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UT News

In the Know

The Aug. 10 weekly roundup of campus kudos and press mentions.

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Campus Kudos

UT Elementary earns exemplary ranking
For the second year in a row and for the third time in five years, the University of Texas Elementary School has been awarded “Exemplary” status by the Texas Education Agency. The school’s 2010 TAKS scores for third through fifth grades were 91 to 100 percent passing in reading, writing, math and science for all subgroups, which include all students — African American, Hispanic, white and economically disadvantaged. To earn the “Exemplary” title, the school must have an average of 90 percent passing or better in all subjects in all subgroups.

Coordinating board awards Undergraduate Studies $490,000
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has awarded researchers from the School of Undergraduate Studies two grants totaling $490,000. The two-year Developmental Education Demonstration Project Grant funds innovative approaches to developmental education. The grant, which is co-directed by Dr. Cassandre Alvarado, assistant dean, and Dr. Larry Abraham, associate dean, is worth $200,000 each year. Alvarado received an additional grant of $90,000 for her work examining the Texas College and Career Readiness Standards in the context of a research university.

Will Grindle named Outstanding Adviser
Will Grindle, student affairs administrator in the Learning Communities Programs in the School of Undergraduate Studies, has been named Outstanding Adviser of the Year by the National Council of Alpha Lambda Delta, an honors society. The award is given annually to five outstanding Alpha Lambda Delta advisers in the U.S. Grindle has served as the chapter adviser for Alpha Lambda Delta since 2007. This year the chapter inducted a record 980 students. Alpha Lambda Delta is a national society that honors academic excellence during a student’s first year in college.

School of Information professor receives LIFT grant
School of Information Professor Matt Lease is one of five recipients of a Longhorn Innovation Fund for Technology (LIFT) grant. His proposal, which includes the Texas Advanced Computing Center and College of Liberal Arts, is titled “Enabling Data-Intensive Research and Education at UT Austin via Cloud Computing.” Members of the proposal team envision the university as a pioneer institution in scientific discovery and education based on cloud computing.

Press Mentions

The New York Times: Tracing oil reserves to their tiny origins
Aug. 2

In 1913, as the automobile zoomed into American life, The Outing Magazine gave its readers a bit of background on what fueled the new motorcars in “The Story of Gasoline.” The article explained that “yesterday you poured the remains of the dinosaur from a measuring can — which, let us hope, held five gallons, full measure — into your gasoline tank.”

The idea that oil came from the terrible lizards that children love to learn about endured for many decades. But the emphasis turned out to be wrong.

Whatever the future importance of oil, offshore beds are the most likely new sources. “For most areas, offshore offers the greatest potential,” said William E. Galloway, an oil geologist at The University of Texas at Austin. “We’ve been drilling wells for a hundred years and most of those have been on land. So the volumes that remain unexplored are primarily offshore in areas that have previously been inaccessible.”

USA Today: BP delays final ‘static kill’ test
Aug. 2

BP engineers delayed until today a test that could lead to permanently plugging the well that has leaked millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Previous attempts to cap the well failed, including one similar to this week’s efforts. The difference now is that engineers have placed a temporary cap on the well and stopped the flow of oil.

With no oil and gas pushing up, the heavy mud should find its way down into the well and into the reservoir, said Greg McCormack, director of the Petroleum Extension Service at The University of Texas at Austin.

“This has a very high probability of success,” McCormack said. “The mud has nowhere to go than down the hole, which is where you want it.”

National Geographic: Universe’s existence may be explained by new material
Aug. 3

About 13.7 billion years ago, the big bang created a big mess of matter that eventually gave rise to life, the universe and everything. Now a new material may help scientists understand why.

The material was designed to detect a theorized but unproven property of electrons, subatomic particles with a negative charge that orbit the centers of atoms.

Dan Heinzen is a physicist at The University of Texas at Austin who is leading one of several other experiments to detect the electric dipole moment in electrons. He said experiments with the new ceramic “seem promising.”

“You never know where progress may happen,” Heinzen said via e-mail. “I would expect that you’ll see new results from several of these groups over the next few years.”

BusinessWeek: The long-term jobless: Left behind
Aug. 4

To understand the potential consequences of long-term unemployment, consider the job prospects of Sheldon Fisher and Douglas Lawson. In January, Fisher, 53, was dismissed from a software company in Washington State. Lawson, 34, lost his job in October with a builder in South Carolina. Now the technology industry is bouncing back while construction remains in the dumps. Still, Lawson’s prospects may be better than Fisher’s.

There are downsides to switching careers, because doing so can push workers into fields where their training isn’t valuable, creating a less skilled workforce, says Daniel S. Hamermesh, a former Labor Department official who is now an economist at The University of Texas at Austin. “It’s tremendously difficult [for workers] to decide when the skill is no longer valuable,” he says.

The Wall Street Journal: No more new kid on campus
Aug. 5

As soon as he received his roommate assignment in the mail, Sam Brown did what any 17-year-old about to enter college would do: He looked him up on Facebook.

When Sam, who will be attending the University of Colorado at Boulder, couldn’t find him, he turned to Google Earth. By searching the address the college provided, Sam could see aerial photos of his future roommate’s house in Encino, Calif. — his lawn, his basketball hoop, the cars in his driveway, his pool.

Still, using Facebook doesn’t necessarily lead to more successful roommate matches, since what people think they want in a roommate is often not what ends up making them happiest, says University of Texas psychology professor Sam Gosling, one of the researchers. For example, two neat-freaks may clash over who decides what goes where.

The Christian Science Monitor: If BP qualifies for $10 billion cleanup tax break, should it get one?
Aug. 6

As the Gulf oil spill disaster wanes, attention has turned to the White House’s ability to hold BP to its promise of “making the Gulf whole again.”

The oil giant announced last week its intention to seek the tax break after agreeing to a deal with President Obama on June 16 to establish a $20 billion escrow account to pay financial damages related to the spill. So far, however, no money has been added to the fund amid ongoing negotiations between BP and the Department of Justice.

“The [$20 billion deal] was a moment in which [Obama] was perceived to have moved from a spectator to the one in charge, the boot on the neck idea — it was very, very important,” says Bruce Buchanan, a political science professor at The University of Texas at Austin. The tax write-off issue and the unresolved escrow deal, however, “does bring the American people back into the game,” he adds.

The Wall Street Journal: A dose of sibling rivalry
Aug. 10

Having a single child is still often considered a radical choice, though it is not always a choice. Neighbors, total strangers and many a mother-in-law may continue to push procreation, saying that, without a sibling, a child will be lonely, selfish, or a bit of a misfit.

Research, however, shows that generally isn’t the case. In a meta-analysis covering 115 studies of only children conducted from the 1920s to the 1980s, Toni Falbo, a professor of educational psychology at The University of Texas at Austin, and her co-author, found that only children were generally as well-adjusted, intelligent, accomplished and sociable as those with siblings.

Other research has found that there are benefits to being an only child: They tend to have stronger vocabularies, do better in school and are closer to their parents, says Dr. Falbo.

BusinessWeek: Applying to B-School? Resume perils to avoid
Aug. 9

The required résumé on the typical business school application is the first impression most MBA applicants make on the admissions committee, yet it is often their last priority.

Admissions committees at top business schools are looking for one thing when scanning a résumé: career progression, said Rodrigo Malta, director of MBA admissions at The University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business, in an interview. Including accurate dates of employment and simple, yet thorough, explanations of your accomplishments and promotions helps your case, he said.

“We’re looking for progression more so than canned job descriptions,” said Malta. “You must show the impact you’ve had.”

Read last week’s In the Know.