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UT News

In the Know

The June 7 weekly roundup of campus kudos and press mentions.

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Campus Kudos

School of Journalism names new director
Pulitzer Prize winner and former Washington Post Editor and Foreign Correspondent Glenn Frankel has been named director of the School of Journalism. He will replace Tracy Dahlby, the Frank A. Bennack Jr. Chair in Journalism, who has been director since July 2008. Frankel will start Aug. 1, and will hold the G. B. Dealey Professorship in Journalism. Frankel spent 27 years at the Washington Post, and also served as editor of the Washington Post Magazine.

Educational psychologist honored with teaching award
Dr. Diane Schallert, an educational psychology professor in the College of Education, has been honored with the Dean’s Distinguished Teaching Award, the highest accolade given by the college for excellence in teaching. Schallert, who’s been on the Department of Educational Psychology faculty for more than 30 years, teaches graduate Psychology of Learning and Psycholinguistics courses and advanced seminars on discourse comprehension and research on writing.

RTF alumna wins student Academy Award
Radio-Television-Film alumna Ruth Fertig (Master of Fine Arts ’09) has won a student Academy Award for her documentary film “Yizkor,” which means “remembrance” in Hebrew. “Yizkor” is the story of a woman’s struggle to keep herself and her children alive in a concentration camp during the Holocaust. The story, based on Fertig’s grandmother’s experience during the Holocaust, was her master’s thesis film while at the university.

Business school ranked best in Texas
The University of Texas at Austin has been selected as having the best “status and prestige” of graduate business schools in the state, according to a survey by Decision Analyst. The Dallas-Ft. Worth-based consultancy surveyed 2,160 Texans, asking which school of 51 graduate programs they considered most prestigious. The university topped the ranking, followed by Rice University, Texas AandM and Southern Methodist University. The company said the survey was meant to test the school’s reputation and brand image, and did not analyze the content of each program.

Press Mentions

The New York Times: Nuclear option on Gulf oil spill? No way, U.S. says
June 2

The chatter began weeks ago as armchair engineers brainstormed for ways to stop the torrent of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico: What about nuking the well?

Decades ago, the Soviet Union reportedly used nuclear blasts to successfully seal off runaway gas wells, inserting a bomb deep underground and letting its fiery heat melt the surrounding rock to shut off the flow. Why not try it here?

Michael E. Webber, a mechanical engineer at The University of Texas at Austin, wrote to Dot Earth, a New York Times blog, in early May that he had surprised himself by considering what once seemed unthinkable. “Seafloor nuclear detonation,” he wrote, “is starting to sound surprisingly feasible and appropriate.”

Forbes: ’79 Gulf oil spill leaves sobering lessons for BP
June 4

It started with a burst of gas through the drilling well. Workers scrambled to close the safety valves but within moments, the platform caught fire and collapsed. Tens of millions of gallons of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico. Numerous attempts to stanch the spill failed.

The parallels between that disaster and the current BP oil spill offer sobering lessons. There were no quick fixes for Ixtoc: It took 10 months to stop the leak, with Mexico’s state-owned oil company, Pemex, trying methods similar to those that BP has attempted at the Deepwater Horizon rig.

“We are looking at an August time frame for stopping it,” said Tad Patzek, chair of the Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering Department at The University of Texas at Austin. “If for one reason or another that stopping is left imperfect or it takes another drill or what have you, we’re looking at another four months, at that time this spill would look like the Ixtoc spill.”

The New York Times: In Gulf, it was unclear who was in charge of rig
June 5

Over six days in May, far from the familiar choreography of Washington hearings, federal investigators grilled workers involved in the Deepwater Horizon disaster in a chilly, sterile conference room at a hotel near the airport here.

Tad W. Patzek, chairman of the Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering Department at The University of Texas at Austin, has analyzed reports of what led to the explosion. “It’s a very complex operation in which the human element has not been aligned with the complexity of the system,” he said in an interview last week.

His conclusion could also apply to what occurred long before the disaster.

The New York Times: Guns could be a tough topic for Texas candidate
June 5

If he were running for governor of New York, Democrat Bill White would probably be considered a pro-gun enthusiast. He’s got a shotgun and a 9 mm pistol, opposes any new laws on firearms and says he’d like to sign up some day for a concealed weapons permit.

But this is Texas, where incumbent Rick Perry recently shot a coyote while out jogging and enjoys hunting deer with a bow and arrow.

“There is really no such thing as a moderate position on guns that’s going to help in Texas,” said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at The University of Texas at Austin.

Read last week’s In the Know.