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UT News

In the Know

The Jan. 26 weekly roundup of campus kudos and press mentions.

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Campus Kudos

Professor’s depression treatment adopted in Belgium and the Netherlands
A depression treatment program created by University of Texas at Austin educational psychologist Kevin Stark has been adopted by mental health professionals in Belgium and the Netherlands as the government sanctioned treatment for children experiencing depressive disorders. The decision was made during a meeting at the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, during which mental health professionals from a number of European countries established guidelines for the treatment of various psychiatric disorders. It is anticipated other European countries will formally adopt this treatment as well.

Three engineering research projects receive $3.3 million
Three engineering research projects at The University of Texas at Austin — a protein therapy for liver cancer, an antibody therapy for cancer treatment and an immunity booster to respond to cancer — have received $3.3 million from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. George Georgiou, professor of biomedical engineering and chemical engineering, has received $2 million to continue the preclinical development of his highly promising new proteins for treating liver cancer. Georgiou received an additional grant of $200,000 to increase the effectiveness of antibodies in cancer treatment. Krishnendu Roy, associate professor of biomedical engineering, has received $1 million to develop a drug therapy that improves the body’s immune system for fighting cancer cells.

Communications professor receives $30,000 to research students and technology
Keri Stephens, assistant professor of communications, has received a $30,000 grant from the U.S. Census Bureau to research how college students use communication technology, including the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). The USPS is the primary channel for the Census Bureau to reach out to U.S. citizens to be counted. However, the advent of e-mail and text messaging has negatively impacted college students’ use of the USPS. The grant will enable Stephens to gain insight into what has replaced the mail and how it falls into a sequence of communication channels college student use.

Engineering professor receives $1.64 million NIH grant
Biomedical Engineering Professor Konstantin (Kostia) Sokolov has received a new National Institutes of Health grant on “Biodegradable Plasmonic Nanoparticles for Cancer Imaging and Therapy.” The work is funded by the National Cancer Institute and addresses important new aspects of the use of biodegradable nanoparticles in cancer imaging. The $1.64 million five-year NIH grant will be used to cover the salaries and laboratory expenses of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

Press Mentions

The Wall Street Journal: At SEC, a scholar who saw it coming
Jan. 24
To protect the financial system from the next potentially toxic innovation or the next Bernard Madoff, the Securities and Exchange Commission has turned to a college professor [from The University of Texas at Austin] who warned back in 1993 that derivatives could cause major problems for financial firms.

Henry Hu, who studied biochemistry and worked as a deal lawyer, has made a specialty of figuring out how finance can go awry in unexpected ways. “It’s the low-probability catastrophic event that can kill a bank,” said Hu in an interview.

The New York Times: State regulators still strongly distrust federal transmission siting
Jan. 25

State regulators and environmental groups fear federal authority to site transmission lines would create a process that would emphasize infrastructure over costs and environmental benefits, according to a survey unveiled today by the University of Texas Center for Energy Economics and the Terra Group, a stakeholder relations consultant.

The nine-month survey of 11 state regulatory commissions and major national environmental organizations found that while both groups admit the U.S. transmission system should be improved both for reliability and environmental purposes, they believe placing that power in the hands of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will lead to overly expensive lines that are not all necessarily needed.

BusinessWeek: Self-image linked to activity in frontal lobe of brain
Jan. 23

People who have an unrealistically high opinion of themselves have less activity in the frontal lobes of their brain, researchers have found.

“In healthy people, the more you activate a portion of your frontal lobes, the more accurate your view of yourself is. And the more you view yourself as desirable or better than your peers, the less you use those lobes,” Jennifer Beer, an assistant professor of psychology at The University of Texas at Austin, said in a university news release.

In the new study, 20 volunteers had MRI brain scans while they answered questions about how they compared to their peers on positive traits, such as likeability, modesty and maturity, and on negative traits, such as unreliability, materialism, messiness and narrow-mindedness.

CNBC: Banks feel the heat
Jan. 14

James Galbraith, economics professor at The University of Texas, discusses whether a new tax on big banks is justified. Ken Bentsen, of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, and Mark Calabria, of the Cato Institute, share their insight.

ABC News: Sale of helium poses supply risk, panel finds
Jan. 22

The sell-off of the federal strategic helium reserve has driven up demand for the vital element and poses a threat to the supply that researchers need, a panel of U.S. experts reported on Friday.

The report by the National Academy of Sciences recommends that Congress consider maintaining a reserve of the element crucial in research, space, medical and defense programs.

Charles Groat of The University of Texas at Austin, who was committee co-chairman, said researchers were “very uncomfortable” about the prospect of having to get helium from Russia or the Middle East once the U.S. supply is depleted.

Groat said helium was an essential commodity that taxpayers depend on daily yet know little about.

“To most people, helium is party balloons and the Goodyear blimp,” he said in a telephone interview. “Essentially every medical doctor and every medical lab that deals with injuries and stuff has an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). MRIs have to have helium.”

The Los Angeles Times: Marketing to Muslims poses a challenge for retailers
Jan. 25

Leafing through a Best Buy flier over the holiday season, Celena Khatib spotted a small greeting near the bottom of the page: “Happy Eid al-Adha.” The good wishes for the important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims seemed a milestone in U.S. marketing.

But on Best Buy’s website, people around the country posted contrasting views. “You insult all of the heroes and innocent who died 911 by celebrating a holiday of the religion that said to destroy them!” wrote one. Many others said they would no longer shop at Best Buy.

The controversy underscores the continuing obstacles that retailers and other companies face in marketing to a U.S. Muslim population estimated at more than 2.3 million by the Pew Research Center.

“We’ve been down this road before with other groups,” said Jerome Williams, a professor of advertising and African American studies at The University of Texas at Austin. “They’re not in the business of social justice. An advertiser does not want to do anything that will have negative impacts on sales…. At the end of the day, they have to see if they’ve gained more than they’ve lost.”