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Kisaalita named Georgia Athletic Association Professor

William Kisaalita, a member of the University of Georgia faculty since 1991, has been named a Georgia Athletic Association Professor in Engineering. The GAA established the endowed professorship to encourage leadership in multi-disciplinary projects that address global challenges.

Kisaalita teaches both undergraduate and graduate-level courses in the UGA College of Engineering. His research in tissue engineering focuses on cell-based biosensors with applications in drug discovery. In addition, he works to develop technology that assists people in low-resource settings. ­Kisaalita’s efforts to design a ­biofuel-powered cooler to keep milk safe and healthy to drink in areas without electricity, particularly sub-Saharan ­Africa, earned a $1 million research grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“I am deeply humbled and honored by this recognition of my work by the Georgia Athletic Association,” said Kisaalita. “I am also encouraged to continue engaging our students in solving challenges in places that are often ignored. What seems a small difference can be made huge from the perspective of those in these settings.”

Throughout his career, Kisaalita has developed research activities and international service-learning projects that have engaged students in helping solve real-world problems.

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UGA part of regional collaboration studying oyster farming

Ripples form on the surface of the water as University of Georgia graduate student Shannon Kirk loads her research equipment onto the research vessel Marie. Today she’s heading out to her research site in Wassaw Sound to measure the growth of more than 10,000 oysters.

“We’ll measure the length, width and height to determine the overall proportion of the oysters, which will help us understand how valuable they might be in the eyes of consumers,” said Kirk, who is studying aquaculture in the Master of Science program at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

In partnership with UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, Kirk is studying ways to reduce the buildup of barnacles, algae and other organisms, called biofouling, on floating cages used by shellfish growers. Her findings could help UGA’s efforts to revive the oyster industry in Georgia.

Kirk’s research is part of a larger, multistate collaborative project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Southern Regional Aquaculture Center. The project team consists of university researchers, Sea Grant extension agents and industry partners representing seven states across the southern region, from North Carolina to Louisiana. Kirk and Louisiana State University graduate student Ellis Chapman are deploying the same research methods at sites in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

The team is working closely with oyster farmers over the course of the project. The growing gear is deployed on their farms and they are working with extension agents to handle routine flipping at the sites. At the conclusion of the study, the research team will share results at workshops designed for current growers as well those who have an interest in getting into oyster aquaculture in each state.

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School of Law captures national moot court title

The University of Georgia School of Law recently captured the top trophy in the Charleston School of Law National Moot Court Competition and won a regional championship of the American Association for Justice National Student Trial Advocacy Competition, qualifying to compete in the national tier of this tournament.

Third-year law student Caroline F. Savini and second-year law student Simone Ford went undefeated at the Charleston moot court tournament, claiming the national title. Savini was named the best oralist of the final round.

A second team representing UGA, comprised of second-year law students Eric Wilder and Hayley Nicolich finished as semifinalists and were presented with the Best Appellee Brief Award.

Notably, three of the best five oralists in the preliminary rounds of this competition were from UGA: Wilder, Nicolich and Savini. Also, Georgia was the only school to advance two teams to the quarterfinals.

In the American Association for Justice National Student Trial Advocacy Competition, third-year law students J. Alex Prescott and Karen E. Hays and second-year law students Stephen Mulherin and Philip Poole finished in first place in their regional tournament. They were undefeated in the contest, overcoming teams such as Emory University, Georgia State University, Belmont University, the University of South Carolina and Lincoln Memorial University. They will now advance to the national tier of the tournament to be held in Raleigh, North Carolina, during April.

These successes demonstrate the law school’s commitment to preparing its students for real-world practice while connecting them to professionals and leaders in the legal community through a variety of different opportunities and events, according to law school Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge.

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Warnell dedicates classroom, center to honor alumnus

The University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources dedicated a classroom and its Center for Forest Business after prominent alumnus Harley Langdale Jr. on March 6.

Langdale, who graduated from UGA in 1937, died in 2013. Gifts from his estate and the Harley Langdale, Jr. Foundation totaling $3.6 million allowed the Center for Forest Business to expand its education efforts and research, as well as its service to the forest industry and private landowners. The center has been renamed the Harley Langdale Jr. Center for Forest Business.

“Harley Langdale Jr. was the consummate entrepreneur,” said Bob Izlar, director of the center. “When he encountered obstacles, he found innovative ways around them, whether it was brow beating the chairman of the regents, reforming national banking laws, helping enact capital gains tax treatment of timber, or creating new and sustainable markets for economic development of forestland. His life was a model for all Georgia. We are humbled by the legacy he has imparted to us.”

Langdale’s family, the Harley Langdale Jr. Foundation, Warnell faculty, and UGA President Jere W. Morehead attended the dedication on Tuesday.

In addition to the classroom and center, he will also be recognized with a named professorship, the Harley Langdale Jr. Endowed Chair in Forest Business.

Langdale graduated from what was then the George Foster Peabody School of Forestry in 1937, and over the next few decades he became one of the foremost pioneers in Georgia’s forest industry. As one of the first foresters to make the move from producing turpentine to planting trees for harvest, Langdale’s vision and passion ushered in an era of tree farming and sustainability.

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UGA researchers develop new method to improve crops

A team of University of Georgia researchers has developed a new way to breed plants with better traits. By introducing a human protein into the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana, researchers found that they could selectively activate silenced genes already present within the plant.

Using this method to increase diversity among plant populations could serve to create varieties that are able to withstand drought or disease in crops or other plant populations, and the researchers have already begun testing the technique on maize, soy and rice. They published their findings in Nature Communications.

The research project was led by Lexiang Ji, a doctoral student in bioinformatics, and William Jordan, a doctoral student in genetics. The new method they explored, known as epimutagenesis, will make it possible to breed diverse plants in a way that isn’t possible with traditional techniques. 

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UGA faculty, alumni among 2018 ESA Fellows

University of Georgia faculty members Jeb Byers and Amy Rosemond, both professors in the Odum School of Ecology, have been elected Fellows of the Ecological Society of America. The ESA Fellows program recognizes outstanding contributions to the advancement or application of ecological knowledge; Fellows are elected for life. Byers and Rosemond are the sixth and seventh current or former Odum School faculty members so honored.

This year’s class also includes UGA alumni Jianguo “Jack” Liu and Tyler Kartzinel, who was named an Early Career Fellow. The Early Career Fellows program recognizes members who have advanced ecological knowledge and applications and show promise of continuing to make outstanding contributions. They are elected for five years.

James E. “Jeb” Byers, Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor of Ecology, was elected for “major contributions to invasion biology, ecosystem engineering, ecological parasitology, and the biogeography of range boundaries, along with excellence in educating and mentoring students and in service to the national and international ecological community,” according to the announcement. Byers studies species interactions in nearshore, estuarine and marsh environments, with a focus on quantitatively measuring impacts of non-indigenous species on native biota in invaded marine communities.

Professor Amy Daum Rosemond was elected for “creative and influential experimental research on the food web, microbial, and biogeochemical dynamics of aquatic ecosystems.” Rosemond studies freshwater ecosystems, with particular focus on understanding the functional response of rivers and streams to excess nutrients and other stressors to inform policy and management.

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Researchers receive $10 million grant to create computational and informatics tools for glycoscience

Today, questions asked by genetic researchers are often answered using big data, through revealing larger patterns, trends and other connections. Thanks to a multimillion dollar research project, researchers at the University of Georgia and George Washington University are partners in a project that will soon be able to provide a way for questions asked by those studying glycoscience to be answered by big data, as well.

The National Institutes of Health has jointly awarded a $10 million grant to UGA and GW to build a glycoscience informatics portal, called GlyGen, necessary for glycoscience to advance. GlyGen will also integrate glycan data with gene and protein data, to allow for more effective analysis.

Currently, understanding the roles that glycans play in diseases such as cancer involves extensive literature-based research and manual collection of data from disparate databases and websites. GlyGen will simplify this process by providing scientists with a road map that shows key relationships among diverse kinds of information, allowing them to quickly find and retrieve the most current knowledge available and make rapid progress in their glycobiology research. 

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Franklin College faculty member named Regents' Professor

Mary Ann Moran, an internationally renowned researcher whose work has created a better understanding of marine ecosystems and the roles of the ocean microbiome, has been named Regents’ Professor, effective July 1.

Moran is a Distinguished Research Professor in the marine sciences department, part of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, who has served on the UGA faculty since 1993. Regents’ Professorships are bestowed by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents on faculty members whose scholarship or creative activity is recognized nationally and internationally as innovative and pacesetting.

“By asking fundamental questions about the unseen microbes of the oceans, Dr. Moran has revealed insights into global processes that impact life on Earth,” said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten. “Her commitment to discovery puts her at the forefront of her field and sets an extraordinary example for students.”

Moran’s laboratory investigates the activities of bacteria in the functioning of marine ecosystems, including how microbes interact with organic matter and how bacteria influence global carbon and sulfur cycles. Moran has pioneered the emerging field of environmental transcriptomics, where researchers are assessing the activity of genes in natural systems to provide a comprehensive view of the diversity of coastal microbial communities.

Moran’s research is supported by grants totaling $6.7 million, including awards from the National Science Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Simons Foundation. She has served as principal investigator or co-principal investigator for grants totaling $16.7 million over the past decade, and the results of her research have been reported in more than 160 refereed journal publications.

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College of Public Health professor receives 2018 Translational Impact Award

Jia-Sheng Wang, Georgia Athletic Association Professor in Public Health, received the 2018 Translational Impact Award from the Society of Toxicology. Founded in 1961, the Society of Toxicology is the pre-eminent professional organization for scientists who practice toxicology around the globe.

The Translational Impact Award is “presented to a scientist whose recent outstanding clinical, environmental health or translational research has improved human and/or public health in an area of toxicological concern.” Also known as bench-to-bedside science, translational research aims to “translate” the discoveries of scientific study into the treatment or prevention of disease.

Wang is head of the environmental health science department in UGA’s College of Public Health. He has 35 years of research and teaching experience in toxicology, chemical carcinogenesis, molecular epidemiology and cancer chemoprevention. His research investigates the impact of environmental toxin exposure on the formation of liver and esophageal cancers. He also explores the role that natural products and dietary supplements may play in preventing cancer.

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NMI hosts planning workshop for UGA to become third site for Center for Bioplastics and Biocomposites

Demonstrating UGA’s broad expertise in polymer science, biochemical engineering, textiles and plant science, faculty members representing the New Materials Institute recently presented a range of project ideas as part of the NMI’s pitch to become a site for the Center for Bioplastics and Biocomposites, known as CB2.

If approved this fall, the NMI will become the center’s third site, joining Iowa State University and Washington State University, which formed CB2 three years ago as an Industry-University Cooperative Research Center, a program run by the National Science Foundation. The 10 project pitches were presented at a site planning meeting attended by industry representatives from 20 companies, the NSF and CB2.

The NMI team will use the feedback from this planning ­meeting to shape its full NSF proposal, which will also require letters of commitment from industry partners. The IUCRC program benefits industry and academia in several key ways. Industry members gain access to cutting-edge research, shared intellectual property, ongoing training and continuing education, and the ability to leverage investment opportunities. Universities benefit from knowing exactly what industry expects from a project through direct mentorship, which leads to long-term relationships with industry partners, future intellectual property and the direct exposure of students to potential employers.