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Experts Available to Discuss Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion

AUSTIN, Texas A massive explosion at a fertilization plant rocked the small town of West, Texas, late Wednesday night, sending more than 150 people to area hospitals and leaving a yet-unknown number of fatalities.

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AUSTIN, Texas A massive explosion at a fertilization plant rocked the small town of West, Texas, late Wednesday night, sending more than 150 people to area hospitals and leaving a yet-unknown number of fatalities. The University of Texas at Austin has a wide variety of experts available with backgrounds ranging from disaster preparedness and response to counseling resources who can provide necessary context on this tragedy. The list will continue to be updated in the days ahead.

Please feel free to contact any of the below experts for an interview or for qualified insight. If you have any additional questions, contact UT Media Relations at 512-471-3151.

Some experts may be available for video and audio interviews. The university offers broadcast quality standard definition video from its VYVX studio and ISDN audio from the KUT studio. For video contact the above phone number.


Chemistry/Combustion Science

Matt Hall, professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Cockrell School of Engineering

Hall’s research focus is engine combustion processes with an emphasis on optical measurement techniques and engine sensor development. Research interests include: spark ignition and diesel engine combustion; laser and optical diagnostics and sensors; alternative fuels; and emissions. http://www.me.utexas.edu/directory/faculty/hall/matthew/
 He can be reached at 512-471-1045 or mjhall@mail.utexas.edu NOTE: He will not be available until April 19.

Hildebrandt Ruiz, professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, Cockrell School of Engineering

Ruiz’s expertise is in air quality, focusing on atmospheric nanoparticles (“aerosols”), which have adverse effects on human health and a highly uncertain effect on climate. The ultimate goal of her research is to make better-informed recommendations for environmental policies aimed at improving air quality and human health. Near-term projects include quantifying the effects of aerosols on reactive nitrogen chemistry and ozone production in Texas.
She can be reached at 512-471-1050 or LHR@che.utexas.edu

David A. Vanden Bout, associate professor, Department of Chemistry and BiochemistryCollege of Natural Sciences

Vanden Bout studies materials chemistry, investigating the electronic and optical properties of organic thin film materials such as polyfluorene, sexi-thiophene, poly thiophene and others. He also studies the dynamics near the glass transition in small molecule liquids and polymers.
He can be reached at 512-232-2824 or davandenbout@mail.utexas.edu

Crisis Response

Marilyn Pattillo, associate professor of clinical nursing, School of Nursing

After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Pattillo developed and taught two disaster nursing elective classes and later integrated disaster nursing competencies throughout the nursing curriculum. Pattillo serves as an active member of the University of Texas at Austin Emergency Preparedness efforts and was selected to be deputy team commander of the National Nurse Response Team-National Disaster Medical System. She has presented and published disaster nursing competencies and the importance of preparedness to local, regional, national and international audiences.
She can be contacted at 512-940-1063 (cell) or mpattillo@nursing.utexas.edu

Keri Stephens, assistant professor, Department of Communication Studies, College of Communication

Stephens could speak about emergency communication and how witnesses are often accurate and timely sources of information. For more information about Stephens, visit http://commstudies.utexas.edu/faculty/organizational-communication/keri-stephens.
She can be reached at 512-695-9183 or keri.stephens@austin.utexas.edu

Cal Streeter, professor, School of Social Work

Streeter is an expert in disaster preparedness and community response to crisis. He has worked in coordinating emergency response with the City of Austin and UT Austin.
He can be reached at 512-471-0543 or cstreeter@mail.utexas.edu

Document Preservation

Karen Pavelka, director, School of Information Conservation Laboratory

Pavelka is an expert in conservation and preservation and is making herself and her graduate students available for consultation with any victims of the plant explosion who have personal items that may have been damaged and that they would like to try to save. Pavelka will be making a visit to the explosion site as soon as authorities allow and will be able to assist in the restoration of many different kinds of articles, from books, photos and letters to videotapes and artwork.
She can be reached at 512-471-8286 or pavelka@ischool.utexas.edu


Bill Minutaglio, clinical professor, School of Journalism

Minutaglio is the author of “City on Fire: The Explosion That Devastated A Texas Town and Ignited A Historic Legal Battle,” published in 2003. The book chronicles the effects of an ammonium nitrate explosion that happened 66 years and one day earlier in Texas City.
He can be reached at 512-471-9050 or Bminutag@austin.utexas.edu

Mental Health

Ricardo Ainslie, professor, Department of Educational Psychology

Ainslie studies the effects of crisis, as well as other significant and communally experienced incidents, on communities.
He can be reached at 512-471-0364 or rico.ainslie@mail.utexas.edu

Chris Brownson, associate vice president for Student Affairs and Director, Counseling and Mental Health Center

Brownson is available to discuss counseling resources available to students as well as means to cope with traumatic events.
He can be reached via Joshua Cook at 512-232-5849 or joshuacook@austin.utexas.edu

King Davis, director, the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis

Davis specializes in several areas of mental health, including public mental health policy, the provision of culturally competent mental health services, health care for the mentally ill and disparities in rates of services and resources for the mentally ill. He is available to talk about the role of mental health and pastoral services in responding to disasters.
He can be reached at 512-471-4672 or king.davis@austin.utexas.edu

Kevin Stark, professor, Department of Educational Psychology
Director, Texas Child Study Center

Stark is founder of and clinical director for Central Texas’ Texas Child Study Center, which provides mental health prevention and intervention services (including PTSD screening for children) to Central Texas families. Stark developed intervention strategies for children in New York City and New Orleans after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina.
He can be reached at 512-471-0267 or kstark@austin.utexas.edu

Seismic Events

Cliff Frohlich, associate director, Institute for Geophysics

A seismologist, Frohlich explains the register of the explosion visible on the seismic records of the WHTX Seismic Station outside Waco, available at http://www.ig.utexas.edu/eqdisplay/index.htm?station=whtx. Comment from Frohlich: “The record at WHTX shows two events about 15-20 seconds apart, with the second signal somewhat smaller. Seeing a clear signal at nearby stations but not at more distant stations is typical of seismic events with magnitude about 2 or smaller.”
He can be reached at 512-471-0460 or cliff@utig.utexas.edu