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UGA School of Law leads state in bar exam passage rate

The University of Georgia School of Law saw a high percentage of its graduates pass the July 2016 Georgia bar exam.

The passage rate for first-time test takers from Georgia Law was 87.5 percent, 12.2 percentage points higher than the state average of 75.3 percent for ABA-approved law schools. For all Georgia Law graduates who took the July 2016 exam, 86.1 percent passed versus the state average of 71.1 percent.

"Georgia Law is committed to providing our students with the knowledge and skills they need to be well-prepared once they graduate and begin their careers," Georgia Law Dean Peter B. "Bo" Rutledge said. "These exam results show how our faculty's dedication to first-rate legal training-combined with our students' dedication to learning-are making us successful in this endeavor."

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UGAs four-year graduation rates jump to record level

A concerted effort at the University of Georgia to help students earn their degrees in a more timely manner has catapulted the institution's four-year graduation rate to a record level.

Sixty-six percent of UGA students who enrolled as freshmen in the fall of 2012 graduated within four years, a 3 percentage point increase from the previous year.

For comparison, the most recent data available shows an average four-year graduation rate of 49 percent for UGA's peer institutions, 70 percent for its aspirational institutions and 44 percent for Southeastern Conference institutions.

"This outstanding achievement reflects the dedication of many individuals across campus-over many years-to putting students first at the University of Georgia," said President Jere W. Morehead. "While we still have work to do, our progress in this area sends another strong signal of UGA's upward trajectory."

The university's six-year graduation rate remained at its record level of 85 percent, which is 11 percentage points above the average six-year graduation rate of 74 percent for UGA's peer institutions and approaches the 87 percent average graduation rate for its aspirational institutions. UGA's 85 percent six-year graduation rate greatly exceeds the 70 percent average for SEC institutions.

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Vice president for information technology wins leadership award

Timothy M. Chester, UGA vice president for information technology, is the 2016 recipient of the EDUCAUSE Community Leadership Award.

EDUCAUSE is a nonprofit association and community of IT leaders and professionals for higher education. The Community Leadership Award, which is presented annually, recognizes community leaders and active volunteers in professional service to the higher education IT community.

"This is a well-deserved honor for Dr. Chester," said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. "Our academic community benefits in so many ways from his expertise and leadership in information technology, and we congratulate him on this national recognition."

Since his arrival at UGA in 2011, Chester has focused on strategies to elevate the work, influence and impact of the university's central IT department and the Office of Institutional Research.

He has revamped both units to ensure that their day-to-day work is aligned with the university's strategic initiatives, and he has facilitated systematic, stakeholder-focused improvements in the delivery of IT services and data reporting and analytics.

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UGAs College of Environment and Design ranked in top 10 nationally

The University of Georgia College of Environment and Design earned top 10 rankings in four categories in DesignIntelligence magazine's 2016-17 edition of America's Best Architecture and Design Schools.

"These latest rankings reaffirm the quality our College of Environment and Design and just how innovative its degree programs are," said Pamela Whitten, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. "Thanks to the college's extraordinary faculty, its students graduate ready to help create a more sustainable future."

The America's Best Architecture & Design Schools survey is conducted annually, and this year nearly 3,000 hiring professionals from the disciplines of architecture, interior design and landscape architecture participated. In the landscape architecture program, UGA's undergraduate program ranked fifth in the nation and its graduate program ranked ninth.

DesignIntelligence also recorded responses from 40 academic leaders for its Landscape Architecture Deans Survey. In that survey, UGA's undergraduate landscape architecture ranked third for its emphasis on integrating design, sustainability and technology.

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Chambliss Leadership Forum event features former House Speaker John Boehner

Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner was the featured guest at Tuesday night's Chambliss Leadership Forum fundraising event held in honor of former Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss and his wife, Julianne. This marks the third event of the Chambliss Leadership Forum, which has raised more than $500,000 to provide scholarships for University of Georgia students to spend a semester in Washington, D.C.

"Julianne and I are excited to be able to give back to our alma mater by helping provide such an invaluable experience to UGA students," Chambliss said. "Thanks to many generous friends and colleagues, we are thrilled to announce that the first class of Chambliss Fellows will head to Washington next semester."

The first Chambliss Fellows, who will be selected through a competitive process, will be announced later this year. The students will be provided academic assistance to live, work and pursue their passion in Washington, D.C.

"The Chambliss Leadership Forum will allow outstanding UGA students to participate in life-changing experiential learning opportunities in our nation's capital," said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. "I am deeply grateful to Senator Chambliss and Julianne and to the many supporters who have helped to launch this exceptional initiative."

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SBDC schools vet med students in emergency preparedness

Dr. Joanna Davis wishes she had the chance to talk to firefighters, police officers and first responders when she was a University of Georgia student two decades ago.

The veterinarian, thrust into disaster zones across the globe, learned on her own how important it is to plan for emergency situations. The UGA Small Business Development Center is helping the College of Veterinary Medicine's current generation come to that realization much sooner.

"This was not even on our radar back in the early '90s," said Davis, an adjunct assistant professor who works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Now for each graduating class, we want to instill them with this knowledge and confidence going forward."

Davis invited Mark Lupo, area director for the Columbus State office of the UGA SBDC, to speak to her class, "Veterinary Emergency Preparedness and Response." Lupo led a three-hour session for the 45 students on planning and working with local emergency agencies in a disaster situation.

About half the students expect to become small business owners and start their own private practice after earning a degree. That's where the SBDC's expertise can be particularly handy. Approximately every dollar spent on preparation leads to $7 in cost savings in emergencies, Lupo said.

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Big data methods under development at UGA will help tackle diseases

The University of Georgia's Ping Ma will use a new grant to crunch big data numbers, not uncommon for a statistics professor. What is unusual is that his work may help save lives.

Ma has been awarded $1.3 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health to develop statistical tools to further clarify the causes of many diseases-including cancer, heart disease and aging-related illnesses. Over four years, Ma and his team of researchers will look at something known as small RNAs, hoping to unravel their regulatory role on abnormal variations in genetic transcription.

RNA, or ribonucleic acid, is present in all living cells and is incredibly important in the human body. Small RNA primarily acts as a messenger for DNA and regulates various biological processes.

Ma, a professor in UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of statistics and lead investigator on the project, will work to analyze big data sets that contain biomedical information on various diseases and create smart algorithms. His goal is to allow researchers to accurately analyze large sets of data without the need for expensive supercomputers.

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Neurodevelopmental model of Zika may provide rapid answers

A newly published study from researchers working in collaboration with the Regenerative Bioscience Center at the University of Georgia demonstrates fetal death and brain damage in early chick embryos similar to microcephaly-a rare birth defect linked to the Zika virus, now alarming health experts worldwide.

The team, led by Forrest Goodfellow, a graduate student in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, developed a neurodevelopmental chick model that could mimic the effects of Zika on the first trimester. Historically, chick embryos have been extensively used as a model for human biology.

Early last spring, Goodfellow began inoculating chick embryos with a virus strain originally sourced from the Zika outbreak epicenter.

"We wanted a complete animal model, closely to that of a human, which would recapitulate the microcephaly phenotype," said Goodfellow, who recently presented the findings at the Southern Translational Education and Research (STaR) Conference.

The RBC team, which included Melinda Brindley, an assistant professor of virology in the College of Veterinary Medicine, and Qun Zhao, associate professor of physics in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, suggests that the chick embryo provides a useful model to study the effects of Zika, in part because of its significant similarity to human fetal neurodevelopment and rapid embryonic process.

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UGA names second class of Womens Leadership Fellows

Nine University of Georgia faculty members will sharpen their leadership skills as members of the second class of the university's Women's Leadership Fellows Program.

The 2016-2017 cohort, which includes representatives from eight schools and colleges as well as the Division of Student Affairs, will attend monthly meetings where they will learn from senior administrators on campus as well as visiting speakers from academia, business and other fields. The program, which was created in 2015 as part of the university's Women's Leadership Initiative, also features a concluding weekend retreat in June for more in-depth learning.

"The members of this extraordinary class of Women's Leadership Fellows come into this crucial program with an amazing set of talents and experiences," said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten. "They will leave it ready to tackle even greater leadership roles at the University of Georgia and throughout academia."

Click here for a list of the new Women's Leadership Fellows.

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UGA researchers identify new pathway in human pathogens

Several of the more aggressive pathogens that infect humans can thrive in an oxygen-free environment of the human gut. These pathogens also have the ability to acquire the essential nutrient iron from an abundant cofactor, specifically heme (the cofactor that makes blood and muscle appear red).

Newly published research from University of Georgia researchers reveals how a key enzyme in this new pathway functions to release the iron atom in the absence of oxygen. Further illumination of the atomic mechanism will provide an opportunity for a new class of antimicrobial compounds.

The study, "Radical new paradigm for heme degradation in Escherichia coli 0157:H7," was published in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Oct. 10.