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Scientist Samantha Joye named Regents' Professor

Samantha Joye, an internationally recognized University of Georgia marine scientist who studies the complex interplay between microbes and large-scale ecological processes in the oceans, has been named Regents’ Professor, effective July 1.

Joye is Athletic Association Professor of Arts and Sciences in the department of marine sciences, part of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. Regents’ Professorships are bestowed by the Board of Regents on faculty members whose scholarship or creative activity is recognized nationally and internationally as innovative and pace-setting.

Joye’s work explores the deep ocean and the impact of biogeochemical, ecological and environmental factors on microbes and other marine life. She has pioneered new methods of quantifying environmental factors such as microbial metabolism and geochemical signatures in extreme conditions by visiting the deepest parts of the ocean in manned submersible and remotely operated vehicles.

With 160 peer-reviewed publications and 14 book chapters, Joye’s research has been cited more than 10,000 times, placing her among the top researchers in her field, and she has been awarded nearly 40 public and private research grants since 1997. Her current grants include funding from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, the Schmidt Ocean Institute, the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

In addition to thousands of press interviews with media outlets from National Geographic to the New York Times, Joye has engaged in various projects with artists to translate science to the public, including a current partnership with painter Rebecca Rutstein that was featured at a recent Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities conference at UGA. Joye recently collaborated with artist Jim Toomey of the popular “Sherman’s Lagoon” comic strip to create an award-winning short film series entitled “The Adventures of Zack and Molly , ” which highlights the importance of healthy oceans. In addition, Joye’s research has been featured in two documentaries, “Black and Blue: Beneath the Gulf Oil Disaster” and “Atlantis Revealed: Where the Oil Went,” and her work has been filmed for the BBC’s “Blue Planet” series.

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Student startups take home $35K in brands competition

Three student startup businesses took home a combined $35,000 from the Collegiate Great Brands Competition, held March 28 in Studio 225 at the University of Georgia.

Celise, a sustainable plastics-alternative company, won $25,000 and a trip to New York to participate in the Consensus Great Brands Show, while two UGA teams—VTasteCakes and Rugged Road Outdoors—each received $5,000 in runner-up prize money.

The contest, which brought the top eight student teams out of a record number of submissions from across the nation to pitch their ventures to entrepreneurial experts, was made possible thanks to sponsorship from Consensus Advisors and Creation Gardens. The Collegiate Great Brands Competition is sponsored by the UGA Entrepreneurship Program, whose mission is to help develop the mindset of future entrepreneurs and prepare students for business leadership roles.

The first-place business, Celise, is headed by American University student Cameron Ross. He had the idea to create biodegradable alternatives to common plastics when he was hiking through West Virginia—just as the problem was attracting renewed national attention.

VTasteCakes, led by UGA alumna Jasmyn Reddicks, makes low-calorie vegan desserts. Last year, the fledging company also won $5,000 for its first place finish in the FABricate entrepreneurial challenge hosted by UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The founder’s plan for growth is to increase online sales and partner with local markets to boost sales.

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UGA Relay for Life raises $242K to fight cancer

As the sun rose over Legion Field on April 13 at UGA Relay for Life’s Night of 2019 event, the student organization announced its 2019 fundraising total of $241,812. Because cancer never sleeps, hundreds of students and community members remained awake at the event from April 12 at 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following morning.

Sarah Henning, executive director of UGA Relay for Life, watched as her mom fighting cancer gave the opening speech. The money raised for research funded by the American Cancer Society will allow them to celebrate both her and her sister’s upcoming graduations. Students’ contributions directly fund life-saving research happening at labs within walking distance right here on campus, Sarah said.

Throughout the year, Relay hosted large-scale fundraising events, such as Nightmare on Clayton Street, Greek Week, a 5k race and their first annual Swing Fore a Cure golf tournament.  Students also sought ways to engage businesses and other students in the fight against cancer through donation matching, percentage nights and fundraising challenges.

Each month this school year, Relay students cooked dinner and spent time with those staying at the Hope Lodge Winn-Dixie Campus in Atlanta, a free housing facility for cancer patients and caregivers living over an hour away from their treatment centers.

“To see a generation of young adults who care about people who have cancer like I do brings me so much hope, one of them might become a doctor, social worker or teacher who supports cancer patients and their families,” said Jill Henning, Sarah’s mom.

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UGA seeks to name College of Education for Mary Frances Early

The University of Georgia College of Education is launching a special initiative to name its college for UGA’s first African American graduate, Mary Frances Early, as the university heads into the final year of its Commit to Georgia capital campaign.

“The proposed naming of the College of Education in honor of Mary Frances Early is a tribute not only to her trailblazing integration of UGA in the 1960s but also to her lifetime of accomplishment and service to others as a music educator,” said College of Education Dean Denise A. Spangler.

Over the course of the next year, gifts benefiting the College of Education may be dedicated in Early’s honor to go toward the proposed naming, which will be subject to approval by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents.

“I am deeply honored because I spent my entire career in education, and I never dreamed that I would receive such an incredible recognition from the University of Georgia,” said Early.

A lead gift to the campaign already has been made by UGA President Jere W. Morehead: a designation of $200,000 from the President’s Venture Fund which, when matched by the UGA Foundation, will be used to create four new $100,000 Georgia Commitment Scholarships for students with financial need. These Georgia Commitment Scholarships will be awarded with a preference for students who intend to pursue majors in the College of Education or music education majors in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music.

“I am delighted to join Dean Spangler in kicking off this campaign with a gift that not only honors Mary Frances Early but also that supports public education in Georgia by providing need-based scholarships for students who want to follow in her footsteps,” said Morehead. “She has touched the lives of thousands of students over her long career as an outstanding teacher, and this will enable future generations of students to continue her life’s work.”

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Child welfare expert named Berger Professor

A leading authority on child welfare has been appointed the Pauline M. Berger Professor in Family and Child Welfare in the UGA School of Social Work.

Harold Briggs, a professor at the school, is nationally known for his innovative studies focused on putting families first in child welfare systems of care. He has been instrumental in identifying and describing welfare service areas that need greater coordination and in developing programs that give children, youth and families more voice in the planning and delivery of services.

“Harold Briggs’ scholarly record and passion for reducing health disparities and behavioral health challenges that affect marginalized children, youth and families makes him an excellent fit for this position,” said Anna Scheyett, dean and professor of the school. “As Berger Professor, he will be a powerful advocate for more culturally responsive and evidence-based approaches to serving those populations in Georgia and beyond.”

The holder of the Berger Professorship conducts research on the effects of state and federal policies and legislation on children, youth and families, advocates on their behalf and advances instruction and student understanding of child and family well-being issues.

Prior to earning his doctorate Briggs was a social work practitioner and associate executive director of Habilitative Systems Inc., a Chicago-based nonprofit behavioral and mental health services agency. His firsthand knowledge of the problems that families face has informed his research, which examines, among other things, consumer-friendly practices such as placing different service providers in one location and giving youth a voice in policy development and implementation. 

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NIH provides long-term funding for Escalante lab

The National Institutes of Health announced a Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award granted to UGA Foundation Distinguished Professor Jorge C. Escalante-Semerena of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences microbiology department.

MIRA grants are designed to increase the efficiency of NIH funding by providing investigators with greater stability and flexibility, thereby enhancing scientific productivity and the chances for important breakthroughs. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences program also helps distribute funding more widely among the nation’s highly talented and promising investigators. Escalante’s award is one of three currently active MIRAs at UGA.

Escalante’s research group has made sustained, seminal contributions to the fields of prokaryotic metabolism and physiology. The new MIRA grant complements the long-term support of Escalante’s work in this area of research by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences since 1988. In 2010, his efforts in this field were recognized by a Method to Extend Research in Time Award, which provides 10 years of uninterrupted support.

The title of the Escalante MIRA, “Analysis of Metabolic Capabilties of Prokaryotic Cells,” provides the platform for findings that could be used to advance a range of research areas of great societal interest, such as synthetic biology, antibiotic resistance, bioremediation, drug delivery, renewable energy, metabolic stress responses and microbiome analysis.

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History professor awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

Scott Nelson, Georgia Athletic Association Professor in Humanities in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded a prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.

Nelson, who specializes in 19th-century American social history in the department of history, has authored or co-authored five books, most recently “A Nation of Deadbeats: An Uncommon History of America’s Financial Disasters.”

“The Guggenheim Fellowship is a great honor. It’s one of the top accolades a historian can earn, and I am excited to represent the University of Georgia,” Nelson said, adding that he is encouraged that the Guggenheim Foundation found his scholarship to be worthy of such a prestigious award. “This is a recognition that people were moved by my work, and that is amazing.”

The Guggenheim Fellowship program, established in 1925 by U.S. Sen. Simon Guggenheim and his wife, Olga, in honor of their late son John, bestows funds on scholars, scientists and artists to devote time to a creative or scholarly project. The award is given to individuals who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or creative work. This year a total of 168 scholars, artists and writers were chosen from among nearly 3,000 applications.

Nelson said the fellowship will allow him to complete work on a manuscript for a book that ties the food revolution in eastern Europe in the 1860s to the American Civil War. Nelson plans to delve deeper into the shift in society from humans working for most of each day to secure their food to having the ability to purchase food at grocery stores, which he relates back to a financial crisis in Europe and North America in 1873.

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New faculty Innovation Fellows Program accepting applications

The Office of Research is now accepting applications for the university’s new Innovation Fellows Program. This program is designed to support faculty who want to engage in commercialization and product development, with an eye toward fine-tuning their research programs to align with industry and market needs. Faculty of all ranks are encouraged to apply.

President Jere W. Morehead announced the Innovation Fellows Program during the State of the University address, delivered in January. It is part of a multi-pronged effort to fuel greater innovation on campus.

“This new program is responding to a vibrant and growing culture of innovation and entrepreneurship among the faculty at the University of Georgia,” said Morehead. “I am excited to see this initiative launch and take shape in the months and years ahead.”

Each semester, one to three faculty will be named Innovation Fellows. Fellows will receive up to $10,000 in funding to support customer discovery, make connections with potential industry partners and learn from successful entrepreneurs and investors. 

Applications for the fall 2019 Innovation Fellows Program are due May 20, and instructions can be found at  http://startups.uga.edu/Innovation_Fellows/.

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Electric buses to arrive on UGA campus

The University of Georgia has established a contract to purchase up to 20 Proterra Catalyst E2 electric buses. The move is a significant step forward in reducing carbon emissions and increasing alternative transportation options for the UGA campus transit system, one of the largest of its kind in the country.

“Adding electric buses to the UGA fleet will dramatically reduce transportation, maintenance and operating costs for the university, which will in turn help to keep student fees low,” said Don Walter, interim associate director, Auxiliary Services and director, Transportation and Parking Services.

Energy costs for operating the electric buses amount to less than $10 per day per bus, compared to energy costs for a diesel bus that total $90 per day per bus. The new buses also will have twice the horsepower and five times the efficiency of a diesel bus.

The positive benefits of electric bus technology go beyond maintenance and operations. The buses will advance research and fieldwork opportunities for students and faculty in the College of Engineering by providing access to live field data. Additionally, in an emergency, the batteries have the potential to supply power to buildings that have been appropriately modified.

The buses are expected to arrive on campus during the next academic year.

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Skidaway, marine sciences join conservation consortium

UGA’s Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and Department of Marine Sciences are joining other leading ocean science and engineering institutions to create Ocean Visions, an initiative meant to foster collaboration between top researchers, conservationists and entrepreneurs committed to solving some of the biggest challenges facing ocean health.

The endeavor’s first summit, OceanVisions2019 – Climate, is being held April 1-4 at Georgia Tech, highlighting ocean-based science and engineering successes that address human, climate and ecological pressures.

“Ocean Visions provides a much needed boost to advancing technological solutions to ocean problems,” said Clark Alexander, director of Skidaway. “It establishes a framework and mechanism to bring together the best minds in ocean research, entrepreneurship and industry to address the most pressing concerns facing the world’s oceans.”

In addition to the Skidaway Institute and Department of Marine Sciences, other Ocean Visions participating organizations include Georgia Tech, The Smithsonian Institution, Stanford University, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Georgia Aquarium, Monterey Bay Aquarium and Birch Aquarium at Scripps, all of which agreed to collaborate on scientifically sound, scalable, impactful and viable ocean conservation solutions.

“UGA is proud to be part of this initiative and to partner with some of the country’s leading voices in ocean conservation,” said David Lee, UGA vice president for research. “We look forward to bringing our particular expertise in ocean science and coastal resiliency to bear on an issue that affects all of us.”