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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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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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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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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.

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UGA team places third in national weather forecasting competition

A team of students in the University of Georgia's atmospheric sciences program recently placed third overall in the 2014 WxChallenge competition, an online weather forecasting competition for students, faculty and alumni of collegiate atmospheric science programs.

UGA's final standings—just behind first- and second-place winners Penn State University and the University at Albany, State University of New York—placed them among several universities that lead the nation in the atmospheric sciences. The UGA team ranked just above the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

"Our WxChallenge team has placed in the top five in the nation in four out of the past six years," said associate professor John Knox, who serves as the team manager. "I think this level of performance reflects the high quality of our students and our atmospheric sciences curriculum at UGA—and our students' dedication to improving their ability to forecast the weather."

The competition's nearly 2,000 participants represented more than 50 institutions in the U.S. and Canada. From UGA, six undergraduate and six graduate students in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences competed as well as Knox and UGA alumnus Chris Davis, who graduated in 2013.

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Professor elected Fellow of the National Academy of Kinesiology

James Zhang, a professor of sport management in the University of Georgia College of Education, has been elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Kinesiology. He will be inducted at the academy's annual meeting in Austin, Texas in September.

Zhang, coordinator of the sport management program in the department of kinesiology, teaches and studies sport consumer and organizational behaviors. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in sport management, and is leading the development of an international center for sport management education and research at UGA.

He joined the UGA faculty in 2011. His research focuses on predicting sport consumption behaviors and forming effective market strategies by investigating market demand and competition, socio-motivation, event/program operation and service quality, consumer lifestyle and socio-demographic backgrounds. He has also studied sport leadership with a focus on formal and informal leadership in athletic program management.

He is currently working on three research projects, two of which focus on sport marketing and are funded by international organizations. The third project is a 21st Century Community Learning Center program evaluation, funded by the Georgia Department of Education.

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UGA Extension celebrates 100 years of service

University of Georgia Extension invites Georgians to celebrate 100 years of community-centered information, education and service.

On May 15, UGA Extension celebrated its 100th anniversary with the opening of a multimedia museum exhibit in the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries highlighting the impacts the organization has had over the past century.

"In the past 100 years, UGA Extension helped eradicate the boll weevil, introduce new food safety measures and promote land conservation," said Beverly Sparks, associate dean of Extension in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

"Today, we face a new list of pests, problems and challenges, but we are confident our Extension experts and educators will meet them head on. We look forward to another century of service to Georgians."

UGA Extension, originally known as the UGA Cooperative Extension Service, was officially founded in 1914 through the Smith-Lever Act, a federal law that established and funded a state-by-state national network of educators who would bring university-based research and practical knowledge to the public.

Today, Extension in the state of Georgia is a cooperative effort by federal, state and local government partners administered by the university.

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Virtual pet leads to increased physical activity for kids, UGA research says

Placing children into a mixed reality-part virtual environment and part real world-has great potential for increasing their physical activity and decreasing their risk of obesity, according to University of Georgia researchers.

Sixty-one Georgia 4-H'ers, 9-12 years old, participated in a study designed to increase awareness and reduce childhood obesity. Participants set goals for the amount of physical activity they wanted to complete throughout the day over a course of three days. An activity monitor was worn to track their activity.

Children were split into two groups but only one group was allowed to train, exercise and play with an obese, virtual dog. The pet, and overall game platform, was developed by an interdisciplinary group of UGA researchers from the College of Engineering, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and the College of Veterinary Medicine. UGA Extension helped find participants for the study.

Researchers found the group of children allowed to interact with the virtual pet averaged 1.09 hours of additional physical activity per day when compared to the group without the pet. The results of the study were published in the April issue of the journal IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics.

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UGA faculty receive First-Year Odyssey Teaching Awards

Four University of Georgia faculty were honored with First-Year Odyssey Teaching Awards at a reception celebrating the success of the First-Year Odyssey Seminar program.

Award recipients and their seminar titles included:
• Wayde Brown, associate professor and assistant dean of research, College of Environment and Design, "Stories Behind the Bricks;"
• James "Jeb" Byers, associate professor, Odum School of Ecology, "The Ecology of Invasive Species;"
• William Kisaalita, professor and graduate coordinator, College of Engineering, "Things You Can (or Should Not) Do to End World Poverty;"
• Ronald Pegg, associate professor, food science and technology, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, "Coffee Technology."

The awards recognized outstanding instructors who have demonstrated innovation in instruction, connection of seminar content to the instructor's research, and how FYOS program goals are incorporated into the seminar.