The Magazine of The College Sciences



Jeffery von Ronne wins $425K NSF CAREER award

Jeffery von Ronne, assistant professor of computer science, received a five-year, $425,000 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to research new techniques that will result in the development of faster and safer computer programs. The CAREER award is the most prestigious award presented to junior faculty members who embody the role of teacher and scholar by integrating teaching excellence with outstanding research at their institutions.

Von Ronne, who joined UTSA’s faculty in 2005, specializes in programming languages, compilers, security and software engineering.

Previous recipients of NSF CAREER awards include computer science professors Qing Yi (2008), Carola Wenk (2007) and Daniel Jimenez (2006).

Nikos Salingaros ranks 11th in Planetizen’s Top 100 Urban Thinkers

Mathematics professor and urbanist Nikos Salingaros was ranked 11th on an international list of the Top 100 Urban Thinkers, according to urban planning Web site Planetizen. Salingaros has served on UTSA’s mathematics faculty since 1983.

In addition to publishing more than 110 papers in mathematics, physics, architecture and urban design, Salingaros is the associate editor of three architecture and urban planning journals, and has published five books on urbanism and architecture.

He serves on the editorial board of Resource for Urban Design Information, as a consultant to the Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C., and as a grant reviewer for the National Science Foundation and the Israel Science Foundation. Additionally, he contributes to major architectural projects in Qatar, Mexico, Brazil, Italy and Kosovo.

Jurgen and Marie J. Engelberth publish online

Jurgen Engelberth and Marie J. Engelberth published an 11-minute video in the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE).

A peer-reviewed scholarly video journal, JoVE aims to facilitate advances in biology research by providing a clear format to communicate new scientific experiments and techniques.

The video publication, “Monitoring Plant Hormones During Stress Responses,” demonstrates the steps required to isolate plant hormones and measure their concentrations. Viewers learn to extract hormones from plant materials, methylate and prepare filters, collect the extractions and analyze the samples. As the video proceeds, the narrative points out key considerations for a successful experiment.

Within a few weeks of being published, the Engelberths’ video received nearly 3,000 hits.

Andrew Tsin named in inaugural class of fellows

Andrew Tsin

Department of Biology researcher Andrew Tsin stood among an elite group of eye researchers in May 2009 when he was named a Silver Fellow in the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology’s (ARVO) inaugural class of fellows. ARVO’s new honor recognizes the professional accomplishments and service of its members as well as their contributions to the association’s advancement.

This year, 428 members were inducted into ARVO’s first class of fellows, less than 4 percent of its overall membership of more than 11,500 internationally.

Tsin oversees the Vision Research Laboratory, which aims to understand the biochemical and cellular/molecular events in the eye related to normal visual functions and to abnormal/disease conditions.

Brian Derrick wins $917K from NIH to study memory

Department of Biology researcher Brian Derrick hopes to find out soon how the brain saves episodic (or autobiographical) memories. A professor in the Neurosciences Institute, Derrick has won $917,000 in funding from the National Institutes of Health to research how neurons store information in the brain and how they decide what to store or discard.

Every 16 hours, the brain’s hippocampus creates 6,000-9,000 new neurons in the dentate gyrus, the portion of the brain believed to play a significant role in preserving episodic memory. According to Derrick, the key lies in the difference between learning and memory.

“We believe the continual generation of new neurons in both rats and humans serves as a temporal marker for highly similar memories. Because time also plays a role in memories, the contribution of these new neurons to episodic memory is the focus of this four-year grant,” he says.

George Perry elected to Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences

George Perry

George Perry, dean of the UTSA College of Sciences, was named a foreign corresponding member of the Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences. Perry is one of the most prolific Alzheimer’s disease researchers in the United States.

The Spanish Royal Academy of Science (Real Academia de Ciencias) is one of the world’s oldest professional academies. Its exclusive membership includes Nobel Prize winners and other world-renowned scientists and mathematicians.

Perry collaborates on Alzheimer’s disease research with experts in Portugal, Mexico and Chile, and is editor in chief of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the leading journal for Alzheimer’s research and a publication he founded. He was recently named one of the world’s top 10 Alzheimer’s disease researchers, according to a study conducted by Collexis Holdings Inc. and published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. The Top 100 list was released in the journal’s March 2009 online edition (Volume 16, Issue 3).

“When I was notified of my election to the academy, I was incredibly flattered,” Perry said. “While I am honored that my research has made a significant impact in understanding Alzheimer’s disease, at UTSA, I hope to make a difference for Hispanic students who want to study science and pursue professional careers in the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

Ashlesh Murthy receives grant from San Antonio Area Foundation

Ashlesh Murthy

Ashlesh Murthy, a research assistant professor in the South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases, has received a $32,000 grant from the Semp Russ Foundation of the San Antonio Area Foundation to study the role of CD8-positive T-cells in chlamydia infections. Caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, chlamydia is the nation’s most common bacterial sexually transmitted disease.

Murthy, a practicing physician from India, earned the first Ph.D. degree in cellular and molecular biology awarded by the university in 2006. He then completed two years of post-doctoral research in UTSA’s infectious disease center. Recently, he joined the Department of Biology as a research assistant professor. The San Antonio Area Foundation award is Murthy’s first funding as principal investigator.

Magaly Salinas attends Nobel laureates meeting in Germany

Magaly Salinas

Magaly Salinas, a doctoral student in organic chemistry, attended the 59th Meeting of Nobel Laureates and Students in Lindau, Germany. At the meeting, from June 28 to July 3, 2009, Salinas discussed scientific research and networked with the world’s finest chemists and chemistry students.

Approximately 600 students from 66 countries attended the invitation-only meeting. Salinas was one of only four attendees from Texas and one of 74 students representing the United States at the prestigious event.

Salinas is supported by the UTSA Minority Biomedical Research Support-Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement program, which offers a monthly stipend, research training and other career-development support to minority students pursuing doctorates in the sciences. She researches alongside George R. Negrete, the chemistry professor who encouraged her to apply to attend the Nobel laureates meeting.

Salinas completed her bachelor’s degree in 2006 and her master’s degree in 2008 at the University of Texas-Pan American.

Ravi Sandhu named editor of top computer security journal

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) Computer Society has named professor Ravinderpal “Ravi” Sandhu editor in chief of its scholarly journal, IEEE Transactions on Dependable and Secure Computing. Sandhu’s two-year term began Jan. 1, 2010.

An internationally renowned expert in information assurance, security and trust, Sandhu holds the Lutcher Brown Distinguished Chair in Cyber Security. He also is executive director of the university’s Institute for Cyber Security.

“Professor Sandhu has a keen pulse on current trends in information assurance and security, and his ability to focus that knowledge on research with practical applications is one of the things that makes him such a leader in the field,” says Robert Gracy, vice president for research.

Mustafa Iqbal awarded $20,000 promising scientist scholarship

UTSA representatives presented the Provost Promising Scientist/Engineer Scholarship of $20,000 to local student Mustafa Iqbal at the 2009 ExxonMobil Texas Science and Engineering Fair.

A senior at John Jay High School’s Science and Engineering Academy, Iqbal was awarded the scholarship for his project titled, “The Protective Effect of Caffeine Stimulated Ryanodine Stores on Astrocytes.”

The scholarship goes toward Iqbal’s tuition and fees at UTSA, and will be dispersed in equal payments each of his four years at UTSA.  He must maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or above and pursue an undergraduate degree in the College of Sciences or College of Engineering.

“By offering a competitive scholarship to a remarkable student, we hope more students will recognize UTSA as a premier research university,” says George Perry, dean of the College of Sciences.

Steven Garza featured in 25 under 25 article

Student leader Steven Garza was featured in the online publication My Latino Voice in its Hot Latino 25 Under 25 article. A senior biology major, he was nominated by his brothers in the Phi Iota Alpha fraternity.

Along with being a member of Phi Iota Alpha, Garza works with various organizations including the American Red Cross Campus Club, Hispanic Student Association, Multicultural Greek Council and the UTSA Diversity Month Planning Committee. Recently, he took a lead role in organizing and serving as student chair of the Latino Heritage Month Planning Committee.

After finishing his undergraduate degree, Garza hopes to enroll in medical school. He says that although the path to a better life is not easy, it is always worth it.

Joseph Westlake and adviser publish findings in Nature magazine

Joseph Westlake

Joseph Westlake, a student in the physics Ph.D. program, and Westlake’s adviser, J. Hunter Waite, an adjoint professor, co-authored a paper in Nature magazine that claims liquid water may exist on Saturn’s sixth-largest moon, Enceladus. The data sets the stage for more discoveries about Saturn’s moons, particularly with regard to their formation and evolution.

The data, collected by NASA’s Cassini mission during five fly-bys of the moon, shed light on the possible composition of Enceladus’ interior.

Westlake followed Waite to Southwest Research Institute and UTSA’s joint space physics doctoral program in 2006.  Previously at the University of Michigan, Westlake wanted to gain more experience performing experimental physics.  Although his dissertation focuses on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, Westlake was eager to work on the Enceladus project.

“There are so many fundamental questions about this little moon that we don’t have answers for,” he says.

Three students honored at annual microbiology meeting

Ann Reyes, Tricia Van Laar, Steve Rodriguez

Ann Reyes, Tricia Van Laar, Steve Rodriguez

Three students researching topics in microbiology and infectious diseases won competitive awards for their poster and oral presentations at the annual meeting of the Texas Branch of the American Society for Microbiology, held Nov. 5-7, 2009, at the University of Texas at Tyler.

Ann Reyes, an undergraduate majoring in biology and math, was awarded the Sam Kaplan Poster Award for the second best poster presented at the conference by an undergraduate. Reyes’ research is supported by UTSA’s Minority Biomedical Research Support’s Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement program.

Tricia Van Laar, a third year cellular and molecular biology doctoral student, won the O.B. William award (third place) for her oral presentation in general microbiology.

Steve Rodriguez, a fifth year cellular and molecular biology doctoral student, won the S. E. Sulkin Award (third prize) for his oral presentation in medical microbiology.

“The American Society for Microbiology’s competitive awards are excellent indicators of the caliber of work carried out by our graduate and undergraduate students at UTSA,” says Janakiram Seshu, assistant professor of microbiology and a member of UTSA’s South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Three students receive stipends to conduct research

Three minority students who received $1,875 stipends to conduct research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics presented their findings May 21, 2009, in downtown San Antonio to culminate their achievements in UTSA’s Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program. Sample projects presented at the gathering included research on stem cuttings and trees native to South Central Texas, research about speech patterns and a study of radio frequency identification.

The spring 2009 LSAMP cohort at UTSA pursued research on an array of topics, working alongside faculty mentors in the College of Sciences and College of Engineering:

Crystal Alonzo, Professor Oscar Van Auken (Department of Biology)

Carla Grochel, Associate Professor Valerie Sponsel (Department of Biology)

Emily Pohl, Professor Judith Walmsley (Department of Chemistry)

Students receive inaugural South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Disease scholarships

Madhulika Jupelli and Gregor Weber

Madhulika Jupelli and Gregor Weber

The South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases awarded its inaugural $21,500 doctoral scholarships to students Madhulika Jupelli and Gregor Weber to help complete their doctoral thesis research.

Jupelli is researching the development of abnormal lung function in adults who had chlamydial infections at birth. She is conducting her research under the direction of Professor Bernard Arulanandam.

“I am really happy to receive this scholarship,” says Jupelli. “[It] will allow me to leave my teaching position so I can spend more time in the laboratory and focus on the completion of my degree.”

An alumnus of the undergraduate biology program, Weber is in his fourth year of the Ph.D. program. His research focus is the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, which causes cholera infections.

“I chose to pursue my Ph.D. at UTSA because of the rapid growth of research on campus, the positive energy displayed by the faculty and the quality of the Ph.D. program in cellular and molecular biology,” says Weber.

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