(Aug. 6, 2014) -- Ruoting Pei, assistant professor in the UTSA College of Engineering Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), has been awarded a grant of $290,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support her project, "The Role of Cell-to-Cell Communication in Microcystis Aeruginosa Blooms."
"I was first interested in the communication of bacteria -- how they talk to each other," said Pei. "They communicate with a chemical language, and they use this communication to do a lot of things. For example, excessive growth of cyanobacteria, also called blue green algae, in water bodies causes harmful algal blooms. These algal blooms pose severe health risks to the users of these drinking and recreation waters due to the cyanotoxins produced."
Not only do the algal blooms pose risks to humans, they also deplete the oxygen supply of the water they occupy, making it impossible for fish or water plants to survive. Pei is working on a way to "put earplugs" in the algae so that the bacteria cannot communicate with each other to produce toxins.
"The proposed research focuses on quorum sensing, the general mode of cell-to-cell communication in the bacterial kingdom via chemical 'languages,'" said Pei. "If we can cause a disruption of quorum sensing, the communication between the bacteria, we predict a decrease of cell growth and toxin production and a reduction of cell surface charges. We are trying to put 'earplugs' in the bacteria so they cannot communicate with each other so that they stop getting together and produce toxic results."
In addition to hiring a graduate student with the grant funds, Pei also plans to develop educational outreach programs for local, underrepresented high school students.
"The main purpose of working with local schools is to increase awareness of the threat of algal blooms to the environment, promote excitement for careers in environmental science and engineering fields, and increase the students' ability to understand scientific and engineering issues," said Pei. "I also plan to develop graduate courses and provide research opportunities here at UTSA for undergraduate and graduate students."
Pei, who has been at UTSA for five years, says she is excited to be part of a university with a rapidly growing research agenda, and she is very happy with the support she has received though the CEE department and the College of Engineering.
"This is an outstanding achievement for Dr. Pei and the CEE department," said Thomas Papagiannakis, chair of the CEE department. "NSF grants are very competitive and being successful in competing for them attests to the quality of our research program. Dr. Pei's efforts in establishing a bioenvironmental laboratory are being rewarded. Her research is complementing the research activities of the newly formed Water Institute of Texas, and it is expected to have a significant impact on student training."
The UTSA Institute for P-20 Initiatives hosts this free breakfast to kick off a new school year and a new opportunity to volunteer at mentoring organizations in our community.
Whataburger, 8680 Fourwinds Dr., San Antonio
As part of the International Cooking Series, the experts in the UTSA Demo Kitchen will show you how to make this stuffed bread Latin dish. Register for this cooking demo here.
Recreation Wellness Center Demo Kitchen, Main Campus
UTSA's annual sustainability festival, showcases the university’s and the City of San Antonio’s progress on researching and developing sustainable solutions to improve the quality life for future generations.
H-E-B University Center Ballroom (HUC 1.104), Main Campus
The institute will feature a performance from Eva Ybarra, the “Queen of the Accordion.” Manuel Medrano will premiere a documentary on Ybarra’s career. Two people receive free admission with a voucher available here.
Institute of Texan Cultures, Hemisfair Campus
Get involved and register to vote. Click on the link to find out the locations on the Main and Downtown Campuses.
Multiple locations on the Main and Downtown Campuses
Learn about products and services available for studying, working, and making it to graduation! Speak directly to OIT managers, provide feedback on UTSA tech, and have your voice heard! Lunch and OIT gear provided. RSVP at: www.utsa.edu/oit/sic.
University Center, Denman Ballroom (2.01.28), Main Campus
Come meet the candidates looking to take home the crown as Mr. and Ms. UTSA 2017-2018. This is your opportunity to hear the candidates platform and learn how they plan to represent and transform UTSA.
University Center, Retama Auditorium (UC 2.02.02), Main Campus
UTSA's Friends of Shakespeare hosts this annual performance seried by Actors from the London Stage, Sept. 27, 29 and 30 at 7:30 p.m.
Arts Building, Recital Hall (ARTS 2.03.02), Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.