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Scientists collaborate to sequence common beans genome

Beans are a staple crop and primary protein source for millions of people around the world, but very little has been known about their domestication or nitrogen-fixing properties until now.

Recently, University of Georgia researchers worked with a team of scientists to help sequence and analyze the genome of the common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris. Black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, green beans, pole beans and others are varieties of the common bean.

"Unlocking the genetic makeup of the common bean is a tremendous achievement that will lead to future advances in feeding the world's growing population through improved crop production," said Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. "While we have much to learn about the application of genomics in agriculture, this study is groundbreaking. I applaud the work of this team of scientists and look forward to their continued work in this important area."

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UGAs Marine Debris Tracker named in Apples apps we cant live without

University of Georgia assistant engineering professor Jenna Jambeck usually isn't surprised when an email telling her the smartphone application she created in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—Marine Debris Tracker—has been mentioned in social media. But the tweet including it on June 2 caught her completely off guard.

Her app had just been featured in a video in front of thousands at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. The global tech giant kicked off its 25th annual event with a promotional piece on "Apps We Can't Live Without."

Marine Debris Tracker was one of those apps.

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UGA geneticist named one of Cells 40 under 40

University of Georgia researcher Robert Schmitz was recently selected by the journal Cell as one of 40 most accomplished young scientists under the age of 40 who are shaping current and future trends in biology.

The featured researchers were chosen by the journal's editorial board from a pool of international nominees to commemorate Cell's 40th anniversary.

"It's very exciting to be recognized by such a prestigious organization so early in my career," said Schmitz, an assistant professor of genetics in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "I hope we can use this recognition as a springboard to bolster the momentum in building our research program."

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UGA Performing Arts Center announces 2014-2015 season

The University of Georgia Performing Arts Center has announced the roster of artists for the 2014-2015 season.

"I'm excited about the upcoming season for many reasons," said George C. Foreman, director of the Performing Arts Center. "We have some very special events to look forward to, and we're presenting a lot of orchestral performances as well, which our audiences love."

The season will feature a return appearance by best-selling author and "A Prairie Home Companion" host Garrison Keillor, whose 2012 UGA show was a sell-out. "People have been asking me when we were going to bring him back, and I'm glad we were able to make it happen," Foreman said.

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Area teachers take part in Garden Earth Naturalist training at the State Botanical Garden

Twenty-two kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers from across Georgia attended a five-day professional development workshop at the State Botanical Garden at the University of Georgia June 2-6. These teams of two to three teachers from public schools in Oconee, Jackson, Forsyth, Cobb and Fulton counties were chosen from a competitive pool of applicants to attend the Garden Earth Naturalist program.

During the workshop, participants learned about their school sites as ecosystems and how to encourage children to learn from nature by taking instruction outside. There were classroom lectures and hands-on exercises in the State Botanical Garden.

"Garden Earth has been a wonderful experience," said Bill Nelson, a second-grade teacher at Colham Ferry Elementary School in Oconee County. "I have been exposed to so many activities that I know my students will love doing. The hands-on investigations will help my students evolve into lifelong learners and stewards of the Earth."

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Record number of UGA students awarded Gilman Scholarship

Thirteen University of Georgia students have been awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to study abroad in the summer of 2014. This is the highest number of scholarships UGA has received for summer programs.

The Gilman Scholarship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is a nationally competitive needs-based scholarship that aims to diversify the students who study abroad and the countries and regions where they go. Gilman Scholars receive up to $5,000 to apply towards their study abroad program costs. Students are encouraged to choose non-traditional study abroad destinations such as Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe or Latin America.

Scholarship recipients have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of other cultures, countries, languages, and economies—making them better prepared to assume leadership roles within government and the private sector.

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UGA Hodgson Singers win international choral competition

The University of Georgia Hodgson Singers, the flagship choral ensemble of the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, won both first prize and the Grand Prix Ave Verum at the prestigious International Choral Competition Ave Verum on May 24 in Baden, Austria. The four-day event featured performances by choirs from the U.S., Italy, Hungary, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Austria and the Philippines, each evaluated by an international panel of judges.

"I am overwhelmed by the success of this choir on this tour of beautiful cathedrals in the Czech Republic and Austria, at the (American Choral Directors Association) Convention in Jacksonville earlier this March and in this international competition," said Daniel Bara, director of choral activities in the Hodgson School and choir conductor. "In addition to singing beautifully, the choir has been singled out for its earnest delivery and performances that have heart.

The 45-member choir, led by Bara, advanced to the competition's second round on May 23 after performing in concert with the 10 choral groups invited to compete. The five finalists performed the following day, with the Hodgson Singers officially named first place winners and top-performing ensemble at the May 24 awards ceremony.

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Study identifies trigger to cancer initiation, growth

Chronic inflammation that induces low oxygen levels, or hypoxia, is a widely accepted cause of cancer development. However, the link between hypoxia and cell proliferation is far from clear.

A new study by University of Georgia researchers presents a model explaining the connection between chronic inflammation, low oxygen levels and the resulting cell proliferation that begins the cancer process.

"A switch in energy metabolism mechanisms—from the normal oxygenic respiration our cells use to process glucose into energy to a much less efficient, much lower capacity process called anaerobic fermentation—leads to glucose accumulation," said Ying Xu, a Regents-Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and professor of bioinformatics and computational biology in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

According to the study, this accumulation of glucose and related signaling through the body leads to a reaction much the same as to that of damaged tissue, eventually triggering the cell proliferation that causes cancer. Specifically it leads to synthesis, export and fragmentation of hyaluronic acids, which can serve as signals for tissue repair. The study was published in the online edition of the International Journal of Cancer.

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Student, faculty collaboration produces interactive book for cell biology

Understanding how cells transport ions and molecules is a foundational part of cell biology, but students often have trouble mastering the underlying concepts because traditional textbooks do not adequately convey the dynamic world of cells.

A collaboration between University of Georgia professors, undergraduates and a growing UGA startup company aims to address this issue with the release of a new iBook "Cell Membrane Transport."

"When we make a new product, we always ask teachers which subjects their students struggle to understand, and membrane transporters was at the top of their list," said Tom Robertson, an associate professor of physiology and pharmacology in the College of Veterinary Medicine who leads the IS3D team. "The great thing about the latest product is that we had two undergraduates involved—the faculty set the framework for the book, but it was the undergrads who worked with our artists to create most of the content."

The startup company, IS3D LLC (www.is3d-online.com), is a partnership of seven UGA faculty and staff members that will re-brand as Cogent Education this summer and is funded by the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation. Three of the founders from the College of Veterinary Medicine—Robertson; Jim Moore, a professor of large animal medicine; and Scott Brown, a professor of small animal medicine—led the writing team for the new iBook.

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New tools help protect worlds threatened species

New tools to collect and share information could help stem the loss of the world's threatened species, according to a paper published today in the journal Science. The study—by an international team of scientists that included John L. Gittleman, dean of the University of Georgia Odum School of Ecology—was led by Stuart L. Pimm of Duke University and Clinton N. Jenkins of the Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas in Brazil.

"As databases coalesce and policymakers have access to greater information, we see real and improving successes for conservation science," Gittleman said.

The paper's authors reviewed recent studies in conservation science, looking at rates of species extinction, distribution and protection to determine where there were crucial gaps in knowledge, where threats to species are expanding and how best to tailor protection efforts to be successful.

By combining studies of the fossil record and of molecular analyses, they found the current rate of extinction—driven primarily by human activity—was roughly 1,000 times higher than the natural, background extinction rate—an alarming number that is likely to grow, they said.