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UT News

In the Know

The Sept. 20 weekly roundup of campus kudos and press mentions.

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Campus Kudos

KUT names Cactus Cafe manager
KUT has named recording industry veteran Matthew Muñoz manager of the Cactus Cafe. Muñoz, 39, has worked as director of sales and marketing at Justice Records in Austin, label manager at Universal Music Group’s Fontana Distribution in Los Angeles, and in marketing and promotion roles at Warner Bros. and Reprise Records in Los Angeles, and Arista Records in Austin.

School psychology expert Carlson named Educational Psychology chair
School psychology expert Cindy I. Carlson has been named chair of the Department of Educational Psychology in the College of Education. Dr. Edmund Emmer was the previous chair, having been in that position since 1998. Carlson, who has been with the College of Education since 1982, is a Fellow in the Cissy McDaniel Parker Fellow Fund and was A.M. Aiken Regents Chair in Junior and Community College Education Leadership from 2005-07.

Researcher receives $3.8 million to improve cotton production
Dr. Z. Jeffrey Chen and his colleagues will use next-generation DNA sequencing technologies to study the genomics of fiber production in cotton, the largest source of natural and renewable fiber in the world, with a $3.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Chen is the lead investigator on the NSF grant, which builds on research findings from a previous $2.5 million NSF grant.

Silicon Valley entrepreneur to lead commercialization at the university
Richard A. Miller, M.D., a veteran biotechnology entrepreneur from Silicon Valley, has been named chief commercialization officer and research professor at the university. Miller will oversee the university’s Office of Technology Commercialization with an emphasis on creating new ventures and startups based on discoveries made at the university.

Two language and culture centers receive $3 million in grants
The Center for European Studies and the Texas Language Technology Center have been awarded federal grants totaling more than $3 million. The Center for European Studies received a more than $1.6 million Title VI Fellowship for 2010-14 and has been designated a National Resource Center. The Texas Language Technology Center has won a $1.4 million grant for 2010-14 from the U.S. Department of Education’s Language Resource Centers Program to designate a Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning.

Chevron contributes nearly $800,000 in grants
Chevron has contributed $793,100 to support academic programs at the university for the 2010-11 academic year. The amount brings the company’s total gifts to the university to more than $41 million. The company also has provided more than $16.5 million in additional research funding. Chevron’s 2010-11 philanthropic support is focused on the Cockrell School of Engineering, Jackson School of Geosciences and McCombs School of Business.

Press Mentions

Bloomberg: Moderate drinkers may toast research finding they live longer
Aug. 31

Sipping two or three glasses of wine, beer or cocktails per day helped older adults live longer than teetotalers in a study that confirmed the health benefits of moderate drinking.

A study of 1,824 adults ages 55 to 65 found that moderate and heavy drinkers were less likely to die than abstainers over a 20-year span, according to researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.

“Importantly, any health-protective effects of alcohol appear to be limited to regular moderate drinking,” wrote the study authors, led by Charles Holahan, a psychology professor at The University of Texas.

NPR: President Obama: U.S. combat mission in Iraq over
Sept. 1

President Obama declared that U.S. combat operations in Iraq are over. Hisham Melhem, Washington Bureau Chief for Al Aribiya News, discusses how the speech resonated in the Arab world. And Ed Dorn, former undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness under President Clinton, and a professor of public affairs at The University of Texas, offers a perspective on how military personnel may respond to the change.

“I think the soldiers think in terms of accomplishing specific concrete missions every day,” Dorn said. “They don’t think in terms of some overwhelming victory. They all know that there’s not going to be a great peace-signing ceremony and they all know that there are going to be tensions in that region for years and years to come.”

NPR: BP report shares blame for rig explosion
Sept. 8

BP today released its own investigation of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The company shouldered some of the blame, but also placed plenty of it on its contractors.

Tad Patzek, an oil and gas engineering professor at The University of Texas at Austin, says its a matter of how these mistakes all added up.

“No major accident, catastrophe happens because of a single reason,” Patzek said. “There has to be a confluence of several reasons, which are aligned in a particularly bad way. And that’s what seems to have happened here.”

National Geographic: Mining the truth on coal supplies
Sept. 8

No matter how bad coal might be for the planet, the conventional wisdom is that there is so much of it underground that the world’s leading fuel for electricity will continue to dominate the energy scene unless global action is taken on climate change. But what if conventional wisdom is wrong?

A new study, led by Tad Patzek, chairman of the Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, and published in the August issue of Energy, seeks to shake up the assumption that use of coal, the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, is bound to continue its inexorable rise.

In fact, the authors predict that world coal production may reach its peak as early as next year, and then begin a permanent decline.

The New York Times: Texas clean energy hampered by location
Sept. 12

As the United States contemplates a clean-energy future, leadership is coming from a surprising place — Texas.

This state is well-known for producing oil and natural gas. But Texas also has erected far more turbines than any other state and now has nearly three times as much wind capacity as Iowa, which is ranked second.

But after a decade of rampant growth, wind is running into a significant constraint: There are too few transmission lines to carry the power.

Texas is grappling with other wind-related issues. One is cost. Long-term wholesale contracts for Texas wind power remain about twice as costly as generation from coal and nuclear plants, according to Michael E. Webber, the associate director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at The University of Texas at Austin.

The New York Times: U.S. debates response to targeted killing lawsuit
Sept. 15

The Obama administration, fresh off a victory in persuading federal judges to dismiss a torture case for fear of revealing state secrets, is divided over using similar tactics to try to block a lawsuit over government efforts to kill an American citizen accused of ties to Al Qaeda.

Whatever the final government brief says, Robert M. Chesney, a University of Texas law professor, said the lawsuit might force onto the table greater discussion of what the administration is doing and why it believes its actions are lawful.

“Of course, that defense doesn’t have to take place in a courtroom,” he said. “But where U.S. citizens are involved as targets, you have to anticipate that it may not be possible to entirely avoid putting the question before a judge to some extent.”

The New York Times: Recession creates an opening for Democrat in Texas
Sept. 16

A few months ago, Texas political consultants thought that a Democrat had about as much chance of winning statewide office as a donkey would have of winning the Kentucky Derby. Those odds seemed to grow longer as the anti-tax, anti-government movement known as the Tea Party gathered more followers.

The Democratic candidate, former Mayor Bill White of Houston, has pulled within striking distance of the incumbent Republican, Rick Perry, trailing by no more than 6 percentage points in four polls.

“The Republican campaign narrative nationally is that the people running government are doing a bad job of it,” said Jim Henson, a political scientist and pollster at The University of Texas. “Perry’s message is ideologically consistent with this, but the Republicans here run all the offices.”

Read the Aug. 30 In the Know.