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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.]


Biologist Tanya Paull has become the first faculty member at The University of Texas at Austin to be named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator, joining 55 of the nation’s most creative biomedical scientists in this year’s group.

The institute commits more than $600 million to the 56 scientists over their first term of appointment and gives them the flexibility to tackle their most ambitious, risky research plans.

“These 56 scientists will bring new and innovative ways of thinking about biology to the HHMI community,” said Thomas Cech, president of HHMI. “They are poised to advance scientific knowledge dramatically in the coming years, and we are committed to providing them with the freedom and flexibility to do so.”

Paull, an associate professor of molecular genetics and microbiology, has dedicated her career to understanding DNA repair. Breaks in DNA happen thousands of times a day, and without repair can lead to genetic mutations and cancer.

Paull’s research focuses on a of proteins called MRN that repair the frayed ends of DNA’s damaged double helix. Her work has implications for understanding cancer development and a genetic disease known as ataxia telangiectasia, or A-T. The disease, which affects about one in 100,000 people, makes people very radiation sensitive and leads to neurological degeneration.


Brian Kiel, a master’s student in the Jackson School of Geosciences, has received a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. The fellowship will provide $30,000 per year in living expenses for the next three years as he conducts research towards his master’s degree.

Kiel will analyze three-dimensional seismic data collected by the oil industry on the Sunda Shelf off the coast of Indonesia to reconstruct the ancient climate and hydrology of the region. This information will help climate modelers make more accurate forecasts of future climate. His work also highlights ways that academics can collaborate with industry to yield new insights.

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News and Information


Members of the UT Austin research community are invited to attend the third live broadcast offered by The National Council of University Research Administration (NCURA). “COMPLEX AGREEMENTS” will be held on Tuesday, June 10, 2008, in the AVAYA Auditorium, ACES Room 2.302, from 10:15 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Description: Getting research results from the bench to the public can involve several types of agreements outside of the initial supporting research award. These may include non-disclosure agreements, teaming agreements, material transfer agreements, clinical trial agreements, and license agreements with start-up companies. The negotiation and management of these agreements usually involves some unique challenges for research administrators.

This program focuses on agreements and areas of risk, accounting issues, institutional and individual conflict of interest, protection of human subjects, effort certification for investigators, publications, and the special challenges researchers face administratively in collaborations with multiple parties and a multi-site clinical trial program. This information is relevant to the lead institution as well as sub-awardees.

For this program the NCURA panel has developed a case study that should be distributed and read in advance by participants. Also included is a glossary of terms.

To register for this class and receive the materials, go to TXCLASS and enroll in SP 203 or contact Maria Winchell at 232-4319. Learn more about the 2008 NCURA Broadcast Series.


A Biological Safety Officer Course will be held at The University of Texas at Austin Sept. 2-4. It is designed to provide information needed for an individual to anticipate, recognize, evaluate and control biological hazards.

This course will prepare administrators to be Biological Safety Officers with adequate information to carry out their duties as described in the NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant DNA Molecules.

Information provided in this course will also help individuals prepare to take the National Registry of Microbiologist (NRM), Specialist Microbiologist examination in Biological Safety, the required test for certification as a biological safety professional (CBSP) through the American Biological Safety Association.

For more information, contact Lisa Leiden, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Sponsored Programs, Office of Research and Technology Transfer of the University of Texas System, at 512-322-3722.


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Tennessee has returned an 18-count indictment charging J. Reece Roth, a professor emeritus at the University of Tennessee, and Atmospheric Glow Technologies Inc. (AGT), a Knoxville-based technology company, with conspiring to defraud the U.S. Air Force and disclose restricted U.S. military data about Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or “drones,” to foreign nationals without first obtaining the required U.S. government license or approval.

Roth is charged in the indictment with one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Air Force and violate the Arms Export Control Act; 15 counts of violating the Arms Export Control Act, and one count of wire fraud for defrauding the University of Tennessee. AGT is charged in the indictment with one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Air Force and violate the Arms Export Control Act and 10 counts of violating the Arms Export Control Act.

For more information, read the complete press release from the Department of Justice.

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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.]

June 1, 2008
HEADLINE: Swallow This
The New York Times

“… repeated hard workouts can tax the body in insidious ways. Muscles, over the course of an hour or so of serious work, use up most of their stored energy. Without remediation, those muscles won’t respond as well during your next workout. They’ll be more prone to injury. You’ll be slower. The 70-year-old from down the street will pass you on the running path.

Completing a hard workout, then, is just the first step. You also have to undo all the damage you’ve just done.

Start with your postworkout meal. The regeneration of your muscles begins, improbably as it may seem, with that. “Back in the early ’90s, most athletes, especially runners and cyclists, were preoccupied with carbohydrates,” says John Ivy, the chairman of the department of kinesiology and health education at the University of Texas in Austin and one of the pioneers of research into exercise recovery. This was in the heyday of carbo-loading, when athletes were convinced that the more pasta and bread they ate before a hard workout, the more stored energy they’d have.

I’d advise people to have their recovery drink ready and waiting for them before they leave on a run or long bike ride,” Ivy says. Ivy himself often drinks low-fat chocolate milk, but any food or drink that includes both carbohydrates and protein – a recovery drink, a smoothie, yogurt – will work.

Then have a real meal within two hours. “You can maintain increased insulin levels and accelerated rates of recovery for about four to six hours if you continue eating,” Ivy says. Of course, you can also get by without such diet timing. “But you won’t recover as well,” Ivy continues. “You probably won’t be able to work out as hard on a daily basis.” The old guy who chugs his milk and Hershey’s syrup will not only pass you – he’ll lap you.

The New York Times
May 18, 2008
HEADLINE: A Brighter Side Of High Prices

In the 1930s, after the Depression wiped out so many small farmers, the federal government introduced “price supports,” which lifted the return to farmers on basic crops. Higher prices got the attention of innovators in farm equipment, seeds and other so-called inputs.

Sally Clarke, a historian at the University of Texas, has found in a study that higher prices enabled Midwest farmers, then reliant chiefly on animal-drawn plows, to justify investment in tractors, raising efficiency. A study in the 1950s by the economist Zvi Griliches of American farmers’ adoption of more productive varieties of corn showed how higher prices reduced the cost of adopting new technologies.

For the new agricultural innovators, these are early days. It will take time for the pipeline to fill with ambitious projects.

The Washington Post
May 29, 2008
HEADLINE: McCain’s Question Time

A television audience might pay attention, briefly, because of the novelty of a president playing Daniel in the lions’ den. But novelty is a perishable attribute, and presidents nowadays are never imperiled Daniels, least of all among legislators, who are rarely lions, other than when abusing unpopular persons (e.g., oil industry executives) testifying in positions of weakness. Jaded by their intimacy with modern presidents, who are incessantly in the nation’s living rooms, Americans would soon vote with their remotes against the soon-to-be banal sight of McCain charging up Capitol Hill as his hero Teddy Roosevelt [TR] did up San Juan Hill.

Before TR, presidents communicated mostly with the legislative branch, not the public, and mostly in writing. Jeffrey Tulis of the University of Texas, in his mind-opening book “The Rhetorical Presidency,” says the Founders’ theory of constitutional propriety strongly disapproved of presidential rhetoric used to move the public, other than patriotic orations on ceremonial occasions. Statesmen were supposed to serve as brakes upon, not arousers of, public opinion.

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Research Opportunities

Important university research deadlines:
Awards and Grants
Limited Submissions

Burroughs Wellcome Fund
Clinical Scientist Awards in Translational Research
Deadline: Oct. 1, 2008

Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers (I/UCRC) Program
Deadlines: VPR, June 20, 2008; agency, June 27, 2008 (letter of intent) and Sept. 26, 2008, full proposal.

NEA – Access to Artistic Excellence
Deadlines: VPR, July 14, 2008; agency, Aug. 11, 2008

Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement
Deadlines: VPR, Aug. 5, 2008; funding entity, Sept. 15, 2008

UT System’s Texas Ignition Fund
Deadlines: Office of the Vice President for Research (VPR), Aug. 11, 2008; agency, Aug. 18, 2008

Fiscal Year 2009 Defense University Research Instrumentation Program
Deadline: Aug. 26, 2008

Information Processing Technology Office
Deadline: May 22, 2009

DARPA Mathematical Challenges
Deadline: Sept. 8, 2008

Research, Development, and Demonstration of Fuel Cell Technologies for Automotive, Stationary, and Portable Power Applications
Deadline: Aug. 27, 2008

U.S. Geological Survey Cooperative Research Units Program
Deadlines: July 18, 2008 (new or changes in scope of work or total estimated cost); Aug. 29, 2008 (other changes not involving change to scope of work or total estimated cost)

Observational Studies to Characterize the Determinants of Exposure to Chemicals in the Environment for Early-Lifestage Age Groups
Deadline: July 15, 2008

ROSES2008: SMAP Science Definition Team
Deadline: March 27, 2009

Indo-US Program on Contraception and Reproductive Health Research
Deadline: Aug. 11, 2008

NHLBI Progenitor Cell Biology Consortium Planning Awards
Deadline: Aug. 15, 2008

Developmental Origins of Altered Lung Physiology and Immune Function (R01)
Deadlines: Letters of Intent, Sept. 19, 2008; application, Oct. 21, 2008

Population Research Infrastructure Program
Deadline: Nov. 19, 2008

Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards for Individual Predoctoral MD/PhD Fellows
Deadlines: Multiple dates, see applications

Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) for Individual Predoctoral Fellows (F31) in Nursing Research
Deadlines: Multiple dates, see applications

Mentored Quantitative Research Development Award
Deadlines: Multiple dates, see applications

Career Development Award to Promote Diversity in Neuroscience Research
Deadlines: Multiple dates, see applications

The National Science Foundation has published a list of questions and answers about the Faculty Early Career Development program, known as CAREER.

Partnerships in Astronomy and Astrophysics Research and Education
Deadline: Aug. 12, 2008

Advances in Biological Informatics
Deadline: Aug. 12, 2008

Instrument Development for Biological Research
Deadline: Sept. 5, 2008

Theoretical Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics
Deadline: Sept. 24, 2008

Atomic Molecular and Optical Physics
Deadline: Sept. 24, 2008

Changing Seasonality in the Arctic System
Deadline: Oct. 10, 2008

Condensed Matter Physics
Deadline: Nov. 7, 2008

Mathematical Sciences Research Institutes
Deadline: Feb. 27, 2009

SRC Global Research Collaboration
Research in Back End Processes and Packaging
Deadline: June 26, 2008

NASA Lunar Science Institute
Deadlines: Letter of intent, June 27, 2008; proposal, Aug. 29, 2008

American Heart Association
AHA/Jon Holden DeHaan Foundation Cardiac Myogenesis Research Centers
Deadlines: Required Letter of Intent, June 16, 2008; Center and Center Projects, Aug. 1, 2008

Higher Education for Development (HED)
Higher Education Partnership with Alexandria University Faculty of Commerce in Egypt
Deadline: Aug. 22, 2008

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Research Project

[Let the Research Alert know about your research projects.]
CAREER: Neural Basis of the Perception of Motion through Depth

FACULTY: Alex Huk, assistant professor, Section of Neurobiology, principal investigator
AGENCY: National Science Foundation
AMOUNT: $550,000

Objects move through three dimensions, and the accurate perception of motion through depth is a key element underlying many human behaviors. From everyday activities like driving a car or shaking hands, to specialized skills like performing surgery or hitting a baseball, seeing the 3D trajectory of a moving object is a critical and central perceptual capacity. Although much research has focused on how the brain processes motion on flat (2D) surfaces, there is surprisingly little knowledge regarding how cues to depth are combined with motion signals to represent 3D motions.

The goals of this project are therefore to identify and characterize the neural mechanisms involved in representing 3D direction of motion. Because a human’s eyes are horizontally offset within the head, the two eyes view the visual world with some slight difference. The visual system must exploit the dynamic pattern of differences between the two eye’s views to extract the direction of 3D motion.

Huk and colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin will perform a series of behavioral experiments to identify which pieces of binocular information are used to represent 3D motion. A series of functional magnetic resonance imaging experiments will then use the same experimental displays to identify the resulting signals in relevant parts of the human brain, including primary visual cortex, the middle temporal area (an area known to process 2D motion), and subregions within the posterior parietal lobe. To more directly link perceptual experiences and brain activity, measurements of perceptual sensitivity to particular forms of 3D motion will then be quantitatively compared to measurements of neural sensitivity to these same motions.

These studies will provide a thorough characterization of how the brain processes visual motion in realistic environments, extending the careful behavioral and neural studies of 2D motion and static depth processing to a dynamic 3D world. The results will not only facilitate the integration and extension of current understanding of model subsystems within the visual cortex, but will more generally characterize some of the ways by which the nervous system represents information that is fundamentally complex and multidimensional. Likewise, this work may enable the development of 3D visual display technologies that are better suited to human visual capabilities.

The award will support the training of undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral researchers, both in the classroom and the laboratory. It will also facilitate the development of compelling visual demonstrations at the heart of educational outreach efforts in high schools in both urban and rural areas around Austin.

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