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New scholars program to enhance legal education

The University of Georgia School of Law has created a Benham Scholars Program, which will focus on helping to maintain and increase diversity in the legal profession.

The program is named in honor of Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham, who was a first-year law student 50 years ago and became the law school’s second African-American graduate in 1970.

The Benham Scholars Program is funded as part of the New Approaches in Diversity and Inclusion initiative announced by UGA President Jere W. Morehead last semester. Private donations received from the Office of the President will be matched by private law school funding to support the program, which will focus on four key areas: recruitment, preparation for law school, academic support and career planning.

The first Benham Scholars will be admitted to the law school for the 2018-19 academic year.

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UGA scientists help map genetic code of peanuts

An international group of agricultural scientists, including University of Georgia and USDA scientists based in Georgia, have mapped the genetic code of the peanut. Results of the five-year research project give scientists around the world a map with which to unlock some of the genetic potential of the peanut plant.

This discovery by the Peanut Genome Consortium, a group of scientists from the U.S., China, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, India, Israel and several countries in Africa, gives scientists the capability to find beneficial genes in cultivated and wild peanuts to use in breeding new peanut varieties. These traits can lead to greater yields, lower production costs, lower losses to disease, improved processing traits, improved nutrition, improved safety, better flavor and virtually anything that is genetically determined by the peanut plant.

In 2012, the U.S. peanut industry urged The Peanut Foundation to initiate a research program to map the genetic code of the peanut plant. The resulting International Peanut Genome Initiative is the largest research project ever funded by the industry, with the $6 million cost shared equally among growers, shellers and manufacturers. Peanuts are a staple in diets across the globe, from the Americas to Africa and Asia. They are also a key ingredient in Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods that treat severe acute malnutrition and a crop that farmers in developing countries rely on for personal and community economic well being.

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UGA professor named to most recent class of NAI Fellows

The National Academy of Inventors has named a University of Georgia faculty member who is a leading researcher in regenerative medicine to the 2017 class of NAI Fellows.

Steven Stice, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and director of the UGA Regenerative Bioscience Center, joins an elite group of 912 innovators representing more than 250 prestigious research universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutions.

Election to NAI Fellow status is a professional distinction accorded to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society. Six UGA faculty members have been named NAI Fellows since the honor was established in 2013, and an additional Fellow joined the faculty last year.

Stice, the D.W. Brooks Distinguished Professor in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, has led industry and academic research teams in the area of pluripotent stem cells for over 25 years. At UGA he has conducted pioneering work in developmental biology and genetics to advance animal and human medicine. His group derived some of the original human pluripotent stem cell lines placed on the first National Institutes of Health human embryonic stem cell registry. Stice was a key member of the team that produced the first cloned rabbit in 1989 and the first cloned transgenic calves in 1998 (George and Charlie), for which he was granted the first U.S. patent in cloning animals. He has produced the first genetically modified pluripotent stem cells derived from pigs and cattle and, more recently, in avian species. His research has led to 16 U.S. patents in stem cells, cloning and regenerative medicine, including the first U.S. patent on animal cloning and therapeutic cloning from adult animal cells.

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Navarro new associate director of Honors Program

A competitive internal search for a new associate director of the Honors Program ended recently with the appointment of Maria Navarro, professor of interdisciplinary education in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Since 2005, Navarro has served on the faculty of the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication, where she teaches and mentors undergraduate and graduate students and conducts academic outreach across the state and nation.

Her academic focus spans food, agricultural and environmental sciences, with a special emphasis on global food security and international agriculture, development and technology change. She has worked in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Western Asia and has garnered a total of $3,455,902 in collaborative grant funding.

In her new role with the Honors Program, Navarro oversees Honors academic advising and the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities, or CURO. She is also responsible for representing Honors and CURO regionally and nationally, coordinating Honors curricular offerings, supervising several staff members and working closely with Williams on future Honors initiatives. She will continue teaching “Reflections on Fighting Hunger,” a course she initially developed for the Honors Program, which is now one of her most requested classes.

Her UGA teaching awards include the Richard B. Russell Award, which recognizes excellence in undergraduate teaching; the D.W. Brooks Award for Excellence in Teaching, given by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; and the Lilly Teaching Fellowship, as well as the USDA National New Teacher Award. Navarro has also received both of the Honors Program’s teaching awards, the Hatten Howard Award and the Lothar Tresp Outstanding Honors Professor Award.

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Early, Dunn to receive President's Medal

The University of Georgia will bestow one of its highest honors to Mary Frances Early, the first African-American to earn a degree from UGA, and Delmer “Del” Dunn, former UGA vice president for instruction, during Founders Day activities on Jan. 22.

The President’s Medal recognizes extraordinary contributions of individuals who are not current employees of UGA and who have supported students and academic programs, advanced research and inspired community leaders to enhance the quality of life of citizens in Georgia.

“I am pleased that Mary Frances Early and Del Dunn will be honored for their decades of service to this university and to the state of Georgia,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Ms. Early and Dr. Dunn both helped set new standards for educational excellence within their respective fields, and multiple generations of students have benefited from their exemplary leadership.”

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UGA to lead NSF project to rapidly sequence corn pangenome

When the human genome was first sequenced in 2001, the project focused on a single individual. Since that time, several new genomes have been assembled and additional genetic data have been generated for thousands of individuals, producing a more complete picture of human genetic makeup, with broad implications for human health, from biomedical science to anthropology. Now, researchers plan to begin a similar process with corn.

Though corn, or maize, is the most widely planted and most genetically diverse crop in the world, practically all genomic analysis of corn relies heavily on a single inbred line. Modern breeding efforts to improve productivity increasingly require deeper genetic variety for more marginal environments and uses, requiring a more complete understanding of maize genomic diversity.

Researchers at the University of Georgia, Iowa State University and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York will work together to sequence, assemble and annotate 26 different lines chosen to represent the diversity of corn. The National Science Foundation-funded project will combine leading edge DNA sequencing technology with a technique called optical mapping to produce high-quality genome assemblies with characterization and release of the 26 lines in two years.

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UGA Alumni Association launches The 1961 Club

The University of Georgia Alumni Association has launched a new giving society, The 1961 Club, to better engage the university’s more than 14,000 living African-American alumni. Named for the year of desegregation at UGA, The 1961 Club supports the Black Alumni Scholarship Fund, which provides need-based scholarships to African-American students.

This new fundraising initiative, which is being spearheaded by the Alumni Association’s Black Alumni Affinity Group, was officially launched on Jan. 9 during a networking event for alumni and students at Paschal’s Restaurant in Atlanta.

“When the dedicated volunteers who serve on the Black Alumni Leadership Council approached us with the idea for The 1961 Club, we were excited,” said Meredith Gurley Johnson, executive director of the UGA Alumni Association. “One of the priorities of the Commit to Georgia Campaign is to remove barriers to education so that UGA can attract the best and brightest students, and The 1961 Club is making strides toward that goal. We are grateful for the efforts of these volunteers to make an impact in such a meaningful way.”

On Jan. 9, 1961, Hamilton E. Holmes and Charlayne Hunter-Gault became the first African-American students to register for classes at UGA amid a crowd of National Guardsmen, reporters and community members on both sides of the integration debate. They were later joined by Mary Frances Early, the first African-American student to graduate from UGA. Early will receive the President’s Medal Jan. 22 during UGA’s annual Founders Week celebrations.

In 1981, James Simmons Jr. and Horatio Lanier established the Black Alumni Scholarship Fund with the support of numerous alumni and faculty. The endowment now provides renewable scholarships to five deserving undergraduate students who demonstrate promising leadership qualities and a commitment to advancing racial equality.

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Gov. Deal proclaims UGA Football Friday

Gov. Nathan Deal signed a proclamation of UGA Football Friday and encouraged everyone in the state to wear Bulldog red and black attire on Friday, January 5. The full proclamation can be seen here.

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Microbiome analysis tool will help scientists understand chronic disease and environment

A new computational tool developed by University of Georgia researchers shows promise for further understanding and identifying the complicated makeup of the microbiome.

Microbes, found everywhere—in our environment, on our skin and in human bodies and consisting of bacteria, archaea, fungi, protozoans and viruses—form microbiomes that have both good and harmful implications for human health.

With the creation of this new big data tool, researchers will help identify differences in patterns of microbes that may lead to a better understanding of chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

The research is part of the National Microbiome Initiative and was published in Genome Biology. For more information, click here.

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UGA faculty member named National Academy of Inventors Fellow

The National Academy of Inventors has named a University of Georgia faculty member who is a leading researcher in regenerative medicine to the 2017 class of NAI Fellows.

Steven Stice, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and director of the UGA Regenerative Bioscience Center, joins an elite group of 912 innovators representing more than 250 prestigious research universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutions.  Election to NAI Fellow status is a professional distinction accorded to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society. Six UGA faculty members have been named NAI Fellows since the honor was established in 2013, and an additional Fellow joined the faculty last year.

Stice, the D.W. Brooks Distinguished Professor in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, has led industry and academic research teams in the area of pluripotent stem cells for over 25 years. At UGA he has conducted pioneering work in developmental biology and genetics to advance animal and human medicine. His group derived some of the original human pluripotent stem cell lines placed on the first National Institutes of Health human embryonic stem cell registry. Stice was a key member of the team that produced the first cloned rabbit in 1989 and the first cloned transgenic calves in 1998 (George and Charlie), for which he was granted the first U.S. patent in cloning animals. He has produced the first genetically modified pluripotent stem cells derived from pigs and cattle and, more recently, in avian species. His research has led to 16 U.S. patents in stem cells, cloning and regenerative medicine, including the first U.S. patent on animal cloning and therapeutic cloning from adult animal cells.