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Research Alert

Research Prizes and Honors

[Have you or a colleague won a research-related prize or honor? Let the Research Alert know.]

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Research Prizes and Honors

[Have you or a colleague won a research-related prize or honor? Let the Research Alert know.]


Three faculty members from The University of Texas at Austin have been elected members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), one of the highest honors given to a scientist or engineer in the United States.

Richard Aldrich, Wilson Geisler and David Hillis are among 72 new members nationally recognized for their excellence in original scientific research. They bring the number of University of Texas at Austin faculty elected to NAS to 13.

Aldrich, the Karl Folkers Chair of the Section of Neurobiology, joined the university in 2006 from Stanford University, where he was chairman of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology from 2001-2004. Aldrich’s research is directed toward understanding the mechanisms of ion channel function in neurons and the role of ion channels in electrical signaling and physiology. He is a member of the university’s Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology and Center for Learning and Memory and a fellow of the Biophysical Society. He was a member of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute from 1990-2006.

Geisler, the David Wechsler Regents Chair in the Department of Psychology, joined the university in 1975 after earning his doctoral degree from Indiana University. He researches how people perceive information and make sense of the world, with an emphasis on visual perception and the evolution of perceptual systems. He examines perception through multiple scientific lenses, including psychophysics to analyze behavior, neurophysiology to explore the visual cortex, and mathematical and computational modeling. He is director of the Center for Perceptual Systems and a member of the Institute for Neuroscience.

Hillis, the Alfred W. Roark Centennial Professor in the Section of Integrative Biology, studies the evolution of biotic diversity, largely using molecular genetic techniques to examine relationships among organisms. He directs the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics and is a principal investigator in the Assembling the Tree of Life project, where researchers from around the country seek to fully develop an evolutionary tree for all life on Earth. He is a member of the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology, a MacArthur Fellow and member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Two faculty members at The University of Texas at Austin have been elected fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

They are Dr. J. Tinsley Oden, an associate vice president for research and director of the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES), and Dr. Mark Kirkpatrick, a professor in the Section of Integrative Biology.

The academy, founded in 1780, recognizes international achievement in science, the arts, business and public leadership. The organization has brought together the nation’s leading figures from universities, government, business and the creative arts to exchange ideas and promote knowledge in the public interest.

In addition to leading ICES, which supports broad interdisciplinary research and academic programs in computational engineering and sciences, Oden holds professorships in the Cockrell School of Engineering and the Department of Mathematics. He has been a pioneer in the research of mathematics and computational mechanics. His research focuses on the development of computational methods for multi-scale modeling, which has applications in semiconductor manufacturing and computer models for the adaptive control of laser therapies for cancer.

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and several scientific, engineering and professional societies and has received recognition from universities in the United States and around the world.

Kirkpatrick, the T.S. Painter Centennial Professor, focuses his research on a broad range of topics in evolutionary biology. He and his collaborators are investigating the role sexual selection plays in the evolution of new species. Kirkpatrick has published extensively on sexual selection and speciation, among many other topics in evolution. He was a Guggenheim Fellow, a Presidential Young Investigator and won the American Society of Naturalists President’s Award in 1998.

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News and Information


The annual Hamilton Book Author Awards banquet will now take place each fall, instead of the spring as before. The changes have been published with all of the Fall 2007 materials: “A formal banquet hosted by the University Co-operative Society in October 2008 will honor all participating authors.”

The banquet is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008, at The Four Seasons.


The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will provide $1 million to fund 20 partnership-planning grants of $50,000 to plan long-term collaborations between African and U.S. institutions of higher education. Collaborating with the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC), the USAID grant will help to build African university capacity for instruction and problem-solving through the Africa-U.S. Higher Education Initiative.

The focus will be in areas such as agriculture, health care, science and technology, primary and secondary education, business, engineering, economics and other disciplines. The entire $1 million will be used for partnership grants because NASULGC and others will share the administrative costs. The grant was announced during the two-day Higher Education Summit for Global Development held April 29 and 30 at the U.S. Department of State. The conference drew nearly 300 university presidents, government officials, and corporate and foundation leaders to Washington, from around the globe.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also awarded a $100,000 grant to NASULGC to build the grant-making framework for the Africa-U.S. Higher Education Collaboration Initiative. New funding would be used for university partnerships to build agriculture education and problem- solving capacity in African universities.

The Africa-U.S. Higher Education Initiative is led by NASULGC with the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, Higher Education for Development and the American Distance Education Consortium as key partners. More than a dozen other higher education organizations, African embassies and other organizations are also participating.

Learn more about USAID and its education programs around the world. The American people, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, have provided economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide for nearly 50 years.

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QuotedUT Researchers in the News

[A sampling of recent quotes by university faculty members and researchers. To be included in this section, let the Research Alert know when you or a colleague have been quoted.]

Los Angeles Times
April 30, 2008
HEADLINE: Plan for national Latino museum advances

Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, director of the U.S. Latino and Latina WWII Oral History Project at the University of Texas in Austin, said Latinos should be included in more Washington exhibitions.

“It’s equally important to look at how Latinos are represented in the other national museums,” she said. “It’s just been ignored for too long.”

New Scientist
April 26, 2008
HEADLINE: Email addresses give away personality; Openness, conscientiousness and narcissism were the easiest personality traits to guess from a person’s email address

Think twice about the email address you pick: it may speak volumes about your personality.

Mitja Back and colleagues at the University of Leipzig in Germany asked a panel of 100 students to guess the personalities of 600 teenagers simply by looking at their email addresses.

The panels’ guesses agreed most with a personality survey the teenagers had completed when it came to qualities like openness, conscientiousness and narcissism, and diverged most on the trait of extroversion. Addresses that gave away personality often contained full stops, numbers or a name that was obviously not genuine (Journal of Research in Personality, DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2008.02.001).

“This shows that personality seeps into almost everything we do,” says Sam Gosling of the University of Texas.

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Research Opportunities

Important university research deadlines:
Awards and Grants
Limited Submissions

Fiscal Year 2009 Young Investigator Research Program
Deadline: July 22, 2008

International Research in Homeland Security Science and Technology Mission Areas
Deadline: Sept. 30, 2008

NEH/CNR Fellowships for Research on Italian Cultural Heritage
Deadline: May 15, 2008

Transdisciplinary Research on Fatigue and Fatigability in Aging
Deadline: June 5, 2008 (R01 deadline)

Mechanisms of Alcohol-Induced Tissue Injury
Deadline: June 5, 2008 (R01 deadline)

Indo-US Program on Maternal and Child Health and Human Development Research
Deadline: July 30, 2008

Neural Systems Cluster
Deadline: Sept. 15, 2008

Adverse Metabolic Side Effects of Second Generation Psychotropic Medications Leading to Obesity and Increased Diabetes Risk
Deadlines: Opening date, Sept. 22, 2008; letter of intent requested, 30 days prior to application receipt date; application, Oct. 22, 2008 (program ends, Feb. 23, 2012)

Cognitive Neuroscience
Deadline: July 14, 2008

Decision, Risk and Management Sciences
Deadline: Aug. 18, 2008

Combustion, Fire, and Plasma Systems
Deadline: Sept. 15, 2008

Cooperative Studies Of The Earth’s Deep Interior
Deadline: Sept. 25, 2008

Deadline: Oct. 7, 2008

Condensed Matter Physics
Deadline: Nov. 7, 2008

Continental Dynamics
Deadline: Nov. 15, 2008

Association for Asian Studies, Inc. (AAS)
China and Inner Asia Council (CIAC)
Small Grants
Deadline: Feb. 1, 2009

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Research Project

[Let the Research Alert know about your research projects.]

Increasing Fruits, Vegetables and Whole Grains in Preschool Sack Lunches

FACULTY: Margaret Briley, professor, Department of Human Ecology, principal investigator; Deanna Hoelscher, assistant professor, Department of Human Ecology, and Cynthia Roberts-Gray, senior scientist, Third Coast Research, co-principal investigators.
AGENCY: National Cancer Institute
AMOUNT: $183,590

Abstract: More than 60 percent of preschool children in the United States eat one or more of their daily meals in a childcare setting. Although there are childcare centers continuing to provide meals to children, a growing trend is for centers to discontinue their meal program and require that parents provide sack lunches for their children. Preliminary data indicate these packed lunches are low in servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. With the growing issue of overweight children, consumption of meals low in high nutrient foods as recommended in the Dietary Guidelines can lead to the development of poor eating habits that can persist over time. The primary aim of this study is to revise, implement and evaluate a behaviorally based intervention, the Lunch Box Program, to increase the servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains parents pack in preschool child lunches.

This study will be implemented in three phases. Phase 1 (months one through six of the project) includes a planning meeting with a select advisory group as well as focus groups with child care personnel and focus groups with parents to adapt the Lunch Box Program (LBP) with a behavioral focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains as well as editing and evaluation of tools to measure program-specific behavioral outcomes (e.g., parents’ expectations and intentions for packing more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the lunches). Phase 2 (months six through 10) includes focus testing and finalizing adaptations to the LBP as well as recruitment of families to participate in a pilot of the adapted LBP. In Phase 3 (months 11 through 19), a pilot of the adapted LBP will be conducted with the participation of 40 families at three childcare centers randomly assigned to intervention and 40 families at three centers assigned to comparison.

The intervention will be conducted over six weeks, with pre- and post-tests consisting of observations of the sack lunches and parent questionnaires. Process data also will be collected to evaluate dose, fidelity and feasibility of the intervention for sustainable implementation in childcare settings.

Results from the pilot will be used to determine Interclass Correlation Coefficient for detectable effect computations to power an R01 with a group randomized design using childcare center as the unit of randomization and child’s parent as the unit of analysis.

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