| UGA Today

UGA partner in cell manufacturing research consortium

Steven Stice is leading researchers at the University of Georgia’s Regenerative Bioscience Center in a newly funded research consortium designed to hasten the development of advanced cell therapies for a range of chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer.

With $20 million in funding from the National Science Foundation, the Engineering Research Center for Cell Manufacturing Technologies, dubbed CMaT, will bring together RBC researchers, industry partners, clinicians, engineers, cell biologists and immunologists.

“Partnerships of this nature-that span different universities and sectors-are critical to advancing human health around the world,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead, and I want to congratulate Dr. Stice and his team at the University of Georgia for helping to drive this important research center.

The flow of innovative ideas and techniques from this regional “manufacturing hub” based at the Georgia Institute of Technology could create a pipeline of therapies and lifetime cures for an aging population challenged by escalating chronic diseases.

“We have a richer set of engineering resources to draw on than ever before, due in large part to the incredible talent UGA has been able to attract from across the country and around the world,” said Stice, a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and D.W. Brooks Distinguished Professor in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “Working alongside seasoned veterans like GRA Eminent Scholar Art Edison in the university’s Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, we can break through manufacturing bottlenecks and bring a new approach in CAR-T cell therapy to treat cancer.”

| UGA Today

UGA breaks ground on Children's Garden at State Botanical Garden

With the ceremonial turn of red and black spades, University of Georgia officials and dignitaries officially kicked off construction of the $5 million Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia on Sept. 1.

The 2.5 acre, handicap-accessible educational environment will include a canopy walk in the trees, a treehouse, creature habitats, hands-on garden plots, an underground zone, edible landscapes, and a bog garden and pond. One component, an amphitheater in the woods, was completed in 2015. The garden is expected to be open to visitors by early 2019.

The childrens garden will further the universitys mission as a land-grant and sea-grant institution, providing more educational opportunities for teachers and students across the state, said Laura Meadows, interim vice president for public service and outreach.

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia plays a critical role in the land-grant mission of the university by fostering appreciation, understanding and stewardship of plants and nature, Meadows said. The 313-acre preserve set aside by UGA in 1968 for the study and enjoyment of plants and nature is truly the states garden.

So far UGA, in partnership with the garden’s board of advisors, has raised more than $4.3 million for the $5 million children’s garden, which includes an initial $1 million from the family of Alice H. Richards, for whom the garden is named. To contribute to the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden through Georgia Funder, click here.

| UGA Today

UGA to lead network for research experiences

Despite a nationwide emphasis on increasing the number of students entering science, technology, engineering and math fields, many leave the disciplines within their first two years. Now a group of institutions led by the University of Georgia will spearhead a new phase of development of a national network to support integration of research experiences into undergraduate life science lab courses.

The network, called “Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences Network,” or CUREnet, was established to broaden the availability of research opportunities for students across the U.S.
Supported by a new grant from the National Science Foundation, a large network of institutions, including other institutions in the University System of Georgia and a group of historically black colleges and universities across several states in the southeast and mid-Atlantic, will work with CUREnet to reinvent their life science lab courses to engage undergraduates in research at scale.

There are many research-related careers that we need the workforce for here in the U.S., and if students don’t even know that research exists, they dont know that it is an option for them career-wise, said Erin Dolan, Georgia Athletic Association Professor of Innovative Science Education in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and principal investigator on the new NSF grant.

CUREnet nicely integrates not only research and teaching, but also UGAs service and outreach missions as a land-grant institution. It has the potential to broaden participation in the STEM workforce by opening access to research experiences that are typically unavailable to a broad swath of talented undergraduates, Dolan said.

| UGA Today

UGA receives national diversity award for fourth consecutive year

The University of Georgia’s commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive campus environment has been recognized for the fourth consecutive year with the INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award.

The HEED Award is the only national recognition honoring colleges and universities that exhibit outstanding efforts and success in the area of diversity and inclusion. UGA is one of 81 institutions nationwide to receive a 2017 HEED Award.

“The University of Georgia is honored to receive this significant recognition for the fourth consecutive year,” said President Jere W. Morehead. Although work certainly remains ahead, the institution is making strides toward becoming an even more connected and welcoming academic community for all of its faculty, staff and students.

The recruitment of a diverse student body is bolstered by range of programs that introduce prospective students to the many learning opportunities that the university offers. High-achieving middle school students from across the state visit campus through Gear Up for College, which is funded by the Goizueta Foundation and administered through the universitys Fanning Institute for Leadership Development. Through a partnership known as Experience UGA, students from all grade levels in the Clarke County School District visit campus to participate in hands-on, curricular based activities.

Programs such as these, combined with the growing demand for a UGA education, have helped increase the number of African-American students at UGA by 33 percent over the past five years. The number of Hispanic students at UGA increased by 21 percent over the same time period.

“The University of Georgia is proud of its many programs and initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion,” said Michelle Garfield Cook, associate provost for institutional diversity. “We have been successful because every sector of the institution is committed to providing access and promoting the success of our students, faculty and staff.”

| UGA Today

UGA's Dr. Christopher Whalen honored with Beckman Award for teaching excellence

For the third time in three years, a University of Georgia professor has been honored with the Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award for teaching excellence. Dr. Christopher Whalen in the College of Public Health was one of eight professors nationwide selected for the honor.

The award is given to faculty members who inspire their former students to “make a significant contribution to society,” typically in the form of an organization that substantially benefits their communities.

I commend Dr. Whalen for this achievement and for the lasting impact he has made on global health through his outstanding teaching and mentoring, said UGA President Jere W. Morehead.

Whalen is the Ernest Corn Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology and director of UGA’s Global Health Institute. As a physician-epidemiologist, he is one of the leading international researchers studying HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis transmission in Africa. Joining the faculty at the College of Public Health in 2008, Whalen brought with him a program he established at Case Western Reserve University to train Ugandan health professionals in the scientific disciplines necessary to address the infectious disease crisis in their home country and throughout Africa.

His program continues to thrive at UGA, supported by a $1.9 million grant from the Fogarty Training Center at the National Institutes of Health. Over his career, Whalen has trained more than 75 students who have returned to Uganda and made immediate impacts on the health care system there.

| UGA Today

NIH awards UGA researchers $2.6 million to fight African sleeping sickness

The National Institutes of Health has awarded $2.6 million to University of Georgia researchers to develop new drugs to treat human African Trypanosomiasis, also known as African sleeping sickness.

African Trypanosomiasis, commonly known as HAT, is caused by a single-celled parasite called Trypanosoma brucei, which is transmitted to humans through the bite of a blood-sucking insect called a tsetse fly. Without adequate treatment, the infection is almost invariably fatal.

Rural populations in sub-Saharan Africa that depend on agriculture, fishing, hunting and animal husbandry are most likely to be exposed to the tsetse fly bites, according to the World Health Organization, which has led sustained control efforts to reduce the number of new cases.

“There are immense challenges in understanding trypanosome biology because a significant number of their genes are not found in humans or yeasts, which are more intensely studied,” said Kojo Mensa-Wilmot, professor in the department of cellular biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences whose team was awarded the NIH grant. Using chemical biology tools to identify disease-relevant genes in the parasite, we discovered a small-molecule that prevents duplication of the nucleus in a trypanosome, and arrests proliferation of the parasite.

Our goal is to translate this basic science finding into the design of drugs to treat HAT, he said. Using an animal model for the disease, the UGA-led team administered a drug that cured HAT in mice. 

HAT is a disease of poverty, so there is little incentive, understandably, for large pharmaceutical industries to be heavily invested. Two compounds are currently in clinical trial, but the pipeline for new anti-trypanosome drugs needs to be bolstered, said Mensa-Wilmot, who leads a UGA Chemical Biology Group and is a member of the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases.

| UGA Today

UGA launches more than 100 'Double Dawgs' linked-degree programs

Students at the University of Georgia now have more than 100 opportunities to earn both a bachelor’s degree and a masters degree in five years or less through a new linked-degree program known as Double Dawgs.

The Double Dawgs program enables students to save time and money by earning a masters degree in one year instead of two. Upon graduation, they enter the workforce with a more advanced complement of knowledge and skills.

Faculty members in 14 of the universitys schools and colleges have created 113 Double Dawgs programs to date, giving UGA one of the nations largest selections of accelerated masters programs. The complete list of Double Dawgs programs is online at DoubleDawgs.uga.edu, and additional programs will be added as they are approved.

“The Double Dawgs program was created to give our ambitious students a competitive advantage after graduation while helping lower the overall cost of obtaining a graduate degree,” said President Jere W. Morehead. It also helps to meet the demand across the state-and beyond-for highly qualified workers with advanced, specialized knowledge.

Vice President for Instruction Rahul Shrivastav explained that students who hold two degrees from UGA have long referred to themselves as Double Dawgs. By streamlining the process for creating new linked-degree programs, the university has built on that legacy and dramatically expanded the number of accelerated master's programs it offers. Through the Double Dawgs program, students accelerate their progress toward a master's degree by taking rigorous, graduate-level coursework during the final year of their undergraduate studies.

| UGA Today

UGA to support Athens youth through career development partnership

 As a result of President Jere W. Morehead’s meetings with community leaders in April, the University of Georgia will be offering workforce development and work-based learning initiatives to local youth beginning this fall. Moreheads conversation centered on economic development and education, and how the university can play a role in both areas.

“One of the priorities of the University of Georgia is to support the Athens community,” Morehead said. The goals of these programs are to promote the importance of graduation and prepare students for the workforce. Students will gain practical experience that they will carry for years to come, as well as gain exposure to the University of Georgia and all we have to offer.

UGA has joined the Great Promise Partnership, a program implemented in the Clarke County School District and coordinated through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs that connects organizations with local at-risk youth through part-time jobs.

After hearing the community feedback, this partnership seemed to be a natural connection for the university, said Alison McCullick, director of community relations for the UGA Office of Government Relations. GPP has been a successful workforce development program across the state of Georgia for five years, and as the largest employer in Clarke County, the university was interested in becoming engaged.

In addition to GPP, UGA will offer internships across the university to encourage work-based learning development. Internships will be based in a student’s field of interest, and will directly relate to academic goals set by the students. Internships will be available in multiple areas such as the College of Education, the Office of Research and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, with more opportunities being added throughout the year.

| UGA Today

New designation highlights UGA's role in cybersecurity research

The University of Georgia has been named a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research, a designation that underscores the role the university plays in advancing technology, policy and practices that strengthen America’s cyber defense capabilities.

UGA is one of just 71 institutions nationwide to hold this joint National Security Agency/Department of Homeland Security designation and, along with Georgia Tech, one of two CAE-R institutions in Georgia.

“I am pleased that the University of Georgia is being recognized as a national leader in this area of critical importance,” said President Jere W. Morehead. Thanks to the dedication of our faculty and the breadth of our research, instruction and outreach activities, UGA is uniquely positioned to advance the cybersecurity capabilities of our state and nation.

To receive designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research, an institution must have a high level of research activity and meet several criteria for cyber defense research, student training and overall impact.

Faculty members in the universitys Institute for Cybersecurity and Privacy, one of the institutes affiliated with the Georgia Informatics Institutes for Research and Education at UGA, conduct research in network and system security, web security, security for mobile devices and the Internet of Things, and cybercrime attribution, among several other areas. Their work has been funded by agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency and National Science Foundation, as well as through industry partners such as Intel and Cisco Systems.

The goal of the Institute for Cybersecurity and Privacy is to become a state hub for cybersecurity research and education, including multidisciplinary programs and research, outreach activities and industry partnership, Li said. By working together, we can help meet our nations cybersecurity needs.

| UGA Today

UGA students build bridges with visits to Athens-area high schools

More than 60 University of Georgia students traveled to Cedar Shoals and Clarke Central high schools Friday morning to welcome incoming students as they start their new year.

“This event is like a miniature pep rally for these high school students,” said Arthur Tripp, assistant to the president. We want our Athens-Clarke County students to know that UGA is a part of their community, and we want to encourage and excite them about the upcoming academic year.

Cultivating strong community relationships is a priority for UGA President Jere W. Morehead.

I am pleased that we are continuing to develop strong partnerships with UGA and the Athens community that will strengthen our vital relationship, he said.

This is the second year for this event, which is organized by the Office of the President, the Office of Service-Learning and student leaders from across campus. This is a tri-fold partnership that began with an idea from our students, Tripp said. The goal is to connect UGA with local high school students so they can begin to see the University of Georgia as a future destination.

DeAnne Varitek, principal of Cedar Shoals High School, hopes her students see UGA as a viable option after graduation.

We would love to increase the number of students that attend UGA, she said. Our students may not go to campus often, and this event brings campus to us. Any time we can bring UGA to the minds of our students, it brings them one step closer to attending UGA, and one step closer to earning a college education.