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Home | Tag Archives: The University of Texas at El Paso

Tag Archives: The University of Texas at El Paso

UTEP to Host Annual History Day Competition

Melissa Avila has fond memories of her El Paso History Day participation at The University of Texas at El Paso, even though part of it involved getting lost in the Liberal Arts Building minutes before her presentation.

The senior history major with a minor in secondary education will be a volunteer judge at this year’s 22nd annual El Paso History Day contest from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, at UTEP. Organizers expect about 400 students from the region’s public, private and charter high schools and middle schools to participate in this year’s event, which is themed “Triumph and Tragedy in History.”

Avila said she was an “overwhelmed” eighth grade student from Anthony Middle School when she came to campus for the first time for History Day. She and a partner had created a video documentary about UTEP’s legendary men’s basketball coach, Don Haskins, the year after his death in 2008.

Avila said that her greatest fear while wandering through the Liberal Arts Building was that she would not have enough time to set up her presentation on the Hall of Fame coach. Avila’s team finished third in her category, but the duo was able to present at the Texas History Day competition because the category’s winners could not go to Austin.

At the statewide competition, Avila and her partner earned a fourth-place finish out of 20 entries.

The El Paso native said the experience advanced her research, computer, interview and presentation skills, which have helped on her academic journey. Her advice to this year’s competitors is to take a deep breath and relax.

“You spent all year on this project and it is your time to show off,” Avila said as if addressing this year’s competitors. “Enjoy the experience, for it can and will be something you will talk about in the future.”

A cadre of 85 judges and 50 volunteers made up of community members and University students, faculty and staff, will assist competitors, who will make presentations as individuals or as teams in five categories: papers, websites, exhibits, performances and documentaries.

Brad Cartwright, Ph.D., associate professor of instruction in history and director of UTEP’s El Paso History Day (EPHD) program, called EPHD one of the biggest regional History Day events in the state, and one of the largest annual outreach activities made by the University’s College of Liberal Arts.

“This is a big effort,” Cartwright said.

The UTEP educator’s eyes widened as he mentioned the many benefits students enjoy through their participation, to include building research and critical thinking skills as well as effective communication techniques.

“The teachers love it because it allows their students to explore topics in greater depth,” he said. “The students work hard on these projects. It’s a meaningful experience that builds a range of skills and confidence.”

Kera Steele, a senior history major, said she participated in two EPHD competitions while a student at Terrace Hills Middle School and Andress High School. In both cases, she designed websites. She earned a trip to Austin for her high school presentation on Hatshepsut, a queen of Egypt who became the country’s ruler around 1473 B.C. She said the interview process at the state level groomed her for her college presentations.

“Going through that interview where I was asked about my own work was helpful, especially since my career path of being a curator will most likely call for those types of interviews,” Steele said. “I didn’t place in Austin, but it was still a fun time there.”

Steele advised History Day contestants to pick something they are interested in, or something they want to learn about because that passion will come through in the competition. She also suggested that participants should make use of their teachers as a resource for help and guidance.

“The most important part is to just have fun with it,” she said. “It’s a pretty cool experience.”

Isabel Mora, a dual-credit history teacher at Valle Verde Early College High School, said approximately 75 of her students participate annually in the EPHD competition and all benefit from the experience.

Mora, who earned bachelor degrees in history and English literature from UTEP in 1996, said History Day requirements force her students to build 21st century career and college readiness skills that go beyond standardized test results. The students learn how to make a formal presentation and how to use technology to conduct profound research, she said.

“This curriculum allows me to get the kids to transcend (the minimum standards) and reach for something much higher,” said Mora, an El Paso native and first-generation college student.

When not competing, participants and their families will be encouraged to visit booths staffed by representatives from the University’s Enrollment Services and various student organizations, or enjoy scheduled entertainment and campus tours.

Denis O’Hearn, Ph.D., dean of the College of Liberal Arts, will present the certificates at the event’s awards assembly. The top two finishers in each category will be eligible to participate in the Texas History Day competition in April in Austin.

“Of all of our studies, history is probably the one that reaches most deeply into the other disciplines,” O’Hearn said. “To do practically anything, from engineering to biology to psychology, you have to know how your field has developed over time. Otherwise, you just keep making the same mistakes over and over again. And this goes for life, too.”

Author:  Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications

Video+Story: 3D Printer Gives UTEP Art Students More Options

About 20 students from The University of Texas at El Paso have put a 21st century spin on ceramics, one of civilization’s oldest art forms, and their creations will be part of an exhibit that opens January 24, 2019, at the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts.

“Sections: New Cities, Future Ruins at the Border” will include 170 pieces of different shapes and sizes that were designed by students using a special computer program and produced via a 3D ceramics printer that used locally harvested and processed clay.

The show will be in the center’s large Rubin Gallery through April 6, 2019. The National Endowment for the Arts funded the exhibition and related activities.

The software and the printer were gifts from the Rubin’s visiting artists Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, educators, architects and co-founders of Emerging Objects, a San Francisco-based company that specializes in innovative 3D printing solutions for buildings, interiors and environments.

Kerry Doyle, the Rubin Center director, called this one of the most important collaborations between a visiting artist and UTEP students in terms of its long-term applications for the students. She said the 3D printer, installed in the Ceramics Lab during the fall 2018 semester, offers art students novel opportunities.

“We always try to connect our visiting artists with our students and we’ve had many successful collaborations in the past, but nothing as in-depth as this,” she said referring to their use of local clay and innovative 3D technology. “I think this will change the way our students make ceramics.”

Vincent Burke, associate professor of art who specializes in ceramics, helped Rael and San Fratello prepare for the exhibit. The pair rewarded Burke’s efforts and those of his students by donating the 3D printer, which Burke called “a disruptor” because of the polar views his students have about this new technology.

“No one was lukewarm,” he said. “I reminded them that (the printer) does not necessarily replace using our hands or a potter’s wheel. It’s a 21st century way to conceptualize our artistic practices and execute what is difficult if not impossible to do by hand.”

Burke said he was grateful that he and his students had the opportunity to work on this project. He called it a challenge for everyone involved including him, but a thrilling experience overall. The benefits ranged from interdisciplinary collaborations and working with professional artists to learning about native clays and how to use cutting-edge 3D technology.

“Our new 3D printer is an incredible tool that will provide our students with a great opportunity to learn a new skill that more and more artists are using around the world,” he said. “It’s a game changer for us. It’s really remarkable. The key is using it in the service of art and ideas that reflect our unique individual voices.”

Rael, who was at UTEP the week of January 7 to create a large display for the exhibit, said he donated the printer because he wanted to give the students an opportunity to combine their knowledge with local materials and new technology.

“The idea was, ‘How do we expand on cross-border cultures and allow the creativity of Vince and his students to produce a series of objects that come from this region materially and intellectually?’,” said Rael during an interview in one of the Rubin Center’s first-floor workshops next to a table full of the student art pieces.

He noted the diversity of the shapes, textures and complexions of the vessels, and said that each reflected the students’ personal narratives. He said the variety of pieces excited him and that they were beyond his expectations collectively.

“I’m overwhelmed by looking at each one of them,” said Rael, who complimented Burke and his students for the passion and the creative, intellectual and physical energy they brought to the project. He estimated that they all had put hundreds if not thousands of hours into the collaboration, which he called one of the best of his career.

Rael, a professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and San Fratello, an associate professor of interior design at San Jose State University, decided to use native clay, which has its roots in the area’s adobe and pottery, to promote their environmental art for the Rubin exhibit. The difference from the student work is the Californians used an industrial-sized 3D printer to create what would become a circular adobe vessel that would stand more than 6 feet tall.

It was the artists’ desire to familiarize themselves with the region’s clay that brought them into contact with Burke during the summer of 2017. The pair worked with the UTEP professor to find different clays, process them, and test them to see which deposits would work best for their project. Burke, with the help of Richard Langford, Ph.D., professor in UTEP’s Department of Geological Sciences, mapped out different clay deposits throughout El Paso County. About 20 students, including Dina Edens, Burke’s teaching assistant at the time, participated in the labor-intensive clay harvesting.

Edens, who earned her bachelor’s degree in ceramics and metalsmithing in December 2018, said she was excited about every aspect of this project from digging, processing and testing the clay to assembling the 3D printer, learning how to use it and then sharing that knowledge with others.

“I’m used to using my hands for ceramics, but this (printer) is an exciting new tool that can be used in so many different ways,” she said. “I used it as soon as I could. It really blew my mind.”

Burke called the new 3D printer a dynamic intersection of disciplines where fine art, science and the humanities interweave and inform each other.

“It’s a different type of language and a unique process that will allow UTEP fine art students to conceptually engage with our ancient medium in new and exciting ways,” Burke said.

Author:  Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications

UTEP Professor Receives TIAA Difference Maker Award

Roger Gonzalez, Ph.D., finds inspiration in supporting others. The professor and chair of the Department of Engineering Education and Leadership at The University of Texas at El Paso abides by that notion not only through teaching but enhancing the lives of individuals who have lost limbs.

Gonzalez, a UTEP alumnus, is the founder of LIMBS International, a nonprofit that designs, donates and supplements affordable and functional prosthetic limbs to developing countries throughout the world.

TIAA, a financial services firm that serves millions of people across the academic, research, cultural, medical, government and nonprofit fields, recognized Gonzalez’s work in November 2018 by naming him a TIAA Difference Maker 100 honoree.

“It is a true honor to be nationally recognized for the work that LIMBS has done over the last 15 years throughout 50-plus countries,” Gonzalez said. “I hope that this recognition will help LIMBS expand our partnerships, and thus help LIMBS expand our mission.”

In 2013, Gonzalez’s organization partnered with prosthetists in developing nations to develop a full-leg system called the LIMBox, which provides a complete set of components rather than individually sourced parts. The LIMBox now reaches an average of 400 amputees a year worldwide. In 2014, his team began to address issues beyond the physical needs through community-based rehabilitation (CBR) programs, which are geared toward enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities and their families. There are now seven CBR programs throughout Latin America that provide patients with physical therapy, counseling and social re-integration.

TIAA is marking its centennial year by recognizing 100 individuals, who, like Gonzalez, work for a nonprofit and make significant contributions in their community or the world. TIAA awarded Gonzalez $10,000 to support and advance the work of LIMBS International.

“We serve those who serve others, and as you think about what that means, it’s a powerful statement,” TIAA Managing Director Chris Chavez said. “When we launched the Difference Maker 100 initiative, we were looking for people who, like Dr. Gonzalez, choose to serve others because they believe in what they are doing, in the people whose lives their work is impacting and in the people they’re engaging along the way.”

Gonzalez returned to UTEP as a faculty member in 2012. Since then, LIMBS International has set up its headquarters in El Paso and has developed a partnership with the University. This collaboration has expanded LIMBS and given UTEP students the opportunity to conduct research and design prosthetics that help hundreds of people worldwide. Student involvement is another aspect of Gonzalez’s work that TIAA sought to recognize with the Difference Maker 100 award.

“When somebody in a teaching role like that is able to impact the lives of others through his work, it creates the foundation for his students to take their ideas down a similar path,” Chavez said. “It’s the seed that will one day become a tree that expands out to find other areas where those students can possibly make their impact.”

Though he appreciates the recognition, Gonzalez believes LIMBS International has a lot more work to do.

“The need is far from met,” he said. “There is much to do and so few of us doing this, that while overwhelming, we are inviting others to join our efforts. I have been given much, and my desire still is to give back from all that has been given to me. As it is said, ‘For of those to whom much is given, much is required.’”

The podcast “Crazy Good Turns” featured the story of Gonzalez and his work with LIMBS International in November 2018. The podcast, created by former Home Depot CEO Frank Blake, celebrates people who serve others.

The hope is that it will inspire them and others to pursue additional good works. Forbes, Huffington Post, and Oprah Magazine have featured the podcast in stories.

UTEP Mechanical Engineering Professor to Study Materials for Hypersonic Cruise Vehicles

A mechanical engineering professor from The University of Texas at El Paso will help enhance the sustainability of structures moving at hypersonic speeds through a $130,000 grant from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

Calvin M. Stewart, Ph.D., associate professor of mechanical engineering in UTEP’s College of Engineering, is the principal investigator of the award from the AFRL.

The grant will be used to conduct experimental and computational research on materials for hypersonic cruise vehicles (HVCs).

The project objective is to develop a real-time mechanical state tool for the predictive maintenance of turbomachinery and the survivability of hypersonic structures.

The mechanical state is the temporal and spatial distribution of residual stresses, deformation, and defects within a material.

Stewart directs the Material at Extremes Research Group under the direction of UTEP’s NASA MIRO Center for Space Exploration Technology and Research (cSETR). The project is divided into two research objectives.

The first objective is to generate a database of standard and nonstandard experimental data for a candidate material for hypersonic cruise vehicles.

The second objective is to develop a tool — based on information from the database — that incorporates both a physically realistic model and computationally efficient software to enable the real-time prediction of mechanical state.

“Real-time prediction of the mechanical state is important for the survivability of HCVs,” Stewart said. “At that speed, the life expectancy of these vehicles is measured in minutes. If we can better predict the mechanical response under the conditions of hypersonic flight, we can extend the life of HCVs and eventually be able to travel around the globe in less than two hours.”

The AFRL grant will used to support student researchers and provide student travel to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.

“The success of any research project arises not from the professors involved but from the students,” Stewart said. “The students involved in this project will work on a national high-priority research area. Ideally, these students will go on to work for AFRL and be an example of the high caliber of students that UTEP can produce.”

UTEP Associate Professor Awarded $5.1 Million to Tackle Region’s Health Disparities

Thenral Mangadu, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of public health sciences at The University of Texas at El Paso, has received $5.1 million in federal grants to address multiple health-related disparities in the Paso del Norte region through a community-engaged approach.

Mangadu has secured three competitive grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and one from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).

The funds will support programs and services in mental health, substance use disorder (SUD) prevention, treatment, and recovery, including residential treatment, family support services, HIV prevention, and sexual assault and violence prevention.

“Thanks to the funding support from SAMHSA and the OVW, UTEP and our community partners are able to address the collective health needs of individuals in our community,” said Mangadu, who joined UTEP as a research associate in 2008. She became a faculty member in 2012.

“Along with providing much-needed health services, we plan to focus on the foundational risk factors that contribute to substance abuse, mental health and violence-related health disparities while negatively impacting the health span of our priority populations.”

In September, SAMHSA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, awarded Mangadu $2.5 million to provide comprehensive substance abuse prevention, treatment and support services for 500 pregnant and postpartum women, children and family members in partnership with Aliviane Inc.’s Women and Children’s Residential Center.

The agency also provided Mangadu $375,000 to train UTEP first responders on mental health first aid, a national program that teaches the skills to respond to the signs of mental illness and substance use. Trainees will include campus law enforcement, police dispatchers and University personnel. Aliviane Inc. will collaborate in training implementation.

These awards were preceded by a $1.9 million SAMHSA grant Mangadu received in August to reduce HIV infections among Hispanics with serious mental illness or co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.

Over the next four years, UTEP will collaborate with Project Vida Health Center, Aliviane Inc., Southwest Viral Med and Sunset ID Care to provide culturally competent substance use disorder, mental health, and HIV and Hepatitis C primary care and prevention services to 2,500 individuals. Services will include case management, peer support and outreach activities.

“We are excited about our continued collaboration with UTEP and Dr. Mangadu,” said Ivonne Tapia, Aliviane Inc.’s chief executive officer.

“Our partnership is a testament that community organizations and institutions of higher learning work well together to ease real life struggles in our region. Aliviane and UTEP have joined forces to increase access to substance abuse support services for pregnant and postpartum minority women and their families, and increase access to culturally competent service integration models for mental health, substance abuse and HIV primary care. It has been a great pleasure for us to collaborate with Dr. Mangadu and her team, and we hope that we can continue to have a positive impact in the lives of the most vulnerable members of our community. I look forward to advancing the educational experience of UTEP students who will participate in these grants as well as the life-changing experiences of our clients who will experience these quality services when they come to Aliviane.”

Also in August, the OVW awarded UTEP $299,999 to continue the University’s coordinated community response initiative to prevent sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking on campus.

Led by Mangadu since 2015, the initiative involves the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence (CASFV); El Paso District Attorney’s office; UTEP Police Department, UTEP CARE: Center for Advocacy, Resources and Education; and the UTEP Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution (OSCCR).

They collaborate to raise awareness about sexual violence prevention, victim services, law enforcement programs and campus and community events through social media.

“Dr. Mangadu’s research, as well as the type of research our faculty undertake within the College of Health Sciences more generally, is focused on our commitment to improving quality of life in our communities, particularly our most vulnerable populations who suffer a disproportionately higher risk of health challenges,” said College of Health Sciences Dean Shafik Dharamsi, Ph.D.

“This type of research is focused on social impact and specifically designed to address health disparities. Dr. Mangadu works tirelessly to improve health and reduce inequities in this region, and the funding she is receiving is a strong testament to that.”

Mangadu’s research interests include SUD and HIV prevention for minority populations, violence prevention, global health and public health program evaluation.

Mangadu received a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences from UTEP in 2010. She earned a master’s degree in public health from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health and a bachelor’s degree in medical sciences from Rajah Muthiah Medical College in Tamil Nadu, India.

UTEP’s Ability Awareness Week Offers Empowerment

A series of seminars, presentations and a wheelchair basketball game are among the activities scheduled during the 10th annual Ability Awareness Week celebration that starts Monday, October 8 at The University of Texas at El Paso.

This year’s program, which has a theme of “America’s Workforce: Empowering All,” is done in conjunction with October’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Throughout the week, there will be presentations about employment, service animals, domestic violence and support services for students.

“We want to raise awareness of the needs of students with disabilities and the many career opportunities that are out there,” said Bill Dethlefs, Ph.D., director of UTEP’s Center for Center for Accommodations and Support Services. “It’s crucial for us to get that message out because national studies show that people with disabilities have fewer job opportunities and part of the reason is because they do not have college degrees.”

Activities will begin at 9 a.m. Monday, October 8 in the Tomás Rivera Conference Center on the third floor of Union Building East. The program will include a proclamation from U.S. President Donald Trump read by El Paso City Rep. Casandra Hernandez Brown and the awarding of honors to groups and individuals who made a positive difference in the lives of people with disabilities.

UTEP’s Angela Frederick, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology and a social justice advocate, will make the keynote presentation about “Disability: From Awareness to Equity.”

Frederick is a researcher, wife and mother who is blind. Doctors diagnosed her with retinitis pigmentosa at age 3 and she slowly lost her sight through the years. She called learning Braille as a teenager the transformative point in her life that led to her academic and professional success. After she earned her undergraduate degree, Frederick became an AmeriCorps Vista volunteer and then an employee with a student loan company before she decided to pursue her doctoral degree. She joined UTEP in 2015.

One of the week’s highlights is the annual wheelchair basketball game that will pit the El Paso Air Wheelers against the Tucson Lobos at 6 p.m. Thursday, October 11, in UTEP’s Don Haskins Center. The Hillside Elementary School Singing and Signing Choir will perform the National Anthem. The school is home to the Regional Day School Program for the Deaf.

On a related note, approximately 50 employers and disability support providers will participate in a resource and career fair from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. that day in the Haskins Center concourse.

UTEP Doctoral Student Will Help Map Pacific Ocean Seafloor Aboard Exploration Vessel Nautilus

An environmental science and engineering doctoral student from The University of Texas at El Paso will set sail on a mission to help map the Pacific Ocean seafloor this week.

Stephen Escarzaga will be part of the crew of the Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus, a research vessel operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust. The internship opportunity is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Cooperative Science Center for Earth System Sciences and Remote Sensing Technologies (NOAA-CESSRST). UTEP is a NOAA-CESSRST partner institution.

Escarzaga will be on the E/V Nautilus from October 4 to 18, 2018, as it maps the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone from San Francisco to Honolulu.

“I’m extremely honored to have been chosen for this opportunity,” Escarzaga said. “This is certainly something that, even as early as a year ago, I never thought would cross my path. Having been born and raised in El Paso, the opportunity to work aboard a research vessel at sea for three weeks isn’t one that comes often. I hope to come away from this experience with the solid technical skills that will advance me in my dissertation work. I also hope to gain valuable experience in working in an operational science setting seen in agencies such as NOAA-CREST (Cooperative Remote Sensing Science and Technology Center).”

E/V Nautilus | Courtesy E/V Nautilus /Twitter

While on the E/V Nautilus, Escarzaga will conduct seafloor mapping surveys, assist with science and education activities, network with STEM professionals and experience the life of at-sea exploration.

A typical working day on the ship is approximately 10-14 hours. Escarzaga is well-versed in NOAA-CREST opportunities.

He is a previous recipient of a NOAA-CREST Ph.D. Fellowship as well as the organization’s Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher Public Service Graduate Scholarship.

In addition, Escarzaga took part in a weeklong training session in coastal airborne imagery data processing at the NOAA Remote Sensing Division in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He spent the last three summers in Northern Alaska conducting research.

Escarzaga expressed gratitude toward his advisers at UTEP — Craig E. Tweedie, Ph.D., professor and director of the Environmental Science and Engineering Program, and Miguel Velez-Reyes, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.

“Dr. Tweedie has continuously provided a wealth of guidance and support over the past 3 to 4 years. His 20-plus years of Arctic research has allowed me to expand my area of research well beyond the Chihuahuan Desert and into places I never thought I’d visit,” Escarzaga said.

“Additionally, my co-advisor, Dr. Miguel Velez-Reyes, has brought a technical aspect of remote sensing to my graduate studies that will allow me to properly apply aspects of the technology to coastal and nearshore issues in the Arctic.”

UTEP Social Work Professor Appointed to Human Rights Commission

UTEP Social Work Professor Mark Lusk, Ed.D., has been appointed to serve as the North American regional commissioner on the International Federation of Social Workers’ (IFSW) Human Rights Commission.

The IFSW is an international body that incorporates 84 national social work organizations representing over half a million social workers globally.

The Human Rights Commission is the division of IFSW that coordinates human rights advocacy and education. It is composed of a global commissioner and regional commissioners.

Lusk was selected to serve on the commission based on his work on behalf of migrants and refugees from Latin America over the past decade.

In 2018, Lusk worked with the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the Texas Chapter of NASW to mobilize more than 200 licensed social work therapists to assist migrants and refugees who are in detention or under federal supervision.

In August 2018, Lusk, whose research focuses on trauma and resilience among refugees from Mexico and Central America, offered his perspective on immigrant family separations in a story titled, “Texas Social Workers Act Against the Separation of Immigrant Families,” on the IFSW website.

Lusk, a Provost’s Faculty Fellow for the UTEP Center for Civic Engagement, joined the UTEP faculty in 2007. He previously served as associate provost for international affairs at the University of Georgia. Lusk is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.

He spent two decades in South America and was a Fulbright senior scholar at the Universidad Católica del Peru in Lima and the Pontificia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Lusk has served as principal investigator or co-principal investigator on several grants from state and federal agencies and private foundations, including the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, and the Programa de Investigación en Migración y Salud (PIMSA).

UTEP Scientists Awarded $6M to Improve Treatment for Chagas Disease

Scientists at The University of Texas at El Paso have received nearly $6 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to improve treatment and develop new diagnostic tools to assess post-therapeutic outcomes for patients with Chagas disease.

Igor Almeida, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences, is the principal investigator (PI) of the award — a five-year grant worth $5,713,730 — from NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Almeida will work with Katja Michael, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry and one of the grant’s co-PIs, and several other investigators from the U.S., Bolivia and Spain. They will conduct a phase II clinical trial in Bolivia with new regimens of the drugs benznidazole and nifurtimox, and new biomarkers for the chemotherapy follow-up.

This is the first clinical trial with UTEP as the leading institution.

The drugs for Chagas disease are toxic and have low efficacy in the treatment of chronic infection. Almeida, Michael and colleagues hope to improve their safety and efficacy by testing new regimens and biomarkers that will provide a more efficient measure of disease state and treatment outcomes.

“This is an important validation of the work being conducted in the College of Science and at The University of Texas at El Paso,” said Robert Kirken, Ph.D., College of Science dean. “This grant was awarded based on the merits of the science, of the work being conducted by Dr. Almeida and Dr. Michael to combat one of the world’s most widespread parasitic infections that has been targeted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for public health action.”

Chagas is a potentially life-threatening disease caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which is transmitted to animals and people by insect vectors, popularly known as kissing bugs, and by blood transfusion, organ transplant, congenitally, and by contaminated foods and juices.

The disease has been endemic to Latin America, affecting 6 million to 7 million people, but it is rapidly spreading through the United States, Europe and other non-endemic regions as a result of globalization. Yet, there is no fully effective drug and no clinical vaccine, although there have been several experimental efforts throughout the years.

“We are, of course, very excited and grateful to receive this highly competitive award from NIH,” Almeida said. “Developing new therapeutic approaches for Chagas disease is something we have been working on diligently for some time. This grant will allow us to move forward with those efforts with the hope of ultimately improving the efficacy and safety of treatment that can change the course of Chagas disease treatment worldwide.”

Almeida began work on Chagas disease 28 years ago. In recent years, he began collaborating with Michael to further develop new therapeutic approaches and diagnostic tools, based on synthetic parasite sugars.

“We look forward to furthering our work on this potentially life-saving venture,” Michael said. “This is a testament to the quality of research that is conducted here at UTEP. We are grateful to be able to continue our work and offer students a chance to take part in research that could impact the world.”

UTEP Geological Sciences Team Joins US-UK Effort to Study Receding Antarctic Glacier

Researchers from The University of Texas at El Paso’s Department of Geological Sciences are part of an international team participating in a multimillion-dollar, joint research program between the United States and the United Kingdom that seeks to understand how quickly a massive Antarctic glacier could collapse.

Marianne Karplus, Ph.D., Steven Harder, Ph.D., and Galen Kaip will participate in the Thwaites Interdisciplinary Margin Evolution (TIME) project. They will use precision seismic, GPS and radar instrumentation to collect new data on the current behavior and future evolution of Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica.

These new data will help improve computer models used to predict the future contribution of the West Antarctic ice sheet to global sea level changes. The five-year project will begin in October 2018.

“Understanding the structure and dynamics of the shear margins of Thwaites Glacier will allow us to better understand how rapidly ice flows from the Antarctic ice sheet into the ocean,” Karplus said. “Through this international research effort, we will collect new data that will improve predictions of future sea level changes. I am excited to investigate these important scientific questions with this group of highly skilled interdisciplinary scientists in one of the most remote locations on Earth.”

Thwaites Glacier has been called the “weak underbelly” of the West Antarctic ice sheet because of its potential to abruptly increase the amount of ice flowing into the ocean, significantly affecting global sea levels.

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.K. Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) are launching the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC), a $25 million initiative supporting the efforts of about 100 scientists working on eight different research projects to help predict the future evolution of Thwaites Glacier and assess the sensitivity of the Antarctic ice sheet to changes in climate. The TIME project is one of those eight research projects.

Harder and Kaip have supported seismic imaging projects around the globe, including in Antarctica, Greenland and Alaska. Karplus has led seismic imaging projects on a temperate glacier in Alaska and at remote field sites in the Himalayas and Tibet, but this will be her first time working in Antarctica.

The UTEP team will contribute to high- resolution seismic imaging intended to identify sediments, fluids and other geologic structures that influence glacial dynamics. This information can then be used in numerical modeling to forecast movement with time.

 

While researchers on the ice will rely on aircraft support from U.K. and U.S. research stations, oceanographers and geophysicists will approach the glacier from the sea in U.K. and U.S. research icebreakers.

“For more than a decade, satellites have identified this area as a region of massive ice loss and rapid change. But there are still many aspects of the ice and ocean that cannot be determined from space,” said Ted Scambos of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the lead U.S. scientific coordinator of ITGC. “We need to go there, with a robust scientific plan of activity, and learn more about how this area is changing in detail, so we can reduce the uncertainty of what might happen in the future.”

The TIME project has received $3.4 million in funding, including $2.4 million from NSF for the U.S. investigators and $1 million from NERC for the U.K. investigators. The TIME project is co-led by Slawek Tulaczyk, Ph.D, professor of physical and biological sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Poul Christoffersen, Ph.D., senior lecturer at the University of Cambridge Centre for Climate Science.

The project also includes six other researchers from the University of Oklahoma, Stanford University, the University of Leeds and the University of Cambridge.

UTEP’s cSETR, City, County Team Up for Region’s First UAS Traffic Management System

The NASA MIRO Center for Space Exploration and Technology Research (cSETR) at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) is setting the pace in a nationwide effort to improve low-altitude airspace safety.

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) experts from cSETR are leading a team comprised of leaders from El Paso County, the City of El Paso, El Paso International Airport and many other local government entities that will install the country’s first countywide-area operational low-altitude UAS Traffic Management (UTM) system.

The University and community have teamed up with California-based AirMap, a global airspace management platform for drones, for this implementation.

A UTEP research team began installation of the UTM infrastructure in February. The system achieved initial operational capability March 15, and is expected to be fully operational by late summer.

“Unmanned aerial systems research, development and commercialization is a rapidly expanding part of the U.S. economy,” said Ahsan Choudhuri, Ph.D., cSETR director and chair of UTEP’s mechanical engineering department. “The cSETR research team under the leadership of Dr. Michael McGee is positioning UTEP and our region as a national leader in this new frontier. Our effort will create incredible educational and economic development opportunities for the El Paso community.”

Drone use by public users throughout the United States has risen significantly during the past few years, a trend that is expected to continue. There are currently more than 1,000 drones in El Paso registered with the Federal Aviation Administration. The actual number of drones in El Paso is likely much larger since not all owners register their aircraft with the FAA.

“The use of unmanned aerial systems will continue to exponentially grow throughout the U.S.,” said Michael McGee, Ph.D., cSETR senior research associate. “This UTM system sets the foundation for UTEP and our greater community to be national leaders in this arena, serving our 21st century student population.”

The primary focus of the UTM system is to increase safety throughout the Paso del Norte region. Mid-air collisions between manned and unmanned aircraft in low-altitude airspace are a significant concern.

This UTM system will allow for increased situational awareness for pilots of manned and unmanned aircraft, thus increasing safety in the community. The secondary focus of the UTM system is to facilitate safe and efficient drone operations, increasing public safety, and attracting more high technology opportunities for UTEP students.

Some of the societal benefits from utilization of the UTM infrastructure include helping farmers increase production by identifying problems in crops more quickly, clearing traffic accidents faster, inspecting critical infrastructure without putting people at risk, helping firefighters combat blazes more effectively, assisting in search-and-rescue missions, and inspecting buildings to identify energy efficiency issues.

UTEP Students Present Research at Obesity Conference

Four students who work with the Institute for Healthy Living (IHL) at The University of Texas at El Paso presented research projects in Washington, D.C.at ObesityWeek, the largest obesity-focused conference in the world.

Juan Aguilera, M.D., is a student in UTEP’s Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Ph.D. program. He presented a poster titled, “Evaluation of Diabetes Remission in Patients that Undergo Jejuno-Ileal Bypass with Internal Fistula in Juarez, MX.” This study is a collaboration with another IHL student, Pablo Magallanes, M.D., who is in the Master of Public Health program at UTEP. Other collaborators on the project include a metabolic surgery group from Mexico, and Richard Atkinson, M.D., a member of the IHL’s Scientific Advisory Board and a prominent national obesity expert.

“This is a great step toward publishing the full results of the project that sparked my interest in research,” Aguilera said. The results show that diabetic patients undergoing this procedure have improved outcomes related to diabetes, and about 40 percent of them have diabetes remission.

Cassandra Urrutia is a recent graduate of the Master of Public Health program at UTEP who works at the IHL as a research associate. Urrutia presented research from her master’s thesis work in a poster titled, “Nutrition Education Program Targeting Home-Based Child Care Centers in Doña Ana County, New Mexico.”

Her poster summarized findings from a recent study she worked on in collaboration with the Community Action Agency of Southern New Mexico. The study evaluated the effectiveness of the Healthy Opportunities for Physical Activity and Nutrition Home Program (HOP’N Home) to develop preschool-aged children’s asking skills for healthy environmental change in their home (i.e. asking for more fruits and vegetables and physical activity).

Results of the study showed that there was a significant increase in the number of times children asked for vegetables from pre to post study and significant decrease in time spent watching TV and movies.

“Since children often lack major decision-making power within the home, oftentimes they don’t feel like they are able to influence their immediate surroundings,” Urrutia said. “It was interesting to see how some of these participants developed their own voice throughout the program.” The project was funded by the Paso del Norte Health Foundation.

Patrick Hopkins is a student in the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Ph.D. program and works as a graduate research assistant for the IHL. He recently completed his Master of Public Health at UTEP and presented those results at ObesityWeek. His poster, titled “Evaluating the Impact of a High School Garden in El Paso, Texas for Fruit and Vegetable Intake Using a Valid Biomarker,” summarized results of an evaluation project conducted at Bowie High School in El Paso. The novelty of this study was the use of reflectance spectroscopy, also known as the Veggie Meter, as a non-invasive and reliable biomarker for assessing change in fruit and vegetable intake over time.

“This study showed the importance of using behavior change theory in curriculum design for school-based approaches to increase fruit and vegetable intake,” Hopkins said. “Without such a curriculum, exposure to fruits and vegetables in a school garden is unlikely to impact intake.” This research was funded by the Paso del Norte Health Foundation.

Karen Del Rio, a health promotion major and research assistant at UTEP, presented a poster titled, “Prevalence of Obesity and Risk Factors for Metabolic Syndrome among Uninsured College Hispanic Students in El Paso, Texas.” 

This study is a collaboration with Juan Aguilera, Ph.D., from the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Ph.D. program, and Joao Ferreira-Pinto, Ph.D., associate professor and director for research and special projects with the Center for Interdisciplinary Health Research and Evaluation at UTEP. Their study looked at risk factors for metabolic syndrome in uninsured college students at UTEP and found that while there was a low prevalence of metabolic syndrome (10 percent), 60 percent of students had at least one metabolic abnormality and 23 percent had two or more.

“Early detection of metabolic risk factors is crucial for disease prevention, and college campuses provide a distinctive setting for targeted program development and risk factor detection,” Del Rio said. This research was funded by the City of El Paso.

Leah Whigham, Ph.D., executive director of the IHL, and Alisha Redelfs, Ph.D., deputy director for research and evaluation, mentored the UTEP students on their projects.

Whigham also chaired a session at the conference titled “Addressing Obesity Through Charitable Food: The Food Pantry as Laboratory for Healthy Eating Research,” which highlighted work being done in the Paso del Norte region in partnership with the Kelly Memorial Food Pantry with funding from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation. Rather than just providing emergency food assistance at the food pantry, this project addresses the root causes of hunger. Participants in the program were successful in improving their health and nutrition, obtaining employment, improving their housing situation, and obtaining health insurance.

“It is exciting to see that this innovative work being done here in our region is receiving national attention,” Whigham said.

For more information, visit www.pdnihl.org

Former UTEP President Haskell Monroe, Jr., Dies

Haskell Moorman Monroe, Jr., former president of The University of Texas at El Paso, died Monday, Nov. 13, in College Station, Texas. He was 86 years old.

Dr. Monroe served as UTEP’s president from 1980 to 1987. His great love of books and his commitment to providing students with access to a world-class selection of volumes, journals and publications resulted in his greatest legacy: the $28 million University Library, which opened in 1984. He also led the establishment of the Junior Scholars Program, which offered middle and high school students the chance to take UTEP courses for credit, the Presidential Scholarship program to attract the region’s top high school graduates, and such enduring UTEP traditions as graduation banners and the celebration of fall and spring convocations.

“Haskell Monroe was both an administrator and a deeply committed historian and educator who loved teaching,” said UTEP President Diana Natalicio. “He taught large freshman history classes throughout his tenure as UTEP’s president, and was always fascinated by the history of this region and the mining school (now UTEP) that helped shape it. His major achievements as UTEP’s president, including our beautiful library building, continue to support UTEP’s more recent development.”

Monroe left UTEP to become chancellor of the University of Missouri at Columbia, but his interest in UTEP, and especially the Library, never waned. In 2013, he and his wife, Margaret Joann “Jo” Monroe, established a Library Special Collections Endowment. Three years later, the couple made another major contribution to the Special Collections department, whose research space was officially re-named the Jo and Haskell Monroe, Jr. Special Collections Research Center.

At the time of the dedication, Jo Monroe spoke of her husband’s enduring pride in the University he led three decades ago.

“This was a wonderful opportunity for us in recognition of how much Haskell loved UTEP and how proud he was of the University and the library,” she said. “With this gift, we hope to enrich Special Collections, enhance research and encourage students to take advantage of the space and resources of the library.”

Due Diligence: New UTEP Provost Proves Hard Work Pays Off

Carol Parker, J.D., The University of Texas at El Paso’s new provost and vice president for academic affairs, spent an idyllic childhood growing up on a dairy farm in rural Michigan.

She spent many of her early days reading books and taking care of a plethora of pets, including her very own pony.

As a young child, she was certain she would grow up to be a nun just like the strong, influential female figures who inspired her daily at Catholic school.

After graduating from high school, she attended community college as a first-generation college student. Her childhood interest in becoming a nun shifted to an interest in law.

Provost Parker worked full time while attending school, often having to sit out some semesters but always returning to pick up where she left off. She was never put off by hard work or navigating challenging situations, skills she developed from her early years helping her family run the farm and being the oldest of eight siblings.

Years of persistence eventually paid off: Provost Parker earned her bachelor’s degree in humanities from the Michigan State University Honors College, a master’s degree in information science from the University of Michigan, and a law degree from Wayne State University in Detroit.

After law school, Provost Parker worked as a research attorney for the Michigan Court of Appeals. She later returned to academia and became a law library director, law professor, associate dean, and then vice provost, all at the University of New Mexico (UNM).

Provost Parker said participating in the American Council on Education (ACE) Fellowship program was a pivotal point for her professionally, and her first introduction to UTEP.

The ACE Fellowship is a yearlong leadership development program for higher education administrators. The program included a mentorship placement with the provost at Arizona State University; special projects for the UNM President; cohort-based retreats, workshops, conferences and special projects; and visits to more than 30 colleges, universities, higher education systems, foundations, government agencies and nonprofit organizations throughout the U.S.

“We visited a lot of universities … including UTEP,” she recalled. “During that visit, I met President Natalicio and learned about the wonderful things UTEP was doing. I kept an eye on UTEP ever since.”

Provost Parker started her new role Sept. 1, 2017. She is responsible for the oversight and administration of all academic programs, ensuring that they prepare students for a broad range of postgraduate and career opportunities, and increased prosperity and quality of life for the surrounding region.

“I am looking forward to, first and foremost, contributing to the future success of our wonderful, hard-working UTEP students,” Provost Parker said. “Advancing the work of the new UTEP Edge program will be a big part of that. I am also looking forward to overseeing the expansion of doctoral programs and graduate enrollment. I think UTEP is setting the national standard for providing affordable access to a high-quality education, and I am excited to be a part of that.”

Provost Parker will work with deans, faculty and staff across the campus to continue developing and promoting UTEP’s nationally recognized model for enhancing the excellence of its academic and research programs, while successfully offering access and affordability to a first-generation and historically underserved student population.

“We are very pleased to welcome Carol Parker to UTEP,” said President Diana Natalicio. “Her leadership as a senior academic administrator at the University of New Mexico, together with her strong commitment to the role of public higher education in fostering social mobility, align extremely well with the academic leadership role she will play at UTEP. I look very much forward to working with her as we continue enhancing our academic and research programs and launching our newest student success initiative, the UTEP Edge, which focuses on developing students’ strengths and talents to ensure their competitiveness for postgraduate education and careers.”

Author:  Christina Rodriguez – UTEP Communications

Students Receive National Awards for UTEP Publications

Students from The University of Texas at El Paso earned national awards for their individual and collective work on The Prospector student newspaper and Minero Magazine, UTEP’s biannual student magazine.

The College Media Association (CMA) recently announced its Pinnacle Awards at its national fall convention in Atlanta, Georgia. UTEP students received six Pinnacle Awards, which included:

  • First Place – Best Newspaper Nameplate – The Prospector’s issue honoring the victims of the Paris attacks last November (Prospector staff).
  • Third Place – Best Display Ad – Hazing Prevention Week (Jacobo De La Rosa)
  • Third Place – Best Online Ad – Krispy Kreme – (Jacobo De La Rosa)
  • Honorable Mention – Best Sports Multimedia Story – The Team That Made History (Adrian Broaddus, Andres Martinez and Michaela Roman)
  • Honorable Mention – Best Editorial Cartoon – U.S. Border (Omar Hernandez)
  • Honorable Mention – Best Magazine News Page Spread – Measuring Up (Minero Magazine, Andres Martinez and Jacobo De La Rosa)

CMA’s Pinnacle Awards honor the best college media organizations and individual work. The contest is open to student work produced for any national college media organization, including print, broadcast and online outlets, during an academic year.

“It’s a team effort,” said Michaela Roman, editor-in-chief of The Prospector and senior digital media production and multimedia journalism double major. “Working in student media teaches you how to meet deadlines and work efficiently with each other. I’m glad our hard work was able to pay off and we could represent UTEP nationally.”

In addition to the CMA Pinnacle Awards, UTEP students also won two Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) Pacemaker awards during the ACP National College Media Convention in Washington, D.C.

Pacemaker Award nominees are judged by teams of professionals based on coverage and content, quality of writing and reporting, leadership, design, photography and graphics. UTEP students received two Pacemaker Awards:

  • Third place – Story of the Year – Multimedia Sports Story – The Team That Made History (Adrian Broaddus, Andres Martinez and Michaela Roman)
  • Eighth place – Design Pacemaker Award for Magazine Spread – Measuring Up (Minero Magazine, Andres Martinez and Jacobo De La Rosa)

“The fact that these awards are national awards means our students are competing against the best of the best in college media,” said Kathleen Flores, director of UTEP’s student media and publications. “The ACP Pacemaker awards are considered the Pulitzer Prizes of student journalism, and I am extremely proud of these students’ accomplishments and that they are receiving national recognition for their hard work.”

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