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Gerald Hart will join faculty as UGA's 18th GRA Eminent Scholar

In October, the University of Georgia’s already impressive roster of Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholars is set to grow by one more member, when renowned cell biologist and biochemist Gerald Hart arrives from Johns Hopkins University to relaunch his lab at the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center.

Hart, who will be UGA’s 18th GRA Eminent Scholar and the sixth recruited to campus since 2015, is one of the world’s preeminent scholars of glycobiology, which is the study of sugar chains and their impact on living organisms.

“We continue to be grateful to GRA for its support as we recruit more of the country’s—and the world’s—top scientists to come to the University of Georgia,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “These individuals represent centuries of collective experience at the forefront of science and technology, and the benefits to Georgia that come from their working at our university are considerable and long-lasting.”

At Johns Hopkins, Hart was the DeLamar Professor of Biological Chemistry and served as chair of the Department of Biological Chemistry for the past 26 years. Hart is the founder of Glycobiology, the leading journal in the field, and served as its editor-in-chief for 12 years.

Hart earned his reputation in the early 1980s when he and a colleague discovered that the glycan O-linked N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc, pronounced o-gluck-nac) played a central role in adding carbohydrates to molecules within the nucleus and cytoplasm of cells. Since then, he’s investigated O-GlcNAc’s connection to diseases such as diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, and cancer. 

Also, Hart is no stranger to CCRC, having served on one of its advisory committees since 1987, and he had high praise for the research center that he’ll soon call home.

“CCRC is the best place on the planet for doing glycoscience—there’s nowhere else like it,” Hart said. “It always comes down to the people. Every single faculty member at CCRC is a leader in his or her own field. When it comes to glycoscience, UGA is above what most institutions can do.”

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UGA to test first fully biodegradable plastic straw

A research team that includes partners from the University of Georgia New Materials Institute and the RWDC Environmental Stewardship Foundation will develop a fully biodegradable plastic straw thanks to an award from Singapore’s Temasek Foundation Ecosperity.

The $719,000 award represents the top prize in Ecosperity’s inaugural Liveability Challenge and was presented to RWDC Industries in July in Singapore. UGA researchers, graduate students and a UGA alumnus, working with RWDC Foundation funding, synthesized a food contact polymer that they will now attempt to develop into a commercially viable straw, which RWDC would then bring to market.

The next step is for RWDC and the New Materials Institute to create prototypes. Then they must prove the straws can be manufactured consistently, produced at a scale to meet global demand and are fully biodegradable in soil, fresh water and marine water. Testing largely will be conducted in a New Materials Institute laboratory built with RWDC grant funding.

Currently, there are few non-plastic straw alternatives available to consumers. Many plastics branded as “biodegradable” are made from plant-based material called polylactic acid, or PLA. PLA-based plastics are compostable in limited environments, but they do not fully degrade outside of these settings.

The team’s biodegradable straws are based on a proprietary, bio-based resin in the class of polymers called polyhydroxyalkanoates, or PHAs.

RWDC provided a substantial grant in order to quickly boost the New Materials Institute’s capabilities and position it for fast-tracking development, testing and illustration of the scalability necessary to create products from the bio-based resins we have co-developed, said Daniel Carraway, a scientist, inventor and entrepreneur who co-leads RWDC Industries and its foundation. Carraway earned his doctorate in forest biotechnology from UGA in 1996.

“We have positioned the New Materials Institute to succeed in the critical step of translating these technologies beyond the laboratory scale,” Carraway said. “This straw will be the first of our fruits from these endeavors and the first product from what we view as a long-term partnership.”

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Portrait of Mary Frances Early to be unveiled at Oct. 10 ceremony

The University of Georgia will celebrate the life and achievements of Mary Frances Early, the first African American to earn a degree from the University of Georgia, by unveiling her portrait in the Administration Building at a ceremony on Oct. 10, UGA President Jere W. Morehead announced. 

The portrait, by artist Richard Wilson, will be installed in The Gordon Jones Gallery of the Administration Building to honor Early, who went on to become the director of music for Atlanta Public Schools and the first African American president of the Georgia Music Educators Association in 1981. 

“Mary Frances Early has been a source of inspiration for generations of students across the state of Georgia and beyond,” President Morehead said. “Her portrait will serve as a lasting tribute to her dignified courage and her commitment to educational excellence.”

“I am so excited about this portrait,” said Early. “I am deeply humbled and honored, and so grateful to be recognized in this way. It’s really quite a tribute.”

The installation of Early’s portrait is part of a series of accolades celebrating her life and career. In January 2018, Early received one of UGA’s highest honors, the President’s Medal. On Sept. 11, the documentary “Mary Frances Early: The Quiet Trailblazer” will premiere in Atlanta. The executive producer and senior researcher of the documentary is Maurice Daniels, dean emeritus at the UGA School of Social Work. Georgia Public Broadcasting also will air the documentary.

A native of Atlanta, Early came to UGA in the summer of 1961. Earlier that year, Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes became the first African American students to enroll at UGA. Early had started postgraduate work at the University of Michigan when she transferred to UGA to complete her studies. She became the first African American to earn a degree from the University of Georgia when she graduated on Aug. 16, 1962, with a master’s degree in music education. She returned in 1964 to continue her education, earning a Specialist in Education degree in 1967.

Early retired in 1994 after working for 37 years in public schools. She has since taught at Morehouse College, Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University as head of the music department.

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College of Family and Consumer Sciences building being renamed, renovated

The College of Family and Consumer Sciences will rename one of its buildings the Charles Schwab Financial Planning Center in recognition of the Charles Schwab Foundation’s generous financial support.

In partnership with Schwab Advisor Services, Charles Schwab Foundation has committed $575,000 on behalf of independent investment advisors toward a major interior renovation project within the college’s Financial Planning Research Center, or “House B,” that will provide world-class facilities for training the next generation of financial planning professionals.

“We are excited about this new relationship with Schwab Advisor Services,” said Sheri Worthy, head of the financial planning, housing and consumer economics department. “The renovation of the Financial Planning Research Center will enhance experiential learning and help us create real-life interactions for our students.”

In addition to the Charles Schwab Foundation grant, three independent advisory firms in Atlanta—SignatureFD, TrueWealth Management and Homrich Berg Wealth Management—have committed a total of $100,000 to the project.

“We are proud to work with University of Georgia to promote fiscal education and raise awareness of careers in financial planning on campus,” said Bernie Clark, executive vice president and head of Schwab Advisor Services. “We are also thrilled to be joined by three of our independent advisor clients in the effort to help develop the next generation of independent advisor talent.”

In addition to the gift from the Charles Schwab Foundation, the University of Georgia and the college have committed funds. Additional private funds will complete the nearly $1 million investment in the program’s facilities.

The renovation project will create three client meeting rooms with video and audio technology to record students conducting one-on-one and group sessions at off-campus locations; lab space for students to conduct self-observations; and additional office space for graduate students and faculty. 

The renovation will triple the space currently available for a program that is growing in enrollment by 25 percent each year. The project is expected to be completed in early 2019.

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UGA has three finalists for national economic development award

For the second year, three University of Georgia programs have been selected as finalists for national awards recognizing innovation in economic development.

Archway Partnership, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, and Innovation Gateway are among the 24 finalists for the University Economic Development Association 2018 Awards of Excellence. UGA’s finalists are in different categories and will not compete with one another.

UEDA represents higher education, private sector and community economic development stakeholders across North America. Entries were judged by a panel of university and economic development professionals based on the alignment of their institution’s core mission activities with regional economic development goals. Categories include innovation, talent and place, as well as the intersections of these three categories. Criteria for judging included originality, scalability, sustainability, impact and the feasibility of other organizations replicating the initiatives in their communities.

“We are honored to be finalists again in this national competition,” said Jennifer Frum, vice president for public service and outreach. “This recognizes UGA’s commitment to improving the quality of life for all Georgians.”

Winners will be announced during the UEDA Annual Summit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Oct. 21-24, 2018.

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UGA drives agricultural success in Georgia

New faculty at the University of Georgia learned why agriculture continues to be the state’s biggest economic driver and how UGA leads the way in helping Georgians sustain and improve commodities like peanuts, poultry, pecans and turf grass.

As part of this year’s New Faculty Tour, about 40 UGA faculty, who have been at the university for two or fewer years, visited the state’s oldest experiment station on the UGA Griffin campus as well as the Tifton campus, both of which now educate students as well as engage in groundbreaking research.

The FoodPIC is a draw to food manufacturers looking to locate or expand in Georgia, said Sean McMillan, UGA economic development director based in Atlanta. For example, Diana Foods, a global provider of natural ingredients to the food and beverage industry, was recruited to Georgia, but needed temporary research and development space when it first arrived, McMillan said.

“They were hosted by the FoodPIC for months before moving into a permanent facility in Banks County,” McMillan said. The company will ultimately invest $50 million in a food processing, distribution and research and development investment in Georgia and employ 80 people.

In Tifton, new UGA faculty learned about peanut research. Georgia produces more peanuts than any other state in the U.S., and UGA scientists in Tifton are continually studying ways to make the ground nut more disease resistant. Their findings are shared with farmers through UGA Cooperative Extension agents, who are based in each of Georgia’s 159 counties.

The faculty also visited the UGA dairy farm and fed bottles of milk to 2-week-old calves.

“This week has opened up a whole new world for me,” said Sakeena Everett, an assistant professor in the UGA College of Education. 

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UGA welcomes record-setting Class of 2022

A commitment to academic excellence defines the University of Georgia’s Class of 2022, a group of students with record academic qualifications and high aspirations for the future.

The approximately 5,750 first-year students in the Class of 2022 have an average weighted high school GPA of 4.04, which is a record at UGA, and an average ACT score of 30, which ties last year’s record. For comparison, the average weighted GPA of incoming UGA students was 3.9 four years ago, and the average ACT score was 29. SAT scores of incoming students have reached a record level, as well, with an average of 1365 for the Class of 2022 compared to 1344 last year.

The rigor of students’ high school coursework relative to what is available at their school is a key factor in admissions decisions. Members of the Class of 2022 completed an average of eight College Board Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or dual-enrollment courses in high school, which ties last year’s record.

The number of incoming students who self-identify as a member of a racial or ethnic minority has risen by 20 percent since 2014, and 31 percent of the Class of 2022 self-identify as members of a minority group. The Class of 2022 includes students from nearly every state and 47 countries around the world, and 84 percent of incoming students are Georgia residents.

Demand for a UGA education has risen to unprecedented heights. Nearly 26,500 students applied for admission to the Class of 2022, and 48 percent were offered admission. Since 2014, the number of applications for undergraduate admission has risen by nearly 30 percent.

“As the University of Georgia gains prominence as one of the top public research universities, the caliber of students we are attracting continues to rise,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “Equally important, we are providing an optimal learning environment in which students are challenged academically and supported in ways that promote their success.”

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Food science and technology professor wins research award

Casimir Akoh, Distinguished Research Professor of Food Science and Technology, recently accepted the Institute of Food Technologists’ research award recognizing food science’s ability to improve public health. 

The IFT awards committee presented Akoh, who researches lipid chemistry in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences food science and technology department, with the Babcock-Hart Award on July 15 at the IFT’s annual conference in Chicago. 

The award honors scientists who have developed technologies that have substantially improved public nutrition and public health. 

Akoh has received seven research achievement awards and recognitions from IFT, including the top research award, the Nicolas Appert Award.

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Russo named executive director of Health Center

Garth Russo, who has served as interim executive director of the University of Georgia Health Center since February, has been appointed to the post on a permanent basis.

Russo has been leading the University Health Center as interim executive director since Jean Chin retired this past January. Russo comes to the position after decades of service to the university, having joined the health center in 1991 and serving as senior director of medical services prior to this appointment.

Russo will provide strategic leadership for all aspects of the operation of the University Health Center, ­including the provision of medical, mental health and counseling services, health promotion and educational outreach programs, and clinical support services. He also will be responsible for the direction of administrative support services, fiscal and facility management, and collaboration with campus and community stakeholders on health and wellness matters, including public health and emergency management and planning.

Russo’s appointment was effective Aug. 1. He reports directly to the vice president for student affairs and serves as a member of the leadership team for the Division of Student Affairs.

One of only 17 Joint Commission accredited college health centers, the University Health Center is the on-campus medical hub of the University of Georgia, providing care for UGA’s more than 36,000 students, along with UGA faculty and staff in selected service areas. 

The health center currently employs a staff of nearly 300, operates with an annual budget of approximately $25 million, and occupies a state-of-the-art medical facility of more than 110,000 square feet on the university’s East Campus.

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New faculty learning of UGA's impact on state's economy

This week, about 40 new University­­­­ of Georgia faculty members kicked off a five-day tour of the state that will showcase agriculture and agritourism, industry, innovation, the Georgia coast and its rural communities.

From Aug. 6-10, the tour will visit 15 cities and pass through 48 counties, introducing faculty who have been at UGA for two or fewer years to the geography, culture, history and economic engines of the state. Along the way, faculty will begin to understand how UGA, Georgia’s land- and sea-grant institution, has an impact throughout the state.

“Many of our faculty come from other parts of the country and the world and this trip really opens their eyes to the diversity we enjoy here in the state of Georgia,” said Jennifer Frum, vice president for public service and outreach. “In addition they get to meet one another and discover common interests, which often leads to great interdisciplinary partnerships when they get back to campus.”

The last stop will be in Washington County, a UGA Archway Partnership community, where faculty will enjoy ice cream from the The Dairy Lane restaurant and learn about the kaolin industry, Archway and the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development.

The New Faculty Tour is coordinated by the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach and is made possible by major support from the Office of the President, the Office of the Provost, and the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach. Additional sponsors include the UGA Alumni Association, UGA Foundation, and a multitude of other units and supporters of the University of Georgia.