UTSA Discover
UTSA Discover

2007 VOL.1, NO 1

The Road to Excellence
First Edition
Feature Stories
A Deadly Foe

Look Who's Talking—
In Two Languages

Tracking Transportation

Destroying to Protect

After the Dissertation
About Us


Building Smart
Randy Jeffries, Adrian Lipscombe and Vanessa Santos put the finishing touches on a model of a room that monitors ambient light levels.
A “smart building” knows how many people are inside, how long they have been there and what rooms they occupy. Without human intervention, the building can adjust temperature, lighting, communications, security and other systems in real time as needed by its occupants.

Throughout the spring 2007 semester, senior architecture students worked to develop a prototype for such a building, said Mahesh Senagala, associate professor and associate dean for academic affairs and research in the College of Architecture. The project was a collaboration between the LEGO Corporation, the College of Architecture and the College of Engineering.

While modern automobiles have between 60 and 100 sensors that monitor numerous “human” variables, people spend more time in buildings that typically have only one: a thermostat. A smart building, rather than inefficiently maintaining a constant temperature in the entire structure, will determine whether anyone is using specific areas and then will turn on the appropriate air conditioning or heating systems. Similar concepts can be implemented for lighting and security schemes. Using various sensors and devices like motion detectors and radio frequency identification, Senagala envisions a structure that can adapt to different situations on its own.

“Architecture has close to zero percent integration of these technologies,” Senagala said. “It’s a big market. Somebody has to show the way.”

Senagala, who is known for his work on tensile structures and human-computer interactions in architecture, was recently elected president of the Association for Computer-Aided Design in Architecture, and earned the UTSA President’s Distinguished Achievement Award for Performance/Creative Production and Other Scholarly Work for 2006–2007.

Chlamydia vaccine tested
To say 30-year-old postdoctoral fellow Ashlesh Murthy enjoys being center stage at UTSA would not be much of a stretch. Murthy, a native of Bangalore, India, was the first recipient of a doctoral degree in UTSA’s cell and molecular biology program. As he crossed the stage to receive his diploma, Murthy’s parents and relatives gathered in India to watch him via the Internet as a part of UTSA’s first commencement Webcast.

This summer, Murthy, now a postdoctoral fellow at UTSA, will face an international audience as he travels to Japan as a presenter at a scientific conference on chlamydia.

Chlamydia, caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, can damage a woman’s reproductive organs and is the most commonly reported sexually transmitted bacterial disease in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Under the guidance of his mentor, UTSA biology professor Bernard Arulanandam, Murthy has successfully administered a chlamydial prevention vaccine in mice. The next step will be to test the vaccine in larger animals, primarily guinea pigs.

“This is a very prevalent disease in women throughout the world, and the biggest problem is that most infected women never show any symptoms, so they never get treated,” said Murthy. “When chlamydia is left untreated, it can lead to severe complications including pelvic-inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancies and infertility.”

According to the CDC’s most recent report, 930,000 cases of chlamydial infection were reported in the United States in 2004.

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