtered with a 35–350 Hz band-pass filter) as observed by the LIGO Hanford (left) and Livingston (right) detectors

GW150914 (filtered with a 35–350 Hz band-pass filter) as observed by the LIGO Hanford (left) and Livingston (right) detectors. GW150914 arrived first at Livingston and about 0.007 second later at Hanford. Second row: Calculation by Einstein’s theory of general relativity of the strain from the inspiral and coalescence of two black holes with mases 29 and 36 times the mass of our Sun.  Third row: Background noise. Bottom row: A time-frequency representation of the strain data, showing the signal frequency increasing over time. The total duration of the event was about 0.12 seconds. 

This event took place 1.3 billion years ago, long before any multicellular life started on Earth. The space-time ripple produced by this violent event spread out through space at the speed of light, while life on Earth became intelligent enough to build instruments capable of detecting it

The discovery was made possible by the enhanced capabilities of Advanced LIGO, a major upgrade that increases the sensitivity of the instruments compared to the first generation LIGO detectors, enabling a large increase in the volume of the universe probed—and the discovery of gravitational waves during its first observation run. The US National Science Foundation leads in financial support for Advanced LIGO. Funding organizations in Germany (Max Planck Society), the U.K. (Science and Technology Facilities Council, STFC) and Australia (Australian Research Council) also have made significant commitments to the project. Several of the key technologies that made Advanced LIGO so much more sensitive have been developed and tested by the German UK GEO collaboration. Significant computer resources have been contributed by the AEI Hannover Atlas Cluster, the LIGO Laboratory, Syracuse University, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  Several universities designed, built, and tested key components for Advanced LIGO: The Australian National University, the University of Adelaide, the University of Florida, Stanford University, Columbia University of New York, and Louisiana State University.

Einstein and gravitational waves

This discovery provides the capstone to Einstein’s general theory of relativity. General relativity is a geometric theory of gravitation, expanding and extending Newton’s theory of gravity.  We know gravity as the force that attracts us to the ground under us, causes oranges to fall from the tree, and keeps the Earth and other planets in orbits around the Sun. Einstein’s theory replaces Newton’s forces with the notion that gravity is the result of the bending or warping of space-time. The equations of general relativity were first described (to the Prussian Academy of Sciences) by Einstein in November 1915. General relativity makes a number of predictions and most have been confirmed since the theory was published. These include the precession of the orbit of Mercury, gravitational lensing, supermassive black holes, and the warping of time, now an important correction built into global positioning systems.  That the theory predicted the emission of gravitational waves by objects orbiting each other was proposed by Einstein in June 1916.  The paper was in German, “Näherungsweise Integration der Feldgleichungen der Gravitation,” or “Approximate integration of the field equations of gravitation.” These waves have been invoked to explain the dynamics of a pulsar in orbit around another star but direct observation of them had up to now eluded physicists. With the observation and the publication of the paper, just under 100 years elapsed between the beginning of the theory and the first capture of gravitational waves. It also is the first time two black holes have been seen in orbit around each other.  This result will literally change the way we look at the universe.

LIGO Science and LIGO leadership at Florida

National Science Foundation support for the Florida LIGO group began in 1997 and has continued since then. The NSF has supported both instrument science and data analysis research.

Mueller, Reitze, Tanner along with students and postdoctoral research associates have carried out a variety of research projects on instrument configurations, devices for the IO, and other experiments aimed at future detectors.

An important contribution was a breakthrough design of the recycling cavities of the interferometer by Mueller and postdoctoral research associate Muzammil Arian. Called “stable recycling cavities,” this approach improved the quality of the optical beam in the interferometer and reduced sensitivity to mirror surface errors and environmental disturbances. Similarly Klimenko, Mitselmakher and Whiting with students and postdoctoral research associates developed methods for data analysis and gravitational-wave detection.

The Florida group has grown over the years. Stephen Eikenberry joined in 2011 and is leading a group working on using astronomical telescopes—including the University of Florida's Gran Telescopio Canarias—to identify and study light from the astrophysical sources generating the LIGO signals. Hai-Ping Cheng joined in 2012 and studies the reasons for the observed excess noise in the optical coatings of the LIGO mirrors. From an initial size of about eight (four faculty, two postdoctoral research associates and two graduate students) in 1997, the UF LIGO group currently has about 20 members, including faculty (six), postdoctoral research associates (three), graduate students (six), and undergraduate students (five).

University of Florida faculty have also played important roles in the leadership of the LIGO experiment and of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, a group of more than 900 scientists worldwide who have joined together in the search for gravitational waves using LIGO data.

Reitze was chair of the Optics Working Group from 2001 to 2007. Mueller was chair of the Lasers and Auxiliary Systems working group from 2011 to 2013. Klimenko has been chair of the LSC Presentation and Publication committee since 2011. Tanner has been chair of the LSC Elections and Membership Committee since 2011. Reitze was elected to the position of Spokesperson of the LSC in 2007 and to a second two year term in 2009. In 2011 he was appointed director of the LIGO Laboratory and holds that position now, while on leave from Florida. Whiting and Mueller operate an international undergraduate student exchange for the LSC.

A worldwide collaboration

LIGO was originally proposed as a means of detecting these gravitational waves in the 1980s by Rainer Weiss, professor of physics, emeritus, from MIT; Kip Thorne, Caltech’s Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, emeritus; and Ronald Drever, professor of physics, emeritus, also from Caltech.

LIGO research is carried out by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC), a group of more than 1000 scientists from universities around the United States and in 14 other countries. More than 90 universities and research institutes in the LSC develop detector technology and analyze data; approximately 250 students are strong contributing members of the collaboration. The LSC detector network includes the LIGO interferometers and the GEO600 detector. The GEO team includes scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute, AEI), Leibniz Universität Hannover, along with partners at the University of Glasgow, Cardiff University, the University of Birmingham, other universities in the United Kingdom, and the University of the Balearic Islands in Spain.

Virgo research is carried out by the Virgo Collaboration, consisting of more than  250 physicists and engineers belonging to 19 different European research groups: 6 from Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France; 8 from the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) in Italy; 2 in The Netherlands with Nikhef; the Wigner RCP in Hungary; the POLGRAW group in Poland and the European Gravitational Observatory (EGO), the laboratory hosting the Virgo detector near Pisa in Italy.



Science & Wellness

The science of stealing

February 16, 2016
Alisson Clark
research, retail theft, criminology, shoplifting, economy

The four thieves swapped stories, comparing what and how they like to steal. One prefers to enlist the help of employees to tip him off when a delivery arrives. One heads for the self-checkout lane, where he pantomimes scanning the items in his cart for any nearby cameras. Another simply loads big-ticket items onto his cart and rolls them out the front door.

They were pros, speaking with confidence and even a little bit of swagger, knowing they’re usually two steps ahead of efforts to stop them. And in the audience, 200 crime-prevention experts with companies from Walmart to Louis Vuitton were taking notes.

When you think of retail theft, you might envision teenagers shoplifting candy bars. It’s much more, says Read Hayes, co-director of the Loss Prevention Research Team at the University of Florida. More than $44 billion in merchandise goes missing across the United States each year, driving up prices for paying customers and filling the coffers of gangs and terrorist organizations. In cities around the United States, a growing number of violent drug store robberies are putting employees and customers at risk, while data breaches siphon off in minutes what would take years to steal from stores.

Through collaborations with computer engineers, sociologists and political scientists across campus, Hayes works to thwart these criminals – both in his role at UF and as director of the Loss Prevention Research Council, which hosted the conference where criminals shared their secrets.

“It’s an opportunity to use academic research to solve real-world problems," Hayes said. “Retail crime can be very dangerous and violent, but even when it’s not, it affects everyone.”

Read Hayes portrait

Hayes discovered just how violent it could be more than 30 years ago while looking through a ceiling tile in a department store in Orlando’s Fashion Square Mall. Working as a part-time store detective, Hayes was watching the sales floor from the stockroom above when he noticed a woman taking clothes off their hangers and giving them to an accomplice, who put them in his bag while a third person acted as a lookout.

“I called my manager, and she and I approached the three of them. One by one, they started resisting, then attacking. An off-duty deputy sheriff ran over, and they started fighting him. An Orlando Police Department officer heard it on his radio and ran in. By the end we had at least six or eight officers. One of the offenders was a big, powerfully built guy who was able to throw people around.

"It took four or five guys to get him in handcuffs. They zip-tied his feet, and he still managed to kick out the side window out of patrol car. When it was over, two departments of the store were leveled. There was blood.”

Hayes was 18.

As security director of Gator Growl, 1981. He was lucky to escape with just cuts and bruises. A few months later, he was pepper-sprayed by a shoplifter who was stealing suits. But those incidents didn’t deter Hayes from a career in crime prevention. The following year, he joined an undercover operation right out of “21 Jump Street,” tasked with stopping the sale of crystal meth at Osceola High School. During an internship with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, he ran customs intercepts in a helicopter and rounded up motorcycle gangs in Daytona. While earning a criminology degree at UF, he went undercover again, this time with a drug task force.

Living alongside criminals provided insight that Hayes – a lanky, soft-spoken guy who likes turkey hunting and old-time radio – still draws on decades later. 

“Riding around in a car, you’re not looking at things from a criminal’s perspective. When you’re undercover, you’re always trying to get into their minds: how they live, how they think, what they talk about, what they like and don’t like. Because of that, I know how to relate to them.”

Appearing on "20/20"That comes in handy for interviews with active offenders, where researchers like Hayes – who has a doctorate in criminology and has shared his expertise on “Oprah” – learn how to stop retail crime. 

But why would thieves want to help him prevent stealing?

Part of it is ego, Hayes says – the temptation to brag about what they’ve gotten away with. They also get gift cards. What they don’t get is immunity, but they don’t seem concerned about being arrested for the crimes they’ve just confessed to in front of an audience of hundreds.

“Criminals generally don’t assess risk the same as others,” Hayes said.

Throughout the interview at the loss-prevention conference, the four active offenders on the stage detailed a bewildering array of scams and strategies, from switching price tags and printing fake coupons to fraudulent gift card and baby registry scams. They relayed their fondness for shoplifting at “soccer mom o’clock” – the time of day when stores are too busy for employees to effectively prevent theft.

“You guys are overrun. You have no idea what’s going on,” said one.

It’s not all braggadocio. A woman recounted stealing medicine for her children. They talked about theft driven by addiction. They insisted there are certain stores where they would never steal, with Mom and Pop stores high on the list.

“Growing up in a really small town, there were a lot of individual stores owned by people I knew,” said an offender in his 20s. “The retail I was giving them was going back into my community.” 

At the LPRC's conference, thieves discuss their tactics with research scientist Mike Giblin. They also avoid stealing from stores where employees seem happy. Disgruntled or disengaged employees are less likely to notice theft – and more likely to look the other way if they do, they said. And when an employee looks you in the eye and starts a conversation, it’s often game over for thieves, said the sole female shoplifter on the stage.

“Partly it's the customer service. It's also that if someone has looked at me and talked to me, they can pick me out of a lineup.”

Recruiting and vetting active offenders is a job that’s never done, as criminals leave the area, drop out of contact or wind up in jail. But it’s worth the hassle, Hayes says, for the information the group gains – not just in interviews, but on the streets.

Mike Scicchitano followed a thief around a local drug store, watching him work. As director of UF’s Florida Survey Research Center, Scicchitano usually gathers and analyzes data at more of a remove. But as part of the Gainesville-based Loss Prevention Research Council, he and his colleagues observe criminals in what they refer to as “the wild.”

With the blessing of both the criminals and the store staff, the researchers watch thieves as they decide what, how and if to steal, though the shoplifters stop short of actually leaving with the goods.

“It’s really interesting to watch the good ones and see what they notice,” Scicchitano said.

Factors from the height of the shelves to the placement of the cash registers influence criminal decision-making, and UF and the LPRC want to understand them all. Through partnerships with 20 chain stores in Gainesville, LPRC researchers test innovations in theft prevention, watching how customers and criminals alike react. Just as interesting to the scientists are the deterrents that criminals don’t notice. Some, like hidden cameras, are meant to be invisible. But most are meant to be seen, because the goal of retail theft prevention isn’t to catch thieves, but deter them from stealing in the first place.

“Catching shoplifters is dangerous and costly, and a liability that companies don’t want anything to do with,” Hayes said. “It’s about getting people with bad intentions to do a U-turn. To do that, they need to perceive a clear and present danger to their success and their freedom.”

liquor bottles with anti-theft caps

The danger isn’t only to criminals: As armed robberies at drug stores spike, so does the potential for violence to customers and staff. The trend has drawn the attention of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, whose 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment summary shows prescription drug theft increasing around the country, with California, Nevada, New Mexico and Oklahoma seeing more armed robberies in 2014 than 2013. After analyzing three years of data, Hayes and his colleagues will present their findings at a March summit at with representatives from CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens. 

“We review video of these incidents like football coaches, analyzing it and looking for patterns,” Hayes said. “The incident data and the videos give us a clear focus for our research – how to detect and deter criminals in the parking lot, at the store entry and the pharmacy counter.”

A good deterrent makes a would-be criminal reconsider, but isn’t so intrusive that it makes paying customers feel uncomfortable. But even after following more than 800 criminals, as Hayes has, it’s not easy for a law-abiding person to see the world the way a criminal does. That’s why the researchers have adopted a medical model in their research, looking at retail crime the way doctors look at disease.

“When you try to prevent heart attacks, you look at how much a role is played by diet, exercise, stress. You have to understand how the disease works to design the cure and evaluate how the cure is working. We apply the same principles to understanding how bad guy stuff works and how our tools work. We even call the deterrent a treatment.”

Hayes outlines three basic approaches to thwarting theft.

One way is to make stealing an item too difficult. If you’ve bought razor blades and had to twist a knob to extract them from a plastic tube, you’ve experienced this approach firsthand. Another tactic is to make stealing too risky, perhaps by sending a signal when an item is removed If these razor-blade racks annoy you, blame a thief. from its shelf or package. It could be a text message to a store clerk, a loud noise, even a photo that goes to store staff. The third type of deterrent renders item useless or undesirable – think of those tags designed splatter ink on stolen clothing.

None of those options is effective, however, if a shoplifter doesn’t understand what they are. That’s where Hayes’ theory of “See – Get – Fear” comes in. Criminals have to first see the deterrent, understand what it does, and fear that it will work well enough to land them in jail.

Active offenders provide real-world insight not only into what they see, get and fear, but why they steal particular items. In addition to razor blades, Tide laundry detergent, Crest Whitestrips, baby formula and the heartburn medication Prilosec are also favorite targets worldwide — raids on organized-crime warehouses have turned up stockpiles of these items, Hayes says. These items check many of the boxes defined by researchers as desirable to thieves: They’re easy to carry and hide, available in a wide variety of stores, expensive to purchase and simple to resell. But thieves aren’t the only ones keeping an eye on them.

Read Hayes in the LPRC's innovation lab.

Amid security cameras and shelves of locked-down liquor bottles, twenty criminals took turns manipulating two razor-blade displays. A major retail chain had commissioned the bake-off – held at the LPRC’s simulated store in Innovation Square – to determine which theft deterrent would work best. The criminals tried their best to defeat each model, scoring them on risk and difficulty, and the retailer installed the winner in stores nationwide.

Deterrents like this don’t just make buying razor blades a little more painful. They also help slow the billions lost to theft and fraud each year, a problem that seems to be growing, according to the National Retail Security Survey, begun by Hayes in 1990 and directed by UF criminology professor Richard Hollinger.

Crime prevention begins before customers even enter the store: Hayes and his colleagues are evaluating cameras that can report the license plate of a car parked in front of a store that might be poised for a getaway, as well as facial-recognition technology so sophisticated that it can detect the age, gender, even mood of a would-be criminal. Another camera can recognize known offenders and alert staff to their presence.

“Sometimes,” Hayes said, “the awareness that the store is aware of them is enough to make them turn around and leave.”   

Society & Culture

Zika doesn’t deter Americans from traveling abroad, study shows

February 16, 2016
Lori Pennington-Gray

But half say they need more information about the virus

Global concerns about Zika virus aren’t stopping Americans from making international travel plans, a new study finds, but many who do plan to go abroad say they want more information about the virus.

The findings may point to the need for travel destinations to provide more detailed information about where the risks actually are as well as where travelers can seek medical help if they fall ill, said Lori Pennington-Gray, director of the University of Florida’s Tourism Crisis Management Initiative, which conducted the study.

That information could help prevent the spread of the disease in the U.S., she said.

The study, launched Feb. 11, involved an online survey of 300 U.S. citizens who have traveled internationally in the past five years.

About a quarter of those travelers had plans to travel internationally in the upcoming three months. Of those with international travel plans, more than 90 percent said they will keep them, and 44.3 percent will take extra precautions to protect themselves from Zika virus.

In addition, more than 70 percent believe they should use EPA-registered insect repellants to protect themselves, while less than 55 percent believe wearing permethrin-treated clothing is an effective way to stay safe.

Most interestingly, more than half of U.S. travelers said they did not have the knowledge needed to deal with Zika virus outbreaks while traveling internationally. When asked where they would turn for trusted information, the CDC scored the highest with more than 50 percent believing the CDC would help provide information to protect them when traveling internationally. The destination was the second most likely place for tourists seek information on how to protect themselves from the virus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued travel guidance in January on affected countries, including precautions and guidelines for travelers and residents.

“The newness of this disease could have a tremendous impact on destinations, particularly if tourists engage in a lot of outdoor activities when mosquitos are at their peak. This rise in cases is also having an effect on planning and managing for the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro,” said Pennington-Gray.

Ashley Schroeder, managing director of the Tourism Crisis Management Initiative, said travel destinations should share information and updates from the CDC as well as putting the risk into context.

“It is imperative that each destination provides travelers with geographically specific information so travelers can make educated decisions,” she said. “Forward-thinking destinations such as Hawaii Tourism Authority already engage in this practice.”

Science & Wellness

DNA studies reveal that shelter workers often mislabel dogs as ‘pit bulls’

February 17, 2016
Sarah Carey

DNA results show that shelter workers are often mistaken when they label a dog as a pit bull, with potentially devastating consequences for the dogs, a new University of Florida study has found.

“Animal shelter staff and veterinarians are frequently expected to guess the breed of dogs based on appearance alone,” said Julie Levy, a professor of shelter medicine at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine and the lead author of a study published recently in The Veterinary Journal.

“Unlike many other things people can’t quite define but ‘know when they see it,’ identification of dogs as pit bulls can trigger an array of negative consequences, from the loss of housing, to being seized by animal control, to the taking of the dog’s life,” she said. “In the high-stakes world of animal shelters, a dog’s life might depend on a potential adopter’s momentary glimpse and assumptions about its suitability as a pet. If the shelter staff has labeled the dog as a pit bull, its chances for adoption automatically go down in many shelters.”

The past few decades have brought an increase in ownership restrictions on breeds including pit bulls and dogs that resemble them. The restrictions are based on assumptions that certain breeds are inherently dangerous, that such dogs can be reliably identified and that the restrictions will improve public safety, the study states.

The study focused on how accurately shelter staff identified dogs believed to be pit bulls. ‘Pit bull’ is not a recognized breed, but a term applied to dogs derived from the heritage breeds American Staffordshire terrier or Staffordshire bull terrier. The purebred American pit bull terrier is also derived from these breeds and is often included in the loose definition of ‘pit bull.’

The research team evaluated breed assessments of 120 dogs made by 16 shelter staff members, including four veterinarians, at four shelters. These staff members all had at least three years of experience working in a shelter environment. The researchers then took blood samples from the dogs, developed DNA profiles for each animal and compared the DNA findings against the staff’s initial assessments.

“We found that different shelter staffers who evaluated the same dogs at the same time had only a moderate level of agreement among themselves,” Levy said. Results of the study also showed that while limitations in available DNA profiles make absolute breed identification problematic, when visual identification was compared with DNA test results, the assessors in the study fared even worse.

Dogs with pit bull heritage breed DNA were identified only 33 to 75 percent of the time, depending on which of the staff members was judging them. Conversely, dogs lacking any genetic evidence of relevant breeds were labeled as pit bull-type dogs from 0 to 48 percent of the time, the researchers reported.

“Essentially we found that the marked lack of agreement observed among shelter staff members in categorizing the breeds of shelter dogs illustrates that reliable inclusion or exclusion of dogs as ‘pit bulls’ is not possible, even by experts,” Levy said. “These results raise difficult questions because shelter workers and veterinarians are expected to determine the breeds of dogs in their facilities on a daily basis. Additionally, they are often called on as experts as to whether a dog’s breed will trigger confiscation or regulatory action. The stakes for these dogs and their owners are in many cases very high.”

Dog breeds contain many genetic traits and variants, and the behavior of any individual dog is impossible to predict based on possible combinations.

“A dog’s physical appearance cannot tell observers anything about its behavior. Even dogs of similar appearance and the same breed often have diverse behavioral traits in the same way that human siblings often have very different personalities,” she said.

Even though most pet dogs are of unknown mixed breeds, there is a natural inclination among pet owners to speculate on what their dog’s breed heritage might be, the authors said.

“This has fueled an entire industry of pet dog DNA analysis,” Levy said. “These tests are fun, but they won’t help predict behavior or health traits. Shelters and veterinary clinics are better off entering ‘mixed breed’ or ‘unknown’ in their records unless the actual pedigrees are available.”

As for legal restrictions on dogs based on their appearance, Levy said public safety would be better served by reducing risk factors for dog bites, such as supervising children, recognizing canine body language, avoiding an unfamiliar dog in its territory, neutering dogs and raising puppies to be social companions.

The study was funded by Maddie’s Fund and the Merial Veterinary Scholars Program and was co-authored by UF veterinary medical student Kimberly Olson and Bo Norby of Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Also contributing to the research were Michael Crandall, of UF; Jennifer Broadhurst of the Jacksonville Humane Society; Stephanie Jacks of Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services; Rachel Barton of Tallahassee Animal Services; and Martha Zimmerman of Marion County Animal Services.

Science & Wellness

Researchers: Testosterone treatment effective for older men

February 18, 2016
Morgan Sherburne

As men age, their sexual function, vitality and strength can decline, but researchers had not yet established whether testosterone treatment is actually beneficial. Now, a team that included UF Health researchers has established testosterone’s benefits in a study published yesterday (February 17) in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The paper examines the first three of seven trials in a long-term study called The Testosterone Trials, or the TTrials. In this first study, researchers analyzed the results of the first three trials, which examined sexual function, physical function and vitality, including mood and depressive symptoms, walking speed and walking distance.

The researchers found that the treatment increased the blood testosterone level from moderately low to mid-normal in men ages 19-40 and improved all aspects of sexual function, including sexual activity, sexual desire and the ability to get an erection.

“The study reinforced the results we expected to see, except for walking speed,” said Marco Pahor, M.D., the director of the UF Institute on Aging and a co-author of the paper.

In 2003, the Institute of Medicine reported there was not enough evidence to support a beneficial effect of testosterone in men who have low levels of the hormone. This report was the impetus for the TTrials, which are now the largest trials to examine the use of testosterone treatment in men 65 and older whose low testosterone levels can be attributed to age alone.

“The results of the TTrials show for the first time that testosterone treatment of older men who have unequivocally low testosterone levels does have some benefit,” said Peter J. Snyder, M.D., the principal investigator of the TTrials and a professor in the division of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. “However, decisions about testosterone treatment for these men will also depend on the results of four other trials -- Cognitive Function, Bone, Cardiovascular and Anemia -- and the risks of testosterone treatment.”

Researchers screened 51,085 men and found 790 who had a sufficiently low testosterone level to be part of the study. The subjects were randomized into two groups: one that applied a daily testosterone gel and the other a daily placebo gel, for one year. The researchers evaluated participants at three, six, nine and 12 months, assessing their sexual function with questionnaires; physical function with questionnaires and the distance walked in six minutes; and vitality, mood and depressive symptoms using questionnaires.

Across the three trials, adverse events including heart attack, stroke, other cardiovascular events and prostate conditions were similar in men who received testosterone and those who received a placebo. However, the number of men in the TTrials was too small to draw conclusions about the risk of testosterone treatment.

“A larger and longer-term trial will be needed to have more definitive results regarding safety,” Pahor said. “However, this trial did not confirm earlier, smaller trials that raised serious concerns regarding cardiovascular safety.”

The TTrials were conducted at UF and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania as well as 11 other sites, including Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Puget Sound Health Care System, University of California at San Diego School of Medicine, University of Minnesota School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health and Yale School of Medicine.

The TTrials were supported by grant U01 AG030644 from the National Institute on Aging and the National Institutes of Health. The TTrials were also supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke; and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. AbbVie, formerly Solvay and Abbott Laboratories, also provided funding, AndroGel and placebo gel.

Science & Wellness

UF entrepreneurs honored at 2nd Annual Gator100 Awards

February 19, 2016
Milenko Martinovich
Gator 100, entrepreneurship, business

The University of Florida welcomed 57 new companies to the Gator100 family during the 2nd Annual Gator100 Awards today at UF’s Reitz Union Grand Ballroom.

More than 500 guests attended the luncheon and awards ceremony where former U.S. Senator Bob Graham (BA ’59) was the keynote speaker.

The Gator100, presented by UF, the Warrington College of Business and its Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center, celebrates the world’s 100 fastest-growing businesses owned or led by UF alumni. Companies are ranked by compounded annual growth rate over the past three years.

The top-ranked company was Orangetheory Fitness, a Fort Lauderdale-based, fitness franchise, which had a compounded annual growth rate of 147.49 percent. Orangetheory Fitness was founded by Dave Long, an alumnus of UF’s College of Public Health & Health Professions (BHS ’00) and Warrington College of Business (MSM ’01).

Five companies, including Orangetheory Fitness, topped the 100% compounded annual growth rate mark. Boca Raton’s Orange and Blue Construction (137.44%), led by alumnus William Randle, Jr., was second, and LeadingAgile (130.09%), a financial services company based in Duluth, Ga., and led by engineering alumnus Mike Cottmeyer (BSCEN ’93), was third.

Cabinets.com (125.97%), led by Benjamin Gordon (BSBA ’04) and Christopher Larsen (BDES ’04), was fourth, and ProctorU (118.47%), an online proctoring service led by Matthew Jaeh (BS ’05) and alumnus Jarrod Morgan, ranked fifth.

The Warrington College of Business led all UF colleges with 37 companies represented by its alumni, including eight in the top 20. The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences was second with 23 companies, and the College of Design, Construction & Planning was third with 18. In all, 13 of UF’s 16 colleges were represented.

This year’s Gator100 celebrated its first-ever international honoree as Ctrip.com International, an online travel service provider based in Shanghai, finished 70th. The company is led by Co-President and Chief Operating Officer Jane Jie Sun (BSAc ’92).

Additionally, Infinite Energy received the Pinnacle Award, which recognizes established Gator-led businesses that have made a significant impact over time through job creation, revenue generation and innovation in their industries. Infinite Energy is led by Chief Executive Officer Darin Cook (BS ’87).

To be considered for the Gator100, companies must have been in business for five years or more as of Oct. 1, 2015, and have had verifiable annual revenues of $250,000 or more in 2012.

Additionally, a UF alumnus or alumni must have met one of the following three leadership criteria:

  • A University of Florida alumnus* or group of alumni must have owned 50% or more of the company from Jan. 1, 2012 through Oct. 1, 2015.
  • A University of Florida alumnus must have served as the Company’s chief executive (for example: chairman, CEO, president or managing partner) from Jan. 1, 2012 through Oct. 1, 2015.
  • A University of Florida alumnus must have founded the company and been active as a member of the most senior management team from Jan. 1, 2012 through Oct. 1, 2015.
Global Impact

Extreme numbers: How they connect with LIGO discovery

February 19, 2016
Kevin Knudson

The physics world erupted in celebration this month with the confirmed discovery of gravitational waves by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) group. Predicted by Einstein a century ago, the discovery verifies his description of the universe in which space and time can warp and bend.

And what is the evidence gathered by LIGO? A billion years ago, a pair of black holes of masses about 30 times that of the sun collided, releasing about three solar masses' worth of energy in the form of gravitational waves. Those waves traveled through space and reached the LIGO antennas, one in Louisiana and one in Washington, seven milliseconds apart, vibrating the mirrors at the end of each antenna’s 2.5-mile-long vacuum tube by a mere four thousandths the diameter of a proton.

I’m no physicist, but the LIGO numbers intrigue me. In fact, I’ve noticed quite a few huge (and tiny) numbers in recently announced scientific advances, which got me to thinking about how real physical situations force us to deal with numbers so extreme they’re inconceivable.

Let’s unpack these numbers. The gravitational waves travel at the speed of light, so the black holes that generated them were roughly one billion light-years away from Earth. That’s more than 6 billion trillion miles, or 6 x 10²¹ miles. The energy that created the waves is roughly equivalent to the light output of a billion trillion suns. And the end result was nudging a pair of mirrors by 4 x 10⁻¹⁸ meters, an unfathomably small distance.

A great visualization of these scales can be seen in the classic film Powers of Ten, created by Charles and Ray Eames in 1977. It doesn’t go out as far as the black holes that created the gravitational waves, nor does it go as small as the movement of the LIGO mirrors, but it does give a great sense of the scales involved in the recent announcement.

Even larger numbers

Here’s a question: say you have 128 tennis balls. How many different ways can you arrange them so that each ball touches at least one other? You can stack them, lay them out in various grids, stack the layers and so on. There are probably a lot of configurations, right?

This question was answered recently by a team of researchers at Cambridge University. The number of possible arrangements is on the order of 10²⁵⁰; that’s a 1 with 250 zeroes after it. To give a sense of how large this number is, note that there are only about 10⁸⁰ atoms in the universe. In fact, if we packed the known universe with protons, there would be only about 10¹²⁶ of them. So if we could somehow encode each configuration of the tennis balls on an atom (or even a subatomic particle), we would be able to get through only about the cube root of the total number of possibilities.

Since it’s impossible to actually count all the arrangements of the balls, the team used an indirect approach. They took a sample of all the possible configurations and computed the probability of each of them occurring. Extrapolating from there, the team was able to deduce the number of ways the entire system could be arranged, and how one ordering was related to the next. The latter is the so-called configurational entropy of the system, a measure of how disordered the particles in a system are.

This may seem like an odd calculation to make, but it is an important question in granular physics. This is the study of the behavior of materials that are granular in nature, such as sand or snow. If we wish to understand how sand dunes form and evolve over time, or how avalanches happen, we must first be able to enumerate the possible initial configurations of the particles. Clearly, 128 particles is nowhere near a large enough number for us to begin to understand a sand dune, but it’s a start. And the methods employed for this study may yield insights that will help attack bigger systems.

Still bigger numbers

A number such as 10²⁵⁰ is enormous, but relative to numbers “close” to infinity it is effectively zero. At scales like this, I find it comforting to turn to literature and philosophy. In “The Library of Babel,” the fascinating short story by Jorge Luis Borges, we learn about a certain library in which each book has 410 pages, and each page has 40 lines of 80 characters. The alphabet in use has 22 letters and three punctuation marks, making a total of 25 orthographic characters. We are told that every possible book is somewhere in this imagined library. So, how many books are there? First note that there are 410 x 40 x 80 = 1,312,000 characters in each book and since we have 25 choices for each character, there are 25¹³¹²⁰⁰⁰ possible books. As a power of 10, that’s roughly 10¹⁸³⁴⁰⁹⁷.

If we can’t wrap our heads around 10²⁵⁰, how are we to manage a number like this? Borges' fictional library tells us how. While we can’t possibly enumerate a catalog of all the books, we can imagine any book we like. There is a completely blank book. There is a book with a single comma in the middle of page 204 and nothing else. There are actually 1,312,000 books with a single comma and nothing else (just in each of the possible locations). There is a book with only the letter y in every spot. This article you’re reading right now appears exactly as it is written (by spelling out the numbers and ignoring extraneous punctuation) in an enormous number of books in the library (10 to a very large power, certainly more than 1.7 million). It appears in every language on the planet (suitably translated into the alphabet).

If you want to play around with this idea, there is an online Library of Babel that catalogs every possible page of 3200 characters. This amounts to only about 10⁴⁶⁷⁷ books, a tiny fraction of the total library, but it’s great fun to search for strings of characters. Jonathan Basile, the site’s creator, has devised a scheme for cataloging the books based on Borges' description of the library as a collection of hexagonal cells with a certain number of books on each shelf (only four of each cell’s six walls contain shelves). For example, the phrase “when in the course of human events” occurs by itself at the top of page 186 of volume 21 on shelf 1 of wall 3 of a hexagon labeled with a 3254-digit identifier in base 36. Whew.

And yet, despite the enormity of the Library of Babel, the number of books is less than the largest known prime number, discovered in January 2016. The Mersenne number M74207281 = 2⁷⁴²⁰⁷²⁸¹ - 1 has more than 22 million digits, way more than the puny number of books in the library (only about 1.8 million digits). And there are surely larger primes out there (Euclid told us so), with billions, trillions, or 10²⁵⁰ digits.

Should we care?

So, are these unimaginable numbers actually good for anything? In a practical sense, no. They are simply too large to be useful in everyday scientific computation (we need big primes for encryption algorithms, but not that big). And once you’ve counted every subatomic particle in the universe, there’s probably not much need for a bigger number. They do provide fertile ground for thought experiments, though, and illustrate the human capacity to ponder the unreasonably large (and small, too).

This article originally was published in The Conversation on Feb. 19, 2016.

Global Impact

Almond joy: Eating just a handful a day boosts diet health, study shows

February 22, 2016
Michelle Neeley

Just add a handful of almonds: a University of Florida study suggests that improving one’s diet can be as simple as that.

Researchers studied the effect that the addition of almonds can have on a person’s diet quality, based on data collected from 28 parent-child pairs living in North Central Florida.

The parents were instructed to eat 1.5 ounces of whole almonds each day during the three-week intervention portion of the research period, and the children were encouraged to eat half an ounce of whole almonds or an equivalent amount of almond butter each day. Although only one parent and one child’s habits were analyzed in the study, which was published in the December issue of the Journal of Nutrition Research, the researchers encouraged the whole family to participate and provided enough almonds and almond butter for everyone in the family to eat.

At the beginning of the 14-week research period the research subjects’ average Healthy Eating Index scores were 53.7 ± 1.8 for the parents and 53.7 ± 2.6 for the children. The Healthy Eating Index is a measure of diet quality that assesses conformance to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. A score below 51 is reflective of a poor diet, a score between 51 and 80 reflects a need for improvement and a score greater than 80 indicates a good diet.

After the almond intervention, the average Healthy Eating Index score for parents and children increased, with parents’ average increasing to 61.4 ± 1.4 and children’s average increasing to 61.4 ± 2.2. They increased their Healthy Eating Index component scores for total protein foods and decreased the intake of empty calories.

The researchers believe the parents and children were replacing salty and processed snacks with almonds, said Alyssa Burns, a doctoral student in the UF/IFAS food science and human nutrition department who conducted the study.

Over the past 20 years, per-capita consumption of nuts and seeds has decreased in children 3 to 6 years old, while the consumption of savory snacks—like chips and pretzels—increased. Researchers were interested in studying the addition of almonds into 3- to 6-year-old children’s diets, because encouraging healthy eating habits during early childhood can have numerous lifelong benefits.

“The habits you have when you are younger are carried into adulthood, so if a parent is able to incorporate almonds or different healthy snacks into a child’s diet, it’s more likely that the child will choose those snacks later on in life,” Burns said.

They were also interested in learning how easy or difficult it is to incorporate almonds into the diets of preschool-aged children—an age when food preferences are developed.

“Some of the challenges that we saw were that the kids were getting bored with the almonds, or they didn’t like the taste of the almonds or the almond butter,” Burns said.

To counter that, she said they came up with creative ways for the parents to incorporate the almonds into their children’s diets—for instance, adding them to familiar foods like oatmeal, smoothies or sandwiches.

The study’s results suggest whole food approaches, like adding almonds to one’s diet, may be an achievable way to improve overall public health.

“Adding a variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts to your diet can improve your overall diet quality,” Burns said.

The Almond Board of California provided funding and supplied the almonds for the study.

Science & Wellness

President Obama Honors Extraordinary Early-Career Scientists

February 22, 2016
Jen Ambrose

A professor from the University of Florida’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering is among 106 researchers President Obama on Thursday named as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

Michele Manuel received her bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering at the University of Florida and a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering at Northwestern University. She worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and General Motors Corporation (GM) before joining the faculty in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Florida in January 2008.

“These early-career scientists are leading the way in our efforts to confront and understand challenges from climate change to our health and wellness,” President Obama said. “We congratulate these accomplished individuals and encourage them to continue to serve as an example of the incredible promise and ingenuity of the American people.”

UF engineering dean Cammy Abernathy said Manuel is very worthy of this recognition. “Michele is a visionary. Her extremely creative approach to research has distinguished her as an up-and-coming leader in her field. She is an inspiration for the next generation of engineers that we are preparing at the college. We’re as proud and excited as ever to support her research here at UF.”

The Presidential Early Career Awards highlight the key role that the Administration places in encouraging and accelerating American innovation to grow our economy and tackle our greatest challenges. This year’s recipients are employed or funded by the following departments and agencies: Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of the Interior, Department of Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation, and the Intelligence Community. These departments and agencies join together annually to nominate the most meritorious scientists and engineers whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for assuring America’s preeminence in science and engineering and contributing to the awarding agencies' missions.

The awards, established by President Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.

The winners will receive their awards at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. this spring.

Global Impact

UF to hop into hops varieties for microbreweries

February 23, 2016
Brad Buck

University of Florida researchers hope to help farmers hop into the beer business by cultivating hops.

Scientists with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences will work with a $158,000 grant from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services to develop a viable hops crop. Hops, which have a long history of use in Chinese herbal medicine, are currently used to make beer.

What started as a personal experiment turned into a trial of four hops varieties at the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka, said Brian Pearson, an assistant professor of environmental horticulture at the center. Pearson has been growing hops for two years at his lab.

“I was looking to help homeowners augment what they were growing. It was just a labor of love,” Pearson said. “Then it dawned on me that this might have some serious potential.”

Pearson will work on the hops research project with Zhanao Deng, a principal investigator and professor of environmental horticulture, and Shinsuke Agehara, an assistant professor of horticultural sciences, both with the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm.

“We hope to find out how well these hop varieties can grow in Florida, their yield potential, resistance to downy mildew disease and insect problems,” Deng said.

Hops would not only help growers looking for another alternative crop, it would help quench the thirst of the microbrewing industry, which is growing by leaps and bounds in Florida and across the United States.

Most of the calls Pearson gets about hops are from Central Florida growers whose citrus crops are not growing well and who have tried other alternative crops. But they also want to know whether they can make a profit from hops. Pearson tells them he can’t answer that yet, but he’s hopeful.

Craft beer produced and sold in Florida accounted for $875.9 million in 2013, Deng said. Production of Florida craft beer has increased nearly 10-fold in the last two years, from about 100,000 barrels per day to more than 1 million, Pearson said. Craft breweries have nearly tripled in Florida in the last two years – from 66 in 2013 to 182 in 2015.

Those craft breweries will probably import about 2 million pounds of hops and hops products this year from places like Washington, Oregon and Germany, said Simon Bollin, agribusiness development manager with the Hillsborough County Economic Development Department, who’s working with UF/IFAS researchers on the hops project.

“The craft beer consumer typically likes a product that is local and unique,” Bollin said. “If we could produce locally grown hops, it would give the craft beer a unique flavor produced by Florida’s soil and climate. It could be another value-added crop option for Florida farmers to help diversify their operations.”

Like high-end wines, craft beers tend to appeal more to the 26-to-49 age group and those with college degrees, Pearson said. With the college degrees, the younger demographic has more purchasing power, he said.

A microbrewery produces a maximum of 15,000 barrels, or 460,000 gallons, of beer per year, and at least 75 percent of that beer must be sold outside the brewery. A craft brewery brews no more than 2 million gallons per year and is independently owned. Another distinction is that craft breweries’ beer must contain at least 50 percent traditional malt, rather than oats, barley and wheat.

The industry has a $2 billion-a-year impact on Florida’s economy, according to the Brewers Association (https://www.brewersassociation.org/statistics/by-state/).

The UF/IFAS-led study will include surveying microbreweries to see what hop varieties interest them, testing 10 to 30 hop varieties, testing chemical and sensory qualities – all of which will give researchers a good idea whether the crop is viable in Florida.

As it stands, about 70 percent of American hops is grown in the Yakima Valley in Washington. UF/IFAS researchers hope to bring locally grown hops to microbreweries in Florida. The Sunshine State doesn’t grow wet hops, and they’re the key, Pearson said.

“High-end breweries like wet hops,” he said. “We want to show that you can have a Florida wet-hopped beer.

I’m excited. I know the home brewers are excited.”

Science & Wellness

For a safer cyberworld

February 23, 2016
Steve Orlando

Researchers in UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering such as Domenic Forte are developing new ways to keep us safe and secure in our increasingly digital lives.


Global Impact

Floridians' gloomy future outlook keeps consumer sentiment flat

February 26, 2016
Colleen Porter

Despite recent good news in the national economy, Floridians’ expectations about personal finances in the coming year were pessimistic, especially among women and people 60 and older, according to the latest University of Florida consumer survey.

Consumer sentiment among Floridians fell slightly in February to 91.5—down almost one point from January’s revised reading of 92.4.

Among the five components that make up the index, three increased and two declined.

Perceptions of personal financial situation now compared with a year ago rose a point, from 83.4 to 84.4, while perceptions as to whether now is a good time to buy a big ticket item, such as a car, went up one-tenth of a point to 101.2.

“These two components reflect the current conditions among Floridians and show an important improvement compared with January 2016 and compared with February of last year, as the overall economic conditions in Florida improved during 2015,” said Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

Anticipation of U.S. economic conditions over the next year rose 1.3 points to 86.3. However, optimism did not hold for the long run, as views of the U.S. economy over the next five years fell almost a point, down to 87.5.

Expectations of personal finances a year from now show the greatest decline in this month’s reading, dropping from 104 to 98. This was 6 points lower than last month and 3.2 points lower than February last year.

“Altogether, these three components reflect that, among Floridians, future expectations about the economy are not very favorable, despite the positive economic trends observed in the recent past,” Sandoval said. 

This declining optimism on future personal financial situations was the main force behind this month’s overall dip in Florida’s consumer sentiment index. While negative views were shared by the entire Florida population, the steepest decline in the expectations of personal finances a year from now were experienced by women, followed by those with incomes under $50,000 and those age 60 and over.  

For those age 60 and over, expectations about personal finances and U.S. short- and long-run economic conditions have trended downward over the last 12 months. Seniors’ expectations of personal finances in the next year declined more than any other group over the same period. This month’s reading was 74.2 for those age 60 or older, compared with 107.3 for those under 60.

Economic conditions in Florida continue to be very favorable in general. Florida’s housing market for 2015 showed higher median prices and an increase in home sales and listings, according to Florida Realtors. Florida’s labor market has been adding jobs in recent months. Gov. Rick Scott recently announced that the state set another record in tourism in 2015, with more than 105 million visitors.

“These economic trends are expected to continue in the following months, and consumer sentiment might bolster up as household income and wealth improve with the labor and housing market conditions,” Sandoval said.

Conducted Feb. 1-21, the UF study reflects the responses of 453 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.

Society & Culture

Everybody's an artist

February 26, 2016
Claire Campbell

From morning until late afternoon, the University of Florida campus and surrounding area vibrated on a higher plane Feb. 26 as the entire 352 region reveled in a day-long celebration of communitywide art-making.

Senior citizens at the Millhopper branch of the Alachua County Library District hunched over adult coloring books. Visitors to the Cade Museum for Creativity + Invention on South Main Street drew zentangles and transformed them into spinning tops. At the YMCA on Northwest 34th Boulevard, people of all ages experienced tap dance as an art form for healing body, mind and spirit.

At other venues, artists-for-a-day drummed, created chalk art on sidewalks and engaged in “yarn bombing,” a type of graffiti that uses colorful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn rather than paint.

The wide assortment of activities, collectively known as 352Creates, demonstrated that creative endeavors can be fun for everyone while offering life- and health-enhancing opportunities for participants, said Jill Sonke, director of UF’s Center for Arts in Medicine.

“We know that this community is uniquely creative and that being creative – even for just a few minutes a day – makes us all healthier,” Sonke said. “We wanted 352Creates to show that engaging in creativity is a fun and easy way to improve health and happiness, and to build a more vibrant, thriving community.”

All of the activities were free and accessible to everyone, regardless of skill or experience, which appealed to 25-year-old Sherie Laurense.

Laurense, a third-year UF grad student studying audiology, had stopped by the stone mandala activity on the lawn of the Infirmary Building. Concentrating closely on a black stone not much larger than a quarter, she used gold and silver metallic Sharpies to create her design.

“I am a creative person, but I normally don’t have time to do arts and craft things,” Laurense said. “It’s great that they’re doing this during midterm week because it’s something different and relaxing.”

Catherine Seemann, communications coordinator for the Student Health Care Center, said she’d spoken to another student who wanted to try the activity but was afraid she’d be late for class. Once the student began painting her stone, she was hooked.

“She kind of forgot about the rest of the world,” Seemann said, “but that’s the point.”

Organizations participating in 352Creates included UF Health, Arts in Medicine programs at UF, the city of Gainesville, Alachua County Public Schools, the Cade Museum, Alachua County Libraries, UF’s College of the Arts, UF’s College of Journalism and Communication and UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

For photos and more details on the day’s activities, visit www.352Creates.com or find the 352Creates group on Facebook.

Campus Life

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