Tuesday, October 06, 2015


UTSA's Ruoting Pei receives $290K from NSF for algal bloom research

Ruoting Pei

UTSA Assistant Professor Ruoting Pei studies algae in her lab.
(Photo by Deborah Sillimian Wolfe)

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(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."


For more information, visit the UTSA College of Engineering website. Learn more about UTSA and the university's journey toward Tier One.

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Oct. 5, 6 p.m.

Film Screening: The Head of Joaquin Murrieta by John Valadez

The Mexican American Studies Program will host a screening of this irreverent, entertaining and often disturbing tale that uses both fiction and documentary story telling devices to tear open a painful and long ignored history: the lynching of Mexican Americans in the southwest.
Buena Vista Building Aula Canaria (BV 1.328), Downtown Campus

Oct. 6, 3 p.m.

State of the University

Join President Ricardo Romo as he gives his address to the UTSA community.
H-E-B University Center Ballroom (UC 1.104), Main Campus

Oct. 7, 6:30 p.m.

The Impact of the 84th Texas Legislative Session on Public Schools: Any Rain in Sight or Are Those Smoke Clouds on the Horizon?

Join the College of Education and Human Development's Center for Educational Leadership, Policy and Professional Development for a discussion about what passed and what didn't in the last legislative session and what it means for Bexar County Public Schools. 
Durango Building Southwest Room (DB 1.124), Main Campus

Oct. 8, 10 a.m.

Graduate Fair

Graduate School representatives from across the country will provide information on options after earning a bachelor's degree. Students, alumni and community members are welcome.
University Center Retama Galleria, Main Campus

Oct. 10, 8:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.

UTSA CITE Technology Entrepreneurship Boot Camp

Kickstart your career as an entrepreneur at The University of Texas at San Antonio’s Center for Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship (CITE) Technology Entrepreneurship Boot Camp.
Business Building, Richard S. Liu Auditorium (BB 2.01.02), Main Campus

Oct. 14, 5:30 p.m.

Architecture as Rendered Society

The UTSA College of Architecture, Construction and Planning, in partnership with AIA San Antonio’s Latinos in Architecture, presents architect Andrés Jaque, founder of the Office for Political Innovation, an architectural practice dually based in New York and Madrid.
Buena Vista Building, Aula Canaria Lecture Hall (BV 1.328), Downtown Campus

Oct. 20-21, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.

SECC Book Sale

Looking for a good read? Shop for yourself or for gifts and help change a life at the same time. Browse and buy children’s stories, novels and more at the 2015 SECC Book Sale.
Sombrilla Plaza, Main Campus

Oct. 27, 11:30 a.m.

Lecture by Composer Larry Groupe

The UTSA Music Department presents Emmy-award winning Composer Larry Groupe. Groupe has composed music for films such as "The Contender," "Straw Dogs" and "Miami Vice," and TV shows such as "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Ren and Stimpy" and "American Gladiators." Lecture is free and open to the public.
Arts Building (2.03.15-18), Main Campus

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Did You Know?

UTSA writes the book on all-digital libraries

As touch screens and e-books demand more and more attention from both casual readers and scholars, many people say the handwriting is on the wall for the printed page.

At UTSA, the handwriting is on the wall for a library that doesn't have any printed books.

Since March 2010, the bookless library in the Applied Engineering and Technology Building has given UTSA students an innovative way to read, research and work with each other to solve problems.

With ultra-modern furniture and a décor featuring desktop computers, scanners and LCD screens, the AET Library is designed to engage students in an online format. But it also offers group study niches and study rooms with whiteboards and glass walls on which students can write. The space encourages teamwork, communications and problem solving for the next generation of scientists and professional engineers.

Did you know? The UTSA AET Library is the nation's first completely bookless library on a college or university campus. It served as a model for Bexar County's first-in-the-nation public bookless library system and one of its branches, the Dr. Ricardo Romo BiblioTech.

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