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UGA to lead network for research experiences

Despite a nationwide emphasis on increasing the number of students entering science, technology, engineering and math fields, many leave the disciplines within their first two years. Now a group of institutions led by the University of Georgia will spearhead a new phase of development of a national network to support integration of research experiences into undergraduate life science lab courses.

The network, called “Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences Network,” or CUREnet, was established to broaden the availability of research opportunities for students across the U.S.
 
Supported by a new grant from the National Science Foundation, a large network of institutions, including other institutions in the University System of Georgia and a group of historically black colleges and universities across several states in the southeast and mid-Atlantic, will work with CUREnet to reinvent their life science lab courses to engage undergraduates in research at scale.

There are many research-related careers that we need the workforce for here in the U.S., and if students don’t even know that research exists, they dont know that it is an option for them career-wise, said Erin Dolan, Georgia Athletic Association Professor of Innovative Science Education in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and principal investigator on the new NSF grant.

CUREnet nicely integrates not only research and teaching, but also UGAs service and outreach missions as a land-grant institution. It has the potential to broaden participation in the STEM workforce by opening access to research experiences that are typically unavailable to a broad swath of talented undergraduates, Dolan said.

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UGA receives national diversity award for fourth consecutive year

The University of Georgia’s commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive campus environment has been recognized for the fourth consecutive year with the INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award.

The HEED Award is the only national recognition honoring colleges and universities that exhibit outstanding efforts and success in the area of diversity and inclusion. UGA is one of 81 institutions nationwide to receive a 2017 HEED Award.

“The University of Georgia is honored to receive this significant recognition for the fourth consecutive year,” said President Jere W. Morehead. Although work certainly remains ahead, the institution is making strides toward becoming an even more connected and welcoming academic community for all of its faculty, staff and students.

The recruitment of a diverse student body is bolstered by range of programs that introduce prospective students to the many learning opportunities that the university offers. High-achieving middle school students from across the state visit campus through Gear Up for College, which is funded by the Goizueta Foundation and administered through the universitys Fanning Institute for Leadership Development. Through a partnership known as Experience UGA, students from all grade levels in the Clarke County School District visit campus to participate in hands-on, curricular based activities.

Programs such as these, combined with the growing demand for a UGA education, have helped increase the number of African-American students at UGA by 33 percent over the past five years. The number of Hispanic students at UGA increased by 21 percent over the same time period.

“The University of Georgia is proud of its many programs and initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion,” said Michelle Garfield Cook, associate provost for institutional diversity. “We have been successful because every sector of the institution is committed to providing access and promoting the success of our students, faculty and staff.”

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UGA's Dr. Christopher Whalen honored with Beckman Award for teaching excellence

For the third time in three years, a University of Georgia professor has been honored with the Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award for teaching excellence. Dr. Christopher Whalen in the College of Public Health was one of eight professors nationwide selected for the honor.

The award is given to faculty members who inspire their former students to “make a significant contribution to society,” typically in the form of an organization that substantially benefits their communities.

I commend Dr. Whalen for this achievement and for the lasting impact he has made on global health through his outstanding teaching and mentoring, said UGA President Jere W. Morehead.

Whalen is the Ernest Corn Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology and director of UGA’s Global Health Institute. As a physician-epidemiologist, he is one of the leading international researchers studying HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis transmission in Africa. Joining the faculty at the College of Public Health in 2008, Whalen brought with him a program he established at Case Western Reserve University to train Ugandan health professionals in the scientific disciplines necessary to address the infectious disease crisis in their home country and throughout Africa.

His program continues to thrive at UGA, supported by a $1.9 million grant from the Fogarty Training Center at the National Institutes of Health. Over his career, Whalen has trained more than 75 students who have returned to Uganda and made immediate impacts on the health care system there.

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NIH awards UGA researchers $2.6 million to fight African sleeping sickness

The National Institutes of Health has awarded $2.6 million to University of Georgia researchers to develop new drugs to treat human African Trypanosomiasis, also known as African sleeping sickness.

African Trypanosomiasis, commonly known as HAT, is caused by a single-celled parasite called Trypanosoma brucei, which is transmitted to humans through the bite of a blood-sucking insect called a tsetse fly. Without adequate treatment, the infection is almost invariably fatal.

Rural populations in sub-Saharan Africa that depend on agriculture, fishing, hunting and animal husbandry are most likely to be exposed to the tsetse fly bites, according to the World Health Organization, which has led sustained control efforts to reduce the number of new cases.

“There are immense challenges in understanding trypanosome biology because a significant number of their genes are not found in humans or yeasts, which are more intensely studied,” said Kojo Mensa-Wilmot, professor in the department of cellular biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences whose team was awarded the NIH grant. Using chemical biology tools to identify disease-relevant genes in the parasite, we discovered a small-molecule that prevents duplication of the nucleus in a trypanosome, and arrests proliferation of the parasite.

Our goal is to translate this basic science finding into the design of drugs to treat HAT, he said. Using an animal model for the disease, the UGA-led team administered a drug that cured HAT in mice. 

HAT is a disease of poverty, so there is little incentive, understandably, for large pharmaceutical industries to be heavily invested. Two compounds are currently in clinical trial, but the pipeline for new anti-trypanosome drugs needs to be bolstered, said Mensa-Wilmot, who leads a UGA Chemical Biology Group and is a member of the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases.

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UGA launches more than 100 'Double Dawgs' linked-degree programs

Students at the University of Georgia now have more than 100 opportunities to earn both a bachelor’s degree and a masters degree in five years or less through a new linked-degree program known as Double Dawgs.

The Double Dawgs program enables students to save time and money by earning a masters degree in one year instead of two. Upon graduation, they enter the workforce with a more advanced complement of knowledge and skills.

Faculty members in 14 of the universitys schools and colleges have created 113 Double Dawgs programs to date, giving UGA one of the nations largest selections of accelerated masters programs. The complete list of Double Dawgs programs is online at DoubleDawgs.uga.edu, and additional programs will be added as they are approved.

“The Double Dawgs program was created to give our ambitious students a competitive advantage after graduation while helping lower the overall cost of obtaining a graduate degree,” said President Jere W. Morehead. It also helps to meet the demand across the state-and beyond-for highly qualified workers with advanced, specialized knowledge.

Vice President for Instruction Rahul Shrivastav explained that students who hold two degrees from UGA have long referred to themselves as Double Dawgs. By streamlining the process for creating new linked-degree programs, the university has built on that legacy and dramatically expanded the number of accelerated master's programs it offers. Through the Double Dawgs program, students accelerate their progress toward a master's degree by taking rigorous, graduate-level coursework during the final year of their undergraduate studies.

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UGA to support Athens youth through career development partnership

 As a result of President Jere W. Morehead’s meetings with community leaders in April, the University of Georgia will be offering workforce development and work-based learning initiatives to local youth beginning this fall. Moreheads conversation centered on economic development and education, and how the university can play a role in both areas.

“One of the priorities of the University of Georgia is to support the Athens community,” Morehead said. The goals of these programs are to promote the importance of graduation and prepare students for the workforce. Students will gain practical experience that they will carry for years to come, as well as gain exposure to the University of Georgia and all we have to offer.

UGA has joined the Great Promise Partnership, a program implemented in the Clarke County School District and coordinated through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs that connects organizations with local at-risk youth through part-time jobs.

After hearing the community feedback, this partnership seemed to be a natural connection for the university, said Alison McCullick, director of community relations for the UGA Office of Government Relations. GPP has been a successful workforce development program across the state of Georgia for five years, and as the largest employer in Clarke County, the university was interested in becoming engaged.

In addition to GPP, UGA will offer internships across the university to encourage work-based learning development. Internships will be based in a student’s field of interest, and will directly relate to academic goals set by the students. Internships will be available in multiple areas such as the College of Education, the Office of Research and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, with more opportunities being added throughout the year.

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New designation highlights UGA's role in cybersecurity research

The University of Georgia has been named a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research, a designation that underscores the role the university plays in advancing technology, policy and practices that strengthen America’s cyber defense capabilities.

UGA is one of just 71 institutions nationwide to hold this joint National Security Agency/Department of Homeland Security designation and, along with Georgia Tech, one of two CAE-R institutions in Georgia.

“I am pleased that the University of Georgia is being recognized as a national leader in this area of critical importance,” said President Jere W. Morehead. Thanks to the dedication of our faculty and the breadth of our research, instruction and outreach activities, UGA is uniquely positioned to advance the cybersecurity capabilities of our state and nation.

To receive designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research, an institution must have a high level of research activity and meet several criteria for cyber defense research, student training and overall impact.

Faculty members in the universitys Institute for Cybersecurity and Privacy, one of the institutes affiliated with the Georgia Informatics Institutes for Research and Education at UGA, conduct research in network and system security, web security, security for mobile devices and the Internet of Things, and cybercrime attribution, among several other areas. Their work has been funded by agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency and National Science Foundation, as well as through industry partners such as Intel and Cisco Systems.

The goal of the Institute for Cybersecurity and Privacy is to become a state hub for cybersecurity research and education, including multidisciplinary programs and research, outreach activities and industry partnership, Li said. By working together, we can help meet our nations cybersecurity needs.

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UGA students build bridges with visits to Athens-area high schools

More than 60 University of Georgia students traveled to Cedar Shoals and Clarke Central high schools Friday morning to welcome incoming students as they start their new year.

“This event is like a miniature pep rally for these high school students,” said Arthur Tripp, assistant to the president. We want our Athens-Clarke County students to know that UGA is a part of their community, and we want to encourage and excite them about the upcoming academic year.

Cultivating strong community relationships is a priority for UGA President Jere W. Morehead.

I am pleased that we are continuing to develop strong partnerships with UGA and the Athens community that will strengthen our vital relationship, he said.

This is the second year for this event, which is organized by the Office of the President, the Office of Service-Learning and student leaders from across campus. This is a tri-fold partnership that began with an idea from our students, Tripp said. The goal is to connect UGA with local high school students so they can begin to see the University of Georgia as a future destination.

DeAnne Varitek, principal of Cedar Shoals High School, hopes her students see UGA as a viable option after graduation.

We would love to increase the number of students that attend UGA, she said. Our students may not go to campus often, and this event brings campus to us. Any time we can bring UGA to the minds of our students, it brings them one step closer to attending UGA, and one step closer to earning a college education.

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Unprecedented heights: UGA's Class of 2021 sets academic records

The academic qualifications of incoming students at the University of Georgia have risen dramatically over the past several years, with each successive class reaching unprecedented heights. The Class of 2021 continues that extraordinary trend, with an average high school GPA of 4.0 and a record average ACT score of 30.

“With our world-class learning environment, booming research enterprise and unyielding commitment to serving others, it is no surprise that the University of Georgia is attracting the best and brightest students,” said President Jere W. Morehead. I am delighted to welcome this newest class and look forward to all they will accomplish at the birthplace of public higher education in America.

More than 5,800 first-year students will begin their studies this fall. The superb academic qualifications of the Class of 2021 coincide with a year of record-breaking first-year enrollment that highlights the growing demand for a UGA education. Nearly 24,500 students applied for admission to the Class of 2021, a 20 percent increase in just four years.

As in previous years, the rigor of students’ high school curriculum remains a key factor in admissions decisions. Members of the Class of 2021 completed an average of eight College Board Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses in high school, an increase from six in 2013. For comparison, the average high school GPA in 2013 was 3.86, and the average ACT score was 29 on a 36-point scale. On the new SATR, which replaced the previous SAT, the Class of 2021 boasts an average score of 1344.

In addition to bringing outstanding academic talent to UGA, the Class of 2021 also brings increased diversity to UGA. The class includes nearly 1,900 students who self-identify as non-white, a 29 percent increase over 2013. The number of incoming first-year students who self-identify as African-American has increased by 20 percent over the same time period, and the number of Hispanic students has increased by 33 percent.

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Marine sciences professor elected Fellow of American Geophysical Union

Samantha Joye, Georgia Athletic Association Professor of Arts and Sciences, has been elected as a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union. An international nonprofit scientific association with 60,000 members in 137 countries, the AGU is a worldwide scientific community, promoting discovery in Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity.

Each year since 1962, the American Geophysical Union has elected as Fellows members whose visionary leadership and scientific excellence have fundamentally advanced research in their respective fields. This year, 61 members will join the 2017 class of Fellows.

“Congratulations to Dr. Joye on this outstanding honor,” said University of Georgia President Jere W. Morehead. It represents a lifetime of dedicated scholarship and the high regard Dr. Joye’s colleagues have for her as a world-class scientist.

Professor of marine sciences and director of the Ecosystem Impacts of Oil and Gas Inputs to the Gulf research consortium, Joye is an oceanographer, microbiologist and geochemist in UGAs Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. Her research group works to discover, document, resolve and understand complex feedbacks that drive elemental cycling in coastal and open ocean environments. She led assessment efforts in the Gulf of Mexico immediately following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout, work that continues today.

To be named a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union is such a tremendous honor and one that I could never have achieved by myself. I would not be in this position were it not for an amazing group of former and current undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral research scientists, Joye said. I am so fortunate to have the most incredible and wonderful colleagues, especially those who share my love and fascination of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, and an incredible team that works so hard to advance our Gulf ecosystem research.