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Presidential Scholars event highlights UGA connections

When alumni of the revered Presidential Scholars program gather next week for the organization’s first-ever awards, the event will also honor a lifetime of work by a University of Georgia graduate.

The Presidential Scholars Honors Dinner takes place June 19 at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and among its alumni honorees—former Indiana Gov. Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove and Chief Judge Merrick Garland—is Felice Kaufmann, a leading researcher in gifted education. While Kaufmann is not an alumnus of the Presidential Scholars program, her work focusing on the first five classes of Presidential Scholars is groundbreaking among gifted education studies.

Now in its 53rd year, the Presidential Scholars program honors up to 161 graduating high school seniors from every state and U.S. territory who have distinguished themselves academically in the arts and/or in career and technical education fields. Each year, the Scholars meet in Washington, D.C., to receive medallions, meet with leaders and attend a performance of their peers. Presidential Scholars alumni represent a virtual “who’s who” of accomplished professionals across all fields.

Kaufmann is the first to receive the award in her name because she helps tie them all together, said John Knox, a UGA professor of geography and chair of the Presidential Scholars Alumni Association who helped organize the awards ceremony.

Kaufmann’s research on Presidential Scholars is one of only a few studies ever that examines academically “gifted” students over the long term. By following the Scholars for more than 40 years, she is an expert at understanding how these teens move through life and redefine what it means to be a success.

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UGA honors companies that hired the most 2016 graduates

Shortly after graduating from the University of Georgia in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Business Administration, Jace Jordan landed his dream job. “Thanks to the strength of the career services at UGA,” Jordan said, “I had the luxury of searching for more than just a paycheck upon graduation.”

Jordan was looking for an employer that would invest in him through continued professional development and training on the job, and EY perfectly fit that description. “I am excited to have the strong combination of a UGA degree and a burgeoning career at EY that will prepare me for any step that I take next,” Jordan said.

Over the years, EY has been one of many companies that commit to hiring UGA’s graduates and helping them launch successful careers. In May, UGA honored the top 25 employers of the 2016 graduating class during an awards luncheon held at the Terry College Executive Education Center in Atlanta.

Tom Sturdevant, a senior human resource manager at Georgia-Pacific, says UGA students create a positive first impression when meeting with hiring managers and recruiters. “Most importantly, we’ve noticed how their level of preparedness and professionalism transfers to the workplace,” Sturdevant said. “UGA provides its students with professional experiences through numerous organizations and opportunities, which also help individuals develop the leadership and interaction skills we value so much in our work environment.”

The top 25 employers (in alphabetical order) are: Aon, ATT, Banfield Pet Hospital, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Chick-fil-A, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, CVS Health, Deloitte, Delta Air Lines, EY, Georgia-Pacific, Insight Global, KPMG, Kroger, Macy’s, Newell Brands, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Protiviti, State Farm, SunTrust, The Home Depot, University of Georgia, UPS, Walmart and Wells Fargo.

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UGA ranked 10th among public universities in New York Times College Access Index

The New York Times has once again ranked the University of Georgia 10th among the nation’s top public universities based on its commitment to economic diversity.

The New York Times College Access Index ranks institutions based on the share of incoming first-year students who receive Pell Grants, the graduation rate of those students, and the average cost of attendance for low- and middle-income students. Only institutions with an overall five-year graduation rate of 75 percent or higher are examined for the index. UGA is ranked 27th among all universities.

“The University of Georgia has made tremendous strides in expanding need-based aid for our students, and gifts from alumni, foundations and other supporters will enable us to do even more,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Scholarships open doors of opportunity for individuals and help create a better educated population that helps our state and nation thrive.”

UGA has made need-based aid a central pillar of its Commit to Georgia comprehensive capital campaign. The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation contributed $30 million-the largest single gift received by the university to date-to expand need-based aid for students, and Morehead announced the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program in his 2017 State of the University address. Through the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program, the UGA Foundation will match any gift to establish an endowed need-based scholarship in the amount of $50,000, $75,000 or $100,000. The initiative is expected to create as many as 400 to 600 new annual scholarships, and more than 90 have been created to date.

More information on the Commit to Georgia campaign is available here. More information on The New York Times College Access Index is available here.

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UGA School of Law increases public interest fellowship support

In addition to providing first-rate legal training for its students, the University of Georgia School of Law is instilling in them the need to serve. The service comes in a variety of forms, and the benefits and communities served are just as diverse.

A record-breaking 36 law students will begin a summer of service in Georgia, Washington, D.C., New York City and locations around the U.S. and the world. Work placements include nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations; local, state and federal government agencies; state and federal prosecutor’s offices; and criminal defense practices, both trial and appellate. Five positions have an international focus.

Resources supporting School of Law students in their public interest endeavors this year also reached a high point - $68,000, an increase of $15,000 from 2016. The funding comes from a partnership with the Justice John Paul Stevens Fellowship Foundation and the school’s Melburne D. and Jacqueline K. McLendon Endowment and the Edward D. and Carol J. Spurgeon Public Service Fellowship Fund as well as the Dean Rusk International Law Center Global Externship Overseas and student-run Equal Justice Foundation resources.

“This record number of student placements and financial support for public interest fellowships exemplifies our law school’s and our students’ strong commitment to public service,” School of Law Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge said. “Our students are eager for opportunities to serve, and I am very pleased the school was able to count on alumni and alumnae and external funding sources to make our students’ dreams of contributing to state and society possible this summer.”

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UGA announces next steps for research about Baldwin Hall site

The University of Georgia will sponsor additional research to learn more about the lives of the individuals whose gravesites were discovered during the construction of the Baldwin Hall expansion. The work is two-pronged, consisting of further DNA analysis of the remains and a historical mapping study to learn more about the physical environment in which the individuals likely lived and worked.

Following the discovery of the remains in November 2015, the university immediately consulted with the State Archaeologist’s Office for guidance. The university then commissioned a team of faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students in the anthropology department to explore ancestry, age, sex and other characteristics of the individuals. About one-third of the 105 gravesites yielded samples suitable for DNA analysis, and the researchers found that the vast majority of these individuals were of maternal African descent.

UGA Vice President for Research David Lee solicited further faculty input following the reinterment of the remains earlier this spring. He also consulted with leaders of the local African-American community.

“The university is committed to building upon the preliminary research and learning more about the lives of the men, women and children-who were likely slaves or former slaves, given the time period-whose remains were found adjacent to the Old Athens Cemetery on the Baldwin Hall site,” said Lee. “These additional research efforts will help us in that pursuit.”

The Office of Research will coordinate the next steps as follows...[READ MORE]

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Researchers harness metabolism to reverse aggressiveness in leukemia

University of Georgia researchers, with colleagues from the University of Tokyo, have identified a new drug target for the two most common types of myeloid leukemia, including a way to turn back the most aggressive form of the disease. They published their findings today in the journal Nature.

By blocking a protein called BCAT1, the researchers were able to stop cancer cell growth in mice and human blood samples from leukemia patients. The BCAT1 protein activates the metabolism of a group of amino acids known as branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs, that are essential building blocks of proteins in all cells and thus necessary for aggressive leukemia cells to grow. The same enzymes are also responsible for the development of brain and lung tumors. By blocking the BCAT1 gene, the research team was able to make the disease less aggressive and slow growing, similar to the treatable chronic phase.

The findings suggest that BCAT1 may be an ideal therapeutic target that does little harm on normal blood production. Furthermore, results indicated that BCAT1 is also a key player in acute myeloid leukemia, which is more prevalent than the blast crisis chronic myeloid leukemia. Patients with AML with high BCAT1 tend to survive less than those with low BCAT1. Blocking the BCAT1 activity also proved effective on human acute myeloid leukemia cells.

The researchers worked with colleagues at the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center Nuclear Magnetic Resonance facility, the UGA Cancer Center, the College of Veterinary Medicine, and the University of Tokyo in Japan. 

An online version of the full study is available here

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Shawn Foster named UGAs first Beinecke Scholar

Shawn Foster, a University of Georgia Honors student majoring in cognitive science and linguistics, was one of 20 students nationwide selected as a Beinecke Scholar. He is the first UGA student to receive the honor, which awards $34,000 to third-year students with demonstrated financial need who will pursue graduate studies in the arts, humanities or social sciences.

Foster plans to earn a doctorate in linguistics. A first-generation college student, he is from the 800-person town of Franklin, which is situated in west Georgia between Carrollton and LaGrange with Alabama as its closest neighbor.

In Foster’s first independent research project, started this past January, he is digging into language’s changes and variations across the South with Margaret Renwick, an assistant professor of linguistics in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. He intends “to continue his research in this and other areas-ranging from the social and cultural aspects of language to the mathematical underpinnings of human speech”-during his career in linguistics, he said.

He’s excited to see how his research, which is being conducted as part of a larger ongoing project, “Linguistic Atlas of the Gulf,” will be used. “Other researchers, not just other linguists, can take the results and run with them,” Foster said. “Engineers and programmers can build better speech recognition programs. Journalists and critics can write about how depictions of the South in media stack up to the reality of the region.”

Foster speaks Spanish and Russian and is learning Arabic. In addition to his current research project, he has been the humanities content editor of the Journal for Undergraduate Research Opportunities. He was also a research assistant in UGA’s Work and Family Experience Research Laboratory and the Leadership and Performance Dynamics Lab.

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Two UGA buildings named for business leaders

Two new University of Georgia buildings have been named in honor of donors with lasting connections to the Terry College of Business. Construction of Benson Hall and Moore-Rooker Hall is near completion as part of the second and largest phase of UGA's Business Learning Community. The buildings are located on the Athens campus at the corner of Lumpkin and Baxter streets.

“I want to thank these outstanding alumni for their tremendous loyalty and support,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Their generous gifts will enhance the learning environment for business students at the University of Georgia for generations to come.”

The two new buildings adjoin Amos Hall, the centerpiece of Phase II’s construction, and are next to Correll Hall, which opened in 2015.

“We are honored to name these buildings for such respected leaders in the business community. I am especially grateful for the faith and confidence these alumni have demonstrated in the future of the Terry College of Business,” said Dean Benjamin C. Ayers. “We’re very excited for completion of the second phase of construction this summer, when all of our faculty and students will be able to work, learn, study and collaborate in business school facilities that are second to none.”

The naming of Benson Hall and Moore-Rooker Hall was approved earlier this spring by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. With construction scheduled for completion in May, faculty and staff from all seven of the college’s academic departments, as well as other Terry College program staff, will move into the Phase II buildings in June.

A dedication of Amos Hall, Benson Hall and Moore-Rooker Hall is set for Sept. 15, with a groundbreaking ceremony for Phase III construction to follow on the same day.

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UGA awarded Innovation Corps Site status

The University of Georgia has been named an Innovation Corps Site by the National Science Foundation, enhancing UGA’s ability to turn ideas and research discoveries into commercially viable products or services by providing early evaluation of projects through a customer discovery process.

The I-Corps award will enable UGA to serve up to 30 new startup projects a year, adding to the university’s rapidly growing entrepreneurial ecosystem and assisting the campus-wide collaboration focused on helping all entrepreneurial projects move to the marketplace.

Innovation Gateway, the university’s arm for translating research discoveries into products and companies, will serve as the hub for I-Corps UGA, but collaborators will include UGA’s Entrepreneurship Program, College of Engineering and numerous faculty and staff across campus.

“The hardest steps in creating a startup are at the beginning,” said Ian Biggs, senior associate director of UGA’s Innovation Gateway and the program’s lead. “Becoming an I-Corps Site will allow us to provide more robust services, including financial resources. We’ll be able to help anyone with an entrepreneurial idea that needs testing in the marketplace. This also builds on the recent $500,000 award from the Department of Commerce to create a prototyping center focused on engineering and materials science.”

UGA is one of 50-plus I-Corps Sites, programs that are based at academic institutions to catalyze the engagement of multiple local teams in technology transition and innovation. Ideas or projects supported by I-Corps Sites must be focused in an area of science, technology, engineering or mathematics, but can originate from faculty research, student work, industrial projects or ideas from the community.

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UGA entomologist Michael Strand elected to National Academy of Sciences

University of Georgia Regents’ Professor Michael R. Strand has received one of the highest honors a scientist can receive-election to the National Academy of Sciences.

Strand, who holds an appointment in the entomology department of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and an affiliated appointment in the genetics department of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, is UGA’s eighth member of the National Academies, which include the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Medicine.

“The University of Georgia commends Dr. Strand on this most prestigious recognition,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Dr. Strand’s influential research is representative of the high caliber of faculty at UGA and the strength of our growing research enterprise. It is an honor to have him represent this university in an organization of such tremendous national importance.”

Strand’s primary research interests are in the study of the interactions among insects, parasites and microorganisms. Applications of his work focus on insects that are important to agriculture and that transmit human diseases such as malaria and Zika virus. His work has garnered nearly $28 million in external funding from agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation. He has published more than 220 research papers, and his findings have been cited at a level that places him in the top 1 percent of entomologists and among the top 5 percent in the fields of biology and biochemistry.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and-with the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine-provides science, engineering and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.