The university's Fall Semester 2014 graduate Commencement featured self-proclaimed "proud and fortunate son of the South" Gregory H. Robinson, the UGA Foundation Distinguished Professor of Chemistry. A truly inspiring address that resonates with the realities of our past and our best hopes for the future. Dr. Robinson personifies the best of us in every way. Great words to take into the New Year.
Warm wishes for the holidays from the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, and all the best in the New Year to come. 2014 has been a great year on campus and we will rest and replenish over the holiday break with friends and family, looking forward to the opportunities of 2015.
As for the snowy arch, well, one can hope.
Somewhat counter-intuitive findings from a new study led by psychologist Justin Lavner, though they also remind us what is probably most obvious about relationships:
the severity and number of couples' overall problems stay stable over time, even as their relationship dissatisfaction grows.
The research, published in the December issue of the Journal of Family Psychology, suggests a departure from conventional wisdom, both on the part of the public and in the research community.
"It was kind of a surprise. On the one hand, our study disproves what the researchers thought, that if satisfaction is declining, problems must be increasing," said the study's lead author Justin Lavner, an assistant professor in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of psychology. "But it also disproves what a lot of the public is thinking, that problems are going to get better—that once people get married things are going to improve. These positive and optimistic expectations end up not mapping onto reality."
While problems and conflicts in marriage have long been thought to be inevitable, very few studies have been done on how newlywed couples' issues change as marriage progresses.
"The vast majority of people get married during their lifetimes, and what is known is that, on average, satisfaction declines," Lavner said. "So the question is, how do couples' problems actually change? So many people enter marriage happily, but then go on to struggle. What explains that disconnect?"
The researchers advice: pay attention to your spouse. Problems will not go away on their own, and might not go away at all, but people can always find new ways to relate to each other [if we all just try a little more]. #resolutionsanyone
Image: Justin Lavner, courtesy of UGA photo services.
Congratulations to LDSOA alum Jason Yi (M.F.A. 1995) who selected as one of 25 reciptients of the Joan Mitchell Foundation 2014 Painters & Sculptors Grant Program in the amount of $25,000 each.
works across artistic disciplines: photography, video, sculpture, drawing, multimedia and interactive installations. The expanded notions of culture, time and history play a critical role in the creation of his work.
He has exhibited nationally and internationally in places such as New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles, Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam, Italy and Austria. Recently, his installation was included in the international exhibition at the Inside-out Art Museum in Beijing, which ended in spring 2013. In 2010, “Legend of the White Snake” sculptural work was installed on the roof top sculpture garden at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art on a long-term loan to the museum. His awards include Joan Mitchell Foundation 2014 Painters & Sculptors Grant, Mary L. Nohl Foundations Fellowship in the established artist category and Kamiyama Artist in Residence Fellowship, supported by the Japan Foundation. He was selected as the Milwaukee Artist of the Year in the year 2006 by the Milwaukee Arts Board.
Fantastic news. Thanks to professor emeritus Larry Millard for sharing news of this great honor with us.
At the turn of the millennium, the cost to sequence a single human genome exceeded $50 million and the process took several years. Today, researchers can sequence a genome in a single afternoon for just few thousand dollars. Technological advances have ushered in the era of “Big Data,” where biologists collect immense datasets, seeking patterns that may explain important diseases or identify drug and vaccine targets. But what to do with it? Making data easy to find, use, access and organize for researchers has become one of the biggest challenges for science. But scientists, government funding agencies and universities working to keep up just received some great new support:
A genome database team led by University of Pennsylvania and University of Georgia scientists has been awarded a new contract from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease worth $4.3 million in 2014-2015. Assuming annual renewal, this five-year award is expected to total $23.4 million.
The team has been responsible for developing genome database resources for microbial pathogens, including the parasites responsible for malaria, sleeping sickness, toxoplasmosis and many other important diseases.
The new contract ensures work will continue on the Eukaryotic Pathogen Genomics Database—known as EuPathDB—to provide the global scientific community with free access to a wealth of genomic data related to microbial pathogens important to human health and biosecurity. EuPathDB expedites biomedical research in the lab, field and clinic, enabling the development of innovative diagnostics, therapies and vaccines.
EuPathDB receives over 6 million hits from 13,000 unique visitors in more than 100 countries each month. Dr. Kissinger, principal investigator from UGA, puts it well:
"The costs and time required for genome sequencing have plummeted in the past 10 years thanks to advances in technology," Kissinger said. "Organizing this data, maintaining it in a way that is accessible and easy to use for researchers around the world, 24 hours a day, is our great challenge-and one that presents exciting opportunities for funders and other philanthropic organizations that support pathogen research."
We're excited for the UGA team, their colleagues at UPenn and the UGA Institute of Bioinformatics, which provides most of the systems administration for the entire EuPathDB - a feat in and of itself. Congratulations to these scientists working beyond their fields to strengthen research into all fields - the vast expansion of data capacity, sharing and transfer has probably had the greatest impact on science as a whole since the invention of the microscope. More on Kissinger and her work here.
Long long ago in a land
far far away not so far from here at all, crocodiles, dinosaurs, and birds all arose from early reptiles called thecodonts.
Using new computational methods developed by assistant professor of statistics Liang Liu, Travis Glenn of the College of Public health and others, an international team of scientists has shed more light on an obscure period of avian evolution and further untangle the bird family tree.
Members of the Avian Phylogenomics Consortium—composed of 200 researchers from 80 institutions and 20 countries—have sequenced and analyzed the genomes of 48 species of birds and three species of crocodiles to better understand the fundamental evolutionary events that led to feathers, flight and song.
The consortium simultaneously published 28 papers this past week—eight papers in a special Dec. 12 issue of Science and 20 more in Genome Biology, GigaScience and other journals.
Glenn, an associate professor of environmental health science in the College of Public Health; Liu, an assistant professor in the department of statistics and Institute of Bioinformatics in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences; and John Finger Jr., a doctoral student in the Interdisciplinary Toxicology Program and College of Public Health, were co-authors on two of the eight papers published in Science.
The first of these two papers, "Whole genome analyses resolve the early branches to the tree of life of modern birds," creates the most reliable tree of life for birds to date.
Fantastic work by our faculty and all members of the consortium, all celebrated in a special issue of Science. This is the kind of atmosphere that attracts the best graduate students, among other interested parties. So we celebrate this marvelous achievement and all the other indicators it provides, campus-wide and beyond.
The Provost's Office highlighted some research collaborations in the state of Georgia among our premier institutions, the cummulative extramural support awarded these efforts and its effects. The summary included work by Franklin College professor of genetics, Jessica Kissinger:
Kissinger, who directs the UGA Institute of Bioinformatics, is leading a team that is organizing, distributing and mining the massive quantities of data produced by the project with the ultimate goal of identifying new opportunities to diagnose the disease, which causes an estimated 660,000 deaths annually.
"The goal of my team is to integrate the terabytes of data being produced on both the host and the parasite and make it accessible to our mathematical modelers, who are looking for patterns and signals, as well as the global malaria research community to guarantee that this large investment has the biggest impact possible on malaria research," Kissinger said.
More news coming soon on Kissinger's work with bioinformatics. Suffice it to say we are inspired by her efforts and those of other faculty members working beyond campus to further important goals for improving health around the world.
A new paper by research scientists at the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center focuses on cancer stem cells:
the research team demonstrates that the sugar molecule, made by an enzyme known as GnT-V, regulates the development of a particular subset of cancerous cells known as cancer stem cells.
Much like normal stem cells that sustain organs and tissues, cancer stem cells can self-renew, and their cellular offspring clump together to form tumors. Conventional treatments like surgery, chemotherapy or radiation may reduce overall tumor size, but if they do not kill the cancer stem cells, the disease is likely to return.
"You can think of it like a colony of ants," said Michael Pierce, director of UGA's Cancer Center, Mudter Professor in Cancer Research in UGA's Complex Carbohydrate Research Center and principal investigator for the study. "You can kill the ants in the mound, but if you don't get the queen, they will come back."
Their discovery paves the way for new cancer treatment methods specifically designed to inhibit GnT-V, which, when combined with other treatments, may help prevent disease recurrence.
While their study focused particularly on colorectal cancers, the researchers hope their discovery may one day work for a variety of cancer types.
"This is a rapidly growing field within the cancer research community," said Pierce, who is also a Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "We want to know what makes these cancer stem cells unique and what we need to do in order to target them specifically so we can develop new treatments and save lives."
Great work by some of our best. Congratulations to Pierce and his team. Continued good results on this important work.
Congratulations to Dr. Mark Wenthe, currently a parttime instructor at UGA and also a recent PhD alumnus in linguistics in the department of classics, who won an international competition for best dissertation for the year 2013 from the Society of Indo-European Studies (Indogermanische Gesellschaft).
Wenthe's dissertation, ISSUES IN THE PLACEMENT OF ENCLITIC PERSONAL PRONOUNS IN THE RIGVEDA, among the four canonical sacred texts (śruti) of Hinduism known as the Vedas, actually shared the award with Konstantinos Sampanis from the Univ. of Salzburg (Austria). Both scholars received full marks for their work.
Congratulations as well to Jared S. Klein, professor of linguistics, classics, and Germanic and Slavic languages director, program in linguistics in the department of classics. Our scholars are making an impact around the world, as their work is celebrated, noted and honored. Congratulationd again on this outstanding achievement.