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UT News

In the Know

The March 1 weekly roundup of campus kudos and press mentions.

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Campus Kudos

University becomes partner in $25 million evolution study
The university is part of a $25 million, multi-university center established by the National Science Foundation (NSF) that will study evolution in action in natural and virtual settings. The center, titled “BEACON: Study of Evolution in Action,” is one of five highly coveted Science and Technology Centers recently established by the NSF. It is a joint effort by Michigan State University, The University of Texas at Austin, the University of Washington, the University of Idaho and North Carolina AandT State University. BEACON is short for the “Bio/computational Evolution in Action CONsortium.”

Internationally known oncology researcher joins faculty
Dr. John DiGiovanni, an internationally known cancer researcher who studies the link between obesity and cancer, has joined the pharmacy and nutritional sciences faculty. DiGiovanni will hold the Coulter R. Sublett Chair in the College of Pharmacy. He has a joint appointment in the College of Pharmacy’s Division of Pharmacology and Toxicology and the Department of Nutritional Sciences in the College of Natural Sciences. DiGiovanni’s research lab will be at the new Dell Pediatric Research Institute adjacent to Dell Children’s Hospital. Much of DiGiovanni’s past research has focused on understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms associated with cancer development.

Nursing professor receives Professor of the Year Award
Dr. Debbie Volker, associate professor of nursing, has received the 2010 Senate Professor of the Year Award from students. The award is given to a tenure or tenure-track professor who demonstrates outstanding teaching ability and a commitment to students and the university. Volker will receive $1,000 and will be recognized at the Texas-Oklahoma men’s basketball game March 1. “Dr. Volker makes students believe that there is always something more that you can reach for, and that there are no limits to what can be accomplished, even as a student,” said Lauren Ratliff, president of the Senate of College Councils.

Memory enhancement program receives national award
The SeniorWISE (Wisdom is Simply Exploration) project, a School of Nursing research study headed by Dr. Graham J. McDougall to enhance mental fitness in older adults, has received the MindAlert Award from the American Society on Aging in collaboration with the MetLife Foundation. The 2010 MindAlert awards are given to innovative scientific-based programs that enhance functioning and quality of life or prevent functional decline in older adults. The SeniorWISE project, which received funding from the National Institutes on Aging, will be honored during the National Forum on Brain Fitness March 17 in Chicago in conjunction with the Aging in America Conference of the American Society on Aging and National Council.

Professor appointed to Governmental Accounting Standards Board
The Financial Accounting Foundation Board of Trustees has appointed Michael Granof, the Ernst and Young Distinguished Centennial Professor in Accounting, to the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB). The GASB is an independent, not-for-profit organization that establishes and improves financial accounting and reporting standards for state and local governments. Granof begins his term July 1, when he will become one of six part-time members serving on the seven-member board. His term extends until June 30, 2015.

Computer science professor receives 2010 Sloan Research Fellowship
Brent Waters, assistant professor of computer science, has been awarded a 2010 Sloan Research Fellowship. Sloan Research Fellowships are awarded every year by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to stimulate fundamental research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise. Waters’ research is laying the foundation for managing encrypted computer data in cloud services, where data is stored at third-party locations outside of the owner’s control. Third-party storage sites are high value targets for an attacker, and Waters’ research is helping build an entirely different vision for encryption, called functional encryption.

Press Mentions

BusinessWeek: Obama’s tax credit plans may fail to stimulate hiring
Feb. 24

Speed Exterminating Co. in Cleveland, Ohio, is the kind of small business where President Barack Obama wants to spur hiring through tax credits.

The federal government last used tax credits to induce general hiring in the mid-1970s during Democratic President Jimmy Carter’s administration, said Timothy Bartik, an economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In that program, about 2.1 million tax credits were given, he said. If two out of three hires would have been made without the incentive, the program still generated about 700,000 jobs, Bartik said.

“There’s no doubt that if workers are cheaper, more are hired,” said Daniel Hamermesh, an economist at The University of Texas at Austin, who worked on ideas in the Labor Department that led to the 1970s tax credits.

Forbes: Mexico oil output falls amid delay on reforms
Feb. 25

Mexico’s oil production continues to fall from year-ago levels as the government struggles to implement hard-fought energy reforms designed to boost exploration.

January crude production was 2.615 million barrels a day, a 2.6 percent decline from 2.685 million in the same month of 2009, state-run oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, known as Pemex, reported Thursday.

After a hard-fought battle waged by President Felipe Calderon, Congress passed a bill in 2008 intended to give Pemex more flexibility to make exploration deals with foreign companies. Although significantly watered down to win opposition support, the bill was a landmark in a country where state ownership of oil is enshrined in the constitution and a matter of national pride.

“Everyone is just waiting to see whether or not this legal reform is going to mean anything,” said Michelle Michot Foss, head of the Center for Energy Economics at The University of Texas at Austin. “They’ve been moving very, very slowly.”

WIRED: The story behind the legendary Magnum archive sale
Feb. 12

Last week, one of the most important photojournalism archives in history, the Magnum Photo Agency’s press prints collection, was sold to Michael Dell of Dell computers. Specifically, to Dell’s private investment firm, MSD Capital LP.

The collection will be housed by the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

“Right place, right time, right people.” That’s how Eli Reed, Magnum photographer and photojournalism professor at the school, summed up the deal. “It was a long time coming; it didn’t just happen quickly,” he said.

ABC News: Texas expecting an abundant array of wildflowers
Feb. 25

Texas should have a colorful spring, with recent rains bringing an abundance of wildflowers and blooms already popping up, experts say.

By the end of March, Texas should be awash in the reds, yellows, whites and blues of wildflowers, with the season peaking in mid-April, said Damon Waitt, senior botanist at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

“My forecast is there’s a 100 percent chance of bluebonnets,” Waitt said.

Read last week’s In the Know.