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Noted researcher Karen Norris named GRA Eminent Scholar

One of the nation's leading infectious disease researchers will join the University of Georgia faculty this fall as its newest Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar.

Karen Norris, currently a professor of immunology at the University of Pittsburgh, will join the faculty of UGA's Department of Infectious Diseases of the College of Veterinary Medicine and the newly developed Center for Vaccines and Immunology on Sept. 1 as the GRA Eminent Scholar in Immunology and Translational Biomedical Research.

The Georgia Research Alliance has partnered with Georgia's research universities to recruit world-class scientists who foster science- and technology-based economic development since 1990. GRA also invests in technology for research labs, helps commercialize university-based inventions and facilitates collaboration among academia, business and government. Norris will be the 16th active GRA Eminent Scholar at UGA.

"I am pleased that Dr. Norris will be joining UGA," said President Jere W. Morehead. "Her innovative work will expand the outstanding infectious disease research already being conducted here and will contribute significantly to the university's efforts to translate research into treatments for some of the world's most deadly diseases."

Norris' research focuses on infectious and chronic diseases, including HIV, pulmonary diseases, inflammatory diseases and diabetes. She has developed a number of highly relevant disease models, which she uses to understand the basic mechanisms of disease susceptibility and progression, and to test interventions that treat or prevent disease.

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UGA launches new Certified Public Manager program

The University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government is launching a new Certified Public Manager program to strengthen leadership skills for local and state government managers in Georgia.

CPM is a 26-day program that engages participants in 300 hours of study focusing on areas such as self-awareness, collaboration and process improvement. The program offers professional development opportunities for local and state public employees while developing more productive staff who are better positioned to serve citizens. UGA is the sole provider of this CPM program in Georgia.

The inaugural class will begin this month with Fulton County. A state program will begin in October 2016. Both programs' classes will take place at the UGA campus in Gwinnett.

"The institute's Certified Public Manager program is filling a gap in training needs for public employees in Georgia," said Institute of Government Director Laura Meadows. "Through these classes, employees can now develop their professional skills so they can serve their communities more effectively."

The CPM program is associated with the National CPM Consortium and is designed to improve the quality and efficiency of government agencies by developing the effectiveness and professionalism of its managers. Individuals completing the program earn the prestigious Certified Public Manager credential from UGA.

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Elevating graduate and professional education

The University of Georgia is rolling out an initiative to increase the enrollment of graduate students by offering new funding opportunities, innovative interdisciplinary programs and a wider array of professional development opportunities.

Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten noted that graduate students are drawn to UGA for the opportunity to be mentored by faculty members who are at the leading edge of their fields, and those same graduate students advance knowledge and discovery through their independent work.

"Extraordinary graduate programs and a thriving research enterprise go hand-in-hand," Whitten said, "and both are on an upward trajectory at UGA."

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UGA ranked among top 100 universities worldwide for U.S. patents

The University of Georgia is ranked among the top 100 universities worldwide for the number of U.S. utility patents granted in 2015, according to a list released this week by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association.

The list, based on data obtained from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, recognizes the important role patents play in facilitating the movement of university research discoveries into the marketplace.

The UGA patents issued in 2015 included those covering a potential therapeutic for the gastrointestinal infection Cryptosporidiosis, a candidate antiviral therapeutic for hepatitis B, a wound healing product, engineered bacterial strains that facilitate biofuel production, and novel phosphors that may be used in multiple industrial applications, including the production of enhanced LED lighting.

"Being ranked among the top universities in the world underscores the innovative research being conducted by UGA faculty, staff and students and also highlights our robust technology transfer program," said Derek Eberhart, director of UGA's Innovation Gateway in the Office of the Vice President for Research. "Commercialization of university research to improve lives and promote economic development is integral to UGA's land-grant mission."

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New hybrid sweetgum trees could boost paper, bioenergy production

Sweetgum trees thrive under diverse conditions, grow as fast as pine trees and provide the type of fiber needed for specialty papers-and they've long been desired by paper and bioenergy producers.

But there's a hitch: Harvesting mature sweetgums can often be too costly or even ill-advised because they typically grow the best on the edges of swamps and in river bottoms, which are often inaccessible during the wet winter months. Researchers at the University of Georgia may have solved this problem: They've crossed American sweetgums with their Chinese cousins, creating hybrid sweetgum trees that have a better growth rate and denser wood than natives, and can produce fiber year-round.

The hybrid sweetgum trees have enormous potential for the production of bioenergy and paper, said Scott Merkle, a professor in UGA's Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

"The very best hybrid sweetgums are being propagated to produce elite varieties, so that landowners will be able to plant trees that produce more biomass in a shorter time than the top-rated native sweetgum trees," he said.

The new hybrid varieties are already being sold commercially by ArborGen Inc., which began offering rooted cutting seedlings of the new varieties in 2015. This important step came after ArborGen's extensive field testing of the trees produced from tissue cultures in Merkle's lab in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama.

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University of Georgia announces 40 Under 40 Class of 2016

The University of Georgia Alumni Association recently unveiled the members of the 40 Under 40 Class of 2016. This program, in its sixth year, recognizes outstanding young UGA alumni under the age of 40.

This year, nearly 400 nominations were submitted. Selections were based on the graduates' commitment to a lifelong relationship with UGA and their successes in both personal and professional endeavors. This year's class includes alumni in a variety of industries ranging from law to optometry, and it includes current and former NFL players and an award-winning country music artist.

Nominations opened in February and remained open through early April. The honorees will be celebrated during the 2016 40 Under 40 Awards Luncheon on Sept. 8 at Flourish Atlanta.

"Announcing the 40 Under 40 honorees each year is exciting," said Meredith Gurley Johnson, executive director of alumni relations. "We received hundreds of nominations this year, highlighting the incredible accomplishments of UGA's young graduates. It is truly challenging to narrow the list down to 40."

Click here for the list of honorees.

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Gifts to UGA surge to historic level

For a third consecutive year, the University of Georgia has set a record in fundraising, bringing in $183.8 million in new gifts and commitments during fiscal year 2016.

This year's historic total represents a 28 percent increase over the previous year's record of $144.2 million. Gifts were raised from a record number of 67,435 contributors.

Private funding supports the university at every level. During the 2015-16 academic year, private donations helped to fund more than 6,100 scholarships for UGA students. Donations to UGA also help the university recruit and retain outstanding faculty, enhance the student experience and expand the research enterprise.

"This major accomplishment speaks to the unyielding commitment of the UGA community to elevate our great university to new heights of excellence," said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. "I am deeply appreciative of everyone who generously contributed their financial resources. I also am grateful to our development team; the UGA Foundation trustees; leaders of our schools, colleges, and other units; and to our outstanding faculty, staff and students. The hard work and dedication of all of these individuals-and many others-made this significant achievement possible."

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UGA moves up to No. 17 on Forbes list of top 25 public U.S. colleges

The University of Georgia moved up one spot to rank No. 17 on the Forbes "Top 25 Public Colleges 2016" list released this week.

Forbes ranked 660 public and private colleges and universities using factors that the publication says favor "output over input. Our sights are set directly on return on investment: What are students getting out of college."

"As the University of Georgia continues to gain recognition as one of the nation's top public universities, students and alumni can be more confident than ever in the value of a UGA education," said President Jere W. Morehead. "Significant investments to enhance the learning environment and provide students with the support they need to succeed are clearly paying dividends, and the future of this institution is very bright."

The only other SEC school on the public school list was the University of Florida at No. 13. Georgia Tech also was ranked in the top 25 at No. 15, followed by the University of Texas at Austin at No. 16.

Forbes teamed with the Washington, D.C.-based Center for College Affordability and Productivity to rank the schools. CCAP used five general categories to determine the rankings:

  • Student satisfaction (25 percent): student evaluations, retention rates.
  • Post-graduate success (32.5 percent): salary of alumni, CCAP's America's Leaders List.
  • Student debt (25 percent): average federal student loan debt load, student loan default rates, percent of students taking federal loans.
  • Graduation rate (7.5 percent): four-year graduation rate.
  • Academic success (10 percent): students who win prestigious scholarships or earn a Ph.D.

Among other honors UGA has received in the last year are a No. 21 ranking in the U.S. News & World Report's "Best Colleges" edition and No. 12 on Kiplinger Magazine's list of best values among public colleges and universities.

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UGA Small Business Development Center among Georgia Trends best places to work

The University of Georgia Small Business Development Center is one of Georgia Trend magazine's 2016 "Best Places to Work in Georgia."

The evaluation, conducted by the Best Companies Group in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, looks at employees' views on leadership and planning, corporate culture and communications, role satisfaction, work environment, and overall engagement.

"Typical of UGA's outreach programs, SBDC staff are recognized statewide for their expertise and responsiveness to local needs," said Jennifer Frum, vice president for UGA's Public Service and Outreach unit, which oversees the SBDC. "It isn't surprising that this UGA unit was named a great place to work. UGA's strong commitment to outreach has helped build an environment for success."

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Chambliss Leadership Forum summer event raises $250,000 for scholarships

Colleagues and friends of former Sen. Saxby Chambliss raised $250,000 in support of the University of Georgia Chambliss Fellows program at an event held in Washington, D.C., last week. Joining Chambliss and his wife, Julianne, were UGA President Jere W. Morehead, current UGA students interning in Washington and members of the U.S. Congress.

Funds raised for the Chambliss Fellows program will allow five UGA students each fall and spring semester to live, work and advance their education in the nation's capital. The students will be selected through a competitive application process.

"The University of Georgia is immensely grateful to Sen. and Mrs. Chambliss for their support of our students," Morehead said. "An internship in Washington, D.C., is an exceptional learning opportunity. With the generosity of our sponsors and the support of several members of Congress, we are helping to prepare our students to meet the many challenges facing our nation."