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Record number of UGA students and alumni offered Fulbright awards for 2016-2017

A record number of 19 University of Georgia students and recent alumni-including six doctoral students and five May graduates-were offered international travel-study grants from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Eighteen accepted the offer, but with the closure of Turkey's program at the end of July, only 15 were able to participate. Of the group, five will be teaching English, nine received academic research grants and one received a creative research grant to focus on playwriting in Canada. Seven are graduates of the UGA Honors Program.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers research, study and teaching opportunities to graduate students and recent college graduates in an effort to further mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and other countries. The program awards approximately 1,900 grants annually in all fields of study in over 140 countries.

"To have Fulbrights offered to 19 UGA students and recent alumni is certainly testament to the caliber of our institution," said Maria de Rocher, assistant director of the Honors Program and chair of the Fulbright selection committee at UGA. "We work with most of the applicants individually, helping them through the process. Their commitment to serving as cultural ambassadors and increasing understanding of the wider world was abundantly clear."

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UGA rededicates historic H.H. Tift Building

The University of Georgia rededicated the newly renovated H.H. Tift Building on the UGA-Tifton campus Sept. 27.

Renovation of the historic Tift Building—the campus's first structure—was completed in May and funded by $5 million in state support. The facility houses the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics as well as administrative offices. The renovated building also contains modern classroom space to provide faculty and students with the latest in learning technology.

Speakers at the rededication ceremony included UGA President Jere W. Morehead, Dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Sam Pardue and UGA student and biological sciences major Lolita Muñoz.

Morehead emphasized the important link between UGA-Tifton and the surrounding communities.

"Today, we celebrate more than the renovation of the historic Tift Building," Morehead said. "We celebrate the unwavering and longstanding bond between UGA-Tifton and the many communities it proudly serves all across South Georgia. Indeed, the strengths and opportunities of this area of the state and the mission of this campus are perfectly aligned."

The Tift Building complements the campus's vital research enterprise, which is recognized worldwide for scientific discoveries related to agricultural commodities such as cotton, peanuts, pecans, turf grass and vegetables.

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Professors named SEC Academic Leadership Development Program Fellows

Four University of Georgia faculty members-Chris Garvin, Janice Hume, Marisa Anne Pagnattaro and J. Marshall Shepherd-have been selected as the university's 2016-2017 SEC Academic Leadership Development Program Fellows.

The fellowship program, which was created by the Southeastern Conference in 2008, includes training, mentoring and networking to advance academic leaders. Participants will engage with senior administrators at UGA and attend two SEC-wide workshops with representatives from throughout the conference.

"This program allows the SEC ALDP Fellows to engage in frank conversations with senior administrators about the variety of issues they face as academic leaders," said Meg Amstutz, associate provost for academic programs and UGA's SEC ALDP liaison. "Through the two workshops, participants are able to network with colleagues across the SEC and discuss the ways in which their campus leaders respond to challenges that arise."

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UGA launches Georgia Informatics Institutes for Research and Education

The University of Georgia will significantly expand its instruction and research in the critical area of informatics with the formation of the Georgia Informatics Institutes for Research and Education.

The GII will be administered by the College of Engineering and will include faculty members from across campus to create new synergies that enable research advances in fields ranging from data analytics and cybersecurity to public health and agriculture. The GII also is developing an informatics core curriculum that will serve as a foundation for discipline-specific informatics programs.

An interdisciplinary, seven-member faculty planning committee charged in 2015 by Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten began exploring ways to build upon the university's established strengths in informatics, and their plan established the framework for the proposal to create the GII.

"The ability to extract meaning from large volumes of data is transforming business and our understanding of the world," Whitten said. "By establishing the Georgia Informatics Institutes, our faculty have put the University of Georgia at the forefront of the information revolution."

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UGA receives $4 million NSF grant to continue broadening participation in STEM

Funding for a program that has helped triple minority enrollment in STEM fields at the University of Georgia has been renewed for the second time by the National Science Foundation.

UGA initially received funding to implement the Peach State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation a decade ago, and the program will continue for another five years thanks to a new $4 million NSF grant. The program, led by UGA’s Office of Institutional Diversity, funds undergraduates in STEM majors at UGA, as well as at Fort Valley State University, Georgia State University, Perimeter College, Georgia Institute of Technology, Kennesaw State University and Savannah State University.

“The renewal of Peach State LSAMP funding is evidence of the University of Georgia's success over the last decade, as well as our ongoing efforts, in supporting minority students in the STEM disciplines,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “We are excited to extend the reach of this important program as we prepare our students for the next stage of their academic careers.”

According to the NSF, African-Americans are 12 percent of the U.S. population but received less than 9 percent of science and engineering bachelor’s degrees in 2014. Hispanics received 12 percent of the degrees but comprise 14 percent of the population.

Since the Peach State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation began in 2006, minority enrollment in STEM fields at UGA has increased from 399 in 2006 to 1,143 in 2015. The number of Bachelor of Science degrees earned by underrepresented minorities in STEM has quadrupled from 56 in 2006 to 214 in 2015. In addition, the overall number of STEM degrees conferred by UGA has risen in recent years from nearly 16 percent of all bachelor's degrees in 2011 to 21 percent in 2015.

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Researcher receives $5.2 million to develop affordable diagnostic test for Chagas disease

An international team of researchers led by infectious disease experts at the University of Georgia has received $5.2 million from the National Institutes of Health to develop a more accurate, affordable diagnostic test for Chagas disease, a parasitic infection that kills more than 50,000 people each year in Central and South America.

Caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi and spread by blood-feeding insects commonly known as “kissing bugs,” Chagas disease is considered by many to be the most neglected of the neglected tropical diseases. While it is endemic to Latin America, Chagas disease is a growing threat in the U.S. and Europe.

Currently, there are only two drug treatments available; however, their usage is limited due to severe adverse reactions and the length of treatment required.

“Fortunately, there are a number of new drug discovery efforts in Chagas disease. But a major limitation is the difficulty in comparing the relative efficacy of current drugs to newly developed ones,” said Rick Tarleton, UGA Athletic Association Distinguished Research Professor of Biological Sciences in the department of cellular biology and Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases. “One simply can't wait for 10 years (as current protocols require) to determine if a new drug is better than the existing ones.”

In Chagas disease, the number of parasites in chronically infected individuals is extremely low, making detection of parasites an unreliable test to determine if an individual is infected. Instead, the researchers have focused on the body’s response to infection by measuring the unique antibodies that the immune system creates in response to exposure to T. cruzi.

Tarleton and his UGA colleagues have already developed a successful multiplex blood test that measures antibodies to multiple T. cruzi proteins. While their test has proven to be useful in the laboratory, it is also expensive.

The primary goal of their current project is to make the test more sensitive by expanding the number of T. cruzi antibodies it can detect. But the researchers are also developing techniques to make the test more affordable so that it can be used in diagnostic centers in endemic countries.

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Noel Fallows named associate provost for international education at UGA

Noel Fallows, an administrator with a proven record of fostering international partnerships in research, instruction and outreach, has been named associate provost for international education at the University of Georgia.

Fallows has been serving as interim associate provost for international education since February and was previously associate dean of international and multidisciplinary programs in UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

“Throughout his career, Dr. Fallows has forged connections that open doors of discovery and opportunity,” said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten. “I am confident that he will build upon UGA's national leadership in providing study abroad opportunities while continuing to create mutually beneficial partnerships that advance research, scholarship and service.”

Fallows, a Distinguished Research Professor of Spanish in the department of Romance languages, joined the UGA faculty in 1992 as an assistant professor. As associate provost for international education, he oversees nearly 200 university-level partnerships in more than 50 countries, as well as 180 study abroad programs and more than 50 international exchange programs with collective enrollments in excess of 2,500 students per year. UGA's Office of International Education also oversees residential study abroad programs in Cortona, Italy; San Luis de Monteverde, Costa Rica; and Oxford, United Kingdom; as well as immigration services for international students and visiting scholars.

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University of Georgia receives national diversity award for third consecutive year

For the third year in a row, the University of Georgia has received national recognition for its efforts to foster an inclusive, diverse campus.

UGA is one of 83 recipients of the 2016 INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award, the only designation of its kind awarded to institutions that demonstrate outstanding efforts and success in promoting diversity and inclusion throughout their campuses.

“It is a great honor for the University of Georgia to be recognized with the HEED Award for the third consecutive year,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “UGA is strengthened by the contributions of its diverse and outstanding students, faculty and staff. We are committed to fostering the kind of inclusive academic environment that is a hallmark of a leading public university.”

UGA, which first received the recognition in 2014, has implemented several initiatives over the past decade to recruit diverse students, faculty and staff and to improve the graduation rates of underrepresented groups. The university offers myriad diversity related events and curricular offerings.

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Researchers reveal that magnetic ‘rust’ performs as gold at the nanoscale

Researchers from the University of Georgia are giving new meaning to the phrase “turning rust into gold”—and making the use of gold in research settings and industrial applications far more affordable.

The research is akin to a type of modern-day alchemy, said Simona Hunyadi Murph, adjunct professor in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of physics and astronomy. Researchers combine small amounts of gold nanoparticles with magnetic rust nanoparticles to create a hybrid nanostructure that retains both the properties of gold and rust.

“Medieval alchemists tried to create gold from other metals,” she said. “That's kind of what we did with our research. It's not real alchemy, in the medieval sense, but it is a sort of 21st century version.”

Gold has long been a valuable resource for industry, medicine, dentistry, computers, electronics and aerospace, among others, due to unique physical and chemical properties that make it inert and resistant to oxidation. But because of its high cost and limited supply, large scale projects using gold can be prohibitive. At the nanoscale, however, using a very small amount of gold is far more affordable.

In the new study published this summer in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C, the researchers used solution chemistry to reduce gold ions into a metallic gold structure using sodium citrate. In this process, if other ingredients—rust in this case—are present in the reaction pot during the transformation process, the metallic gold structures nucleate and grow on these “ingredients,” otherwise known as supports.

“We are really excited to share our new discoveries. When researchers are looking at gold as a potential material for research, we talk about how expensive gold is. For the first time ever, we’ve been able to create a new class of cheaper, highly efficient, nontoxic, magnetically reusable hybrid nanomaterials that contain a far more abundant material-rust-than the typical noble metal gold,” said Murph, who is also a principal scientist in the National Security Directorate at the Savannah River National Laboratory in Aiken, South Carolina.

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Peabody Awards appoints six prestigious new members to its Board of Jurors

The Peabody Awards at the University of Georgia has appointed Marcy Carsey, Herman Gray, Kathy Im, Kim Masters, Mark McKinnon and John Seigenthaler to its Board of Jurors.

The Peabody Board of Jurors is made up of media industry professionals, media scholars, critics and journalists, each appointed by the Peabody director for a renewable three-year term of service. This mix of top-level thought leaders from varied backgrounds, all versed in media excellence, ensures that the list of winning programs will reflect the interest of a broad cross-section of audiences, rather than just media insiders.

The single criteria for receiving a Peabody Award is excellence. Toward that end, jurors ask themselves: Does this story matter? Is this a story that needs telling? Does it inform us as citizens or help us empathize with one another?

The existing Board of Jurors includes Eric Deggans, NPR TV critic; Eddie Garrett (chair), EVP and head of strategy for Weber Shandwick; Jonathan Gray, professor of media and cultural studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison; John Huey, former editor-in-chief of TIME Inc.; Henry Jenkins, professor of communication, journalism, cinematic arts and education at the University of Southern California; Simon Kilmurry, executive director of the International Documentary Association; Martha Nelson, global editor-in-chief of Yahoo Media; Monica Pearson, radio show host, columnist and retired WSB-TV news anchor; Marquita Pool-Eckert, former senior producer of “CBS Sunday Morning;” Naibe Reynoso, host and producer for Ora TV; and Bird Runningwater, director, Native American and Indigenous Program at Sundance Institute.