Offered as a one-credit College of Sciences special topics course, Explore LLC undergraduates who are interested in research and pre-health studies get to learn about special science and mathematics topics that are not regularly offered in a typical curriculum.
The instructors for the new course are postdoctoral scholars and research scientists in the College, including Peter Conlin, the first instructor to participate in the course.
In addition to research and pre-health course opportunities, Explore LLC gives first-year students majoring in College of Sciences-related disciplines (biology, chemistry and biochemistry, earth and atmospheric sciences, mathematics, neuroscience, physics, and psychology) a unique opportunity to live among the highest concentration of science and math majors on campus in the same residence halls.
“Georgia Tech undergraduates often take general education/core classes in year one and two of their studies. However, undergraduates are also curious about research and advances in science and mathematics, especially in health-related areas and in improving the human condition,” said Cam Tyson, College of Sciences Assistant Dean. “A special topics course offered for Explore LLC participants was the perfect setting to bring together students with these interests, along with postdoctoral scholars and research scientists interested in sharing their knowledge and experience.”
Conlin’s inaugural course, COS 3801 HP: Special Topics: Evolutionary Biology in Health and Disease, hosted 16 Explore LLC students in the spring of 2023. Below are some of his comments:
Tell me how you approached developing this course in a way that would make the subject matter relevant to the Explore students?
The original call for proposals requested “courses that will be of interest to first-year and sophomore students with a specific interest in a healthcare career and/or performing undergraduate research.” So, my course, Evolutionary Biology in Health and Disease, was designed from the ground up with this purpose in mind.
I wanted to connect the basic biological research with its medical applications, and encourage students to pursue undergraduate research opportunities. To this end, our in-class discussions, the homework assignments, and the final presentations for the class were all centered on reading and interpreting results from scientific literature and medical case studies. I also featured ongoing research at Georgia Tech’s Center for Microbial Dynamics and Infection whenever possible.
I made a point to advertise upcoming out-of-class seminars each week (especially those featuring speakers from Georgia Tech labs). Students could attend and summarize the talk they heard for extra credit points.
Any lasting lessons?
Initially, I think some of the students were a little shocked that their first assignment was to read a scientific paper for class. (Admittedly, the paper was not an easy one!) But by the end of the semester, after reading seven more papers for class and likely several others for their final presentation, I think they all felt much more confident about their ability to pick up an article, even on an unfamiliar topic, and work their way through it.
How did teaching the course help you as an instructor?
At the beginning of the semester, I was consistently overestimating how much material I could get through in a single 50-minute class period. By the end of the semester, I felt that I had a better understanding of how long different activities would take, and we ended up finishing on time much more frequently.
I was so thankful for the Tech to Teaching for Postdocs class taught by Tammy McCoy (Teaching Assistant Development and Future Faculty Specialist at the Center for Teaching and Learning) while I was developing my syllabus. McCoy and College of Sciences Assistant Dean Cam Tyson really helped me to make this course a reality, so I’m very grateful to both of them for giving me this opportunity.
The feedback from the students?
The feedback from my students was critical to my success as an instructor. I explained to the students at the start of the course that I wanted to improve my teaching, that I would be actively seeking their feedback, and that I would do my best to make changes based on the feedback I received. Some of the changes included modifying the course content, as I did when I saw the level of enthusiasm and participation when we discussed cancer evolution. I revised my syllabus to continue discussions on this topic.
I also changed up homework assignments and in-class activities based on student feedback. This gave students more experiences with reading and discussing research papers.
I tried to experiment with different in-class activities and teaching styles, ranging from primarily lecture-based classes with occasional discussion questions, to a “flipped” classroom where students spent the majority of the time discussing the papers they had read in small groups. It was such a great experience to watch the students take such an active role in their learning.
Sebastian Horbulewicz, a second-year biochemistry major, was a student in Conlin’s Special Topics course:
I enjoyed the fact that we delved into a wide variety of topics, giving us small pieces with which we could use to build a broader understanding of evolution. Dr. Conlin’s succinct lessons gave me a lot to think about, and introduced me to new aspects of cancer, antibiotic resistance, virulence, and more. I think the course really shined in its ability to draw from current literature and the subsequent discussions we had in class.
For more information on Explore LLC and College Sciences Special Topics Courses:
The Explore Living Learning Community (LLC) of the College of Sciences strives to connect undergraduate students with faculty, and staff across the institute in order to encourage learning of career options, develop technical and team-building skills, and promote early access to undergraduate research and/or health-care affiliated co-curricular activities. The LLC fosters a culture of curiosity, collaboration, and self-discovery through a range of courses and activities offered to its participants.
A request for 2024-2025 academic year CoS special topics course proposals is expected to be distributed to CoS postdoctoral fellows and research sciences in February 2024.
Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston
Diggle is a professor in the School of Biological Sciences and the principal investigator for the Diggle Lab. He takes over the CMDI leadership position from Biological Sciences Professor Sam Brown, who has served as CMDI’s director since January 2020.
Founded in 2018, CMDI seeks to understand the chemical, physical, and biological connections that together underpin microbial dynamics. The Center’s science research includes a wide variety of disciplines — microbial ecology, microbiome dynamics, biogeochemistry, microbial biophysics, socio-microbiology, infection dynamics, host-pathogen interactions, marine and aquatic microbiology, microbial evolution, viral ecology, spatial imaging, and math/computational modeling.
“It’s an honor to be chosen for this,” Diggle said. “I think that what’s really exciting is that when I joined Georgia Tech in 2017, we were only just developing microbiology here. What’s happened since is that microbiology has taken on a much bigger profile at Georgia Tech. We’re now at the point where we are attracting really strong graduate students specifically to do microbiology, which is great. CMDI is more visible now, and I think that’s one reason graduate students are applying.”
“Steve Diggle is a perfect fit to lead CMDI forward,” Brown said. “Steve's research showcases impactful interdisciplinary research, combining molecular biology with ecology and evolution to understand what makes microbes tick, and how we can better control them. Steve has also shown a lasting commitment to mentorship and scientific service, and so I'm sure CMDI is in very good hands.”
Growth of the Center
Brown said the Center continues to add key personnel. In the past year, CMDI announced its inaugural Early Career Award Fellow in Ellinor Alseth, and its first grant writing specialist, Senior Research Scientist Carina Baskett. “Dr. Alseth is leading through her science, pulling multiple labs together to form new collaborations. Thanks to Dr. Baskett, we have substantially increased our rate of applications for both postdoctoral and postgraduate fellowships, and she has also led the pursuit of multi-principal investigator grants,” Brown added.
The CMDI has also boosted inclusive resources that supported trainee and staff recruiting visits to underrepresented minority-serving conferences and local institutions, and provided additional stipends to help underrepresented minority recruits with relocation costs to Atlanta. The Center has also re-launched its showcase public event, MicrobeATL, a speaker series designed to integrate the microbiology research community across Atlanta that was paused during the pandemic.
CMDI targets models of human disease, but also complex microbial communities in a range of aquatic and terrestrial environments. This research is united by the beliefs that studying across systems is essential for identifying organizing principles, and fully understanding microbial ecology and evolution requires knowledge of social interactions over space and time.
Diggle added that the CMDI’s research priorities include climate change’s impact on the microbial world, and searching for new drugs that can tame antibiotic-resistant pathogens. “Antibiotic resistance is one of the great problems we're facing in the future,” he explained. That problem is why CMDI scientists like Julia Kubanek, professor in the School of Biological Sciences and Georgia Tech’s Vice President for Interdisciplinary Research, are scouring oceans for natural antibacterial alternatives.
Diggle also hopes to continue attracting the world’s top microbiology researchers to join the CMDI faculty while seeking out more external funding. “The ultimate goal is to make Georgia Tech one of the best places to come and do microbiology research in the U.S. Given what we’ve accomplished so far, I think that's a reasonable goal.”
Meet Steve Diggle
Diggle’s research interests focus on cooperation and communication in microbes, and how these are related to virulence, biofilms, and antimicrobial resistance. He has a longstanding interest in understanding how the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa causes disease, and is especially interested in how this organism evolves during chronic infections such as those found in cystic fibrosis patients and chronic wounds.
Diggle received his B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Salford in the United Kingdom, and earned a Ph.D. in Molecular Microbiology from the University of Nottingham in 2001. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Nottingham before obtaining a Royal Society University Fellowship (2006-2014). He joined the School of Biological Sciences at Georgia Tech in 2017 and was named a full professor in 2022.
Diggle currently serves as a senior editor on the editorial board of the journal Microbiology. He has previously served on the editorial boards of FEMS Microbiology Letters, BMC Microbiology, Microbiology Open and Royal Society Open Science. He served as an elected member of the Microbiology Society Council from 2012-2016, and was also on their conference and policy committees. In 2020, Diggle received the Cullen-Peck Scholar Award, which recognizes research accomplishments led by College of Sciences faculty at the associate professor or advanced assistant professor level. Diggle was selected as an American Society for Microbiology Distinguished Lecturer in 2021.
Learn more about Diggle’s research:
About Georgia Tech
The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a top 10 public research university developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition. The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its nearly 44,000 students representing 50 states and 149 countries, study at the main campus in Atlanta, at campuses in France and China, and through distance and online learning. As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of economic development for Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation, conducting more than $1 billion in research annually for government, industry, and society.
The creation of C-PIES is a new milestone in the College’s long standing inclusive efforts, as well as a key pillar of its 10-year strategic plan.
With a mission “to recruit, support and retain a diverse population for all sectors of our community ― staff, faculty, and students ― and build an inclusive community that broadens access to science and mathematics and creates opportunities for advancement,” C-PIES will continue to expand programming across the College of Sciences community.
Prior to the creation of C-PIES, Keith Oden, who retired in December 2020 following a 35-year career with Georgia Tech, served as director of Academic Diversity for the College for ten years. With a focus on student recruitment and retention, Oden’s expertise, outreach, and mentoring transformed the lives of students and the College of Sciences community.
“From reflections and conversations with College of Sciences colleagues, I became convinced that a center focused around broadening access and creating a diverse community would be more effective than tasking a single individual with all programmatic elements needed to advance our mission,” said College of Sciences Dean and Betsy Middleton and John Clark Sutherland Chair Susan Lozier in a community letter this summer.
Now, working in tandem with Dean Lozier, ADVANCE Professor Jean Lynch-Stieglitz, and the College’s associate and assistant deans, as inaugural C-PIES Director, Wheaton will lead the Center in implementing recommendations from the College’s Task Force on Racial Equity, coalescing collaborative work across the College’s six schools, and leading new and ongoing efforts.
“I am excited about this new direction and its potential for making significant progress toward our goal of creating a diverse and inclusive community,” Lozier noted in sharing Wheaton’s appointment with the College of Sciences community earlier this August.
Along with leading C-PIES, Wheaton will continue his focus on research and community leadership beyond Georgia Tech. Since joining Georgia Tech in 2008, Wheaton has directed the Cognitive Motor Control Lab, where he strives to improve the lives of people with upper-limb amputations and those who have had strokes through a deeper understanding of the neurophysiology of motor learning.
Outside the lab, Wheaton has worked across communities on campus – serving on the College of Sciences Task Force on Racial Equity and Georgia Tech’s working group on Race and Racism in Contemporary Biomedicine, and being named the 2021 Faculty Diversity Champion for Georgia Tech – as well as throughout Georgia.
Along with serving as a member of the Smyrna City Council since first elected in 2019, Wheaton also helped shape rehabilitation policy and management in the state of Georgia as a Governor-appointed member of the State Rehabilitation Council during a six-year term.
We recently spoke with Wheaton about C-PIES, serving on NIH’s National Advisory Board on Medical Rehabilitation Research, and progress and service across Georgia Tech, and beyond.
Q: What was your initial reaction to the creation of the C-PIES, when it was announced in April?
A: Probably a mix of excitement, enthusiasm, and a little bit of trepidation to be honest. I think when you start talking about equity and inclusion, those are loaded concepts and very loaded terms, and people define them very differently. So, the trepidation side was more ‘Okay, how is the community going to receive something like this center as a whole?’
At the same time, I reflected on a lot of the conversations that I had with people one-on-one, and also as a result of being a part of the [College of Sciences Task Force on Racial Equity], and there’s a lot of encouragement there. This is the kind of thing that I think, by and large, people in the College want to see and are excited about. It’s a new type of opportunity for the College and it’s something that people want to rally around. So, it was a constellation of all of that all at once.
Q: What interested you about the opportunity to direct the Center?
A: Similarly, my initial feelings, honestly, including the trepidation.
I love science. I’m really, really passionate about what I do, and I’m passionate to the point of wanting to make sure that everyone gets the opportunity to at least be exposed to the possibility of doing science – and specifically doing it here at Georgia Tech. That means a lot to me. Given where [Georgia Tech is] seated within this community, within this region, within this area, we have a unique opportunity here. We should be an attractive force for doing not only science that focuses on or considers equity and inclusion, but that is being done by a population of scientists that is reflective of the broader community around us.
Those opportunities really jumped out to me as something that would be exciting to me – exciting to lead, exciting to figure out how to collaborate with other groups to [accomplish these goals]. Pulling from some other experiences that I’ve had at other places, I just thought, “you know, this could be fun.” And I think we are at a good time to do something like this.
Q: You’ve been involved in a lot of community efforts – a race and racism in biomedicine working group, middle school outreach with Georgia Tech CEISMC (Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing), Science Day in the Park with GTRI (Georgia Tech Research Institute), and more. What is your approach to promoting this work, as well as a sense of community?
A: I think it starts with having honest conversation. By that, I mean really getting past statistics, talking points, and all these other things. Really get to understanding what the challenges are and what the perceptions are.
Also, because I tend to like to know how we’re going to move forward, it’s being very focused on very actionable goals. Being very clear about “Okay, these are the things that we can do now, these are the things that we can maybe target down the line, and these are the things that will be in our 10-year plan.”
We have very concrete, actionable steps that we can take to move things forward. But at the same time, also always communicating with people about what we’re doing, maybe even sometimes what we’re not doing. That clarity and that focus are, I think, what you have to have when you’re dealing with this type of issue, unfortunately because it is sensitive sometimes. But I think that’s what’s needed here.
Q: What are some of the main challenges you see this center as a whole facing?
A: You know, I think perception is everything. I’m going to be honest, [this topic] can be very uncomfortable for some people, and something that some people just disagree with – or that they think they disagree with, I should probably say.
Perception suggests that this center might focus on one thing, but in reality, the perspective is usually much broader. I think a lot of people will immediately think “Oh, this is just about bringing in more women or more people of color into different units.” It could include that. But it could also be, “What scientific questions are we asking? How are we responding to equity needs of our immediate community? To the state? To the nation? Are we asking sharp enough scientific questions that are immediate to some of the needs that are clearly emerging from funding agencies and other organizations that focus on inequity?” That is a part of this, too.
Q: As the inaugural leader of the Center, what immediate goals do you envision for yourself? Your long-term goals for C-PIES?
A: To start with the latter, I hope that the Center, as it evolves, turns into a real catalyst for change. Change not just in building a better community, diversifying our community, and promoting better inclusion, but also creating a catalyst for new questions, new horizons that we should be pursuing that are really addressing the needs of the community. I would love to see the Center evolve in that direction.
To get there though, the first things I’m excited about doing initially are having conversations. Let’s, as campus leaders, get people together and really, just conversate about these issues. Let’s see what our various levels of comfort and sensitivity are around these things. Do we even understand some of these words and phrases and what they mean? Because they’re complicated and they come with a lot of emotion.
Also, starting to identify opportunities for growth within various units within the College that are ripe for development in this area, and going after resources nationally or at the state level to try to move the needle forward in terms of the type of people we have in our labs, the type of people we have teaching, the types of folks that we have sitting in faculty units across campus. Let’s really think innovatively about how we can be a leader in this area.
What’s exciting and inspiring to me is that we see a lot of other universities around the country, and even some of our competitors, that are boldly pursuing sustainable efforts. That tells me it can be done — we just have to do it. That’s all it is, it’s very simple. It sounds complicated and messy, but in reality, it’s incredibly simple. You just have to want to do it.
Q: What are you most looking forward to as you start this new position?
A: I’m just excited to get started. I’m excited to do the work and see the change.
I am convinced that once we, as a community, acknowledge that this is not as hard and messy and complicated as it sounds – once we’re over that barrier, then we can really have progress. But we still have to make sure that we are all united, and clear on that barrier. And that’s what I’m excited about.
Q: As a member of NIH’s National Advisory Board on Medical Rehabilitation Research board, you will be advising the directors of NIH, National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Can you elaborate on what that will entail?
A: A lot of this really focuses on trying to get feedback from the scientific community about the types of discoveries that we need to be making to really move the rehabilitation needle forward. Rehabilitation, in the broadest terms, includes disorders, nervous system injuries, all kinds of things that need rehabilitation.
That’s a broad aspect of NIH’s portfolio. This board will be critical to ensuring that NIH-funded medical rehabilitation research continues to be at the tip of the spear of innovation. I am excited to be on the Advisory Board to make sure that we are thinking proactively about the way that science is emerging, even how our trainees are emerging, to make sure that the funding priorities are aligned with the questions that we need to ask on the ground.
Q: What was your reaction to NIH asking you to serve on this board?
A: I was kind of surprised, actually. I think this is a really exciting opportunity, and it felt good for NIH to reach out and ask me to do something like this. To me it was absolutely a no-brainer to accept it.
Q: What are your main goals as an advisor?
A: I’m certainly in a space where I care a lot about rehabilitation, particularly with limb loss and stroke. But I’m also very interested in understanding how we can better intersect computational and engineering aspects into sciences to ask better questions — and how we can use all these things together to understand how to move rehabilitation forward. I’m excited to share my perspective from this space, and to really get at the root of some of these questions.
Another big area is “telerehab” – it’s taking off as an industry and taking off as a science, as well. That’s great, but we still have bedrock scientific questions that we need to understand about the efficacy of telerehab approaches. So those are the types of things I’m excited to think about on this advisory panel, and to try to hopefully have some influence on how we’re shaping these types of things and the funding priorities that need to emerge from NIH.
Q: In addition to these new positions, you are also a member of Smyrna City Council — and you teach, advise students, and run a research lab. How do you balance all of that?
A: I have a wonderful wife – we are very supportive of each other when it comes to this kind of stuff.
Also, it’s really seeing the common threads of thought between everything. Being on City Council, in many ways, is not unlike being in academia. There are a lot of meetings, that’s very similar. But the thought process, the way you’re doing things, the way you’re going about trying to solve problems is very scientific. So, it feels kind of natural. When I go into all of the spaces that I’m in, I try to at least have that as a common thread, where I’m approaching things in the most genuine way that I can. I’m a scientist, so that’s how I’m going to approach things.
At a practical level, it’s finding balance between these things so that I can honestly give them my full commitment and know that in that moment, that’s what I’m focusing on. If I’m talking to one of my students, in that moment they have all of my attention. If I’m talking to a constituent in my ward, they have my full attention. I want to be actionable and responsive to all the needs of that person. It’s not easy — I’m not going to say it’s trivial, but it’s a balance that you just learn how to strike.
As well, I’ll say, in all aspects of these areas, there are great people. The staff that I get to work within each one of these spaces is exceptional. I’d be lying if I said I was doing it all myself – there are a lot of people that help pull me through all these areas. They really deserve a lot of credit.]]>
Editor and Media Contact: Jess Hunt-Ralston
Director of Communications
College of Sciences at Georgia Tech
“Receiving the HHMI Gilliam award will allow me to conduct innovative research while building leadership and mentorship skills–all attributes that are necessary to become a better scientist,” said Peterson. “Ultimately, this will help me prepare for a career in academia as a professor.”
HHMI awards student-advisor pairs based on the student’s potential for scientific leadership and the advisor’s commitment to a culture of inclusion in academia.
“Through my academic journey at Virginia Tech, University of Kansas, and Georgia Tech, I have had wonderful mentors and colleagues, but I have had few Black faculty role models,” said Peterson. “It wasn’t until I worked with Brian Atkinson, an African American professor at the University of Kansas, that I even considered becoming a professor. That research experience put me on a path that led directly to Tech and underscored my commitment to outreach broadening participation in science. I am looking forward to being a part of the HHMI community and fostering leadership and mentorship skills that will help me succeed in my career in academia so I can be a role model for future generations of students.”
The program awards grants to dissertation advisors and encourages the grantee institution and the advisor to facilitate institutional changes to create environments that advance diversity and inclusion.
“As an advisor, I’m delighted to see Autumn’s work and leadership recognized this way,” said Ratcliff, an associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences and co-director of the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Quantitative Biosciences at Georgia Tech. “This fellowship is also a huge opportunity for us to do cool science, become better scientists and mentors, and work to improve diversity and inclusion at Georgia Tech. I cannot wait to get to know the broader community of Gilliam Fellows and mentors.”
As part of the Gilliam Award, the advisor will also complete a year-long culturally responsive mentorship skills development course.
“This fellowship provides key resources and professional opportunities that I think can make me a better advisor and can support our work on behalf of trainees from underrepresented groups at Georgia Tech more broadly,” said Ratcliff.
Fellows are required to participate in the Gilliam Annual Meeting, Gilliam Leadership Training course, and one HHMI Science Meeting per year in the second and third years of the fellowship award where there will be Gilliam-specific discussion sessions.
Learn more about the HHMI Gilliam Fellows program here.]]>
“HHMI’s challenge to us addresses a critical need in U.S. higher education, and it is aligned with Georgia Tech’s strategic plan,” says David Collard, senior associate dean in the College and lead researcher for effort at Tech. “The grant to Georgia Tech will support a team effort in pursuing a number of complementary projects.”
Collard is joined by College of Sciences co-investigators Jennifer Leavey, assistant dean for Faculty Mentoring; Carrie Shepler, assistant dean for Teaching Effectiveness; and Professor Lewis Wheaton, inaugural director of the Center for Promoting Inclusion and Equity in the Sciences at Georgia Tech. Collard and Shepler also serve as faculty members in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Leavey and Wheaton in the School of Biological Sciences.
As the third phase of the HHMI program, Inclusive Excellence 3, known as IE3, challenges U.S. colleges and universities to “substantially and sustainably build their capacity for student belonging, especially for those who have been historically excluded from the sciences.”
IE3 is also distinct from previous HHMI science education initiatives because it begins with a learning phase and, during that phase, learning communities envision how to move cooperatively into an implementation phase.
The grant uniquely challenges groups to work collaboratively to address one of three broad efforts. At Georgia Tech, the College of Sciences will work with institutions across the country to help empower colleges and universities to develop and support systems that cultivate teaching and learning in tandem with key concepts in inclusion and equity.
At Georgia Tech, each IE3 team member will concentrate on a distinct area of work.
Leavey will focus on “working with collaborators from other institutions to share faculty development strategies focused on inclusive teaching, such as the Inclusive STEM Teaching Fellows program ,” she shares, “which the College of Sciences piloted last spring along with the Center for Teaching Learning, the College of Engineering, the College of Computing, and the Office of Institute Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”
Leavey adds that, a semester after its launch, the Fellows program is already generating interest across campus and at collaborating institutions.
Shepler will help faculty assess the impact of their inclusive teaching efforts, working with collaborators to develop an iterative process to help institutions create formative assessment methodologies for teaching and learning that both facilitate and prioritize inclusion and equity in a manner that is consistent with institutional values and missions.
“Throughout the project, our aim is to make sure that students have a voice in defining what it means for them to experience teaching that centers” on these concepts, Shepler says.
The work coincides with a goal of the College of Sciences’ new Teaching Effectiveness, Advocacy, and Mentoring (TEAM) committee, which Shepler leads, to “develop and adapt new processes for the evaluation of teaching that are inclusive and equitable for all faculty.”
Meanwhile, Wheaton’s work as the director of the Center for Promoting Inclusion and Equity in the Sciences — C-PIES, for short — will inform and supplement Leavey and Shepler’s goals for the grant.
Wheaton will also lead a competitive C-PIES Faculty Fellows program that focuses on innovative teaching and research ideas that can transform student learning using key principles.
“The Center will sponsor approximately five C-PIES Inclusive Excellence Faculty Fellows in this effort,” he says. “This is an exciting direction that will provide the tools to develop assessments in our curriculum, leading to a culture that emphasizes and facilitates a growth mindset of continued development.”
Ultimately, the researchers hope to leverage the Inclusive Excellence Grant to transform teaching and learning for faculty and students of today — and of tomorrow.
“Though much of the HHMI work will focus on faculty, particularly those in instructional roles, the potential impact of these efforts is on the learning experiences of future generations of students,” adds Collard, the grant lead. “I look forward to seeing how the project develops — and how it fosters changes that support student, and faculty, success.”
In a new study, Georgia Tech researchers investigated whether 25 rare gene variants known to be associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) play a role in risk for African Americans. While the rare variant associations were recently discovered in individuals of European ancestry, contributing to about 15% of cases, it was unknown if and how those same rare gene variants might affect risk for African Americans.
Led by Greg Gibson, Regents’ Professor and Tom and Marie Patton Chair in the School of Biological Sciences, the study highlights the importance of considering genetic diversity and the mixing of ancestry in genetics research. The findings were published in the journal Genome Medicine.
“Because of major advancements in the last decade, we now know that most diseases are far more complex than we originally thought, in terms of genetics,” said Gibson, who is also director of the Center for Integrative Genomics at Georgia Tech. “Understanding whether genetic differences contribute to health disparities is a major point of focus for current genetics research, and we had an opportunity to test one idea with this study.”
Today, African Americans have a similar prevalence of various types of IBD as European Americans. But progression is often much worse: African Americans are more likely to progress to severe disease requiring colectomies and other major interventions.
Courtney Astore, a Ph.D. student in Gibson’s lab and first author on the paper, wanted to assess whether those same rare variants would have a similar effect on IBD risk in African Americans. In a collaboration with Subra Kugathasan from Emory University and the NIH’s IBD Genetics Consortium, Gibson’s lab had analyzed the complete genome sequences of over 3,000 genomes of African Americans, half with IBD. Astore used that database to conduct her analysis.
She started by plotting the difference in frequency of the rare variants, and quickly realized that there was a significant reduction in prevalence of the variants in African Americans. Through further computations, she estimated that European ancestry variants actually only made a very small contribution to IBD in African Americans (around 44 additional cases per 100,000 people), fourfold less than Americans of European ancestry.
“Prior to our analysis, we suspected that admixture may play a role in the presence of IBD-associated rare variants in African Americans,” Astore said. “When I saw the differences, that was when I realized that there was something important there that we needed to discover.”
Astore then used a method known as chromosome painting, which is a tool for visualizing where each segment of the genome comes from. She showed that the rare variants found in African Americans were almost always located on segments of European ancestry genomes.
In simple terms, the location of the variants indicated that the genes resulted from admixture — a scientific term for mixing of genetic backgrounds throughout ancestry — which enabled Astore to show that the mutations had arisen outside of Africa, and only began to appear in people of African ancestry over the last dozen generations.
To conclude the study, Gibson and Astore assessed the presence of other rare variants associated with a dozen other diseases, which similarly confirmed that the presence of the variants contributes to African Americans generally through admixture.
The findings are important for several reasons. First, they highlight the value of considering genetic diversity and admixture in all genetics research, and especially when investigating rare variants and their associations with complex disease. While they showed that the European variants were rare in African Americans, there are almost certainly rare variants that contribute to IBD in African Americans that have yet to be discovered and may point to biological mechanisms.
“Doing more genetic studies on diverse populations, and especially those that have admixture, is going to be pivotal for therapeutic discovery,” Astore said.
Precision medicine will eventually be tailored to a person’s genome, which means that in some cases knowing the identity of rare variants will help guide therapy. If that is the case, knowing the context of ancestry will be beneficial. It also means that if more research on diverse ancestry groups isn’t done, then new treatments might not be effective for all people. The team also emphasizes that genetics is not the only factor contributing to risk for complex diseases like IBD, and their study simply highlights that it cannot be assumed that genetic discoveries are risk factors for all people.
“Our study emphasizes that in order to move in the direction of greater health equity, it is absolutely crucial to do large-scale genetic sequencing for African Americans and all ancestry groups,” Gibson said. “We hope our work will encourage more research on both social determinants of health and the genetics of IBD across ancestries.”
Note: The IBD Genetics Consortium, of which Gibson is a part, organized the cohort of African Americans with IBD, and their samples were gathered at institutes across the country, including Emory University, Johns Hopkins University, Rutgers University, Cedars Sinai Los Angeles, and Mt. Sinai New York.
Funding: National Institutes of Health
Housley, who received his Ph.D. in Applied Physiology at Georgia Tech in 2020, has been awarded a Jack and Dana McCallum Early Career Award for postdoctoral researchers. The goal of the program is to strengthen research in neurorehabilitation and the relationship between Georgia Tech and Emory University. The program supports graduate students and will now also support some postdoctoral scholars through Early Career Awards.
Housley’s research intersects neuroscience and cancer biology. “I am genuinely honored to have my work recognized and acknowledged through [this] support,” Housley says. “The sort of high-reward studies that I pursue are often perceived as risky. Having this support will enable me to pursue ambitious projects and expand on the breadth of studies.”
The new award from alumnus and College of Sciences Advisory Board member Jack McCallum, M.D., Ph.D. (BIO ‘66) is part of a $1 million gift committed in 2022 for the creation of the Jack and Dana McCallum Neurorehabilitation Training Program facilitated by Georgia Tech and in partnership with Emory University and The Shepherd Center’s Crawford Research Institute. This funding will be used over the next two years to support graduate student, postdoctoral and faculty research, as well as train new scientists in neurorehabilitation.
The McCallum Family Foundation has previously provided scholarships to reward outstanding undergraduate students for their academic excellence and performance in Georgia Tech research labs. The McCallum scholarships enable undergraduates to engage in research earlier in their academic careers than many colleges and universities. And scientific research is a defining characteristic of the undergraduate experience in the School of Biological Sciences at Georgia Tech, where young undergraduate researchers are provided access to experienced faculty mentors and research labs with cutting-edge equipment, which are critical to their training as scientists.
About Stephen Housley
Stephen (Nick) Housley is a clinician-scientist focused on cancer neurobiology with specialty training in treating neurological disorders. Housley is also a fellow in both the Sensorimotor Integration Lab and the Integrated Cancer Research Center at Georgia Tech.
Housley’s research centers on how the nervous system, cancer, and its treatment interact in mammalian systems. “My research interests rest on my recent discoveries that securely establish the existence of reciprocal interactions between cancer, cancer treatment and the nervous system,” he explains. “In addition, my other area of study centers on how the nervous and musculoskeletal systems interact to encode sensorimotor information, and how integration in the mammalian spinal cord results in physiologically relevant movement.”
As part of his research into cancer neurobiology, Housley is also developing therapeutic nanohydrogels: microscopic polymer-based particles that may serve as next-generation drug delivery vehicles. “I have been exploring the use of my nanohydrogel platform to deliver therapeutic payloads to solid tumor cancers,” he says.
Housley wishes to thank M.G. Finn, who serves as professor and chair of the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Georgia Tech and James A. Carlos Family Chair for Pediatric Technology, for Finn’s mentorship and support of nanohydrogel research. Housley also thanks Timothy Cope and John McDonald, both professors in the School of Biological Sciences, “who provided the intellectual and practical environments focused on neuroscience and cancer biology. Their support enabled me to pursue a new research field at the intersection of both — namely, cancer neurobiology,” Housley adds.
Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston]]>
On Friday, Nov. 3, postdoctoral fellows participated in the Fall 2023 Georgia Tech Postdoctoral Research Symposium, hosted by the Office of Postdoctoral Services. Twenty postdocs presented 10-minute research talks or five-minute lightning talks.
Congratulations to the following winners who took home prizes in the form of conference travel awards.
Hyeonseok Kim, Best Research Talk Overall
Wireless sleep monitoring biopatch for clinical assessment of at-home sleep quality and sleep apnea
Eduardo Gigante, Best Lightning Talk Overall
A sea squirt's insight into brain development and disease
Jimin Lee, Best Research Talk from the College of Engineering
The evolution of stem cell production: Smart bioreactors with seamless wireless technology
Keya Ghonasgi, Best Lightning Talk from the College of Engineering
Engineering intelligent physical human-robot interactions
Lyuba Novi, Best Research Talk from the College of Sciences
Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Exploring coral reef resilience, connectivity and biodiversity in the Coral Triangle through machine learning and complex networks
Vardhan Satalkar, Best Lightning Talk from the College of Sciences
Generative machine learning-assisted functional phosphopeptide design
Franziska Tsufim and Micheal Rumore, Best Talk from the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts
School of Literature, Media, and Communication
Extension requests and student autonomy: Fostering help seeking behaviors in historically marginalized student populations
Thank you to the executive vice president for research, the deans of engineering and sciences, the associate dean for research and outreach in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, and the vice provost for Graduate and Postdoctoral Education for sponsoring the awards.
A special thanks to Krista Walton, associate vice president for research operations and infrastructure, for announcing the winners during the award presentation.
Appreciation is extended to the following judges for the event:
One alumnus is using his Earth and Atmospheric Sciences degree to perfect state-of-the-art weather forecasting for the business world. Another member’s Biological Sciences education allows her to assist veterans with their cancer treatment plans. Yet another is using her Applied Physiology degree to work on the next generation of wearable electronics.
They're among nine Georgia Tech College of Sciences alumni who are committed to volunteering their expertise and time to help the College continue its growth and success.
The College of Sciences Advisory Board provides advice to the Dean and administrators regarding priorities and directions for sciences education and research. Board members are from the private sector and academia, and include both alumni and other individuals who are interested in the success of the College and Georgia Tech.
Five of the new members accepted invitations to join the Advisory Board during the 2022-23 school year:
For the 2023-24 school year, the new board members are:
New Advisory Board members:
Nigamnarayan “Nigam” Acharya
Nigamnarayan “Nigam” Acharya (M.S. CHEM ‘11) received a Bachelors of Science degree in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Political Science from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and a Juris Doctorate Degree from Emory School of Law.
Acharya currently serves as a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig, LLP., where he provides long-term representation for companies from initial startup to maturity. He helps life sciences and chemical companies protect and capitalize on intellectual property rights. His practice includes patent and trademark prosecution, corporate formation and life-cycle advice, negotiating and structuring complex business agreements (licenses, material transfer agreements, research agreements, and partnering agreements).
Archarya has an in-depth knowledge of business and science that allows him to counsel pharma and chemical companies. He was a founder and board member of a tech company, which he eventually sold.
James Belanger (B.S. EAS ‘07, Ph.D. EAS ‘12) joined Engelhart Commodities Trading Partners in August 2021 and is currently the Head of Weather. He is responsible for leading a team of entrepreneurial scientists and software developers who are developing state-of-the-science weather and climate forecast systems to provide a quantitative edge for Engelhart's commodity trading business.
Prior to joining Engelhart, Belanger was a senior scientist for five years at The Weather Company, a division of IBM, where he was responsible for providing scientific expertise in the design and implementation of IBM’s artificial intelligence algorithms for customer and business weather products. During that time with the Global Forecasting Sciences and Technology team, Belanger’s science contributions helped IBM’s forecast accuracy edge grow against the competition. In 2021, IBM was named the world’s most accurate forecaster by ForecastWatch, the nation’s premier authority in meteorological accuracy validation.
Belanger began his graduate work at the University at Albany before returning to Georgia Tech to complete his EAS Ph.D. Before transitioning to the private sector, Belanger was a research scientist and School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences faculty member for four years. His research focused on improving tropical cyclone forecasts and landfall impacts to establish more resilient electrical and emergency management infrastructure systems.
Belanger and his wife Laura live in Peachtree City with their two children, Andrew and Katherine.
Angela Clark (B.S. BIOS ‘94) has spent her career as an environmental scientist evaluating the potential risks of contamination to human health and the environment at hazardous waste cleanup sites for military bases.
Clark has supported the U.S. Department of Defense for nearly 30 years in its environmental, facilities engineering, and planning programs, serving as a technical lead, project manager and client account manager. She is currently a senior vice president at HDR Engineering, Inc., the largest employee-owned architecture/engineering firm in the world, and is located in Milwaukee, WI.
As the Lead of the Human Research Lab for Fitbit/Google, Tracy Giest (Ph.D. BIOS ‘15) heads a team of scientists, program managers, and research assistants focused on designing and executing experimental protocols to develop and validate the next generation sensors and algorithms for Fitbit and Pixel Watches.
Giest’s fascination with human movement and physiology led her to study under School of Biological Sciences Professor Young-Hui Chang, who is also Associate Chair for Faculty Development in the College of Sciences. Her research focused on the intersection of neurological control and biomechanics as it relates to human walking, running, and cycling, and amputee locomotion.
Gieist’s postdoctoral work focused on investigating robotic exoskeletons for stroke rehabilitation at North Carolina State University with Greg Sawicki, who is now at Georgia Tech).
As a former middle school teacher with Teach for America, and an industrial biomechanics consultant for one of the largest railroad companies in the U.S., Giest has a unique blend of professional experience that has led to her current leadership role at Google.
Eva Heintz (Ph.D. CHEM ‘04) started her career at Procter & Gamble before moving to Solvay, a chemicals/materials company, where she is currently a Global Strategic Key Account Manager and Large Deals Coach.
Throughout her career at Solvay, Heintz has held various roles including R&D Manager, Global Marketing Manager, and Senior Global Marketing & Sales Excellence Manager. In addition to her day job, she is also the Chairwoman for Solvay North America, Inc. GGF, and Founder/Chairwoman of Solvay X-Factor (ERG).
Her passion for giving back to the community is demonstrated in her roles such as Chair of the Board of Directors of BEATs, Inc., a local non-profit using hippotherapy for children and adults with physical and mental challenges, as well as previous roles in non-profit boards such as The Swinney Foundation.
Stewart W. Long
Stewart W. Long (B.S. PHYS ‘75) is Managing Director of Energy Consulting Group. A retired engineer and engineering program manager, Long has extensive experience in commercial power reactor engineering and operations, and in defense research & development.
Long, a retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel who also has a degree in nuclear engineering, is a published author of U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) reports and conference papers.
Long’s experience includes serving as Managing Director and Co-Founder of Patriots for Reliable Electric Power, a Pennsylvania public benefit company providing expert advice on protecting the nation’s electric power grid. He retired from Westinghouse Electric Co. with multiple domestic and international assignments including: Fellow Engineer, Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) Commissioning & Operations; Manager, NPP Engineering & Construction Integration; Resident Site Manager at Arkansas Nuclear One NPP; Startup Technical Advisor at Yonggwang NPP (Korea) and Barakah NPP (United Arab Emirates).
Long was appointed as Senior Fellow for the NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and served as U.S. Army field officer in Korea and as Nuclear Research & Development officer at Lawrence Livermore National Lab.
Jack McCallum (B.S. BIOS ‘66) has a Masters of Science in History from Texas Christian University, a Ph.D. in Medicine from Emory University, and a Ph.D. in History from Texas Christian University.
McCallum has board certification in both adult and pediatric neurosurgery, and has held teaching appointments in medicine and history at several universities. He has also been founder and chief executive officer for four successful companies.
A generous gift from the McCallum Family Foundation has provided scholarships to reward outstanding undergraduate students for their academic excellence and performance in Georgia Tech research labs. The McCallum scholarships enable undergraduates to engage in an exceptional undergraduate research program.
In 2022, the McCallum Family Foundation donated a $1 million gift to create the Jack and Dana McCallum Neurorehabilitation Training Program. The new initiative will be used over the next four years to support research from graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and faculty, as well as train new scientists in neurorehabilitation.
McCallum has published two books and numerous articles dealing with both medicine and history, and he has taught history at the graduate and undergraduate levels for 17 years.
Jessica McDermott (B.S. BIOS ‘04) is Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Medical Oncology, at Rocky Mountain Regional Medical Center. Her major committee and service responsibilities include interviewing fellowship applicants in Hematology/ Oncology. She is also a member of the committee that completes final ranking.
Since 2014, McDermott has served as a member of the Head/Neck Cancer Tumor Board at the University of Colorado Cancer Center. She participates in weekly multidisciplinary meetings, where she reviews all head/neck cancer patients at the university.
McDermott is also a Veterans Administration Hematology/Oncology tumor board facilitator, participating in weekly meetings where she reviews veteran cancer patient treatment plans.
Tia Williams (B.S. EAS ‘96) credits her mother, a chemist, for opening her eyes to the world of science, and that fascination was validated when she worked in Georgia Tech’s Air Quality Lab.
Williams originally came to campus as a chemical engineering major, but switched to the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. By leveraging the programming languages she learned while visualizing her lab science data, Williams transitioned into software engineering, building a 25-year career in the software industry working for enterprise software giants Oracle and Salesforce.
Williams is now a Group Vice President of Design and Product Experience for San Francisco-based New Relic, which provides cloud-based tools that monitor all software and technologies used in a platform, website, or mobile application.
Dunlap was hired earlier this year as the Urban Honey Bee Project's (UHBP) first-ever beekeeper in residence. Throughout her residency, she'll conduct research into the pollinator's place in our ecosystem and how beekeeping may offer relief to veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while connecting with the bees through art.
Dunlap had been gardening for over a decade, but in 2016, when she got the urge to find new ways to engage with nature, she recalled a powerful piece of imagery that shaped her childhood — Wu-Tang Clan's music video for “Triumph” and its depiction of the group's members as a powerful swarm of Africanized killer bees.
"The political messaging and tying Africanized killer bees in with the stereotypes and the tropes of African Americans in the media, and the way that that was so poetically tied in, visually stuck with me,” she said. “It was the first time I recognized a political message being articulated through art. For that reason, it stuck with me that bees were a form of strong symbolism tied to resilience."
Living in Charlotte, North Carolina, Dunlap became a certified beekeeper under the Mecklenburg County Beekeepers Association in 2017. She continued practicing as she moved around the country, with stops in Chicago and Denver, eventually landing in Atlanta in 2021. Looking for a way to connect to the local beekeeping community, she attended an April presentation by UHBP Director Jennifer Leavey, who offered Dunlap a chance to get involved at Georgia Tech.
She now handles the inspection of the hives on The Kendeda Building roof, where she monitors for pests and ensures the bees have proper nutrition to sustain their population through the seasons. The UHBP began in 2012 with the goal of educating the Tech community on the importance of these pollinators within the Atlanta ecosystem and beyond — a charge that Dunlap carries on.
Over the next year, she will continue working on her sound art project that examines the frequency at which bees “buzz” and how it, along with the responsibilities of beekeeping, is being used by VA hospitals and programs to ease the effects of PTSD. While the science behind the connection is still being explored, beekeeping was recommended more than a century ago — to soldiers returning home from World War I — according to a CNBC profile of Bees4Vets, a nonprofit based in Nevada.
Whether it was baking sourdough bread or learning a new language, many people, including Dunlap, took the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic to pick up a new hobby. She began a master's program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with the goal of using beeswax in encaustic painting, which uses hot wax mixed with pigments. The use of natural materials collected through her beekeeping practice connects Dunlap to her work.
“It's a way of tapping into another level of consciousness. It's a way of articulating the noncommunicable relationship between me and the bees. When there's a language gap between people, we try to fill it in with translation, but without a direct way to translate the language or the sensation that I feel from the bees, this allows me to document my practice in an abstract form,” she said.
By layering the wax and applying heat throughout the process, Dunlap watches the pieces take shape, often with the unpredictability of an active hive, as she says the art “can create itself.” She collects the wax in small amounts, knowing that she can only produce her art if the bees are healthy.
"It's an eco-conscious practice, making sure I don't use more than I need," she explained. “I love the landscape it creates, and it's all about me creating a direct relationship with my medium and knowing that I earned it by developing a relationship with the bees."
As Dunlap continues her year-long residency with the UHBP, she intends to help educate the community, both on campus and around the Atlanta area, in the hopes that more prospective beekeepers will explore their curiosity to unlock the full potential of the practice.
"It's been a practice that keeps unveiling itself to me," she said. "As you get more engaged, you learn there is so much more to it than just the day-to-day hive inspections. There is a lot of beauty to it as well."
Students at Tech have several ways to get involved with research and beekeeping, including the Living Building Science VIP team, the Beekeeping Club, and various classes and workshops hosted by the UHBP.]]>
The APS Fellowship Program recognizes members who have made exceptional contributions in physics research, important applications of physics, leadership in or service to physics, or significant contributions to physics education. Each year, less than 10 members from the APS DFD community receive this elevation and this year only eight Fellows were selected.
“I am humbled to be elected among my teachers and mentors who have taught me everything I know,” said Hu. “I see that I have a responsibility, like the previous generation of fellows, to represent the subject matter well, make the difficult decisions, and help foster the next generation of fluid mechanics, whatever it may look like.”
Read more about David Hu's journey in fluid mechanics on the Mechanical Engineering website.]]>
Philip Sparling, professor emeritus in the School of Biological Sciences, shared the following message in honor of Reedy:
“Dr. Jim Reedy, a longtime department chair at Georgia Tech, passed away on October 4th at age 85. Recruited in 1978, he led major changes in his unit’s mission and curriculum that included an expansion from physical training classes to courses in lifetime fitness, human anatomy, exercise physiology, and biomechanics. He provided resources to new faculty to develop research programs and transformed the Department of Physical Education & Recreation into the Department of Health & Performance Sciences, a unit within the College of Sciences (today as part of the School of Biological Sciences). He served as chair for 20 years under four different deans (1978-1998). He retired in 2000. Dr. Reedy was a charismatic, passionate, and gifted administrator who had a lasting impact on the GT community.”
James Alan Reedy, beloved husband, father, grandfather and friend passed away peacefully on October 4, 2023, in Atlanta, Georgia. He was 85 years old. Born in Clintwood, Virginia, he was preceded in death by his parents Corbett and Lelia Reedy, loving wife Kay Reedy and sister Nancy Olson. He is survived by his children Jody Reedy Andrade (Billy), Betsy Reedy Sawyer (Ryan), Bryan Dunlap (Kelley), Bo Dunlap (Jill), and Greg Kershner (Leigh). Jim was a proud grandfather to his fourteen grandchildren: Cameron, Grace, Tyler, Eli, Sidney, Paige, Grant, Jackson, Meredith, Eliza, Isabella, Sechaba, Talia and Meti.
Jim was a graduate of John Marshall High School in Richmond, Virginia and Bridgewater College where he resides in the Hall of Fame for men’s basketball. He earned a master’s degree from Long Beach State and doctorate degree from Vanderbilt University.
Jim had a strong Christian faith grounded from his youth and his parental teachings. This led to a work ethic that was admired for its integrity and dedication to the field of health and physical education. A life-long educator, he served in many roles including teacher, coach, athletic director and college administrator. He began his career at Bridgewater College and finished at Georgia Tech as department head and professor of the Health and Performance Sciences Department. His influence upon those with whom he taught and mentored lingers to this day.
Jim enjoyed daily exercise, delicious food, a good old movie, anything sports related and especially time with family. He had a gift for storytelling and could captivate an audience with his humorous tales and poems. Over the past several years, he began to write novels and had several published that relied on the connections he had with people throughout his life. He chose joy daily and his encouraging spirit will be forever missed.]]>
“This is the first year the College of Sciences has been involved with UCEM, and it will be very impactful for the professional development for these students,” says Lewis Wheaton, C-PIES director and professor in the School of Biological Sciences. “The process for selection was highly competitive and these students really demonstrate strong scientific ability, have compelling research, and are having a powerful impact in the college community and beyond.”
The new UCEM/C-PIES Fellows:
The Georgia Tech UCEM Ph.D. Fellowship program has the goal of increasing the number of outstanding engineering, science, and computing Ph.D. students from underserved populations. The program seeks to support students from backgrounds that include African American/Black, Hispanic, Native American, and Pacific Islander. The Georgia Tech UCEM Ph.D. Fellowship provides three years of support for students who have recently completed the Ph.D. Qualifying/Preliminary exam.
C-PIES at the College of Sciences works in collaboration with the College of Engineering and the College of Computing — through the Georgia Tech Underrepresented Minority (URM) Graduate Leadership Initiative — to support the Expand Access focus area of the Institute’s strategic plan for graduate student enrollment and retention.
Meet the College of Sciences UCEM Fellows
Sarah E. Gonzalez
“I was excited and relieved to find out I was a UCEM Fellow. As everyone knows, being a grad student isn’t the most financially stable position, so anything extra is a big help,” Gonzales says.
Gonzalez researches in the lab of Associate Professor Elisabetta Matsumoto, studying knitted fabrics and their mechanical behavior. “She is my biggest supporter at Georgia Tech. We have a very tight-knit and supportive research group.”
“I was shocked and elated when I received the email with the news, and excited about the opportunity to be a part of such a prestigious fellowship,” Grau says. “I am excited to see what opportunities and relationships it will forge in the future.”
Assistant Professor Alexander Robel is Grau’s thesis adviser. “I am extremely grateful and appreciative for all the support, guidance, and encouragement he has given me throughout my time at Georgia Tech. He's a phenomenal mentor and advisor, and I wouldn’t have had any success without him.”
Sierra A. Knavel
“I was enthusiastic to hear about receiving the award,” Knavel says, “and eager to join a community that wants to help each other succeed while at Georgia Tech.”
Knavel, whose research interests include low-dimensional topology, has Professor John Etnyre as an adviser. “He is the reason I can say I'm in the math Ph.D. program, and that I know I belong here.”
“When I applied to the UCEM fellowship, I had doubts that I was accomplished enough to be chosen for this fellowship,” Lemos says. “When I received the email announcing that I had been selected for this award, it was a great surprise, and I was immediately filled with immense gratitude. I am very thankful to be one of the students to receive this gift that will help me become the first in my family to obtain a doctoral degree.”
Lemos is a research assistant in the biophysics lab of Professor Harold Kim, who is his adviser. “He has been a great mentor who helped me get this far at Georgia Tech. He is a great role model that showed me what it means to be an effective scientist. He also challenged me to grow in areas I was uncomfortable with in the lab. I am thankful for his mentorship and unending support.”
“I was super excited to hear that I was named a UCEM Ph.D. Fellow,” Peterson says. “Mentorship has always been important to me. I would not be in the position I am in now without mentors who have supported me throughout my academic career. I am looking forward to strengthening my mentorship skills and serving as a role model for aspiring scientists coming from underrepresented backgrounds like I do.”
Peterson’s adviser is Associate Professor William Ratcliff, who is also Co-Director of the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Quantitative Biosciences. ‘I want to thank him for his immense support throughout my academic journey. I would also like to thank Anthony Burnetti, a senior research scientist in the Ratcliff lab. Both Ratcliff and Burnetti are both extremely supportive, kind, and knowledgeable, and I am grateful to have them as mentors.”
Earlier this year, Peterson and Ratcliff were co-awarded a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Gilliam Fellowship for Advanced Study.
“We are so proud of our UCEM/C-PIES Fellows," says Lea Marzo, C-PIES Program Operations Director. "The students selected for this fellowship are brilliant researchers and we are delighted that Georgia Tech’s Office of the President is making an investment in their success. We cannot wait to see what the future has in store for these fellows."]]>
Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston
The new Haley Fellows are:
Haley scholars receive a one-time merit award of up to $4,000 thanks to the generosity of the late Marion Peacock Haley. Haley’s estate established the creation of merit-based graduate fellowships at Georgia Tech in honor of her late husband, Herbert P. Haley (ME 1933). It is an award which may be held in conjunction with other funding, assistantships, or fellowships, if applicable.
Meet the Haley Fellows
Jessica Deutsch is a fifth-year Ph.D. student studying analytical chemistry. “One of the most intriguing aspects of analytical chemistry is that the field focuses on studying invisible things in order to make sense of the visible,” Deuthsch says. “I am researching a deadly coral disease that affects Florida and Caribbean reefs. I aim to provide insight into how this disease impacts the production of small molecules using a mass spectrometry-based approach, which can provide insight into how relationships between the coral animal, algae, and bacteria may be impacted by this disease.”
She wishes to thank Assistant Professor Neha Garg “for her mentorship and the opportunities she has provided that have enabled me to develop my research skills.”
Quynh Nguyen is a third-year Ph.D. student looking into phase- and shape-controlled synthesis of nanocrystals for catalysis and energy-related applications. “What fascinates me is the ability to manipulate matter at the nanoscale to drive sustainable advances,” Nguyen says. “This field places me at the exciting intersection of chemistry, materials science, and nanotechnology, aiming to address current challenges in sustainability and renewable energy.”
Nguyen’s Ph.D. advisor is Younan Xia, professor, Brock Family Chair and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Nanomedicine. “Xia's guidance and expertise have been instrumental in shaping my research focus and methodology. Beyond the lab, he has consistently encouraged me to pursue opportunities that contribute to both my academic and professional development, for which I am immensely grateful.”
Eliza Gazda, a fifth-year graduate scholar, is working in the field of multi-messenger particle astrophysics.
Gazda designed, tested, and integrated a telescope camera which was the payload on a scientific balloon launched in May. “The telescope launched is the first optical balloon of this type that operated at high altitudes over 30 kilometers,” Gazda says. “Our telescope observed radiative air showers from high energy cosmic rays and particles which travel across the Earth from extreme astrophysical objects like neutron stars and black holes. Once analyzed, this work will give us insight into high energy events that occur in space, and allow us to design and launch future similar telescopes.”
Gazda’s mentor is Associate Professor Nepomuk Otte, “who guided me in the past through a summer internship at Georgia Tech and inspired me to come back to work on my Ph.D. here. Not only has he taught me lab skills, but he helps me with my career goals, and guides me in exploring our research field, networking, and learning about various disciplines within the field.”
A fifth-year Ph.D. student, Sydney Popsuj is researching the gene Dkk3 and how it might regulate neurodevelopment and neurodegeneration in tunicates, close siblings to vertebrates. “This gene is implicated in Alzheimer's disease and dementia, but because it is hard to study in disease models, we don't have a strong grasp on the general functionality of the gene. I am using tunicates as a model system to study because they are biphasic, meaning they have both a larval and adult stage. This work is very exciting to me because it incorporates large scale evolutionary questions, while also having an impact on better understanding a gene that seems quite important to diseases and disorders.”
Popsuj thanks Georgia Tech faculty members Shuyi Nie, Joe LaChance, Patrick McGrath, Tim Cope, and Billie Swalla at the University of Washington “for pushing me to find new and exciting avenues into how to relate and generalize my work. These mentors have also encouraged me to expand outside my comfort zone in academics and to embrace new technologies and approaches that will hopefully further expand methods and protocols available to tunicate researchers.”
A third-year graduate scholar, Jose Luis Ramirez-Colón “has always been fascinated by the question of where we come from, and my time at Georgia Tech has been dedicated to using science as a tool to further explore this question.” His research focuses on exploring the organic inventory present in carbonaceous chondrites, meteorites that are like time capsules from the early days of the Solar System.
“Many organic classes present in all life as we know it, such as amino acids, sugars, and nucleobases, have been detected in these meteorites; therefore, there’s this idea that these meteorites might've delivered these essential building blocks to early Earth to kick-start life as we know it,” Ramirez-Colón says. His mission at Georgia Tech is to develop methods to detect, extract, and characterize those building blocks.
Ramirez-Colón wants to acknowledge “the remarkable contributions of my advisor and mentor, Christopher Carr, who has played a pivotal role in propelling my journey as an advancing Puerto Rican scientist. Carr not only granted me the freedom to pursue the questions that have always ignited my passion for science, but also equipped me with the essential tools and resources needed to conduct meaningful research.”
Sidney Scott-Sharoni is entering her fourth year of Ph.D. studies. An engineering psychology major, Scott-Sharoni focuses on “understanding how humans interact and conceptualize artificial intelligence devices,” she explains.
“Specifically, I investigate creative methods to convey information to calibrate users’ trust, and understand their psychological well-being, most often in automated vehicles,” Scott-Sharoni says. “I love my area of research because it combines the study of people with the study of innovative technology. I feel like I am researching the people of the future!”
Scott-Sharoni’s advisor, Professor Bruce Walker, “has significantly helped my personal and professional development as a researcher. I am very grateful for his continued mentorship throughout my graduate education.”
Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston
A School of Biological Sciences postdoctoral scholar will have a chance to help the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) fill in the blanks in that knowledge, thanks to a two-year fellowship from the agency’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
Sarah Orr, who researches in Professor Michael Goodisman’s lab, receives the grant for her project proposal, “Effects of Pesticide Exposure on Developmental Genetics in Bumblebees.” The award is part of a new USDA/NIFA $11.6 million funding initiative for projects that promote healthy populations of animal pollinators in agricultural systems where reliance of crops on pollinators is increasing, but pollinator numbers are declining.
“I am honored and ecstatic to have received this prestigious postdoctoral fellowship from USDA,” Orr says. “It’s rewarding to see how my research can have important implications in agriculture broadly in the U.S. Being able to bring in my own funding and serve as the project director on a grant as a postdoc has also been exciting. It’s a brief glimpse into what it will be like to hopefully be a faculty member myself in the future.”
Orr knows that pesticides play an important role in agricultural production and human food supply. Her scientific goal is to help find a balance between the risks and benefits of pesticide use.
“My investigation into the genetic effects of pesticides is unique and somewhat novel,” she says. “Beyond traditional toxicological methods, my project will improve our understanding of how pesticides may affect the developmental genetics of bumblebees.”
Homing in on key pollinators
Bumblebees are social insects native to North America and important pollinators for food crops including tomatoes, blueberries, and eggplant. As with most social insects, bumblebees live in colonies made up of a single queen and hundreds of sterile workers. “This genetic structure provides a really interesting model to study integrated development,” Orr says.
Orr’s project will investigate how pesticides affect the integrated developmental processes of Bombus impatiens bumblebees by examining changes in gene expression. Orr’s research will attempt to determine if pesticides impact the ratio of males to females in bee colonies, and how pesticides affect morphological traits of both worker and queen bees.
Orr says that new chemicals are approved before science can fully explore all of the potential environmental impact from their use. “For example, a lot of my research will focus on sulfoxaflor, a relatively new pesticide on the market,” she says, “and scientists are continuing to discover negative consequences of sulfoxaflor on native bee populations.”
USDA/NIFA New Contract/Grant/Agreement No. 2023-67012-39886, Proposal No. 2022-09642, Effects of Pesticide Exposure on Developmental Genetics in Bumblebees
Initial Award Year: 2023
Investigator: S.E. Orr
Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston
The third class of Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems (BBISS) Graduate Fellows has been selected.
The BBISS Graduate Fellows Program provides graduate students with enhanced training in sustainability, team science, and leadership in addition to their usual programs of study. Each 2-year fellowship is funded by a generous gift from Brook and Shawn Byers and is additionally guided by a Faculty Advisory Board. The students apply their skills and talents, working directly with their peers, faculty, and external partners on long-term, large team, sustainability relevant projects. They are also afforded opportunities to organize and host seminar series, develop their professional networks, publish papers, draft proposals, and develop additional skills critical to their professional success and future careers leading research teams.
The 2023 class of Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems Graduate Fellows are:
Additional information about the BBISS Graduate Fellows Program, and about the first class of BBISS Graduate Fellows is available at https://research.gatech.edu/sustainability/grad-fellows-program.]]>
Research Communications Program Manager
Interdisciplinary Research Institutes
Georgia Institute of Technology]]>
Everything changed in the past 40 years, when an explosion of evolutionary studies proved that evolution can and does occur rapidly — even from one generation to the next. Evolutionary biologists were thrilled, but the findings reinforced the same paradox: If evolution can happen so fast, then why do most species on Earth continue to appear the same for many millions of years?
This is known as the paradox of stasis, and James Stroud, assistant professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, set out to investigate it. He conducted a long-term study in a community of lizards, measuring how evolution unfolds in the wild across multiple species. In doing so, he may have found the answer to one of evolution’s greatest challenges.
His research was published as the cover story in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Read the full feature in the GT Research newsroom.]]>
“We now know that bacteria can lead complex social lives, communicating and cooperating within multicellular groups,” says Sam Brown, professor in the School of Biological Sciences and a member/past director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Microbial Dynamics and Infection (CMDI).
Getting out and about in the microbial world leaves bacteria facing challenges such as competition from other bacteria, threats from bacteria-eating viruses, drugs that target them, and starvation when they can’t find a host organism. Brown and his fellow CMDI scientists now want to know how bacteria modify their behaviors in response to their social and physical environments.
Two new grants totaling nearly $1.5 million will give them that chance.
One of the grants, a National Science Foundation award, focuses on how bacteria use clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats — better known as CRISPR, a cellular immune system that helps bacteria ward off threats. CRISPR is perhaps best known as a gene editing tool.
The NSF grant also includes Rachel Kuske, professor in the School of Mathematics and a CMDI member, and Edze Westra, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom. The NSF is partnering with the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) for this grant.
The other grant from the Army Research Office (ARO) will study quorum sensing, a form of cell-to-cell communication, to determine how bacteria use it to “count” cells so that collective behavior can be turned on.
Both grants can help CMDI understand microbial behavior in ways that could eventually lead to manipulating or controlling bacteria, says Steve Diggle, CMDI director and a professor in the School of Biological Sciences.
“We are delighted by these new grants as they align closely with the core mission of CDMI because they will advance our understanding of microbial interactions, behaviors, and community dynamics,” Diggle says. “The knowledge generated could have transformative impacts on both academic research and practical applications.”
CRISPR protections, but only in a crowd
Brown wants to make it clear that he and his colleagues won’t be doing any CRISPR gene editing themselves. “Our questions are more basic, focused on how the ‘inventors’ of CRISPR, bacteria, use this system to protect themselves from infection by phages (viruses that attack bacteria) and other molecular parasites of cells,” Brown says.
CRISPR’s role is to recognize and cut out specific sequences of foreign DNA within bacteria. Yet what Brown calls the “dirty secret” of microbiology is that lab bacteria rarely use CRISPR to deal with novel viruses.
“Instead, they use the simple trick of deleting the surface receptors that the virus uses to gain entry to the cell,” he explains. Previous work by CMDI Early Career Award Fellow Ellinor Alseth found an answer to this puzzle: bacteria are more likely to use CRISPR as an immune mechanism when they are living in a multi-species community. What Brown hopes to decipher are the molecular and ecological mechanisms that determine how life in a community can activate CRISPR functions.
“We further aim to build mathematical models of community dynamics, capturing both species interactions and evolutionary changes in a focal species undergoing viral attack,” Brown says. “This will have applied significance by helping the design of more robust microbial communities.”
Quorum sensing = a bacterial census
Regarding the ARO grant, Brown says the standard view for quorum sensing is that bacteria use those signals as a way of counting cells. When the extracellular signal is above a certain threshold, the population is “quorate” (that is, reaches a certain number of cells), and collective behaviors can be turned on.
Yet an increasing body of theory, along with experiments in Brown’s lab and others, has challenged this view “by highlighting that quorum sensing behaviors can also be shaped by the physical environment, such as diffusion, flow rate, and containment,” he says.
Also, behaviors are not “turned on” in a threshold manner with increasing density. “In a high density ‘quorate’ environment, not all cells are expressing canonical quorum sensing-controlled behaviors. These challenges leave us with limited understanding of the functional roles of QS.”
“By examining the balance between intracellular mechanisms and multicellular behaviors, we will obtain a more comprehensive understanding of how bacteria collaborate and respond collectively to their environment,” Diggle adds.]]>
Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston
This asynchronous beating comes from how the flight muscles interact with the physics of the insect’s springy exoskeleton. This decoupling of neural commands and muscle contractions is common in only four distinct insect groups.
For years, scientists assumed these four groups evolved these ultrafast wingbeats separately, but research from the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego) shows that they evolved from a single common ancestor. This discovery demonstrates evolution has repeatedly turned on and off this particular mode of flight. The researchers developed physics models and robotics to test how these transitions could occur.
Read the full feature in the GT Research newsroom.]]>
While mammal extinctions are well-documented, very little research has explored the impact those losses had on the nuanced ways in which mammal communities interact with their environments. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are using a novel methodology to investigate how mammals’ ability to function in their environments has been threatened in the past, and what challenges they can expect to face in the future.
Jenny McGuire, associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences and leader of the Spatial Ecology and Paleontology Lab, and Daniel Lauer, a graduate student, looked millions of years into the past, observing how and why eastern African herbivores’ relationships with their environments changed across space and time in the face of biodiversity loss. They used a novel approach to build models that show how specific mammal traits — like body mass and tooth shape — evolved with their changing environments over time, revealing the factors that caused the biodiversity losses and how the losses affected the functioning of mammal communities. Their method offers a new strategy for investigating the implications of changing ecologies and prioritizing conservation efforts toward helping mammal communities flourish in the future.
Their research paper was published in the journal Nature Communications.
The researchers began by diving into a collection of data from 186 sites across eastern Africa. The data contained records of over 200 extinct and 48 modern herbivore species (including the African elephant, giraffe, and hippopotamus), showing where and when each species lived at a given point in time over the past 7.4 million years. The data showed that mammal biodiversity in eastern Africa began to decline around 5 million years ago. It also revealed that aspects of biodiversity decline happened at multiple points, and that extinctions coincided with environmental changes and the emergence of early humans. But McGuire and Lauer wanted to know more.
“We wondered what we would find if we investigated how the mammals’ physical traits changed as their environments changed over time, rather than just looking at patterns in their biodiversity,” Lauer said. “This is important because if a mammal species possesses traits that are well-suited to its environment, it’s better able to contribute to the functioning of that environment. But if that is not the case, environments may not function as well as they could.”
To paint a fuller picture, they needed to examine biodiversity from a different perspective. This required a fresh approach, which led them to adapting a methodology known as ecometrics.
Ecometrics is an approach that looks at the relationships between the environmental conditions where animal communities are found — such as weather and vegetation — and the animal’s functional traits, which are traits that affect its biological performance. The team chose to focus on three traits: body mass, tooth height, and loph count (the number of ridges on molars).
Each of these traits exhibits a relationship based on the degree to which an environment is dominated by grasses versus woody plants. For example, if a species has a taller tooth, it can more durably consume the abrasive grassy vegetation of grasslands. With a shorter tooth, a species is instead suited to consume softer, woody vegetation, like shrubs.
For each of the three traits, they built a model of trait-environment relationships. They used trait data to estimate what the surrounding vegetation was like in each mammal community over time, specifically the percentage of trees and shrubs versus grassland.
“Using our models, we were able to use information about the traits occurring within mammal communities to estimate how the surrounding vegetation looked,” Lauer said. “Because these communities existed at different points in time, this enabled us to observe how consistent the mammals’ relationships with their environments remained through time.”
Using their ecometric framework, the researchers uncovered a key difference between the mammal biodiversity declines that occurred before approximately 1.7 million years ago and those that occurred after. While biodiversity began declining around 5 million years ago, trait-environment relationships remained consistent despite that loss.
Their analysis demonstrated that earlier biodiversity losses were a result of species adapting to grassland environments or tracking their preferred environments across geographies. In short, those biodiversity losses didn't necessarily have any sort of negative impact on the ability of mammal communities to function properly in their environments.
But later, around 1.7 million years ago, when climates became more arid and variable and tree cover declined to below 35%, a major shift occurred. Rapid losses in the number and variety of species occurred, along with a significant disruption in trait-environment relationships. The researchers’ findings suggest that, unlike prior biodiversity losses, those occurring over the past 1.7 million years likely threatened the ability for many mammal species to function well in local environmental conditions.
“Our findings fascinated us, because we were able to differentiate between the different biodiversity losses that were happening and their implications,” Lauer said. “This work reinforces the idea that not all biodiversity losses are the same.”
Their findings have important implications for the types of environmental and climatic changes that could affect mammals going forward. In the past, when changes were gradual and wildlife were able to move freely on the landscape, they could readily adapt to these environmental conditions.
Now, fragmentation of wildlife habitats by fences, roadways, and cities has the potential to limit the ability of wildlife to adapt to the rapid environmental changes occurring today. That is exacerbated by both the fast pace and increasing variability of today’s climate, which puts animals at risk of losing their ability to function properly in their local environments.
Moving forward, the team’s analysis can shed light on which mammal communities should be prioritized for future conservation efforts. The study demonstrates that among all the communities that are experiencing biodiversity losses, priority should be given to those most at-risk — the communities for whom future biodiversity losses will profoundly affect their ability to function properly.
“By examining the past, we can get a remarkably clear understanding of how animals have responded to prior environmental changes,” McGuire said. “We plan to work with conservation practitioners to use our findings to develop well-informed strategies for conserving the most at-risk mammal communities.”
Co-authors include A. Michelle Lawing (Texas A&M University), Rachel A. Short (South Dakota State University), Fredrick K. Manthi (National Museums of Kenya), Johannes Müller (Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Science), and Jason J. Head (University of Cambridge).
Citation: Lauer, D.A., Lawing, A.M., Short, R.A. et al. Disruption of trait-environment relationships in African megafauna occurred in the middle Pleistocene. Nat Commun 14, 4016 (2023).
Funding: This work was completed as part of a collaborative initiative from NSFDEB-NERC, with funding from NSF 2124836 to A.M.L., F.K.M., and J.M.; NSF 2124770 to J.L.M.; and NERC NE/W007576/1 to J.J.H. R.A.S. was supported by the NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology Program under grant DBI 2010680 and the USDA NIFA Hatch project SD00H787-23 (7004129 and 7004187). J.L.M. was also funded through NSF-CAREER and NSF 1945013.]]>
Holder will serve a three-year term for the organization, founded in 1976 to bring together neuroscientists working in the Atlanta area. The chapter promotes research and public understanding of the brain and nervous system by recognizing promising students and sponsoring lectures. The Society also organizes events such as Brain Awareness Month and the Atlanta Brain Bee, an annual competition for middle school and high school students who are tested on their knowledge of the brain and nervous system.
“I was surprised and honored to be asked to serve as the President for the ACSFN,” Holder says. “It’s an exciting opportunity to serve the greater Atlanta neuroscience community. I’m also a bit nervous as well, as I’ve never had this type of leadership position. I know that I’ll be relying a lot upon the council members of the ACSFN to help things run smoothly.”
One of Holder’s goals involves boosting the Society’s outreach to local and area K-12 schools, which were impacted by Covid-19 shutdowns — a time that the Georgia Tech neuroscience community also began talking more about the impact of historic exclusion, marginalization, and structural inequities in society and science, Holder says.
“One of the things I hope to accomplish as the new president of the Atlanta chapter is to foster meaningful engagements and partnerships so that outreach becomes something more authentic and collaborative,” she says. “I would love to be able to further support the winners of the Atlanta Brain Bee to go to the national competition without experiencing a financial burden.” Holder added that helping with competition fees would require increases in donations to the chapter.
About Mary Holder and Georgia Tech Neuroscience
Holder, a Georgia Tech alumna (B.S. PSYC ‘04 with High Honors), received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience in 2011 from the University of Maryland. Her research interests include neuroendocrinology, psychopharmacology, and behavioral neuroscience.
Since Georgia Tech began offering a neuroscience undergraduate degree in 2017, Holder notes that the Institute has experienced tremendous growth within the discipline. There are now approximately 500 neuroscience majors, and nearly 300 have graduated.
“In the past few years, we have made remarkable progress in our curriculum and course offerings to give a true Georgia Tech flavor to the neuroscience education for students,” she says. “Beyond the major itself, which is housed within the College of Sciences, there are neuroscientists all over campus.”
GTNeuro, a grassroots effort over many years, led to the hiring of faculty researching the brain, as well as the creation of the undergraduate neuroscience program. It also led to the September announcement of the Neuro Next Initiative, a foundational, interdisciplinary program to lead in research related to neuroscience, neurotechnology, and society.
“The Neuro Next Initiative should foster some fascinating opportunities for supporting collaborative research, educational missions, and public engagement,” Holder says. “I’m excited to see how the neuroscience programs and research will continue to grow and expand here. I think these new initiatives represent amazing opportunities for our students.”]]>
Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston
The biology, neuroscience, and biochemistry undergraduates were enrolled in a special offering of the Cell and Molecular Biology Laboratory (BIOS 3451) as part of the Georgia Tech Biomolecular Engineering, Science, and Technology study abroad program in Lyon (BEST-Lyon). As it was the first time the lab was offered as part of the program, the instructors took the budding course as an opportunity to try something new, aiming to mesh the lab with the local culture surrounding them while abroad. And for Lyon, that meant incorporating silk.
Read more about the unique experience on the College of Sciences website.]]>
Georgia Tech undergraduates are invited to apply for the Biomolecular Engineering, Science, and Technology (BEST) Study Abroad Program in Lyon, France. The BEST-Lyon program combines study at Georgia Institute of Technology, the premier science and engineering institution in the southern U.S., with a summer experience at CPE-Lyon University, a university rich in history in the chemical sciences, engineering, and technology. Participants can explore the inventions of Louis Pasteur, Victor Grignard, Pierre and Marie Curie while studying in France's "second-city", Lyon.
The program is expected to run from mid-May to July, 2024. Learn more about education abroad and apply by February 15, 2024.]]>
Assistant Dean for Faculty Mentoring
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Director of Communications
College of Sciences at Georgia Tech
Teaching excellence was also honored through Georgia Tech Teaching Assistant Awards and special certificates during the Institute’s Teaching Assistant (TA) and Future Faculty Award ceremonies, also held on April 19, at the Exhibition Hall Midtown Ballroom.
Please join us in congratulating these special recipients across our College of Sciences community:
Established in 2021, the Provost’s Academic Excellence Award was created to recognize the remaining finalists of the Love Family Foundation Award (awarded this year to College of Design student Karis Wang). Each student is a graduating senior and represents the most outstanding scholastic record from their college. Finalists receive a $2,000 award, generously sponsored by the Love Family Foundation, and recognition at the annual Student Honors program.
One of this year’s recipients of the Provost’s Academic Excellence Award is Elena Cabrera, who is graduating from the School of Psychology. Cabrera conducted three years of research in the Adult Cognition Lab, earning her the College of Sciences Dean’s Scholarship and Early Research Award. She has also served as Psychology Association president and received two Tower Awards from the Office of Minority Educational Development. After graduation, Cabrera plans to pursue social and cultural psychological research on her path to becoming a psychology professor.
Other recipients include Arul Gupta from the Scheller College of Business, Kevin Li from the College of Computing, Jacob Young from the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, and Peter Lais from the College of Engineering. Read more.
This award was established in fall 2022 to honor one graduating student who best exemplifies the Honors Program during their time at Georgia Tech.
The first ever recipient of this award is Sarah Sorme, a graduating neuroscience major who has been active in the Honors Program. Sorme has had many leadership roles within the Honors Program during her time at Georgia Tech, including serving on two committees — the New Student Committee and the Community Outreach Committee — acting as a first-year retreat guide, and serving as editor of the Honors Program newsletter (The HyPe). She also served as co-director of the Honors Leadership Council and was instrumental in guiding the Program through the Covid-19 pandemic.
After graduation, Sarah wants to use her cognitive science knowledge and leadership experiences to develop human-centered technology to improve society.
Read more about Sorme.
This award is presented to an undergraduate student with demonstrated accomplishments at the interface of biology with either physics or mathematics. The award was established by a generous donation from alumnus Stephen E. Brossette in recognition of the many contributions of Roger M. Wartell to the Georgia Institute of Technology.
The 2023 winner, Julianne Tijani, is a physics major who has conducted research on the evolution of yeast, antibiotic-resistant infections, and cystic fibrosis. She has participated in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, and was recognized as a Petit Scholar. Julianne has also served as a teaching assistant in the School of Physics, a student assistant for the EXPLORE living learning community, and a medical scribe at Emory University Hospital.
This award was created by the endowment gift of Joyce E. Nickelson and John C. Sutherland to honor Joyce’s late mother, alumna A. Joyce Nickelson, and Sutherland. The scholarship, which recognizes excellence at the interface of mathematics and physics, is awarded to an undergraduate student who has jointly studied mathematics and physics, and who has engaged in scientific research.
Nickelson-Sutherland award winner Lance Lampert is completing degrees in physics and mathematics. He has been a research assistant at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, has taken part in the University of Michigan NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates program, and will be conducting research at the CERN particle accelerator facility in Switzerland this summer. He is also a leader in the Quantum Computing Association, maintains the web infrastructure for Georgia Tech’s student radio station WREK, and hosts a show on the channel.
This honor was created by alumna Cindy Bossart to recognize high academic achievement by a student in the College of Sciences who is a non-Georgia resident.
Veronika Vessigault is the 2022-3 recipient of this award and is a mathematics major with a minor in computational data analysis. She is currently taking graduate-level numerical linear algebra, and she studied in Hungary as part of the Budapest Semester in Mathematics. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics and an academic career. While at Tech, she volunteered close to 100 hours teaching high school and community college students and served as a teaching assistant in both the School of Mathematics and the College of Computing.
This honor was established by Maranee Phingbodhipakkiya to honor her father, his love for physics, and the sacrifices he made to assure that she would have the finest education. This award is made to a junior or senior in the College of Sciences based on academic merit.
The recipient of this award, Saima Firoj, is a biochemistry major who is also completing minors in Spanish and health and medical sciences. She has conducted research on the structure and aggregation patterns of membranes through cryo-electron microscopy to aid in drug development and delivery, and on the biochemical origins of life. She has also volunteered extensively in the medical field.
The College of Sciences presents this scholarship in honor of Robert “Bob” Pierotti, past dean of the College and founder of the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC). The award is made to top graduating seniors in the College who have excelled both academically and in research.
The three recipients of the 2022 Pierotti Award are Thiago Esslinger, Andrew Ji, and Lila Nassar.
Esslinger is majoring in both biochemistry and earth and atmospheric sciences. During his time as an undergraduate, Esslinger conducted research with Kim Cobb, former professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences who now serves as the director of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society. His research aimed to investigate the influence of symbiont community composition on coral geochemical proxy records in the central equatorial Pacific. In addition, he has worked as a study abroad teaching assistant, and has received a President’s Undergraduate Research Award as well as the Sustainability Student Champions Award.
Ji is a biology major with a minor in computing and intelligence. He is a researcher in the School of Biological Sciences, where he works with Francesca Storici — professor and associate chair for Graduate Education in the School — to sequence the genome of a species of yeast. He also serves as a teaching assistant for the Bioethics and Integrative Genetics course, for which he was recognized as the School of Biological Sciences Undergraduate Teaching Assistant of the Year. Ji has also done considerable volunteer work in clinics and hospitals.
Nassar is a physics major with a concentration in the physics of living systems. Nassar has a broad set of research experiences with faculty Martin Mourigal and Jennifer Curtis in the School of Physics. Nassar has also served as the secretary and president of the Georgia Tech Society of Women in Physics. In summer 2021, Nassar also participated in the NSF REU program at Vanderbilt University.
Undergraduate research awards are made to students in the College of Sciences who have made strong contributions to research over a number of semesters. This year’s winners were Chelsea Bekemeier, Lydia Kenney, Dimitrios Kidonakis, and Evelyn Gardolinski.
Bekemeier is graduating from the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences with a concentration in meteorology. Bekemeier conducts research with Greg Huey, professor and chair of the School, and has contributed to controlled burning experiments in Fort Columbus, GA, as well as the Asian Summer Monsoon Chemical and CLimate Impact Project (ACCLIP) based in South Korea. She has also been dedicated to outreach endeavors, serving as a STEM educator for iFLY Indoor Skydiving and a Superheroes Club Educator at Awaken Education LLC.
Kenney is a biochemistry major who began working with Raquel Lieberman, professor and Sepcic-Pfiel Endowed Chair in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry in 2020. She was named a Beckman Scholar — a 15-month mentored research experience for exceptional undergraduate students in chemistry and biological sciences — in 2021, conducting metagenomics research on deep sea sediments to identify novel binding proteins. Throughout her work with Lieberman, Kenney has won the best poster competition at the 36th Annual Protein Society Symposium in San Francisco, CA, and co-authored a manuscript.
Kidonakis is a mathematics major who began research as a high schooler in 2018. Working with Joseph Rabinoff, associate professor at Duke University formerly in Georgia Tech’s the School of Mathematics, Kidonakis conducted a research project on arithmetic geometry which won the award for best project in mathematics at the Georgia Science and Engineering Fair. During his time at Tech, Kidonakis has also worked with School of Mathematics professors Igor Belegradek and Matt Baker.
Gardolinski is graduating from the Undergraduate Program in Neuroscience, and began doing research with Tim Cope, professor in the School of Biological Sciences, in 2020. Gardolinski conducted her research thesis with Cope, which aimed to develop a large data base on molecular mechanisms underlying signaling by specialized sensory receptors responsible for movement perception. She has also served as a teaching assistant, a peer advisor, and as the vice president of finance for Georgia Tech’s Red Cross Club.
This honor is provided by an endowment bequeathed by alumnus Larry O’Hara. It is presented to outstanding graduate students in the College of Sciences.
All of the 2023 winners have established a strong record of research with multiple publications in peer-reviewed journals, as well as multiple conference presentations:
Liu is currently studying structural graph theory, extremal combinatorics, and graph coloring with Xingxing Yu, a professor in the School of Mathematics and the director of Graduate Studies.
Pfennig’s research interests include theoretical and empirical population genetics of admixed populations. He currently works with Joseph Lachance, an associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences, to examine admixture of modern humans with archaic hominins.
The College of Science had several winners among the 2023 Georgia Tech Teaching Assistant Awardees. The awards are presented annually by the Center for Teaching and Learning to celebrate the contributions to teaching excellence at Georgia Tech made by graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants:
Several students also won Teaching Assistant Awards at the school level:
Tech to Teaching Certificates are designed to prepare Georgia Tech graduate and postdoctoral associates for college teaching positions.
Through this certificate program, participants will develop a thorough understanding of the scholarship of teaching and learning, and will demonstrate their ability to apply these skills in the classroom.
The following College of Sciences students were awarded Tech to Teaching Certificates:
As a member institution in the CIRTL national network, Georgia Tech joins with 39 other universities on a mission to improve undergraduate education through the preparation of future faculty.
Participants in these certificate programs learn about how students learn, how differences among students affect their learning, evidence-based teaching and assessment practices, and teaching with technology.
Participants who complete these foundation-level learning outcomes through a combination of coursework, workshops, or online learning, receive the CIRTL Associate certificate.
The following College of Sciences students were awarded CIRTL Certificates:
Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston
Director of Communications, College of Sciences
Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart have published a perspectives piece on the different tools used throughout the world that are aiding in the conservation of wildlife and biodiversity.
They highlight advances in technology, including both hardware and software, as well as frugal resources that are changing the way animals are protected. The research was published in the Journal of The Royal Society Interface in August.
“We are experiencing technological advancements of low-cost hardware, open-source software, machine learning, and more that can help with global conservation efforts,” said Andrew Schulz, postdoctoral researcher in the haptic intelligence department at Max Planck Institute and recent Ph.D. graduate from the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. “For researchers and people interested in learning about the ways conservation technology and tools are created, this piece serves as a starter guide to the field.”
In the article, the researchers presented five case studies of conservation tools, including open-source innovation, environmental DNA, computer vision, game theory and optimization, and frugal technology. Researchers also highlighted the importance of indigenous design in these conservation tool interventions and warned not to employ toxic practices, such as colonization of conservation or parasitic conservation. These practices take advantage of native lands, where conservationists refuse to work with local or indigenous populations and often do not cite or credit their help or expertise.
One case study looked at AudioMoth, a device that allows low-cost access to bioacoustics research. Recently, an AudioMoth was paired with an animal observation tower to track bird migrations over Georgia Tech’s campus. AudioMoth can also monitor aquatic environments, like coral colonies, to assist with species identification and habitat restoration. It’s used in a wide range of fields to monitor the biodiversity of a habitat or even help with the early detection of poachers to prevent wildlife decline.
“One of the best parts about this project was working with so many excellent researchers,” Schulz said. They included Suzanne Stathatos from Caltech and the project’s co-leaders, Cassie Shriver and Benjamin Seleb, from Georgia Tech’s quantitative biosciences Ph.D. program. “As early-career researchers working together, it is great to see that the conversations about conservation tool construction are growing and being led by outstanding Ph.D. students.”
At Georgia Tech, conservation tools are constantly being built and implemented. The Tech4Wildlife student organization is working to implement conservation tech solutions, including a rabies dispenser for our campus foxes, bird monitors in the EcoCommons, and forage feeders for Zoo Atlanta’s gorillas.
"I'm proud to see Cassie, Ben, and Andrew collaborating across fields and institutions to move conservation technology forward, and it inspires me about the future of conservation science,” said William Ratcliff, associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences and director of the quantitative biosciences program.
CITATION: Conservation tools: the next generation of engineering–biology collaborations Andrew K. Schulz., Cassie Shriver, Suzanne Stathatos, and Benjamin Seleb et. Al, Journal of The Royal Society InterfaceVolume 20, Issue 205. Published:16 August 2023. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsif.2023.0232]]>
In response to rising global temperatures, many plants and animals are moving to higher elevations to survive in cooler temperatures. But a new study from the University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) and Georgia Tech finds that for flying insects — including bees and moths — this escape route may have insurmountable issues that could mean their doom.
The research team examined more than 800 species of insects from around the world and discovered that many winged insects are moving to higher elevations much slower than their non-flying counterparts. This is because the thinner air at higher elevations provides less oxygen for species to use. Because flight requires more oxygen to generate energy for movement than other styles of movement, such as walking, these species are migrating more slowly.
The team’s findings were published in this week’s Nature Climate Change journal. Jesse Shaich, postbaccalaureate student at CU Denver, is also a member of the research team.
“When we think about where species will be able to live under climate change in the coming decades, we need to remember that animals are sensitive to more than just how hot or cold they are,” said CU Denver Assistant Professor of Integrated Biology Michael Moore, who led the study.
If flying insects’ native habitats get too warm too quickly, and they can’t find a suitable alternative or adapt in time, that will likely lead to their extinction. Beyond just being bad for the bugs themselves, loss of insects is bad news for humans as well. Most crop pollinators are the flying species the researchers expect to be vulnerable, and their extinction would be catastrophic to global food supply. Not only would this have implications for agriculture and food supply chains, but similar challenges are likely true for other species that need a lot of oxygen to live.
“Our earth’s biodiversity is rapidly declining, especially amongst insects. The global loss of insects will be ecologically catastrophic, so we urgently need to understand why and how this is happening,” said James Stroud, assistant professor of Biological Sciences at Georgia Tech.
To conserve as many species as possible, researchers need to grasp the full scope of challenges plants and animals face, whether they can overcome these challenges, and to predict the locations where they can survive. High elevation environments are also difficult for new species because of the scarcity of food, stronger winds, more extreme cold snaps, and increased ultraviolet radiation.
Moore concludes, “If we want to design effective conservation strategies, we must consider a broader range of environmental factors that species need to live.”
About Georgia Institute of Technology
The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is one of the top public research universities in the U.S., developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition. The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its more than 45,000 undergraduate and graduate students, representing 50 states and more than 148 countries, study at the main campus in Atlanta, at campuses in France and China, and through distance and online learning. As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of economic development for Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation, conducting more than $1 billion in research annually for government, industry, and society.
About the University of Colorado Denver
The University of Colorado Denver is the state’s premier public urban research university and equity-serving institution. Globally connected and locally invested, CU Denver partners with future-focused learners and communities to design accessible, relevant, and transformative educational experiences for every stage of life and career. Across seven schools and colleges in the heart of downtown Denver, our leading faculty inspires and works alongside students to solve complex challenges through boundary-breaking innovation, impactful research, and creative work. As part of the state’s largest university system, CU Denver is a major contributor to the Colorado economy, with 2,000 employees and an annual economic impact of $800 million. For more information, visit ucdenver.edu.
Acknowledgments: Support was generously provided by the University of Colorado Denver (to M.P.M. and J.S.) and Washington University in St. Louis and the Georgia Institute of Technology (to J.T.S.). Conversations with J. de Mayo, J. Grady and A. Lenard and input from three reviewers improved this study.
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The research, supported by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), will study whether or not the harmless bacteria can be successfully modified to carry snippets of a viral coat protein that could stimulate the desired response in mucosal membranes lining the gut. Beyond reducing influenza infection in the general population, improved protection against the flu could have a significant impact on the U.S. military, which wants to provide the best possible protection for its warfighters to reduce possible impacts on readiness and training from influenza outbreaks.
At Georgia Tech, the project is a collaboration between researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) and the Georgia Tech School of Biological Sciences. All of the research at Georgia Tech will be done using BSL-2 facilities designed for this type of study. The award does not include research on animals or humans.
“Ultimately, this could one day make vaccination programs much more effective,” said Michael Farrell, a GTRI principal research scientist. “This isn’t going to be a replacement for flu vaccines as they currently exist, but it could act as an adjuvant – something that’s done in addition to vaccination to increase the overall immune response. To benefit from it, you might take a pill like you do with probiotics now.”
Using Common Probiotic Bacteria as Vehicles
The project will focus on two common probiotic bacteria: Escherichia coli – a gram-negative bacterium better known as E. coli – and Lactococcus lactis, a gram-positive bacterium found in cheese, buttermilk, and other dairy food items. The researchers will attempt to coax the bacteria to express the influenza virus’ Hemagglutinin (HA) receptor protein on their outer cell surface. There, the protein would stimulate an antibody response in the gut mucosal membrane as it passes through the body’s gastrointestinal tract.
“We’re using some well-established probiotic bacteria that have been utilized for dozens of years, are well vetted and safe for humans,” said Brian Hammer, an associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences who specializes in bacterial genetics. “Ultimately, the idea is to use these bacteria as a chassis to create living vaccines, since the body already tolerates them both well.”
Researchers at AFRL and Georgia Tech envision that a single pill or capsule would carry the bacteria into the gastrointestinal tract to provide the necessary antibody stimulation. The bacteria would be modified so they could not reproduce, preventing them from becoming part of the body’s gut microbiome – a diverse collection of bacteria that live in the body and help carry out specific functions, including metabolizing food and modulating the immune system.
“We know the human microbiome is intimately involved in human health and disease, influencing processes in ways that have both positive and negative outcomes for us,” said Richard Agans, senior research biological scientist at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine (USAFSAM). “Recently, we have started to better understand how the microbiome communicates with our bodies and how we can identify, target, and promote the beneficial aspects. Currently, we are working to determine how to utilize these microbial communities to better protect our warfighters as well as the general public.”
Overcoming Challenges of Manipulating Bacteria
Hammer’s lab specializes in manipulating proteins of organisms such as bacteria and viruses to create novel fusions. Among the techniques available is the new CRISPR-Cas, the gene-editing technology that was the subject of a Nobel Prize in 2020, but other more traditional techniques may also be used to get the influenza surface protein where the researchers want it to be.
Among the challenges ahead is that adding a new component to bacterial organisms can be difficult.
“In general, bacteria have evolved with the genetic components they need to survive,” Farrell explained. “If you add something else, they may just kick it out. It’s very hard to find a neutral location in the bacterial genome where we can stably add new functionality. This is especially true for this effort, in which there will be no cointroduction of antimicrobial resistance markers.”
In addition, the probiotic bacteria strains that are widely used in research as model organisms, or “lab rats,” are adapted to living in laboratory conditions. This project, however, will use natural commensal strains that co-exist in humans. That approach may make it even more challenging to add the appropriate material for expressing the viral proteins on the bacteria cell surfaces, Hammer said.
“We used to perceive that genes could be shuffled around in the bacteria without much effect on them, but we’re learning now that location really matters,” he said. “One of the concerns is that tools that work on the ‘lab rat’ versions of these bacteria will not be as readily accepted by these commensals.”
As part of the project, the researchers will have to show that the addition of the protein doesn’t cause instability in the bacteria, and that the modified bacteria generate the correct response when exposed to human immune cells in culture.
Proof of Concept Could Lead to Broader Vaccine Therapies
Beyond its importance to the military, influenza was chosen to study this adjuvant approach because a number of vaccines exist for this virus, and they have been well studied over the years. If this approach works with influenza, the combination of pill and injection might be useful for vaccines against other respiratory viruses.
“If this is ultimately successful, it could be the first foray into showing that these vehicles, these probiotics, could potentially be scaled up for lots of different therapeutic uses,” said Hammer. “By customizing the cargo, this approach could be rapidly adapted to address new and emerging threats that may arise in the future.”
Project Provides Student Opportunity
The two-year project life was chosen because of the expected difficulty – and because another of its goals is to train a master’s degree student in the bacterial modification techniques being utilized.
The Georgia Tech researchers have chosen an underrepresented minority student who holds an undergraduate degree in biology from Kennesaw State University and has worked in a commercial DNA laboratory. Katrina Lancaster will begin work on this project during fall semester, collaborating with both Hammer and Farrell – and the students and other researchers in their labs.
“This student will have excellent opportunities, not only to learn the skills in the lab and take the coursework, but also to develop a rich network of connections, both in the School of Biological Sciences and at GTRI, that will be helpful in moving forward and advancing their career,” Hammer said. “It’s a really beautiful combination of components for this project.”
The project is funded through the AFRL’s Minority Leaders Research Collaboration Program (ML-RCP).
“Partnering with academic institutions, such as GTRI, presents great opportunities for our team to interact and work with top minds in these fields to develop better outcomes for everyone,” Agans said. “We are especially grateful for the opportunity to mentor and provide opportunities for underrepresented students with STEM aspirations. We are excited to work with GTRI in this endeavor and envision this being just the first step.”
USAFSAM is part of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing.
Writer: John Toon (email@example.com)
Georgia Tech Research Institute
This story first appeared in the GTRI newsroom.]]>
“Being a mentor is my favorite part of my work,” said Shi. “I have learned so much about student psychology and my own psychology. As scientists, we can neglect the human experience it takes for us all to collaborate. I love thinking of new ways to improve the effectiveness of our communication so we all feel welcomed and valued in our scientific communities.”
In 2022, Shi started a mentorship group, FishStalkers, which grew from five to 20 members in just one semester. Shi’s mentees have been offered competitive co-ops and internships, awarded prestigious fellowships, presented at research symposiums, and more.
Shi provides her techniques for cultivating a positive and productive mentor-mentee connection.
Instill confidence in your mentees. “Student researchers have a lot of helpful ideas,” said Shi. “They attend courses where they learn about the newest software and theories while you are held up in the lab. You need to try and access this information, but it’s not going to happen if you do not instill the confidence in them that their idea is worth your time, and that it’s okay if the idea doesn’t work out because the contribution is valuable.”
Lower the standards you set for yourself. “Most Ph.D. students are perfectionists, and they will put a lot of pressure on themselves in terms of responsibility to a mentee,” said Shi. “You don’t need to be perfect. In fact, if you are perfect around your mentees, you will probably just intimidate them.”
According to Shi, this pressure can deter Ph.D. students from pursuing mentorship.
“A lot of people will place barriers on themselves that they do not know enough, or they don’t have enough ‘good work’ for a mentee,” said Shi. “You will make mistakes as a mentor. You and your mentees as people will solve these miscommunications or issues. This is normal and healthy.”
Humanize yourself. “Mentees often have an idealized perception of what a Ph.D. student is,” said Shi. “I will point out mistakes I have made in my work to students and encourage them to correct me if they have better information. I do not want to feel smart. I want to do good work and that requires criticism from other parties, including my mentees. Our goal is to increase the comfortability of the mentee while maintaining the professional boundary required of your role.”
Facilitate situations where the mentee is empowered. “The important thing I focus on with my students is cross-training,” said Shi. “If one mentee has studied a software, they now become responsible for training other mentees and me. It helps to be intentional in teaching your mentees that knowledge can come from anyone. I think putting knowledge into a hierarchy is overblown and only serves to preserve the status of people at the top rather than allowing for new ideas.”
Align mentor and mentee goals. “Goals should not conflict with one another, but this can happen if the mentor does not plan strategically,” said Shi. “The mentor needs to be transparent with what work the mentee needs to complete and the timeline. The mentor should inform the mentee of the amount of time the mentor has to assist the mentee and the appropriate method for contacting you when you need help. It is always best practice to be as specific with what you want rather than assume some ‘should know’ something.”
Shi has created a mentorship document that outlines her expectations for all new student researchers.
Communicate expectations. “We should communicate with each other the experience that we want from the relationship and work towards that goal,” said Shi. “You should align your students’ projects such that they are working towards something that advances your work. Sometimes, you will have motivated students who want to go off and do their own idea. That shows initiative in the student, but you should be direct with them that straying off into projects unrelated to your current research goals will mean that they will receive less oversight/feedback from you.”
Provide positive feedback. “A lot of us analytical types may forget that we should point out tasks that are proceeding well along with the things that are going up in flames,” said Shi. “Recognizing quality mentee work is vital to them reproducing that quality of work again. They need to know when they have met your standards.”
Provide critical feedback. “You will need to provide critical feedback to the mentee both on work and logistical miscommunications,” said Shi. “Do not shy away from this. If you are uncomfortable with discussing concerns on performance, this is normal, but by ignoring the issue you will deny the mentee from improving in this respect.”
Shi’s procedure for handling performance issues involves gathering the facts, detangling your emotions, defining the solution, and sending them a message.
For logistical, non-research issues, Shi recommends keeping records.
“There is a lot of front-loaded work in creating documentation of expectations, but it really pays off in terms of not dealing with day-to-day logistical questions.”
Understand the student researcher’s mindset. “Student researchers often feel insecure in navigating the lab equipment,” said Shi. “Sometimes, their perfectionism will cause them to ask you a lot of questions because they really want to impress you and do things correctly.”
In these situations, Shi advises mentors to protect their own time while reassuring the mentee in their work. Let them know that you appreciate their effort to do things correctly, but part of research is independence, or let them know that you are unavailable to answer their question and provide a timeline for when they can expect to hear from you.
Take the Tech to Teaching program and try your best! “I highly recommend this [Tech to Teaching] program to any Ph.D. student who has long-term goals of becoming a professor,” said Shi. “I want to emphasize something: you do not need formal training to be a mentor. If you are on the fence, try your best. You will learn the most about being a mentor by being a mentor. Listen to your mentee, balance your commitments, prioritize your time and goals, and you will be fine. There is the perception some people have that you need to mentor in a specific way. I do not agree with this mentality. I believe the scope of mentorship should be negotiated by the mentor and the mentee based on an alignment of goals.”]]>
The University System of Georgia (USG) Board of Regents announced 12 first-time Georgia Tech appointments to Regents’ distinctions for 2023 and affirmed the renewal of existing distinctions for four esteemed faculty members.
Regents’ distinctions may be granted for a period of three years by the Board of Regents (BOR) to outstanding faculty members from Georgia Tech, Augusta University, Georgia State University, the University of Georgia, and, in special circumstances, other USG institutions. A Regents’ professor, researcher, or entrepreneur distinction is awarded only after unanimous recommendation from the president of the recipient’s university, their chief academic officer and dean, as well as three additional members of the faculty who are named by the university president. Approval by the chancellor and the BOR Committee on Academic Affairs is also required. These distinctions are given to those who make outstanding contributions to their respective institutions.
Georgia Tech faculty named as Regents’ Professors include:
Srinivas Aluru, Professor, School of Computational Science and Engineering, College of Computing
Rafael L. Bras, K. Harrison Brown Family Chair and Professor, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering and Professor, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, College of Sciences
Thomas Orlando, Professor, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, College of Sciences
Frank T. Rothaermel, Russell and Nancy McDonough Chair in Business and Professor, Scheller College of Business
Jeffrey Skolnick (renewal), Mary and Maisie Gibson Chair, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Computational Systems Biology, and Professor, School of Biological Sciences, College of Sciences
Vigor Yang (renewal), Professor, School of Aerospace Engineering, College of Engineering
Lisa Yaszek (renewal), Professor, School of Literature, Media, and Communication, Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts
Ellen Zegura (renewal), Stephen Fleming Chair in the College of Computing and Professor, School of Computer Science, College of Computing
Faculty named as Regents’ Researchers include:
Maribeth Coleman, Director of Research and Associate Director of Interactive Media, Institute for People and Technology
Douglas Denison, Laboratory Director, Advanced Concepts Laboratory, GTRI
Mehmet Talat Odman, Principal Research Engineer, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering
Linda Viney, Principal Research Engineer and Chief, Systems Integration Division, Applied Systems Laboratory, GTRI
Faculty named Regents’ Entrepreneurs — granted to outstanding full-time, tenured faculty members who have established reputations as successful innovators and who have taken their research into a commercial setting — include:
J. David Frost, Elizabeth and Bill Higginbotham Professor, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering
Jennifer Olson Hasler, Professor, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering
Raghupathy Sivakumar, Vice President of Commercialization, Chief Commercialization Officer and Wayne J. Holman Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering
Todd Sulchek, a professor in the School of Mechanical Engineering within the College of Engineering, has been named a Regents’ Innovator.
“We are thrilled to have so many distinguished members of our community honored in this way by the Board of Regents of the USG,” said Steven W. McLaughlin, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs. “Georgia Tech is known for the strength of our academics, research, innovation, and the brilliant entrepreneurs who emerge from all corners of the Institute. We are deeply grateful for their contributions.”
To learn more about the requirements for USG Regents’ distinctions, visit the Board of Regents Policy Manual.
Faculty Communications Program Manager
Organizational, Academic, and Research Communications]]>
Launched in 2020, this annual program recognizes 40 alumni under the age of 40 who innovate their fields and positively impact the world.
The Alumni Association notes that they are “proud to celebrate this exceptional class of Jackets who have done the impossible; from furthering space exploration to revolutionizing healthcare, these individuals have made the Tech community exceptionally proud.”
Nominees, who must have completed at least one semester at Georgia Tech and be under the age of 40 as of June 30, 2023, were scored using a 25-point rubric by a committee of 24 faculty, staff, and volunteers who collectively represented all Georgia Tech colleges.
Learn more about the 2023 class on the Alumni Association’s website, or explore quick stats about the class here.
From making groundbreaking discoveries on Mars to revolutionizing healthcare, meet the four trailblazing Sciences alumni in the 2023 class:
Lead Microbiologist, Vaccine Immunology | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Stephen Crooke leads the Vaccine Immunology Team in the Vaccine Preventable Diseases Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where his team supports global and international disease surveillance and researches the development of new vaccines and diagnostics. He is a recipient of the Maurice R. Hilleman Early-Stage Career Investigator Award from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, and he is also an investigator in the Center for Childhood Immunizations and Vaccines at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. In his free time, Crooke enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with his wife and young daughter.
Favorite Tech Memory: Watching the Jackets defeat UGA in Athens (in overtime, no less!) circa 2014 has to claim the top spot!
Principal Project Lead / Senior Scientist | McDonnell Genome Institute
Jasreet Hundal has revolutionized personalized medicine through her innovative work in computational genomics. After completing her master’s in bioinformatics at Georgia Tech, she joined the Genome Institute at Washington University, focusing on cancer genomics and researching neoantigens. Realizing her computational skills and passion for innovation, she pursued her doctoral degree and developed pVACtools, a computational suite that revolutionizes cancer treatment by predicting individualized neoantigens. Clinical trials across various tumor types now utilize pVACtools to design personalized cancer vaccines. Hundal’s expertise in computational analysis and her pioneering contributions to precision medicine have been widely recognized and published in top-tier scientific journals.
Favorite Tech Memory: Doing late night collaborative assignments in one of the oldest buildings—Cherry Emerson, where the biological sciences program was housed!
Assistant Professor | Rutgers University
Lujendra Ojha is a planetary scientist and assistant professor of planetary sciences at Rutgers University. He gained widespread recognition for his discovery of Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL) on Mars, which are seasonal features that may indicate the presence of liquid water on the planet. Ojha’s groundbreaking discovery led to numerous media appearances, including interviews with major news networks and an article in Rolling Stone magazine. He has since published numerous papers in prestigious scientific journals, including Science and Nature Communications. Ojha is committed to advancing our understanding of planetary evolution and the potential for habitability beyond Earth.
Favorite Tech Memory: Midtown Tavern, seminars in the Ford ES&T Building, followed by midnight dinner at Waffle House on 5th street.
Senior Technical Manager | Pillar Biosciences
Lavanya Rishishwar extracts meaningful and actionable insights from vast genomic datasets. Collaborating with federal and state government partners, he has contributed to outbreak investigations, developed infrastructure for laboratory preparedness, and pioneered scalable computational tools for the future. Through mentoring and training, he nurtures the next generation of scientists. Rishishwar’s dedication to translating genomics into real-world impact has earned him recognition and appreciation. His work exemplifies the tremendous potential bioinformatics holds in advancing our understanding of the biological world. Rishishwar received a bachelor’s of science in Bioinformatics from Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology.
Favorite Tech Memory: Walking onto the set of The Internship and being playfully scolded by Vince Vaughn for working late on a Friday night.]]>
Compartmentalization is how all living systems are organized today — from proteins and small molecules sharing space in separate phases to dividing labor and specialized functions within and among cells.
Now, with $6 million in support from NASA, a team of researchers led by Georgia Tech’s Frank Rosenzweig will study the organizing principles of compartmentalization in a five-year project called Engine of Innovation: How Compartmentalization Drives Evolution of Novelty and Efficiency Across Scales.
It's one of seven new projects selected recently by NASA as part of its Interdisciplinary Consortia for Astrobiology Research (ICAR) program. ICAR is embedded among NASA’s five Astrobiology Research Coordination Networks (RCNs). Rosenzweig is co-lead for the RCN launched in 2022, LIFE: Early Cells to Multicellularity.
“We’re excited by the prospect of exploring this fundamental question through the interplay of theory and experiment,” said Rosenzweig, professor in the School of Biological Sciences, whose team of co-Investigators includes biochemists, geologists, cell biologists, and theoreticians from leading NASA research centers: Jeff Cameron, Shelley Copley, Alexis Templeton, and Boswell Wing from the University of Colorado Boulder; Josh Goldford and Victoria Orphan from California Institute of Technology; and John McCutcheon from Arizona State University. Collaborating with them is Chris Kempes, professor at the Santa Fe Institute.
Rosenzweig is also eager to eventually collaborate with existing ICAR teams, such as MUSE, led by the University of Wisconsin’s Betül Kaçar, a former Georgia Tech postdoctoral researcher, and newly selected teams, such as Retention of Habitable Atmospheres in Planetary Systems, led by Dave Brain at University of Colorado Boulder.
Meanwhile, he plans to build upon Georgia Tech’s outstanding reputation in astrobiology, where a cluster of researchers, such as Jen Glass, Nick Hud, Thom Orlando, Amanda Stockton, and Loren Williams, among others, is engaged in a diverse range of work supported by NASA.
“This is just the latest chapter in a long history of excellence in NASA research at Georgia Tech, one written by my colleagues across the Institute,” Rosenzweig said.]]>
The Jefferson Science Fellowship Program engages American science, technology, engineering, and medical faculty in critical service to U.S. foreign policy and international development through a one-year agency assignment with the Department of State or U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Fellows return to their academic careers after a year of service, but remain available to the U.S. government as experienced consultants for short-term projects.
Lynch-Stieglitz researches the behavior of the Earth’s oceans and climate over the last 100,000 years. Work in this area has helped in understanding the full range of behavior possible for the ocean/climate system, and which parts of this system may be vulnerable to change in the future.
“I was very pleased to be named a Jefferson Fellow, and am particularly excited that I was matched to the Office of Global Change, which is responsible for implementing and managing U.S. international policy on climate change,” Lynch-Stieglitz says. “I hope to be able to use some of my expertise in the oceanic carbon cycle and the role of the ocean in climate change to the work of the office.
“The Jefferson Fellowship is also a unique opportunity for me to learn something new and do something completely different from my normal duties as a faculty member. I hope to enjoy the fast-paced environment at State, and learn a lot about U.S. and international climate policy and climate diplomacy.”
“Lynch-Stieglitz’s selection as a Jefferson Science Fellow is certainly an honor that recognizes her expertise in climate science,” says Greg Huey, professor and chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. “However, more importantly she will bring her knowledge and experience to the State Department to address key climate-related challenges and promote sustainable solutions. I do regret losing her from campus for a year as we will miss her leadership.”
Over the past year, Lynch-Stieglitz has also served as ADVANCE Professor for the College of Sciences, one of six representing each Georgia Tech college. Supported by Institute Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the ADVANCE Program builds and sustains an inter-college network of professors who are world-class researchers and role models to support the community and advancement of women and minorities in academia.
"She has left an indelible stamp in many areas, including reform of our hiring procedures and our curriculum," Huey adds.
Jennifer Curtis, professor in the School of Physics, will step into that role on July 1, 2023 as Lynch-Stieglitz travels to Washington, D.C. for the fellowship.
“It is bittersweet in that I have to relinquish the College of Sciences ADVANCE Professorship in order to take on this full-time position in Washington,” Lynch-Stieglitz says. “I really enjoyed getting to know more of the women faculty across the college, and representing their interests to the Institute. But I can’t imagine a better person to take this role forward than Jennifer Curtis. She will do wonderful things.”
Applying for a Jefferson Science Fellowship
The Jefferson Science Fellowships are open to tenured, or similarly ranked, faculty from U.S. institutions of higher learning who are U.S. citizens. After successfully obtaining a security clearance, selected Fellows spend one year on assignment at the U.S. Department of State or USAID serving as advisers on issues of foreign policy and international development. Assignments are tailored to the needs of the hosting office, while taking into account the Fellows’ interests and areas of expertise.
Learn more and apply here.]]>
Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston
“But I didn’t realize the role that real estate can play in that,” said Lawler, general manager of BioSpark Labs – the collaborative, shared laboratory environment taking shape at Science Square at Georgia Tech.
Sitting adjacent to the Tech campus and formerly known as Technology Enterprise Park, Science Square is being reactivated and positioned as a life sciences research destination. The 18-acre site is abuzz with new construction, as an urban mixed-use development rises from the property.
Meanwhile, positioned literally on the ground floor of all this activity is BioSpark Labs, located in a former warehouse, fortuitously adjacent to the Global Center for Medical Innovation. It’s one of the newer best-kept secrets in the Georgia Tech research community.
BioSpark exists because the Georgia Tech Real Estate Office, led by Associate Vice President Tony Zivalich, recognized the need of this kind of lab space. Zivalich and his team have overseen the ideation, design, and funding of the facility, partnering with Georgia Advanced Technology Ventures, as well as the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, and the core facilities of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience.
“We are in the middle of a growing life sciences ecosystem, part of a larger vision in biotech research,” said Lawler, who was hired on to manage the space, bringing to the job a wealth of experience as a former research scientist and lab manager with a background in molecular and synthetic biology.
BioSpark was designed to be a launch pad for high-potential entrepreneurs. It provides a fully equipped and professionally operated wet lab, in addition to a clean room, meeting and office space, to its current roster of clients, five life sciences and biotech startup, a number certain to increase – because BioSpark is undergoing a dramatic expansion that will include 11 more labs (shared and private space), an autoclave room, equipment and storage rooms.
“We want to provide the necessary services and support that an early-stage company needs to begin lab operations on day one,” said Lawler, who has put together a facility with $1.7 million in lab equipment. “I understand our clients’ perspective, I understand researchers and their experiments, and their needs, because I have first-hand proficiency in that world. So, I can advocate on their behalf.”
CO2 incubators, a spectrophotometer, a biosafety cabinet, a fume hood, a -80° freezer, an inverted microscope, and the autoclave are among the wide range of apparatus. Plus, a virtual treasure trove of equipment is available to BioSpark clients off-site through the Core Facilities of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience on the Georgia Tech campus.
“One of the unique things about us is, we’re agnostic,” Lawler said. “That is, our startups can come from anywhere. We have companies that have grown out of labs at Georgia State, Alabama State, Emory, and Georgia Tech. And we have interest from entrepreneurs from San Diego, who are considering relocating people from mature biotech markets to our space.”
Marvin Whiteley wants to help humans win the war against bacteria, and he has a plan, something he’s been cooking up for about 10 years, which has now manifested in his start-up company, SynthBiome, one of the five startups based at BioSpark Labs.
“We can discover a lot of antibiotics in the lab but translating them into the clinic has been a major challenge – antibiotic resistance is the main reason,” said Whiteley, professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Georgia Tech. “Something might work in a test tube easily enough and it might work in a mouse. But the thing is, bacteria know that mice are different - and and so bacteria act differently in mice than in humans.”
SynthBiome was built to help accelerate drug discovery. With that goal in mind, Whiteley and has team set out to develop a better, more effective preclinical model. “We basically learned to let the bacteria tell us what it’s like to be in a human,” Whiteley said. “So, we created a human environment in a test tube.”
Whiteley has said a desire to help people is foundational to his research. He wants to change how successful therapies are made. The same can be said for Dr. Pooja Tiwari, who launched her company, Arnav Biotech, to develop mRNA-based therapeutics and vaccines. Arnav Biotech also serves as a contract researcher and manufacturer, helping other researchers and companies interested in exploring mRNA in their work.
“There are only a handful of people who have deep knowledge of working in mRNA research, and this limits the access to it” said Tiwari, a former postdoctoral researcher at Georgia Tech and Emory. “We’d like to democratize access to mRNA-based therapeutics and vaccines by developing accessible and cost-effective mRNA therapeutics for global needs”.
Arnav – which has RNA right there in the name – in Sanskrit means ‘ocean.’ An ocean has no discernible borders, and Tiwari is working to build a biotech company that eliminates borders in equitable access to mRNA-based therapeutics and vaccines.
With this mission in mind, Arnav is developing mRNA-based, broad-spectrum antivirals as well as vaccines against pandemic potential viruses before the next pandemic hits. Arnav has recently entered in a collaboration with Sartorius BIA Separations, a company based on Slovenia, to advance their mRNA pipeline. While building its own mRNA therapeutics pipeline, Arnav is also helping other scientists explore mRNA as an alternative therapeutic and vaccine platform through its contract services.
“I think of the vaccine scientist who makes his medicine using proteins, but would like to explore the mRNA option,” Tiwari posits. “Maybe he doesn’t want to make the full jump into it. That’s where we come in, helping to drive interest in this field and help that scientist compare his traditional vaccines to see what mRNA vaccines looks like.”
She has all the equipment and instruments that she needs at BioSpark Labs and was one of the first start-ups to put down roots there. So far, it’s been the perfect partnership, Tiwari said, adding, “It kind of feels like BioSpark and Arnav are growing up together.”
These Faculty Early Career Development Awards are part of a five-year funding mechanism designed to help promising researchers establish a personal foundation for a lifetime of leadership in their field. The grants are NSF’s most prestigious funding for untenured assistant professors.
- Making Medicines: Vinayak Agarwal’s research into peptides, and their medicinal potential
- The Fundamental Questions: Jesse McDaniel’s new framework for predicting chemical reaction rates, leveraging computer modeling
- Chasing Chaos: Alex Blumenthal’s research in chaos, fluid dynamics
- Solving Infinite Problems: Anton Bernshteyn’s new, unified theory of descriptive combinatorics and distributed algorithms
- Gauging Glaciers: Alex Robel's new ice sheet modeling tool
One of the most exciting parts of the CAREER grants is that they support new faculty, who are often working at the frontier of their fields. “I am excited about the CAREER research because we are really focusing on fundamental questions that are central to all of chemistry,” says Jesse McDaniel (School of Chemistry and Biochemistry) about his project, which focuses on creating a new framework to predict the rates of chemical reactions, leveraging computer science.
Anton Bernshteyn’s (School of Mathematics) work in the recently emerged field of descriptive combinatorics is also on the cutting edge of discovery. “There’s this new communication between separate fields of math and computer science— this huge synergy right now— it’s incredibly exciting,” Bernshteyn explains. “Right now we’re only starting to glimpse what’s possible.”
Each award also includes a teaching and outreach component: Vinayak Agarwal (School of Chemistry and Biochemistry) plans to use his grant to not only investigate peptides, but also to train the next generation of leaders, emphasizing student inclusion from diverse backgrounds: “The training is broadly applicable,” says Agarwal. “It will prepare students to move forward in STEM – and especially graduate studies – but will also prepare them for industry careers, government and regulatory science, graduate studies, and more. This kind of background is applicable in all fields.”
Alex Blumenthal (School of Mathematics), who is investigating the intersection of chaos, turbulence– including fluid dynamics– mathematics, and computer-assisted proof, agrees. “There’s a whole lot of new stuff to do,” Blumenthal says. “There’s a growing community of people studying random dynamics, and a growing community of people doing computer proofs– it’s a great place for undergrads to have meaningful research experiences.”
Alex Robel (School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences), emphasizes the broad impacts of the CAREER grant projects. Robel is working to create a new ice sheet modeling tool, which will be accessible to anyone, and just require the use of a computer browser. “Ultimately,” Robel says, “this project will empower more people in the community to use these models and to use these models together with the observations that they're taking.”]]>
TheGeorgia Instituteof Technology is one of the world's premier research universities.Rankedseventh among U.S. News & World Report's top publicuniversities and the eighth best engineering and information technologyuniversity in the world by ShanghaiJiao Tong University's Academic Ranking of World Universities, GeorgiaTech’s morethan 20,000 students are enrolled in its Colleges of Architecture,Computing,Engineering, Liberal Arts, Management and Sciences. Tech is among thenation'stop producers of women and minority engineers. The Institute offersresearch opportunities to both undergraduate and graduate students andis hometo more than 100 interdisciplinary units plus the Georgia Tech ResearchInstitute.]]>
A total of 21 projects from all six Georgia Tech colleges will reach an estimated 22,500 students. The collaborative effort is focused on a key goal of the Institute’s Sustainability Next Task Force: to produce graduates who are committed to making a positive difference in their communities, their organizations, and the world.
“The overall goal is that all of our students understand the societal context for their work, as well as the scientific, environmental, economic, and social aspects of sustainability,” says Jennifer Leavey, assistant dean for Faculty Mentoring for the College of Sciences and co-chair of Sustainability Next.
Leavey and Rebecca Watts-Hull, assistant director of Faculty Development for Sustainability Education in the Center for Teaching and Learning, served as liaisons for the Undergraduate Sustainability Education Committee, which judged the proposals.
Leavey also coordinates College of Sciences educational programs related to science and sustainability, including the Georgia Tech Urban Honey Bee Project and the Living Building Science Vertically Integrated Project Team.
Leavey said the UN SDGs — which ask world citizens and their governments to consider ambitious solutions to longstanding problems such as hunger, poverty, climate damage, inequality, and lack of quality healthcare — are clear and compelling. “These are things we want for a better world,” she shared. “Every field has some connection to them. And it's just a very easy framework to get behind and understand. I would love it if all Georgia Tech graduates could leave feeling well versed in that understanding, and how their work connects to it.”
The Sustainable Education Committee chose projects that impacted the greatest number of students, including classes that are required for all Georgia Tech undergraduates.
Learn more about the College of Sciences’ six selected proposals:
On April 27, the Undergraduate Sustainability Education Committee hosted a Jamboree, which featured faculty from each Georgia Tech college that won grants — making brief presentations, and engaging in networking discussions.
“For the College of Sciences, it's really exciting to see the connection between different disciplines,” Leavey said. “We’ve been doing work on climate and the environment for a long time, but to see the connection with sustainability work at other colleges at Georgia Tech is very gratifying.”]]>
But the bacteria can sometimes change their behavior and enter the bloodstream, causing chronic localized infections to become acute and potentially fatal. Despite decades of studying the transition in lab environments, how and why the switch happens in humans has remained unknown.
As an AI-powered university, Georgia Tech is embracing AI throughout the Institute, incorporating it into academic programs and research to assist and amplify human intelligence in all areas of work. The vision of AI Hub at Georgia Tech is to advance AI through discovery, interdisciplinary research, responsible deployment, and next-generation education to build a sustainable future.
“Georgia Tech’s integrated capabilities in the area of AI, machine learning, engineering, and interdisciplinary research are highly valuable to industry, government, and education,” said Chaouki Abdallah, executive vice president for research at Georgia Tech. “By bringing together researchers from across campus, we can harness our collective expertise in AI to work towards a common goal to become the leading university for AI research and application.”
Co-led by faculty members Irfan Essa and Larry Heck, AI Hub at Georgia Tech will lead in developing new paths in educating and training the next generation of the AI workforce. Additionally, it will serve as a dedicated space for decision makers and other stakeholders to access best-in-class resources to guide them through the complexities of commercializing and deploying AI.
“Georgia Tech is well positioned to pursue meaningful opportunities in AI by focusing our collective capabilities across campus not only in AI research but also in the integration and application of AI solutions,” said Larry Heck, interim co-director of AI Hub at Georgia Tech, GRA Eminent Scholar, Rhesa S. Farmer, Jr., Advanced Computing Concepts Chair, co-executive director of ML@GT, and professor with a joint appointment in the Schools of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Interactive Computing.
Georgia Tech has been actively engaged in AI research and education for decades, with more than 350 faculty working in fundamental and applied AI-related research across all six colleges, Georgia Tech Research Institute, and the majority of interdisciplinary research institutes and centers. The Institute has a strong foundation and advantage in AI, as the leading engineering university with an applied, solutions-focused approach. It was also the first public university to launch a computer science school.
“The discipline of AI has a deep history at Georgia Tech, and we continue to serve as leaders in many areas of AI research and education,” said Irfan Essa, interim co-director of AI Hub at Georgia Tech, distinguished professor, senior associate dean in the College of Computing, and co-executive director of ML@GT. “At present, we are seeing unprecedented growth in AI and responsible deployment is top of mind for many. AI Hub at Georgia Tech will bring all areas of AI under one umbrella to provide structure and governance as the Institute continues to lead and innovate in the discipline of AI, with the related disciplines of machine learning, robotics, and data science."
To become involved in AI Hub at Georgia Tech, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.]]>
Curtis will serve as one of six ADVANCE Professors, one for each college at Georgia Tech. Her appointment is effective July 1, 2023.
“It is an honor,” Curtis says. “Having personally benefited from ADVANCE initiatives, I am grateful for the opportunity to build on my predecessors' work and to contribute to the well-being of all faculty at Georgia Tech. I look forward to partnering with the current ADVANCE professors, the College’s Center for Promoting Inclusion and Equity in the Sciences (C-PIES), and Georgia Tech leadership.
“Jennifer has been a strong advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion for many years, and I am confident she will bring that advocacy to this new role,” says Susan Lozier, Dean of the College of Sciences, Betsy Middleton and John Clark Sutherland Chair and Professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. “In this role, Jennifer will work with ADVANCE professors from the other five colleges to advance Georgia Tech’s mission and will play an integral role in the College of Sciences Center for Promoting Inclusion and Equity in the Sciences. For my part, I look forward to a close partnership with her in the months and years ahead.”
"Jennifer has been a true champion of diversity and inclusion at Georgia Tech,” adds Feryal Özel, professor and chair in the School of Physics. “She has been working tirelessly toward providing education and career opportunities as well as a welcoming environment for everyone who is interested in physics and the sciences. I am looking forward to seeing all the exciting things she will do with her ADVANCE professorship."
Jean Lynch-Stieglitz, professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, has served as the College’s ADVANCE Professor since 2022. Lynch-Stieglitz is among nine Jefferson Science Fellows selected this year by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to build STEM expertise in the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
“This announcement also gives me the opportunity to thank Jean for her service as our ADVANCE professor over the past year,” added Lozier. “As a reminder, Jean’s term in this role was limited since she accepted a prestigious Jefferson Fellowship that will take her to the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C. next year.”
Lynch-Stieglitz will be joined in that fellowship by Olga Shemyakina, associate professor in the School of Economics at Georgia Tech.
“As the College of Sciences ADVANCE professor, there are three areas where I will focus my attention,” Curtis says. “The first area is the continued support for College women and minority faculty, including non-tenure track faculty members. A second area unique to my interests — and an extension of my ongoing work — is to collaborate closely with C-PIES to identify accelerated solutions to increase the diversity of our faculty at Georgia Tech.”
Curtis adds, “The third area that I will pursue is at the Institute level in coordination and collaboration with the other Georgia Tech ADVANCE professors: I will leverage the experience and wisdom of my colleagues to guide my efforts in the College of Sciences and to support and lead Institute-wide ADVANCE initiatives.”
Supported by Institute Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Georgia Tech’s ADVANCE Program builds and sustains an inter-college network of professors who are world-class researchers and role models to support the community and advancement of women and minorities in academia by “advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion, advising campus leadership on policy and structure, increasing awareness and reducing the impact of implicit bias, and making data-driven recommendations for faculty retention, advancement, and satisfaction.”
About Jennifer Curtis
Since 2016, Curtis has served as director or co-director of the School of Physics’ Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, funded by the National Science Foundation, which focuses on broadening participation in physics and strengthening ties with the Atlanta University Consortium (AUC), which includes Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Clark Atlanta University. At least 10 REU students have since entered graduate programs at Georgia Tech.
Working with Morehouse leadership, Curtis has arranged for College of Sciences faculty to present once a month in Morehouse’s weekly research seminar series. Curtis and School of Physics undergraduate Julianne Tijani are a Georgia Tech chapter of the National Society of Black Physicists.
Curtis’ research is primarily focused on the physics of cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix interactions, in particular within the context of glycobiology (the study of sugar chains in nature) and immunobiology.
Her lab’s newest projects focus on questions of collective and single cell migration in vitro and in vivo; immunophage therapy — an immunoengineering approach — that uses combined defense of immune cells plus viruses (phage) to overcome bacterial infections; and the study of the molecular biophysics and biomaterials applications of hyaluronan synthase, an enzyme. Learn more.]]>
Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston]]>
The ENVS degree will provide a strong foundation in the basic sciences, requiring core content in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, earth sciences, and environmental policy. Flexible electives in upper-level coursework will allow students to customize their program of study to their interest and career goals.
A launch event for the degree program will take place at the Kendeda Building on the afternoon of Friday, August 25, 2023.
“The new degree will prepare students to be future leaders who are well-versed on how the Earth's systems can be influenced by human activity and contribute to human well-being,” says Greg Huey, professor and chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. “Graduates will be positioned to be leaders in industry, academia, education, and communication to create innovative solutions to the most significant environmental challenges of our time.”
Two faculty members in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EAS) and a faculty member in the School of Biological Sciences will serve as inaugural leadership: Jennifer Glass, associate professor, is program director; Samantha Wilson, academic professional, is director of Undergraduate Studies; and Linda Green, senior academic professional in the School of Biological Sciences, is director of Experiential Learning.
The foundational science classes in this new degree will be complemented by courses in Public Policy and City Planning, including Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Environmental Policy and Politics, before opening up and providing students with flexibility in course options to better fit their career paths and interests.
“Past EAS students have been interested in careers related to environmental consulting, environmental law, and continuing their studies in graduate school,” Wilson says. “The variety of environmental career paths was the driver behind allowing students to diversify their options within the degree.”
“This degree will give Georgia Tech students a unique opportunity to customize their environmental science program of study to their interests and career goals in science, policy, public service, non-profit, government, industry, academia, or beyond,” adds Glass. “We are committed to building an academic community in ENVS that values student leadership, diversity, inclusion, equity, accessibility, and belonging.”
Hands-on learning opportunities will include field station experiences and field trip excursions, study abroad programs, and internships, Green says. “This major sustains the Institute’s strategic plan to lead by example, champion innovation, and connect globally — particularly in an area so critical as addressing Earth’s environmental issues.”
Glass added that the Schools of Chemistry, Biological Sciences, and Earth and Atmospheric Sciences are currently revamping several classes to meet United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Students will advance to be global leaders of environmental solutions that draw upon the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and incorporate awareness of environmental justice issues.
“We can’t wait for August to celebrate the ENVS launch with our incoming and current students,” Glass says.
More information on the Environment Science (ENVS) degree:
General information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Curriculum and enrollment: email@example.com
Co-curricular initiatives: firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn more: Three new EAS undergraduate degrees
Beginning Summer 2023, prospective and current Georgia Tech students will have three new Bachelor of Science degrees to choose from in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. The expanded undergraduate offerings target a wider range of job and research opportunities — from academia to analytics, NASA to NOAA, meteorology to marine science, climate and earth science, to policy, law, consulting, sustainability, and beyond.
The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia has approved two new specific degrees within the School: Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences (AOS) and Solid Earth and Planetary Sciences (SEP). Regents also approved Environmental Science (ENVS) as an interdisciplinary College of Sciences degree between the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and the School of Biological Sciences. The existing Earth and Atmospheric Sciences B.S. degree will sunset in two years for new students. Learn more.]]>
Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston
“In this new role,” Chang says, “I am looking forward to learning about how our faculty are leading and excelling across the College of Sciences. My hope is to support each school in recruiting the best faculty possible, to increase the diversity of our ranks, and to help our faculty succeed at Georgia Tech.”
The associate dean for Faculty is responsible for developing, implementing, and assessing programs that enhance the instructional, research, and career opportunities for faculty. Key areas of responsibility include faculty hiring, mentoring of faculty, faculty retention, promotion, and tenure; and diversity, equity, and inclusion at the faculty level.
“Because of his service to Biological Sciences as the associate chair for Faculty Development over the past six years, Young-Hui will bring a wealth of experience to this new position,” says Susan Lozier, dean of the College of Sciences, Betsy Middleton and John Clark Sutherland Chair, and professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EAS). “He impressed the search committee and me with his commitment to faculty excellence, support and advancement.
“I am grateful to Greg Huey, chair of EAS, for chairing the search committee and to Jennifer Leavey, Wing Li, and Lewis Wheaton for serving on the committee. Thanks also to Juliet Dawson-Dyce for providing administrative support to the committee,” Lozier added.
“I was really humbled, and [am] honored to be taking on this role,” Chang says. “I see it as an opportunity to support my colleagues in the College and give back to the Institute that has supported me through my own academic journey.
“In my role as associate chair for Faculty Development in Biological Sciences, I was able to see how exceptional our faculty are,” he added, “from the ones dedicated to teaching and serving our students, to those on the leading edge in their respective fields of research — and how I could use my position to support their individual professional goals.”
The College’s inaugural associate dean for Faculty, Matt Baker, appointed 2018, is one of 39 researchers around the country named to the 2023 Class of Simons Fellows. Baker, a professor in the School of Mathematics, will use the fellowship and a Georgia Tech Faculty Development Grant for a sabbatical in 2023-2024.
“We will soon have a proper send-off to thank Matt Baker for his service over the past five years, but I would be remiss if I did not also take this opportunity to thank him for his many contributions to the College,” Lozier says.
About Young-Hui Chang
Chang is the director of the Comparative Neuromechanics Laboratory in the School of Biological Sciences, where he also currently serves as a professor and as associate chair for Faculty Development.
His research program focuses on trying to understand how animals move through and interact with their environment. He integrates approaches and techniques from both biomechanics and neurophysiology to study both passive mechanical and active neural mechanisms that control limbed locomotion in humans and other vertebrates.]]>
Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston
“Everyone has had a mother at some point in their life,” says Ragan, who is a faculty member and academic professional in the School of Biological Sciences and the director of Outreach for the Undergraduate Program in Neuroscience at Tech. “We may all develop different diseases [later in life], but we've all had a mother.”
Ragan, who directs the Molecular Mechanisms of Mothering and Anxiety (MOMMA) Lab, is particularly interested in studying how the events of pregnancy and early parenthood may affect the mental health of both mothers and children.
“Mental health is one of those things that’s not always as obvious as other physical ailments. If you break your arm, you go to the doctor. If you have a heart attack, you would go to the doctor. But when you're feeling depressed or anxious, sometimes you don't always go and seek help,” Ragan explains. “We need better markers of mental health — if we can find some of those neurobiological markers, maybe that can help identify who's at risk.”
And after years of studying it, Ragan is about to become a parent herself, finding that “you can do as much research as you want, and you’re still going to find things that surprise you.”
“I'm interested in the neurobiology of parental behavior — or what's going on in the brain when someone becomes a parent — and I focus on mothers,” Ragan says. One of her big interests is in postpartum anxiety.
“What happens with postpartum anxiety is that it just seems typical to most people. Of course, I’m going to worry about my kid, right? That's how they survive. But it becomes an issue when it's prolonged.
To better understand anxious mothers, Ragan studies animals. “The challenge with using non-human animals is we can't ask them, ‘how are you feeling today?’ But we have these other proxy measures.” By measuring how the animals respond to spaces that either induce anxiety (like a maze, high off the ground) or calm it (like a dark, enclosed space), Ragan can gain insights into their mental health
Throughout her career, Ragan has examined how things like exposure to certain medications or skin-to-skin contact impacts behavioral and neurobiological markers of anxiety in both maternal and postnatal rodents. One such project examined obsessive-compulsive behaviors in maternal rats and their offspring.
“Postpartum OCD is things like constantly checking to see if the baby's breathing, which again, plenty of parents do. But will you not leave the house because you're worried something's going to happen?”
Exposing rodents to clomipramine — an antidepressant commonly prescribed to treat OCD in humans — shortly after birth has been shown to induce OCD-like behaviors in rodents (like repetitively poking their heads in and out of holes in an enclosure) later in life. “But people had done this work only in male rats,” Ragan says.
When she studied the effects of this exposure on the behavior of maternal rats, they exhibited the same OCD-like behaviors that had been observed in male rats. Ragan says they were also “different in their nursing behaviors. Overall, the amount of time [spent nursing] was the same as the controls, but when it should have been at its highest — it was kind of shifted.”
For the past year, Harika Kosaraju, an undergraduate studying neuroscience at Georgia Tech, has been following up on Ragan’s behavioral research. Kosaraju will dive deeper into this work in the fall, where she’ll be looking at how those conditions impact serotonin — a neurotransmitter commonly decreased with OCD — in decision-making areas of the brain, as well as how the molecular machinery cells use to produce serotonin are affected.
“I was initially really attracted to Dr. Ragan's projects because of this population that they were addressing, that I hadn't seen addressed in a lot of research,” says Kosaraju. “Focusing on a population that doesn't have a lot of research is so important — especially because of the stresses and risks of pregnancy and childbirth in the postpartum period.”
Ragan’s husband Zachary Grieb, who is a Medical Science Liaison with Amneal Pharmaceuticals, also studied the neurobiology of parenthood, focusing primarily on the interplay between oxytocin and parenthood. The two met as trainees at Michigan State University, and after years of collaborating on their parenthood research, Grieb and Ragan will soon begin their own journey in parenthood.
“One of the things I remember [Christina] saying when we were dating was ‘I have to have a baby — I mean, we study this!’,” Grieb says.
“Exactly!” Ragan replied. “We have to put theory into practice. But you can research for years and years and years, and nothing can really prepare you for a child,” Ragan says.
“I think one of the things I’ve appreciated more about this process is how everything begins with the mother,” Grieb added. “Gestation — the mother and her experiences — those are [the baby’s] initial paths.
And while that may sound overwhelming, both Ragan and Grieb have some related advice for new parents.
“The newborn brain is as plastic as it ever will be — you have the most cells you’ll ever have,” Grieb says. “One of the problems with having all this information and research is we can be overwhelmed by it. And it's great that we have this information — but know that kids can be incredibly resilient.”
When it comes to mental health, Ragan adds that “if you have any concerns at all that you may be feeling anxious or depressed — especially if you haven’t experienced that before — definitely tell your physician because they can tell you different strategies to cope with it. Early detection is the best kind of treatment.”]]>
Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston
Director of Communications, College of Sciences
Fermented foods like kimchi have been an integral part of Korean cuisine for thousands of years. Since ancient times, Korean chefs have used onggi — traditional handmade clay jars — to ferment kimchi. Today, most kimchi is made through mass fermentation in glass, steel, or plastic containers, but it has long been claimed that the highest quality kimchi is fermented in onggi.
Kimchi purists now have scientific validation, thanks to recent research from David Hu, professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Biological Sciences at Georgia Tech, and Soohwan Kim, a second-year Ph.D. student in Hu’s lab.
In a combined experimental and theoretical study, Hu and Kim measured carbon dioxide levels in onggi during kimchi fermentation and developed a mathematical model to show how the gas was generated and moved through the onggi’s porous walls. By bringing the study of fluid mechanics to bear on an ancient technology, their research highlights the work of artisans and provides the missing link for how the traditional earthenware allows for high quality kimchi.
Their research was published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
“We wanted to find the ‘secret sauce’ for how onggi make kimchi taste so good,” Hu said. “So, we measured how the gases evolved while kimchi fermented inside the onggi — something no one had done before.”
The porous structure of these earthenware vessels mimics the loose soil where lactic acid bacteria — known for their healthy probiotic nature — are found. While previous studies have shown that kimchi fermented in onggi has more lactic acid bacteria, no one knew exactly how the phenomenon is connected to the unique material properties of the container.
First, Kim obtained a traditional, handmade onggi jar from an artisan in his hometown in Jeju, South Korea, a region famous for onggi. Back at Georgia Tech, Hu and Kim first tested the permeability of the onggi by observing how water evaporated through the container over time.
Next, they installed carbon dioxide and pressure sensors into both the onggi and a typical, hermetically sealed glass jar. They prepared their own salted cabbage and placed it in both containers. They then used the sensors to measure and compare the change in carbon dioxide — a signature of fermentation.
Hu and Kim also developed a mathematical model based on the porosity of the onggi. The model allowed them to infer the generation rate of carbon dioxide, since the onggi lets carbon dioxide out gradually.
They concluded that the onggi’s porous walls permitted the carbon dioxide to escape the container, which accelerated the speed of fermentation. The onggi’s porosity also functioned as a “safety valve,” resulting in a slower increase in carbon dioxide levels than the glass jar while blocking the entry of external particles. Their data revealed that the carbon dioxide level in onggi was less than half of that in glass containers.
They also found that the beneficial bacteria in the onggi-made kimchi proliferated 26% more than in the glass counterpart. In the glass jar, the lactic acid bacteria became suffocated by their own carbon dioxide in the closed glass container. It turns out that, because the onggi releases carbon dioxide in small rates, the lactic acid bacteria are happier and reproduce more.
“Onggi were designed without modern knowledge of chemistry, microbiology, or fluid mechanics, but they work remarkably well,” Kim said. “It’s very interesting to get these new insights into ancient technology through the lens of fluid dynamics.”
Onggi’s semiporous nature is unique compared to other forms of earthenware. A clay container that leaks, but only slightly, is not easy to make. Terra cotta containers, for example, quickly leak water.
“It's amazing that, for thousands of years, people have been building these special containers out of dirt, but in many ways, they are very high tech,” Hu said. “We discovered that the right amount of porosity enables kimchi to ferment faster, and these onggi provide that.”
Kim said that some artisans still use ancient methods when making onggi, but their numbers are decreasing. Now, the market is flooded with inauthentic versions of the vessels.
“We hope this study draws attention to this traditional artisan work and inspires energy-efficient methods for fermenting and storing foods,” he said. “Also, the onggi are quite beautiful.”
Citation: Kim Soohwan and Hu David L. Onggi’s permeability to carbon dioxide accelerates kimchi fermentation. J. R. Soc. Interface. 2023.
This material was supported by the Woodruff Faculty fellowship and the NSF Physics of Living Systems student network.]]>
The decline in emissions comes against a 10% expansion in the state’s economy, showing the potential for reducing emissions while pursuing economic growth, according to the team.
However, the team’s data also show a stark increase in transportation-related emissions, which now exceed pre-pandemic levels and has become the state’s largest source of climate pollution, according to Marilyn Brown, Regents’ Professor and Brook Byers Professor of Sustainable Systems in the School of Public Policy and the principal investigator on the Drawdown Georgia research team.
“While not all of the numbers are trending in the right direction, these data clearly show significant improvements in many sectors of our economy and also highlight where we have the greatest opportunities, namely transportation,” Brown said.
Track Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Your County
The report shows that while emissions from the electricity sector declined more than 15% between 2017 and 2021, transportation sources including cars and trucks put out 4% more climate-warming emissions in 2021 than five years earlier. Emissions from diesel vehicles spiked 16.1%, likely due to increased demand for delivery services driven by online shopping.
Emissions from Georgia’s agricultural and food sector fell by 7.1% during the study period while the average individual carbon footprint of Georgians declined from 22,092 pounds to 20,253 pounds.
“Based on the collaborations we’re a part of, we’re confident this is only the beginning of Georgia’s carbon reduction trend,” John Lanier, executive director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, said in a news release on the findings.
The foundation is a primary funder of Drawdown Georgia.
Brown leads the research team, which spans several Georgia colleges and universities. She is an internationally known climate policy researcher who has dedicated most of her career to helping solve the climate crisis.
The analysis is based on data from the first-of-its-kind Drawdown Georgia Emissions Tracker, which aggregates information from federal Energy Department, Transportation Department, and Environmental Protection Agency reports. The tracker was produced by a team of scientists led by William Drummond in the School of City and Regional Planning.
For a more detailed analysis of the findings, visit the Drawdown Georgia blog.]]>
A team of Georgia Tech researchers has built an automatic feeding machine for gorillas at Zoo Atlanta that allows the primates to more naturally forage for food. Their ForageFeeder replaces the zoo’s previous feeding protocols, which had staff deliver food to the habitat at set times and locations.
With the new machine, feeding times can be set for different intervals every day. This encourages the gorillas’ natural feeding behavior, giving them additional random foraging opportunities throughout the day.
"This is a great example of how technology can positively influence animal welfare," says David Hu, Faculty Advisor of the project. "Zoo Atlanta is a local, nonprofit institution, and it was great to see Georgia Tech students learning by doing. Technology has been improving human lives for years, and now it’s the gorillas’ turn."
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery
By Alan Bradley, Bantam Books, 2010
“If you are a fan of precocious, nerdy children and British murder mysteries, you’ll love amateur chemist/detective Flavia de Luce. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is the first in a mystery series driven by Flavia’s unrelenting curiosity and resourcefulness. She is a 10-year-old MacGyver studying poisons in her crumbling English ancestral home in the 1950s, freely ranging around the countryside, stalking alleged murderers, and narrowly avoiding scrapes. If you like this one, you’ll be pleased to know there are several more in the series and they just get better.”
—Kelley Broome, corporate relations manager, Jones MBA Center, Scheller College of Business
The Ministry for the Future
By Kim Stanley Robinson, Orbit Books, 2020
“The Ministry for the Future, a climate fiction — or “cli-fi” — novel, is relevant to today’s landscape of record-breaking droughts and heat waves, record breaking precipitation and flooding, wildfires and powerful storms — clear reminders that climate challenges are real. Set in the near future, the story places you in the center of an organization created by the Paris Climate Agreement to work on behalf of future generations. A thriller, social science commentary, and detailed scientific case study, The Ministry for the Future is an engaging and satisfying work of science fiction sure to broaden readers’ understanding of the effects of climate change and the options available to us to today to alter its impact.”
—Daren Hubbard, vice president of Information Technology and chief information officer
100 Poems to Break Your Heart
By Edward Hirsch, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021
“Edward Hirsch’s 100 Poems to Break Your Heart is an anthology of selected poems that span from the 19th century to the present and includes poems originally written in English, as well as translations of poems from many other languages, such as Greek, French, Spanish, Russian, Yiddish, and German. Each poem is accompanied by Hirsch’s accessible commentary. He is among our top thinkers and critics of poetry, and his insights into the poems get right to the emotional core of each piece. Don’t let the title of the book fool you — while many of the poems in this collection might deal with grief or sadness, this book is anything but a downer. These 100 essential poems, as Hirsch says, ‘make us feel less alone and more connected.’ That’s what good poems do.”
—Travis Denton, associate director, Poetry@Tech, and editor, Terminus Magazine
The Summer Place
By Jennifer Weiner, Simon and Schuster, 2022
“There is a house with feelings and memories held by its family. There is a global pandemic, as well as uncomfortable family arrangements, an engagement, and lots of ‘Wait, what?’ Find a nice seat out in the sun or a comfy chair to read this joy by Jennifer Weiner. She wrote this book after reading an article about houses having feelings and holding our memories. She took that article and brought it to life. One of the main characters in this novel is the house which wants to protect the family. Grab a comfortable spot and a notebook, because you will definitely need it. Enjoy one of my favorite novels of the last three years.”
—Lauren Morton, academic program manager, Clark Scholars and Dean’s Scholars Program, College of Engineering
Mad Honey: A Novel
By Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan, Ballantine Books, 2022
“This novel follows Olivia McAfee and Lily Campanello on their life journey of starting over. Through a series of suspenseful events and stories, the two find themselves connected as Lily falls in love with Olivia’s son, Asher. One day, Olivia’s world is rocked when she receives a phone call that Lily is dead and Asher is being questioned. The story follows both of their lived experiences, uncovering secrets and stories untold, an unforgettable love story, and the power of family. I could not put this book down and loved the emotions that it led me through as I learned what their stories held.”
—Tim Edmonds-King, learning consultant, Workplace Learning and Professional Development, Georgia Tech Professional Education
An Assassin in Utopia: The True Story of a Nineteenth-Century Sex Cult and a President’s Murder
By Susan Wels, Pegasus Crime, 2023
“Susan Wels tells a gripping story about the assassination of President James A. Garfield in 1881, but the book is about so much more. It is a sweeping exploration of Victorian America, including major intellectual currents, the minutiae of political parties and schemes, and colorful, larger than life characters. Wels examines one of many 19th-century utopian settlements — Oneida, in upstate New York, which was organized around principles of free love and gender equality, but in practice would prove disturbing to both Victorian and modern eyes — and a delusional resident who sought to save the Republican Party by killing a president. It’s every bit as engrossing as a novel.”
—Stacy Braukman, senior writer and editor, Institute Communications
By Cristina Garcia, Knopf, 2003
“This novel follows a family through four generations, but it is not a wealthy family, not one of the privileged elites. It is an ordinary family — or ‘ordinary’ for each time period, just people like millions of their contemporaries. The story spans from the mid-19th century to the late 20th century, and it begins with a man being duped into enslavement. While a portion of the story takes place in the United States, most of it is set in Cuba and in China. The book is detailed, yet moves quickly, showing some of the ways humans hurt each other and some of the ways we help each other. It can be a bit depressing to notice the ties to human depravity, but the strands of common human goodness and the demonstrations of resilience are what I am left with at the end of this lyrical and slightly magical book.”
—Amy Bass Henry, executive director, Office of International Education
By Thomas Mullen, 37INK/ATRIA, 2016
“This is a murder mystery that tells the story of two of the first eight black police officers hired, due to political pressure, by the Atlanta Police Department in the sweltering heat of the summer of 1948. The two are investigating the murder of a woman, and they suspect a fellow officer may be the culprit. This work of historical fiction is a must-read for those living in the city. Mullen takes you back in time with his vivid imagery and attention to detail, to a world that was not so long ago.”
—DeMarco Williams, digital project manager, Georgia Tech Professional Education
The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations
By Daniel Yergin, Penguin Random House, 2020
“If you’re looking for the best roundup yet of the critical factors weighing on the international energy industry but don’t want to feel like you’re slogging through an oil company’s earnings report, consider Daniel Yergin’s The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations. The book is a very accessible update to his 1991 best-seller The Prize, which won its own prize, a Pulitzer. The New Map gives economist-historian Yergin a chance to check in on the U.S., China, Russia, and the Middle East, and how the rise of shale oil production, a climate crisis, a pandemic, and volatile geopolitics have caused tectonic shifts within the industry, which Yergin has tracked since the mid-1970s. He uses the latest data, science, and technological advances to help readers navigate The New Map for oil and gas in the 21st century.”
—Renay San Miguel, communications officer, College of Sciences]]>
“I’m proud that we’ve been able to not only avoid increases in tuition and fees over the past four years, but have actually reduced them by $1,100, which is unheard of in higher education,” said Georgia Tech President Ángel Cabrera. “We’ve been able to do this thanks to increases in state appropriations, enrollment growth, and the dedication of faculty and staff who constantly find innovative ways to get the job done, serve more students, and deliver the highest value to students in the nation. Georgia Tech is regularly cited among the best values for higher education in the nation — students pay less to go to school and get higher paying jobs when they’re done. It is my hope that Georgia Tech can continue to grow in the future, and I look forward to working with state officials to ensuring that we can continue to do so.”
State appropriations for FY24 include approximately $11 million for the $2,000 cost-of-living adjustment for full-time, eligible employees. The majority of pay adjustments will be completed in July.
“Georgia Tech remains strong, as demonstrated by our talented students, our growing undergraduate and graduate enrollment, and our incredible staff and faculty,” said Interim Executive Vice President for Administration and Finance and Interim Chief Business Officer Mike Shannon. “The approved funding will enable us to continue to advance our instructional, research, and service missions.”
Additional details regarding the FY24 budget and how it will affect the Georgia Tech community will be provided in the coming weeks as information becomes available.
The SDGs were adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They address the world’s most monumental challenges, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, and peace and justice. Some of the objectives are improved industry, innovation, and infrastructure; affordable and clean energy; and sustainable cities and communities. The SDGs appear by name in the Institute’s strategic plan as long-term goals that should guide teaching, research, and operations.
SDG Action and Awareness Week 2023 will focus primarily on SDG13: Climate Action and intersecting SDGs. Georgia Tech strives to be a leader in climate action across the Institute in operations, education, research, and economic development, and the development of a comprehensive Climate Action Plan is underway. President Ángel Cabrera encourages the Tech community to participate in virtual and in-person climate action events throughout the week.
On Thursday, March 9, at 8:30 a.m., Cabrera will convene a panel of faculty to discuss climate action. Joining him will be: Marilyn Brown, Regents’ Professor and the Brook Byers Professor of Sustainable Systems in the School of Public Policy; Andrea Calmon, assistant professor in the Scheller College of Business and faculty fellow in the Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems; Tim Liewen, Regents’ Professor, David S. Lewis Chair, and executive director of the Strategic Energy Institute; and Brian Stone, professor in the School of City and Regional Planning and director of the Urban Climate Lab.
The panel is a hybrid event, with remote or in-person participation (at the Scholars Event Network Theater in Price Gilbert Library). RSVP here.
Other events during the week include a Green Cleaning DIY Workshop through the Office of Sustainability, a Social Impact Careers Alumni Panel through the Alumni Association, a Community Market through Auxiliary Services, a session on How to Afford Study Abroad and SDG Interactive Art Hours through the Office of International Education, a Seminar on Race and Gender through the Black Feminist Think Tank and the School of History and Sociology, two micro-workshops on aligning course objectives with the SDGs through the Center for Teaching and Learning and Serve-Learn-Sustain, a Corporate Carbon Accounting panel through Scheller College of Business, an information session and ice cream social through the EcoCar Vertically Integrated Project team, and a Climate Action Plan Stakeholder Engagement Session through the Office of Sustainability. View a listing of the week’s events for details and registration.
SDG Action and Awareness Week is part of a larger global effort through the University Global Coalition (UGC), which Cabrera chairs and helped found. The UGC is comprised of higher education leaders from around the world who work to advance the SDGs through education, research, service, and campus operations.
SDG Action and Awareness Week is an annual event occurring in early March. To collaborate next year, contact Drew Cutright, Office of Strategic Consulting.]]>
Despite the progress in healthcare over the last century, resulting in longer life expectancy and better disease survival outcomes, significant disparities between various population groups remain a major global health issue.
A new study by Georgia Institute of Technology researchers in the open-access journal PLOS Global Health probes ethnic health disparities and mortality risk factors in the United Kingdom. Their work points to mortality risk factors that are group-specific, but modifiable, supporting the notion of targeted interventions that could lead to greater health equity.
“Different ethnic groups show very different levels of disease-specific mortality along with distinct mortality risk factors,” said I. King Jordan, professor in the School of Biological Sciences, and principal investigator on the study. “Unfortunately, when it comes to health, ethnicity still matters.”
Both environmental and genetic factors, and the interaction between them over time, have been cited as main contributors of health disparities. Closing the gap will require a long-term, complex series of solutions.
“Taking a one-size fits all approach to healthcare will only exacerbate the very health disparities that already disproportionately burden ethnic minorities,” said Jordan, whose collaborators on the study were lead author Kara Keun Lee, as well as Emily Norris, Lavanya Rishishwar, Andrew Conley, and John McDonald, emeritus professor in the School of Biological Sciences and founding director of Georgia Tech’s Integrated Cancer Research Center.
The work was done in collaboration with, and with support from, the NIH’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) and Leonardo Mariño-Ramírez, a researcher working on epidemiology and genetics research at NIMHD’s Division of Intramural Research (DIR).
The research team analyzed data on 490,610 Asian, Black, and White participants from the UK Biobank, a study that enrolled 500,000 people in the UK aged 40 to 69 between 2006 and 2010. The UK Biobank includes data spanning physical measures, lifestyle, blood and urine biomarkers, imaging, genetic, and linked medical and death registry records.
Certain causes of mortality were more common among the different ethnic groups: Asian individuals had the highest mortality from ischemic heart disease, while individuals in the Black community had the highest mortality from COVID-19, and White individuals had the highest mortality from cancers of respiratory/intrathoracic organs.
In addition, some preexisting medical conditions and biomarkers showed specific associations with ethnicity and mortality. Mental health diagnoses, for instance, were a major risk factor for mortality in the Asian group, whereas parasitic diseases and C-reactive protein (CRP) serum levels were associated with higher mortality in the Black group.
“These results underscore the importance of population-specific studies that can help decompose health disparities and inform targeted interventions towards, shrinking the health disparity gap,” said Jordan, who praised Lee’s approach to the study, “which highlights the importance of considering individuals’ self-reported identity as it relates to their health outcomes, disease risks, and exposures.”
For future work, the team plans to look at racial and ethnic health disparities in the US, in collaboration with the NIMHD.
CITATION: Kara Keun Lee, Emily T. Norris, Lavanya Rishishwar, Andrew B. Conley, Leonardo Mariño-Ramírez, John F. McDonald, and I. King Jordan. “Ethnic disparities in mortality and group-specific risk factors in the UK Biobank.” doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgph.0001560
There are times when John McDonald, emeritus professor in the School of Biological Sciences and founding director of Georgia Tech’s Integrated Cancer Research Center, is asked to share his special insight into cancer.
“Over the years, I’ve gotten calls from non-scientist friends and others who have been diagnosed with cancer, and they call me to get more details on what’s going on, and what options are available,” said McDonald, also a former chief scientific officer with the Atlanta-based Ovarian Cancer Institute.
That’s the primary motivation why McDonald wrote A Patient's Guide to Cancer: Understanding the Causes and Treatments of a Complex Disease, which was published by Raven Press LLC (Atlanta) and is now available at Amazon or Barnes and Noble in paperback and ebook editions. The book describes in non-technical language the processes that cause cancer, and details on how recent advances and experimental treatments are offering hope for patients and their families.
A book for the proactive patient
McDonald said he couldn’t go into detail for every type of cancer, but provides a generally applicable background for the disease. For those who want more information, he provides links to other resources, including videos, that provide more detail on specific types of cancer. “There’s not much out there in one place for patients who want to understand the underlying causes of cancer, and the spectrum of therapies currently available,” he said.
McDonald, who was honored in January by the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (CORE) as one of “Today’s Innovators,” also didn’t want A Patient’s Guide to Cancer to be a lengthy book, and it checks in at only 86 pages.
McDonald believes that when patients talk to their physicians about cancer treatments, they should ideally have a basic understanding of the underlying cause of their cancer, as well as a general awareness of the range of therapies currently available, and what may be coming down the road in the future.
“My book is specifically designed to provide newly diagnosed cancer patients who are not scientists with this kind of background information, empowering them to play a more informed role in the selection of appropriate treatments for their disease”.
The current experimental treatment landscape; McDonald’s 2023 research goals
McDonald’s own cancer research has led to two related startup companies, co-founded with School of Biological Sciences colleagues.
McDonald is working with postdoctoral researcher Nick Housley on using nanoparticles to deliver powerful drugs to cancer cells while sparing healthy tissue. The other company, founded in collaboration with Jeffrey Skolnick, Regents' Professor, Mary and Maisie Gibson Chair & Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Computational Systems Biology, uses machine learning to create personalized diagnostic tools for ovarian cancer.
He and his lab team are also preparing to submit a research paper that builds off their 2021 study on gene network interactions that could provide new chemotherapy targets for breast cancer. That paper focuses on the three major subtypes of breast cancer. McDonald and his colleagues will also soon submit another study detailing genetic changes that happen with the onset and progression of ovarian cancer.
When it comes to current experimental treatments, McDonald says he’s especially excited about the potential of cancer immunotherapy, which uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells. But he writes in A Patient’s Guide to Cancer that because these drugs are also delivered systemically, healthy tissues can also be affected, potentially leading to autoimmunity or the self-destruction of our normal cells.
“In the future, I believe many of the negative side-effects currently associated with the system-wide delivery of cancer drugs will be averted by the use of nanoparticles designed to target therapies specifically to tumors”.
Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston, Communications Director
College of Sciences
“This new technology will make it much faster and more cost-effective to diagnose these infections,” said Mike Farrell, a Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) principal research scientist who is leading the project. “You would obtain a sample, put it into a device, diagnose the underlying pathogen, and be able to provide a treatment. This could be a huge leap forward in rapidly diagnosing these diseases where sophisticated laboratory testing isn’t available.”
Funded by DARPA’s Detect It with Gene Editing Technologies (DIGET) program, the project – known as Tactical Rapid Pathogen Identification and Diagnostic Ensemble (TRIAgE) – also includes researchers from Emory University and two private sector companies. The goal will be to detect 10 different pathogens with each device.
Detection Reaction Begins with CRISPR Cas13a Enzyme
Detection of a pathogen will begin with exposure of a patient sample to the CRISPR Cas13a enzyme with guide proteins containing RNA genetic sequences from the targeted pathogens. If a genetic sequence in the device matches a sequence in the patient sample, the enzyme will begin breaking down the targeted RNA.
Development of the CRISPR Cas13a component of the project will be led by Phil Santangelo, a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University and one of the team’s collaborators. CRISPR Cas13a differs from Cas9 technology, which has become known for its ability to edit DNA, which Cas13A will not do.
Once the Cas13a enzyme breaks down the pathogen RNA, that will trigger additional reactions to amplify the signal and create a visible blue line in the device within 15 minutes.
Synthetic Biology Workflow Signals Pathogen Presence
“We will be assembling a synthetic biology workflow that takes an initial signal created by CRISPR-based nucleic acid detection and amplifies it using the same cell-free synthetic biology approaches we have used to create sensors for detecting small molecules and metals: turning on genes that create a visual readout so that expensive instruments, and even electricity, are unnecessary,” explained Mark Styczynski, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and another team collaborator.
“As part of the DIGET project, we will be leveraging my group’s expertise in minimal-equipment diagnostics,” he added. “The biological ‘parts’ we develop can be reused to transduce signals for the detection of essentially any nucleic acid sequence.”
Another Georgia Tech researcher, I. King Jordan, professor and director of the Bioinformatics Graduate Program in the School of Biological Sciences, will mine the genomes of the targeted pathogens for optimal Cas13a target sequences as well as the corresponding Cas13a RNA guide sequences.
Devices Must be Both Sensitive and Specific
Beyond specifically identifying the pathogen or pathogens causing an infection, the diagnostic devices being developed must also be very sensitive – able to detect as few as 10 copies of the target pathogen in a sample. “A major technological challenge is achieving the level of signal amplification within the device’s synthetic biology circuit to reach the needed level of sensitivity,” Farrell said.
The ability to detect 10 different pathogens with a single lateral-flow assay is an ambitious goal for a device that depends on a synthetic biology circuit and is designed for use in the field, he added. Lateral-flow assays commonly used in home or point-of-care medical tests operate by applying a liquid sample to a pad containing reactive molecules. The molecules may create visible positive or negative reactions, depending on the design.
“You just put the sample on the device and it does its thing,” Farrell said. “If the target pathogen is present, a line turns blue and you can see it with your eye.”
Early Diagnosis Can be Life-Saving
Sepsis is an infection of the bloodstream by any of a number of different bacteria. These bacteria can originate from a lower respiratory infection, kidney or bladder infection, digestive system breakdown, catheter site, wound, or burn. Sepsis results in a severe and persistent inflammatory response that can lead to disrupted blood flow, tissue damage, organ failure, and death.
“It’s important to identify the specific bacteria causing the sepsis because that informs the type of antimicrobial therapy that’s needed,” said Farrell. “The sooner you can identify the underlying pathogen, the faster you can provide the proper medical care, and the more likely it is that the patient will survive. Current laboratory-based diagnostic methods can take between 24 and 72 hours, and that is just too long.”
Improving diagnostics for sepsis and respiratory diseases will have applications to both the military and civilian worlds, particularly in locations without easy access to laboratory testing.
“Wounded soldiers in the field are very susceptible to sepsis blood infections, and common respiratory diseases can affect troop readiness, so from a military standpoint, having this rapid diagnostic test would be very significant,” Farrell said. “In low-resource environments, being able to diagnose these diseases with a single test would be huge as well. Being able to identify the underlying bacteria behind sepsis more quickly could save a lot of lives.”
Beyond the university researchers, the project includes Global Access Diagnostics, a manufacturer of lateral-flow devices, and Ginkgo Bioworks, which manufactures proteins essential to the diagnostics.
The five-phase project is expected to last for four years and will conclude with field validation and a transition to manufacturing. The devices will need to win FDA approval before they can be used, so there is a significant regulatory review aspect to the project, Farrell said.
Approved for Public Release, Distribution Unlimited
Writer: John Toon
Georgia Tech Research Institute
The Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) is the nonprofit, applied research division of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). Founded in 1934 as the Engineering Experiment Station, GTRI has grown to more than 2,900 employees, supporting eight laboratories in over 20 locations around the country and performing more than $800 million of problem-solving research annually for government and industry. GTRI's renowned researchers combine science, engineering, economics, policy, and technical expertise to solve complex problems for the U.S. federal government, state, and industry.]]>
Ten finalists (pictured left) were selected to receive a stipend to travel to a domestic or international conference or workshop to present their research work.
“The Krish Roy Travel award allowed me to participate in my first conference of my graduate school career." said Parisa Keshavarz-Joud. "I had the opportunity to present a poster on my research at the Physical Virology Gordon Research Conference in January 2023 and interact with experts in the field. This experience broadened my knowledge of the field and helped me in developing new ideas about the next steps of my project.”
Elijah Holland used his award in January to attend the Fibronectin Gordon Research Conference in Ventura, California. In expressing gratitude for the award, Holland shared that he was able to meet leaders in the cell adhesion field and gave his first oral research presentation, titled "Mechanotransduction at Focal Adhesions: Interplay among Force, FAs, and YAP."
Fourth-year ChemE PhD student Hyun Jee Lee plans to use the award to her support her first experience at an international seminar and conference, where she will present her research and connect with other researchers around the world. Lee's research focus is developing microfluidic tools to study cellular and molecular mechanisms in small organisms. "I'm particularly interested in investigating brain activity changes associated with learning in C. elegans." Lee explained. "I'm very grateful to have received the award."
Awardees (pictured from top left to right):
John Cox, Graduate Research Assistant, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Yarelis Gonzalez-Vargas, Graduate Student, Biomedical Engineering
Travis Rotterman, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Biological Sciences
Wenting Shi, Graduate Research Assistant, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Kamisha Hill, Graduate Research Assistant, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Paris Keshavarz-Joud, Graduate Research Assistant, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Elijah Holland, Graduate Research Assistant, Mechanical Engineering
Hun Jee Lee, Graduate Student, Chemical Engineering
Maeve Janecka, Undergraduate Student, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Sunny (Chao-yi) Lu, Graduate Research Assistant, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering]]>
Ten finalists (pictured left) were selected to receive a stipend to travel to a domestic or international conference or workshop to present their research work.
Research Communications Program Manager, IBB
About the Talk
The event is part of the School of Physics “Inquiring Minds” public lecture series, and will be held at the Ferst Center for the Arts. The talk is free and open to campus and the Atlanta community, and no RSVP is required. Refreshments begin at 4:30, and the lecture will start at 5 p.m. ET.
“The multiple industrial and agricultural revolutions have transformed the world,” Chu recently shared in an abstract for the lecture. “However, an unintended consequence of this progress is that we are changing the climate of our planet. In addition to the climate risks, we will need to provide enough clean energy, water, and food for a more prosperous world that may grow to 11 billion by 2100.”
The talk will discuss the significant technical challenges and potential solutions that could provide better paths to a more sustainable future. “How we transition from where we are now to where we need to be within 50 years is arguably the most pressing set of issues that science, innovation, and public policy have to address,” Chu added.
The event’s faculty host is Daniel Goldman, Dunn Family Professor in the School of Physics at Georgia Tech.
About Steven Chu
Steven Chu is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Physics and a professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology in the Medical School at Stanford University.
Chu served as the 12th U.S. Secretary of Energy from January 2009 until the end of April 2013. As the first scientist to hold a U.S. Cabinet position and the longest serving Energy Secretary, Chu led several initiatives including ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy), the Energy Innovation Hubs, and was personally tasked by President Obama to assist in the Deepwater Horizon oil leak.
In the spring of 2010, Chu was the keynote speaker for the Georgia Tech Ph.D. and Master's Commencement Ceremony.
Prior to his cabinet post, Chu was director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where he was active in pursuit of alternative and renewable energy technologies, and a professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Stanford, where he helped launch Bio-X, a multi-disciplinary institute combining the physical and biological sciences with medicine and engineering. Previously he also served as head of the Quantum Electronics Research Department at AT&T Bell Laboratories.
He is the co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to laser cooling and atom trapping. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Pontifical Academy Sciences, and of seven foreign academies. He formerly served as president, and then chair of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Chu earned an A.B. degree in mathematics and a B.S. degree in physics from the University of Rochester, and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Berkeley, as well as 35 honorary degrees.
He has published over 280 papers in atomic and polymer physics, biophysics, biology, bio-imaging, batteries, and other energy technologies. He holds 15 patents, and an additional 15 patent disclosures or filings since 2015.
Released on April 25, the 2023-2024 U.S. News Best Graduate School Rankings features all six College of Sciences schools among its best science schools for graduate studies:
The 2023-2024 rankings of doctoral programs in the sciences are based solely on the results of surveys sent by U.S. News to academic officials in fall 2022 and early 2023 in chemistry, earth science, mathematics, physics, and computer science (which is part of the College of Computing at Georgia Tech, see here). Surveys for biological sciences, statistics and biostatistics were sent to academic officials in fall 2021 and early 2022.
Georgia Tech College of Sciences rankings
Biological Sciences retains its No. 37 rank from 2022, in a nine-way tie with Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Brown University, Carnegie Mellon University, Dartmouth College, Indiana University-Bloomington, Ohio State University, University of Utah, and UT Health MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Chemistry and Biochemistry rises by one spot to No. 20, tied with Johns Hopkins University, Ohio State University, and University of California (UC)-San Diego.
Earth and Atmospheric Sciences ranks No. 33 (ranked No. 28 in 2022, No. 38 in 2019) in a tie with Ohio State University, University of Oregon, University of Southern California, Virginia Tech, and Washington University in St. Louis.
Mathematics advances by one to No. 20, tied with Carnegie Mellon University, Johns Hopkins University, UC-San Diego, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Maryland-College Park, and University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
Physics rises by seven to No. 21, in a tie with Northwestern University, Pennsylvania State University-University Park, Rice University, Stony Brook University-SUNY, UC-San Diego, and University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Psychology retains its No. 39 rank from 2022 in a tie with Arizona State University, Michigan State University, Stony Brook University-SUNY, University of Florida, University of Iowa, and University of Pittsburgh.
U.S. News previously ranked graduate science programs in their 2022 Best Graduate Schools Edition, published in March 2022. Current rankings for Biological Sciences and Psychology were part of those 2022 rankings.
Among specialty science graduate programs at Georgia Tech, Analytical Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, and Theoretical Chemistry all rank in the top 20.
In Mathematics specialty graduate programs, Discrete Mathematics and Combinatorics remains the top 5, while Analysis ties for No. 20, and Applied Math ties for No. 16. Uniquely organized across the Colleges of Sciences, Computing, and Engineering, the Institute’s Algorithms, Combinatorics, and Optimization program kept its No. 5 spot from last spring.
Chemistry specialty graduate programs
Mathematics specialty graduate programs
Fellow colleges across Georgia Tech are also on the rise in this year’s U.S. News “Best Graduate Schools” set, with Engineering remaining in the top ten in its overall disciplines — and Business, Computing, and Public Affairs also ranking among top programs in the nation. The full roster of current Georgia Institute of Technology graduate school rankings can be found here, along with U.S. News’ methodology for graduate rankings here.
Released on March 29, the 2023 U.S. News Best Graduate School Rankings highlights all six College of Sciences schools as best overall science programs for graduate studies:
Biology – No. 37
Chemistry – No. 21
Earth Sciences – No. 28
Mathematics – No. 21
Physics – No. 28
Psychology – No. 39
Biological Sciences rose 17 places (from No. 54) in a nine-way tie with Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Brown University, Carnegie Mellon University, Dartmouth College, Indiana University-Bloomington, Ohio State University, University of Utah, and UT Health MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Chemistry and Biochemistry shifted from No. 20 in a four-way tie with Johns Hopkins University, University of California (UC)-San Diego, and Texas A&M University-College Station.
Earth and Atmospheric Sciences rose by 10 (from No. 38) in a tie with Ohio State University, University of Southern California, and Washington University in St. Louis.
Mathematics advanced by five, up from No. 26 in a tie with Carnegie Mellon, Johns Hopkins, UC-San Diego, and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Physics maintains its No. 28 ranking in a tie with Brown University, Duke University, and Rice University.
Psychology rose six spots to No. 39 in a tie with Arizona State University, Michigan State University, Stony Brook University, University of Florida, University of Iowa, and University of Pittsburgh.
U.S. News previously ranked graduate science programs in their 2019 Best Graduate Schools Edition (published in March 2018) with the exception of Psychology, which is categorized under U.S. News “Social Sciences and Humanities” programs and was last ranked in the 2017 Edition.
Among specialty graduate programs, Analytical Chemistry and Condensed Matter (Physics) both rank in the top 20, while previously unranked Applied Math climbed into the top 16 to No. 11.
Mathematical Analysis and Topology tied for No. 18 and No. 15, respectively, and Tech remains top five in the nation for Discrete Math and Combinatorics. Uniquely organized across the Colleges of Sciences, Computing, and Engineering, the Institute’s Algorithms, Combinatorics, and Optimization program previously held a rank of No. 2.
Analytical Chemistry – No. 17
Applied Math – No. 11
Condensed Matter – No. 18
Discrete Math and Combinatorics – No. 5
Mathematical Analysis – No. 18
Topology – No. 15
“I was very happy to see that several of our schools in the College of Sciences moved up in the rankings, in some cases quite significantly,” shares Matthew Baker, professor in the School of Mathematics and associate dean for Faculty Development in the College.
Fellow colleges on campus are also on the rise in the latest U.S. News “Best Graduate Schools” set, with Engineering remaining in the top ten in its overall disciplines, and Business, Computing, and Public Affairs also ranking among top programs in the nation. The full roster of current Georgia Institute of Technology rankings can be found here, along with U.S. News’ methodology for graduate rankings here.]]>
“Our Strategic Plan commitment to bring the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into our teaching is part of our vision for transformative teaching and learning more broadly,” explains Larry Jacobs, Senior Vice Provost for Education and Learning. “Helping students identify connections between disciplinary concepts and skills and complex societal challenges enhances learning and supports Georgia Tech’s mission to equip students to improve the human condition.”
The Jamboree featured lightning presentations from the award winners, as well as presentations about related initiatives at Georgia Tech to help instructors, students, and staff better understand the landscape of sustainability education innovation on campus. Instructors engaged in course design or re-design through the awards will have opportunities to collaborate with and learn from their peers through a Community of Practice on Transformative Teaching with the SDGs and a SoTL (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) research group. Many began identifying potential collaborators at the event, as they heard from other award winners. “The afternoon of lightning presentations by fellow faculty was exhilarating,” Sabir Khan, Associate Professor, Schools of Industrial Design and Architecture, shared. “I came away impressed and excited at the range of projects and have already invited a few instructors to join my class in the fall to discuss their approaches to tackling the UN SDGs."
Presenter Kate Williams, Interim Director, Transformative Teaching and Learning, Faculty Initiatives, shared connections between the Sustainability Innovation Awards and Georgia Tech’s Transformative Teaching and Learning (TTL) strategic initiative. “The success of the first round of Sustainability Education Innovation Grants demonstrates our faculty's commitment to creating innovative experiential learning opportunities for students,” Dr. Williams noted.
For more information about future award opportunities or the communities of practice described above, please contact Jennifer Leavey (Assistant Dean for Faculty Mentoring, College of Sciences) or Rebecca Watts Hull (Assistant Director, Faculty Development for Sustainability Education Initiatives, Center for Teaching and Learning).
Review all 21 awarded Undergraduate Sustainability Education Innovation projects.]]>
More images from Spring Commencement are available on Flickr.]]>
To investigate how multicellular life evolves from scratch, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology decided to take evolution into their own hands. Led by William Ratcliff, associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences and director of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Quantitative Biosciences, a team of researchers has initiated the first long-term evolution experiment aimed at evolving new kinds of multicellular organisms from single-celled ancestors in the lab.
College of Sciences faculty and teaching assistants were recently recognized for their educational and research excellence during the 2023 Georgia Tech Faculty and Staff Honors Luncheon, held April 21 at the Exhibition Hall.
The awards included Institute-wide honors and those from Georgia Tech’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). Honorees were recognized for their service, activities, and accomplishments over the past academic year.
Please join us in congratulating College of Sciences faculty and teaching assistants who received 2023 Georgia Tech and CTL awards:
Best Faculty Paper
Itamar Kimchi, Assistant Professor, Physics
Outstanding Achievement in Research Innovation
Younan Xia, Brock Family Chair, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Advisor
John R. Reynolds, Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Outstanding Achievement in Research Program Development
Spaceflight Project Group
Christopher Carr, Assistant Professor, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences/Aerospace Engineering
Timothy Cope, Professor, Biological Sciences
Adam J. Decker, Senior Academic Professional, Biological Sciences
Geoffrey G. Eichholz Faculty Teaching
Mary E. Peek. Principal Academic Professional, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Emily Weigel, Senior Academic Professional, Biological Sciences
Center for Teaching and Learning/BP Junior Faculty Teaching
Anton Bernshteyn, Assistant Professor, Mathematics
Gongjie Li, Assistant Professor, Physics
Innovation in Co-Curricular Education
Pamela Pollet, Senior Research Scientist, Chemistry and Biochemistry
International Initiatives Award
Steven A. Denning Faculty Award for Global Engagement
Anton Leykin, Professor, Mathematics
Faculty Honors Committee Awards
Class of 1940 W. Howard Ector Outstanding Teacher
Dan Margalit, Professor, Mathematics
(These awards were presented April 19 in the Georgia Tech Exhibition Hall.)
Undergraduate Teaching Assistant of the Year
Charlotte Carl, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Bret Hendricks, Mathematics
Maeve Janecka, Biological Sciences
Benjamin Peer, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Graduate Teaching Assistant of the Year
Santana Afton, Mathematics
Alex Costa, Biological Sciences
Erin Griffith, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Tiffany Nguyen, Psychology
Markace Rainey, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Leo Wood, Physics
Graduate Student Instructor
James Anderson, Mathematics
Terri Dunbar, Psychology
Cassandra Shriver, Biological Sciences and Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP)
Online TA of the Year
Mollene Denton, Mathematics
CIRTL Associate Certificates
Stephanie Bilodeau, Biological Sciences
Katherine Booth, Mathematics
Abigail Diering, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Luke Foster, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Eliza Gazda, Physics
Chad Gomard-Henshaw, Physics
Sarah Gonzalez, Physics
Erin Griffith, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Abigail Hagwood, Chemistry
Kamisha Hill, Chemistry
Mary Kho, Biological Sciences
Na Liu, Physics
Ravyn Malatesta, Chemistry
Sarah Roney, Biological Sciences
Afaf Saaidi, Mathematics
Steven Tarr, Physics
Alisha Vera, Physics
Mengshi Zhang, Biological Sciences
CIRTL Associate and Tech to Teaching Certificates
Rebecca Guth-Metzler, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Taehun Kim, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Katie Kuo, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Kavita Matange, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Emily Saccuzzo, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Breanna Shi, Biological Sciences
Tech to Teaching Certificates
Austin Christian, Mathematics
Sierra Knavel, Mathematics
Andrew Kristof, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Athulya Ram Sreedharan Nair, Mathematics
Danielle Skinner, Physics
Yan Zhang, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Graduate Teaching Fellows
Maugan Lloyd, Psychology
Jelly Vanderwoude, Biological Sciences
International TA Liaisons
Chang Ding, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston]]>
The College of Sciences community gathered in Harrison Square on April 18 to honor faculty and staff with awards for the 2022-2023 school year during the Spring Sciences Celebration.
“It is nothing short of a pleasure to recognize outstanding faculty who excel in teaching and research,” said Susan Lozier, College of Sciences Dean and Betsy Middleton and John Clark Sutherland Chair, “and to celebrate the leadership and commitment to excellence of remarkable staff members across the College.”
At the annual celebration, Lozier and the College also recognized the 25 new faculty members who joined Georgia Tech for the 2022-2023 academic year.
This year’s awardees include:
FACULTY DEVELOPMENT AWARDS
The Cullen-Peck Fellowship Awards, established by Frank Cullen (‘73 Math, MS ‘76 ISyE, PhD ‘84 ISyE) and Elizabeth Peck (‘75 Math, MS ‘76 ISyE), to encourage the development of especially promising mid-career faculty.
Cullen-Peck Faculty Fellows:
The Gretzinger Moving Forward Award, endowed by Ralph Gretzinger (‘70 Math) and named to honor his late wife Jewel, recognizes the leadership of a school chair or senior faculty member who has played a pivotal role in diversifying the composition of tenure-track faculty, creating a family-friendly work environment, and providing a supportive environment for early-career faculty:
The Eric R. Immel Memorial Award for Excellence in Teaching, endowed by Charles Crawford (‘71 Math) recognizes exemplary instruction of lower division foundational courses. It honors the late School of Mathematics professor Eric R. Immel, who greatly influenced Crawford’s undergraduate experience at Tech:
The Leddy Family Dean’s Faculty Excellence Award, established by Jeff Leddy (’78 Physics) and Pam Leddy, supports a faculty member at the associate professor level with proven accomplishments in research and teaching:
The Faculty Mentor Award, established jointly by the College of Sciences and its ADVANCE Professor, awards the efforts and achievements of our faculty members who mentor fellow faculty:
RESEARCH FACULTY AWARDS
The CoS Outstanding Junior Research Faculty Award and CoS Outstanding Senior Research Faculty Award recognize postdoctoral and non-tenure track research faculty who have made exceptional research contributions with significant impact on their field of study:
The CoS Research Faculty Community Trailblazer Award recognizes postdoctoral and non-tenure track research faculty who have demonstrated and sustained leadership that strengthens the sense of community among research faculty within the College of Sciences:
The College of Sciences Staff Awards are made possible by funding from the Betsy Middleton and John Clark Sutherland Dean’s Chair endowment. They include:
The Exceptional Staff Member Award and Leadership in Action Staff Member Awards recognize College of Sciences staff who exemplify outstanding performance above and beyond the call of duty, by positively impacting the strategic goals of their department and the College, consistently providing excellent service within their school or the overall College, and demonstrating exemplary teamwork.
The Excellence in Leadership Staff Awards and the Staff Excellence Award recognize College of Sciences staff who have made exceptional contributions to the College through innovative and strategic leadership, change management, business process improvement, special project leadership, and similar accomplishments.
Excellence in Leadership Staff
Staff Excellence Award
NEW COLLEGE OF SCIENCES FACULTY
Academic Year 2022-2023
Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston
College of Sciences
“Today's climate issues are urgent, and environmental justice and ecological sustainability necessitate action from leaders across the world,” said Chaouki Abdallah, executive vice president for research at Georgia Tech. “As a core partner of The Exchange, Georgia Tech will provide research expertise in the areas of energy, urban planning, biological ecosystems, public policy, and more, and we look forward to playing an instrumental role in bringing its mission to fruition.”
Georgia Tech researchers are studying glacial melt, coral growth, sea level rise, and other climate concerns in the state of Georgia and around the world and will share their data and research results with partners at The Exchange. Likewise, research at The Exchange will be applicable for towns and cities across Georgia, allowing state leaders to take advantage of economic opportunities that arise when climate change is addressed head on.
In addition to contributing critical research across the many areas of climate change, Georgia Tech leads major initiatives that are focused on solving the crises laid out in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Generation 2 Reinvented Toilet (G2RT) — a solution to the world’s water and sanitation problem — is led by Shannon Yee, associate professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech. This cost-effective, globally scalable reinvented toilet with built-in human waste treatment will ensure that drinking water stays clean and will improve public health around the world.
Georgia Tech is also a leading partner of the Ocean Visions – UN Decade Collaborative Center for Ocean-Climate Solutions, an international center headquartered at the Georgia Aquarium that aims to co-design, develop, test, fund, and deliver scalable and equitable ocean-based solutions to reduce the effects of climate change and build climate-resilient marine ecosystems and coastal communities. Championed at Georgia Tech by Susan Lozier, dean and Betsy Middleton and John Clark Sutherland Chair in the College of Sciences, the Center also supports opportunities to accelerate ocean-based carbon dioxide removal research and advance sustainable ocean economies.
“We are looking forward to contributing and demonstrating some of the engineering sustainability solutions that have been developed at Georgia Tech with New York City and the world,” said Yee. “Many of the technical and economic solutions that serve the state of Georgia, the coastal city of Savannah, and the urban center of Atlanta can also serve the urban harbor of New York City. Similarly, the innovations and economic opportunities that address climate change can be shared with and benefit Georgia. This collaboration embodies the concept of an exchange where we share with one another.”
As The Exchange’s anchor institution, Stony Brook University will build and operate the center which will be located on Governors Island in New York City. The center is slated to open in 2028.
“It is becoming clear year after year in New York, and around the world, that the impacts of climate change are real and are here,” said Kevin Reed, associate dean for Research and associate professor in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook. “By partnering with communities, industries, governments, and universities, The Exchange will help to accelerate the implementation of urban solutions to these climate impacts through an interactive research ecosystem where community engagement is paramount. As a climate scientist, I recognize that New Yorkers need solutions to the climate crisis now, and The Exchange will help to make that a reality.”
Georgia Parmelee | email@example.com
Scientists and engineers study animal movements for clues on ways to improve lives for humans, such as designing better prosthetics or terrain-conquering robots. But that doesn’t mean fun can’t be a part of the research as well — as in asking kids to see how long they can stand on one leg a la flamingos.
That was the energy on display Saturday, March 11, for Animals in Motion: Biomechanics Day at Zoo Atlanta, part of the 2023 Atlanta Science Festival. With help from biomechanics researchers from Georgia Tech, Clemson University, and the University of Akron, visitors gathered at several demonstration booths around the Zoo to learn more about wildlife and work exploring animal biomechanics.
Joe Mendelson, adjunct professor in the School of Biological Sciences, is also director of Research for Zoo Atlanta. Mendelson says a Biomechanics Day was first scheduled for 2020 but ran headlong into the beginnings of the pandemic.
“Finally, we get to assemble our colleagues and highlight their fun and innovative projects,” he said, adding that the Atlanta Science Festival is the perfect place to attract researchers studying biomechanics of creatures as different as snakes, elephants, centipedes, and humans, as well.
There are many benefits to knowing more about animal locomotion. “Allowing people to see and understand familiar animals through a different light and comparing, for example, their locomotion to your own can be an effective way to generate interest and caring about animals by people,” Mendelson said.
Zoo Atlanta frequently collaborates with biomechanics researchers across Georgia's Tech's College of Sciences and College of Engineering. Animals in Motion: Biomechanics Day highlighted those labs and their various projects, as well as other labs from around the country that are doing similar research.
One of those researchers, Greg Sawicki, associate professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Biological Sciences, used ultrasound imaging to give Zoo Atlanta visitors an “under the skin” look at how animal and human muscles work together with tendons to move the body.
“We will look at, and compare, calf muscles and the Achilles tendon in the leg with the biceps and biceps tendon in the arm,” Sawicki said. “Zoo visitors will be able to see for themselves the wide variety of structural features of muscle-tendon systems, ranging from short muscles and long compliant tendons for the calf to long muscles and short stiff tendons.”
Sawicki hoped his audience learned that different structural features of muscle-tendon systems “may have unique functional benefits in the wild — and an animal’s limb design may be specifically adapted for their environmental niche.”
Simon Sponberg, Dunn Family Associate Professor in the Schools of Physics and Biological Sciences, wasn't able to bring the live animals he works with — hawk moths — to the Animal Biomechanics Day. “It’s for a variety of reasons, but mostly that they don’t fly much during the day,” Sponberg said. But visitors to Sponberg’s booth explored different insect wing shapes to see how they help moths and other insects move.
“What we want students to get out of it is that there are many different forms and functions a ‘wing’ can take,” he added. “So we want people to learn how we can use experiments to understand the link between structure, function, and performance, especially in flight.”
At another section of Zoo Atlanta, adults and kids spent their time trying to balance on just one leg. It’s unclear if any of the nearby flamingos were impressed with the results, but Young-Hui Chang, professor and associate chair for Faculty Development in the School of Biological Sciences, says the balancing act is much easier for flamingos.
“They have to deal with the same physical challenges to stand in a stable way,” Chang said. “Biology tells us that, as vertebrates, flamingos are starting with many of the same muscles and bones of the leg that humans have. But, flamingos have evolved a way to use their limbs such that they can sleep standing on one leg with minimal involvement of the muscles, which would be impossible for us humans to do.”
Chang studies flamingo biomechanics for the sheer sake of gaining knowledge about how nature works. But he adds that there are practical applications to the research. “One that has already been used by roboticists is the development of a ‘flamingo bot’ that uses the principles we’ve discovered in the flamingo leg to help the robot conserve energy,” Chang said.]]>
In the race to develop new pharmaceuticals, an increasing number of biochemists are looking to discover new natural products – and uncover the mechanisms that produce and influence them. And Georgia Tech School of Chemistry and Biochemistry Assistant Professor Vinayak Agarwal is helping lead that charge. “I’m interested in how and why natural products are created in nature, what we can learn from their processes, and how we can harness nature's capabilities for interesting applications,” Agarwal says.
Now a $700,000 NSF CAREER grant will help him do so. The National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award is a five-year funding mechanism designed to help promising researchers establish a personal foundation for a lifetime of leadership in their field. Known as CAREER awards, the grants are NSF’s most prestigious funding for untenured assistant professors.
Agarwal’s award specifically focuses on his research into peptides, short strings of amino acids that make up proteins. “We’re making new types of peptides and modified peptides,” Agarwal explains. “Modifications in a lot of antibiotics that we use are actually peptides.” Over 100 peptide-based drugs are currently available in the US, where they’re used to treat conditions ranging from type-2 diabetes to MS.
While peptides are naturally made in the body, they can also be synthesized in the lab, where they’re modified using different enzymes. By harnessing these enzymes, peptides can be better tailored to suit needs – they can be changed to interact with biologies in different ways, an essential aspect of creating new medicines.
Discovering and studying the enzymes that modify peptides is a key part of Agarwal’s research, as is understanding the mechanisms that these enzymes use to recognize and bind to the peptides. This is called “enzymatic modification,” and it’s a lush playing field for discovering new chemical reactions. “We want to solve the need of the chemistry community when it comes to peptide modifications, providing new reactions to the community regarding peptide development and peptide modification,” Agarwal says.
While gene mining has revealed some enzymes that might be useful in modifying peptides, the reactions caused by these enzymes and the resulting structure of the peptide are not fully understood: in-situ research is needed. Agarwal’s first goal is to discover new chemical reactions between peptides and enzymes by leveraging in vivo synthetic biology (inside living organisms) and in vitro biochemistry experiments (outside of living organisms).
Agarwal also hopes to better understand how peptides and proteins interact, and why so many chemical reactions depend on them. “Peptide-protein interactions and modification of peptides is a central tenet of all biological processes,” Agarwal explains. “We want to know how and why peptides are chosen by nature as scaffolding for chemical reactions.”
Leveraging in vivo synthetic biology and in vitro biochemistry experiments means a lot of hands-on research. “The team is making peptides in the lab using an E. coli bacteria,” Agarwal explains. “We provide genes to an E. coli bacteria, and it modifies the chemistries using specific enzymes.”
What does this research look like? Petri dishes. A lot of petri dishes. And a lot of opportunities for students. “One of our key goals is to use our interdisciplinary training to engage underserved students in research and lab experience. We want to educate, train, and diversify the next generation of scientists,” Agarwal says. “We are designing new courses in the laboratory which introduces undergraduates to new coursework and experiments in peptide science.”
Some of these opportunities are already bearing fruit: Agarwal recently collaborated with a team of undergraduates over a semester-long lab course, which included conducting laboratory research and publishing their findings.
Now, Agarwal plans to use this new CAREER grant to further expand opportunities for undergraduates, and will develop original curriculum starting with peptide-based lab research together with scientific communication and writing.
“The training that students are going to get provides a broad experience in biological and chemical science,” Agarwal says. “We want our students to learn mechanisms for peptide modifications, but the training is broadly applicable. It will prepare them to move forward in STEM – and especially graduate studies – but will also prepare them for industry careers, government and regulatory science, graduate studies, and more. This kind of background is applicable in all fields.”
All in all, Agarwal expects the research to span across this decade and into the next. There’s excitement in that timeline, too – ten-plus years of teaching, discovery, and opportunities for students, at Georgia Tech and beyond.
“For me, the biggest thing is student progress, as well as curriculum development and training,” Agarwal says. “That’s my driving force.”]]>
These ecosystems cover just 3% of Earth’s land area, but “peatlands store over one-third of all soil carbon on the planet,” explains Joel Kostka, professor and associate chair of Research in the School of Biological Sciences at Georgia Tech.
This carbon storage is supported in large part by microbes. Two microbial processes in particular — nitrogen fixation and methane oxidation — strike a delicate balance, working together to give Sphagnum mosses access to critical nutrients in nutrient-depleted peatlands.
The coupling of these two processes is often referred to as the “missing link” of nutrient cycling in peatlands. Yet, how these processes will respond to changing climates along northern latitudes is unclear.
“There are tropical peatlands — but the majority of peatlands are in northern environments.” notes Caitlin Petro, a research scientist who works with Kostka in Biological Sciences at Tech. “And those are going to be hit harder by climate change.”
Kostka and Petro recently led a collaborative study to investigate how this critical type of ecosystem (and the “missing link” of microbial processes that support it) may react to the increased temperature and carbon dioxide levels predicted to come with climate change. The team, which also includes researchers from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Florida State University, and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, just published their work in the scientific journal Global Change Biology.
By testing the effects of increasing temperature and carbon dioxide on the growth of Sphagnum moss, its associated microbiome, and overall ecosystem health, Kostka and Petro say computational models will be better equipped to predict the effects of climate change.
“Down the road,” Kostka added, “we hope the results can be used by environmental managers and governments to adaptively manage or geoengineer peatlands to thrive in a warmer world.”
To see how northern peatlands will react to climate change, the team, which also included School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Associate Professor Jennifer Glass, turned to the ORNL Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments (SPRUCE) experiment — a unique field lab in northern Minnesota where the team warms peat bogs and experimentally changes the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Starting in 2016, the team exposed different parts of SPRUCE’s experimental peatlands to a gradient of higher temperatures ranging from an increase of 0°C to 9°C, capturing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change models’ predicted 4°C to 6°C increase in northern regions by 2100.
The moss’s reaction was significant. Although nearly 100% of the bog’s surface was covered in moss at the beginning of the experiment, moss coverage dropped with each increase in temperature, plummeting to less than 15% in the warmest conditions.
Critically, the two microbial processes that had previously been consistently linked fell out of sync at higher temperatures.
“Peatlands are extremely nutrient-poor and microbial nitrogen fixation represents a major nitrogen input to the ecosystem,” Kostka explained. Fixing nitrogen is the process of turning atmospheric nitrogen into an organic compound that the moss can use for photosynthesis, while methane oxidation allows the moss to use methane released from decomposing peat as energy. “Methane oxidation acts to fuel nitrogen fixation while scavenging a really important greenhouse gas before it is released to the atmosphere. This study shows that these two processes, which are catalyzed by the Sphagnum microbiome, become disconnected as the moss dies.”
“These processes occurring together are really important for the community,” Petro explained. Yet many microbes that are able to both fix nitrogen and oxidize methane were absent in the mosses collected from higher temperature enclosures. And while elevated carbon dioxide levels appeared to offset some of the changes in nitrogen cycling caused by warming, the decoupling of these processes remained.
“These treatments are altering a fairly well-defined and consistent plant microbiome that we find in many different environments, and that has this consistent function,” Petro explained. “It's like a complete functional shift in the community.”
Though it’s not clear which of these changes — the moss dying or the altered microbial activity — is driving the other, it is clear that with warmer temperatures and higher carbon dioxide levels comes a cascade of unpredictable outcomes for peat bogs.
“In addition to the direct effects of climate warming on ecosystem function,” Petro adds, “it will also introduce all of these off-shooting effects that will impact peatlands in ways that we didn't predict before.”
This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (DEB grant no. 1754756). The SPRUCE project is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, Biological, and Environmental Research (DOE BER) and the USDA Forest Service.
Citation: Petro, C., et al. Climate drivers alter nitrogen availability in surface peat and decouple N2 fixation from CH4 oxidation in the Sphagnum moss microbiome. Global Change Biology. (2023).
Aerial Photo: Hanson, P.J., M.B. Krassovski, and L.A. Hook. 2020. SPRUCE S1 Bog and SPRUCE Experiment Aerial Photographs. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, TES SFA, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, U.S.A. https://doi.org/10.3334/CDIAC/spruce.012 (UAV image number 0050 collected on October 4, 2020).]]>
Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston
Director of Communications, College of Sciences
And during that time, the faculty and students of STEMcomm have become a festival staple.
STEMcomm, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) communication, is a course in Georgia Tech’s Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) program. Established in 2016 by three faculty in the College of Sciences, the course uses science communication to create outreach events for the Atlanta Science Festival — and popular-science content to share on social media and online publications.
“I feel like there is a gulf in the world between people who do science and the general public,” says Jennifer Leavey, a principal academic professional in the School of Biological Sciences, the College’s assistant dean for Faculty Mentoring, and one of the founders of the course. “There is very little crosstalk there.”
The goal of STEMcomm is to bridge that gap and connect with an at-times overlooked audience: adults.
“When it comes to science, I think in general, there’s not a lot of new learning once you get beyond school-age. Teachers do a great job of engaging children with science, but for adults, I mean, there's not a lot there,” Leavey added. “I think there’s a real space for people with science knowledge to help bring that conversation more into the mainstream.”
Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston
Director of Communications, College of Sciences
Georgia Tech’s Landscape Services collaborates with student leaders to develop projects that have a big impact yet are easily completed in a few hours. This year’s opportunities range from planting wildflowers, shrubs, and trees to laying sod, pulling weeds, and spreading pine straw.
The event begins with breakfast and a welcome by student leaders. Groups of eight to 10 volunteers are then given tools and gloves and directed to the various worksites across campus. One ambitious goal this year is to plant 200 native azaleas.
“Our department enjoys working with the students not only because we are able to get a lot of work done in a short amount of time, but it also gives students a small window into the hard work our teams do daily,” says Interim Associate Director of Landscape Services Neil Fuller. “Students also gain a sense of pride when they can look at a completed job and say they did it. And it gives the students a chance to make their mark on campus and be able to come back and point out a specific plant or tree and tell their family how they planted it years ago.”
Tech Beautification Day has a long history of engaging students, faculty, staff, and family members on a spring Saturday. Campus archives reveal that during one event more than 1,000 volunteers worked together to beautify campus. Additionally, photographs from 2012 show the entire football team, along with coaches and families, participating. Organizers are working toward increasing participation to pre-pandemic numbers, and this year is just the beginning. Sign up now to spend a morning making the Georgia Tech campus even more beautiful than it already is.
8:30 a.m. – Breakfast, check in, and welcome at The Kendeda Building
9 a.m. – noon: Volunteer projects
12:30 p.m. – Clean up, return tools, closing remarks
SIGN UP TO PARTICIPATE]]>
SGA Joint VP of Infrastructure and Sustainability]]>
Today, just over seven decades since women first enrolled at the Institute, 56% of students earning degrees in the College of Sciences are female. As we celebrate Women's History Month and look to the future of our field, meet seven real-life superheroines of life science — and science fiction — from across the Institute.
Tap here to read this story in the Georgia Tech newsroom.]]>
Bees sting occasionally, but in general they are not aggressive — they’re defensive, and tend to only sting when they feel threatened.
“It’s mostly wasps that sting — they’re predators, they’re carnivores, and they’re more aggressive,” said Jennifer Leavey, assistant dean for faculty mentoring in the College of Sciences and principal academic professional in the School of Biological Sciences.
Leavey also serves as director for Georgia Tech’s Urban Honey Bee Project. She offers a few tips on how to identify the myriad arthropoda around campus and shares knowledge about each.
Tap here for the full version of this story, where you'll learn about carpenter bees, yellow jackets, ants, and more.]]>
Neuroscience is the fastest growing undergraduate major in the College of Sciences at Georgia Tech, and prospective and current students often enjoy hearing from our alumni about their experiences in the program.
We recently spoke with the NEURO ‘22 Kashlan brothers about their time at Georgia Tech, advice for students, and a look at what’s next on the horizon:
Zane: The Neuroscience program at Georgia Tech is unique in that it's incredibly interdisciplinary. As Neuroscience majors, students can freely take courses in Georgia Tech's top-ranked programs like engineering, computer science, and even business on top of a regular course load filled with biology and other science core curricula.
In addition, the broad nature of the curriculum offers students an opportunity to explore all areas of Neuroscience, including Biological Neuroscience, Neuroengineering, Computational Neuroscience, and several other pathways that help develop essential lifelong skills. It is a fantastic STEM major to pick as students who want to explore different career paths and pick up different skills. We enjoyed charting our individual experiences within Neuroscience and are so grateful for the advisors and professors who supported us along the way.
Zane: Georgia Tech has always felt like a second home to us. We were born and grew up in the Atlanta area. Georgia Tech offered a strong list of notable faculty members. The modern campus is big enough to explore different interests in a wide variety of subjects. Tech offered a special place for us to be challenged, make new friends, and grow independently as a trio.
Rommi: I would add the fact that Georgia Tech offered an unparalleled value of education.
Rommi: There were so many professors and mentors that helped shape me into the person that I am today. For example, my involvement with Dr. Ragan in the BRAIN Initiative helping promote neuroscience to students in schools around the Atlanta area, enforced my love for neuroscience and giving back to the community. Dr. Decker, who mentored me as a TA, instilled and enforced my passion for teaching. Dr. Shepler, who I worked closely with in mentoring students in Chemistry under the PLUS Program, further deepened my love for teaching science. Dr. Harrison, who guided me through my first teaching experience in the biology department, is another example. Like all other professors, they were vital in facilitating an engaging, fun, and highly memorable learning environment.
Zane: From the very long list of professors I had an extraordinary time learning from, I especially enjoyed being a TA for Dr. Decker in Anatomy and Pathology. Dr. Tyson helped develop my interest in mentoring others and deepening my experience in Organic Chemistry. Dr. Senf provided continuous support in sponsoring the Students Against Alzheimer's organization I helped found and fostered my passion for scientific communication and advocacy. Also, a thank you to the GT 1000 program for allowing me to be a part of mentoring the next generation of Yellow Jackets – Sandi Bramblett and Dr. Rafael Bras for showing me the ropes of leading by example and to Savitra Y Dow and Dr. Lacy Hodges for their constant support.
Adam: I'm so grateful for all the professors I had the privilege of learning from and taking classes with over my tenure at Georgia Tech, such as Dr. Decker, Dr. Tyson, Dr. Holder, Dr. Weigel, Dr. Whyte, Dr. Howitz, Dr. Kerr, Dr. Harrison, and Dr. Duarte. I especially value my experience with Dr. Shepler, with whom I took chemistry in my first year because she made the learning of science meaningful and fun. Dr. Senf helped develop my scientific writing skill, which is critical in neuroscience research. Dr. Ragan, with whom I took NEUR 4001, for learning so much about research methods, proper presentation creation and delivery, paper writing, and making the atmosphere of every class fun and engaging.
Rommi: Sometimes it worked out that we would have similar classes since we're all neuroscience majors. Still, most semesters, we would only share a required class or two, while some classes might be with different professors because of time conflicts with other courses. We each prioritized taking whatever classes worked best with our individual schedules and graduation plans, but taking a lesson or two [together] was always fun.
Rommi: The most remarkable thing I've learned about the human brain is how much we don't know about it. Out of every meticulous detail we know about human physiology and function we have barely scratched the surface of our cognition and thinking. This leaves so much room for exploration in neuroscience research because there is so much yet to be uncovered.
Adam: After my first year, my earliest class usually started around 10 a.m. On a typical day, I liked to wake up at around 9 a.m. if I didn't have any events or important assignments to complete. After taking some of my morning classes, I would almost always go to the fourth floor of the Crosland Tower [in the Price Gilbert Memorial] Library to do my assignments and study before lunch or my following classes. After grabbing some lunch and attending the rest of my classes that day, I usually went to the CRC to play basketball with my friends or eat dinner. On busy days though, I went back to studying or completing projects and other longer assignments in preparation for exams or important deadlines.
Adam: I would probably have to say graduation. While it is a bit cliché, knowing that your years of hard work through trials and tribulations have finally amounted to something great is amazing.
Adam: I enjoyed Six Flags Night with my friends in the fall; Lake Lanier to enjoy the water; and the [Atlanta] Beltline, which has an amazing history. I had the opportunity to visit [there] with my English class during my first year.
Rommi: I'll add the Georgia Aquarium to that list — the whale sharks and penguins make it an awesome experience.
Zane: During my first semester, I enjoyed my experience in GT1000 and looked up to my team leader for the class. I joined the GT1000 program because of that experience and served as a team leader for my first two years on campus and then as an ambassador for my last year. I enjoyed helping students work through many of the challenges I had once experienced as a first-year. Since my first year, I have spent a good portion of time outside class as a volunteer and advocate for the Alzheimer's Association, where we urge our national leaders to support increased care and research funding to one day end Alzheimer's.
By connecting with other volunteers in the state and country, I saw the need for younger voices to get involved in the cause. I founded Students Against Alzheimer's, a student-led organization that works with the Alzheimer's Association to get younger advocates involved. I'm also grateful to have had the opportunity to go to Washington D.C. with other advocates, where we met Senator Raphael Warnock and other states/national representatives to push for updates in legislation. I would spend a lot of time with family or having fun in the Atlanta area in my free time.
Adam: I joined and participated in the Georgia Tech Swim Club, founded a GT chapter of the American Parkinson's Disease Association, and was part of Student Government during my first year. Outside of school, I was heavily involved with my research at the Woolf Lab for the past two years. I volunteered as a medical assistant at the Good Samaritan Health Clinic. I was also a part of several organizations where I tutored and supported Georgia's refugee children, which I have been involved in since middle school.
Rommi: The organization I was involved in the most was Teaching and Academic Services at Tech. I participated as a PLUS leader and one-on-one tutor, assisting in events such as Studypalooza. The opportunity to give back to my peers through teaching and guidance was a great experience. Outside the classroom, I helped lead the BRAIN initiative, whereas as a neuroscience student, I went to schools around the Atlanta area to hold activity-filled seminars promoting the learning of neuroscience.
The students observed activities such as a human brain dissection, controlling nerves in your arm, and a "mind control" machine. These activities deepened my love and advocacy for neuroscience. I also discovered my passion for helping others, volunteering as a trained nurse assistant at the Good Sam Health Clinic. I also had the privilege to be part of the task force set up to design the process of Covid-19 testing for the students and the community at GT in preparation for reopening the campus.
Zane: Aside from balancing time and managing classes, the most important and unexpected lesson I have learned is knowing when to ask for help. It was important along our journeys to connect with fellow students and professors to get extra support during the more challenging weeks or when making career plans. I feel that Tech's most valuable resource doesn't come from the new buildings or courses, it's the role models – our peers and mentors – that we engage with daily.
Rommi: GT enforced several lessons — including problem-solving, how to persevere, self-motivation, and putting things into perspective.
Adam: I would definitely have to say that Principles of Neuroscience (NEUR 2001) was the hardest class that I have taken at Georgia Tech. It's a four-credit class I took my first semester and included a lab component. You essentially learn most of the basic neuroscience curriculum in one extremely demanding class. The lab consists of lots of reports that have to be extremely in-depth and are significantly longer than normal papers. The lecture had a significant portion of the grade dedicated to exams which were incredibly detailed and required memorization of the minor details. It was a challenging experience, but looking back I'm grateful because it allowed me to adjust to Georgia Tech's rigorous curriculum early and understand foundational neuroscience, which helped my research.
Zane: I think the most important part of being interested in STEM is just that — curiosity. Being curious about everyday scientific phenomena is the crux of being a good researcher or engineer. Just by staying curious so many doors are open for learning. A student can start with some YouTube videos, hone that passion by taking a course or joining a lab, and who knows, maybe one day that passion will turn into a career.
Zane: Building a career in medicine takes a long time, maybe up to 12 years or more after college. Get involved through internships and research as early as your first year and take the time to figure out what about medicine and health interests you. There are so many opportunities, not only within the scope of being a clinician, but also in medical research; medical technology; medical business; and medical law. Going down the path of a physician is certainly not the only way to have a career in health.
Make sure that you network with your peers and alumni to find out what others have career ideas that can serve as inspiration for yourself. I especially recommend taking a gap year or two before making such an impactful commitment to exploring all potential career opportunities that might interest you before dedicating yourself to a life in medicine.
Adam: I agree with Zane that you must do a lot of soul-searching when you commit to the field of medicine. This is a highly specialized career you will spend the rest of your life doing. Remember that you need to love what you do; otherwise, you will not be happy, and your patients will pick up on that.
Rommi: I'm an early morning person, so most of my studying took place before I began my first class, which was typically in the late morning or afternoon. The rule of thumb is to study for two to three hours for every lecture hour, so I always tried to study the material ahead of the lectures to get familiar with the topics being presented in class as they are taught and then revisit the material immediately after.
Adam: Spaced repetition, consistency, and time management is the key to excelling in school. I can confidently say that you don't need to be the smartest person to get the best grades because you can outweigh that by being more disciplined and efficient. Finding a study habit that works for you is the key. Oftentimes, what works for one person most likely won't work for another. You must learn and discover what works best for you through iteration in your first semester.
Discover the studying habit that helps you perform best on exams and assignments. What worked for me was spacing out my studying ahead of exams and using spaced repetition, so I would revisit concepts multiple times before taking an exam rather than moving through the material progressively and not reviewing old lectures.
In addition, I would ramp up my studying a few days before an exam with the most time spent the day before and the day-of, because I found it easier to recall small details from a PowerPoint slide when reviewing it an hour prior to taking the exam (after multiple run-throughs, though).
The strategy can sometimes vary between classes: brute repetition and memorization works in a subject like biology — but not so much in a conceptual subject like physics and math that requires more practice than learning.
The second half of doing well in classes is understanding the syllabus and finding what assignments or exams you need to score well on. Maximizing your grade in non-exam/quiz assignments gives you the highest chance of getting an A in the class and oftentimes gives you a buffer to score an 80 or 85 exam average.
Adam: My favorite study spots on campus would have to either be the fourth and fifth floor of the Crosland Tower Library or the third floor of the CULC. The Library's first floor is always packed, so the quiet upper floors were great for studying. The bridge connecting the two main libraries was also a relaxing spot to study since the windows give a nice view of the city and keep the area well-lit.
Rommi: I'm a big sandwich guy; throughout my time at Georgia Tech, I've probably had upwards of a thousand sandwiches between classes. You can always count on the 14th Street Jimmy John’s.
Rommi: I crashed a lot on the beanbags on the fourth floor of CULC building, hung around the dorms a lot, tried to forget about it, and worked towards the next assignment or class to study for.
Adam: When struggling in a class, I always reminded myself that I wasn't alone. I stressed that I should continue to persevere and not get demoralized if I got a bad exam grade, or didn't understand some concept right away. I noticed that classes at Georgia Tech usually got harder as the semester progressed, until the eighth or ninth week, then eased off significantly as the final exam approached.
My biggest piece of advice for all students would be to focus on scoring as high as possible on all non-exam grades, like participation and homework assignments that you have the most control over. Getting close to a 100 percent in those sections carries your average significantly and allows you to have the room to tank a few bad quiz or exam grades, and gives you lots of buffer for the final exam.
It's also important to keep track of your grade in the class and what grade section you're underperforming in (homework, quiz, test, etc.). This lets you know what assignments mean the most to your grade and prioritize time between different classes and assignments to maximize your chances of keeping your averages high.
Rommi: I think not falling too far behind made it much easier to prepare and be ready. Don't wait; go seek help if you don't understand a topic fully. GT has a lot of resources for help when needed. Take advantage of all that is available. A key piece of advice, read your syllabus at the beginning of the semester and fully understand the professor's expectations. Study ahead and follow the syllabus.
Adam: Balancing school, sleep, and a social life can be challenging. I always liked to keep a few consistent hobbies fit into my schedule, like playing basketball at the CRC or even just walking around campus at night so I could have some escape from the pressure of school.
I learned that getting into a routine and set schedule also helps with this balance because you get more hours out of your day when your time is managed properly. Unfortunately though, there will be times when you will have to sacrifice going out on a Friday night to complete a project or make sure that you perform well on an exam.
I encourage you not to feel bad about making these hard decisions because it all becomes worth it come graduation day. That said, having some avenue to de-stress from school and have fun is super important, even if it's a small activity for a few minutes a day because studying at Tech without taking a break will burn you out quickly.
Also, sleep is your friend — don't ignore it. It's a cheat code to improve your mood and mental health, reflect on your school performance and social relationships, improve your mood, etcetera.
What are your plans for the rest of 2022 and beyond?
Adam: After graduating in the spring, I moved to Boston to work as a research assistant in the Woolf Lab at Harvard Medical School. We study non-opioid-based analgesic drugs used in the treatment of chronic pain. I will apply to medical schools next summer and want to pursue a career as a physician focusing on improving immigrant and refugee health in the United States- my passion since middle school.
Zane: In late April, I switched my research work from Yale Medical to the Woolf Lab at Harvard Medical. In the future, I plan to combine my passion for research and medicine as a physician-scientist to improve patients' lives suffering from neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's.
Rommi: I moved to Boston with Zane and Adam and have been focusing on volunteering at various clinics and studying for my MCAT exam. After taking the MCAT exam this fall, I will start working as a research assistant.
Zane: The decision has to be between making great friends and calling such an amazing school home.
Rommi: The best part of being a Yellow Jacket is knowing that I am ready to face any new challenge, confident that I will do well.
Adam: Developing many relationships and connections with friends, mentors, and professors at the school have continued to benefit me even after graduation. Also, coming from Georgia Tech opens up many doors and opportunities that you otherwise wouldn't get at other schools — the name and prestige of the school mean a lot to employers and graduate schools.
Special thanks to Dean Kashlan for organizing this interview, and to Georgia Tech Office of Undergraduate Education and our College of Sciences student writers for sharing questions for this story.]]>
With a passion for inspiring others and making neuroscience more accessible, Ragan, a faculty member and lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences and the director of Outreach for the Undergraduate Program in Neuroscience at Tech, is a leader in developing neuroscience-related outreach events.
For the past two years, Ragan has been annually awarded a $1,500 seed grant from the Dana Foundation to design that kind of outreach in celebration of Brain Awareness Week, the Foundation’s global campaign dedicated to fostering curiosity and enthusiasm for brain science.
Arriving at Georgia Tech in early 2021, Ragan organized a virtual Brain Awareness Day event for middle school students that welcomed over 100 attendees.
Everyone is Welcome: Science & Engineering Day at GT 2022
This spring’s programming, scheduled on campus for March 19 as part of Science & Engineering Day at GT, is set have an even bigger audience. (Organizers have confirmed that anyone who missed the RSVP period for this day-long celebration is still welcome to attend without registration, with limited courtesy parking available in the central lot shown here.)
As the 2020 Carol Ann Paul Neuroscience Educator of the Year, Ragan’s dedication in the space has already made an impact on campus. This month, we spoke with Ragan to learn more about Brain Awareness Day and her approach to reaching community members beyond campus:
Q: What is Brain Awareness Week, and why do you think it’s important?
A: Brain Awareness Week, organized by the Dana Foundation, is a great way to share Neuroscience to the public in a way that is engaging, fun, and accessible to a broad audience. We are celebrating Brain Awareness Week in three ways: 1. Our Brain Awareness Day event as part of the Atlanta Science Festival (March 19 from 10am-2pm in CULC 483 and 487), 2. Laboratory Tours for High Schoolers during the March 19 event, and 3. Visiting the Drew School on April 1. My organizing committee of Neuro undergraduates (Rommi Kashlan, Brenna Cheney, Claire Deng, and Payton McClarity-Jones) have been extremely helpful in planning these activities.
I love that we get to involve our undergraduates for our outreach events, so they get to teach others all about the brain. I think it's important for the public to learn about the nervous system since it plays such a critical role in pretty much everything we do. Even when we are asleep or daydreaming, our brain is hard at work.
Science doesn't need to be restricted to folks who have formal degrees. Every time a kid asks, "but why?" they are acting just like a scientist!
Q: Seed grants are often given to help researchers or faculty begin to develop new projects or programs. What project or program do you hope to develop with this grant?
A: I would love to get involved with folks involved in STEM education in the greater Atlanta area to assess the outcomes of events like these. Who are we reaching and who do we still need to increase our efforts to? How can we reach the most people? What kinds of events not only promote students to pursue STEM careers, but also encourage appreciation and literacy for science for those who aren't in STEM fields? I'd also like to form strong relationships with area schools so we can share our Neuroscience demonstrations with them, as well.
This is the second year I have received this grant and I am so excited that we can use it to increase the number of resources we can use for Neuroscience outreach. It is a tremendous honor to be recognized for something I consider so rewarding.
I would love it if attendees for our Atlanta Science Festival event walk away excited, inspired, and curious about Neuroscience. I hope that this year's attendees become regular attendees annually and spread the word to their friends. I would love for attendees to tell their parents and teachers about it so we can arrange more school visits, especially to schools who may not always get opportunities
Q: Where does your passion for neuroscience outreach stem from?
A: My mom introduced me to community outreach at a young age through various volunteering opportunities. She instilled an appreciation, rather than an obligation, for serving others and I have her to thank for promoting that. I always had fun volunteering, especially as a family, and never found it to be a chore.
It wasn’t until graduate school when I became involved in Graduate Women in Science that I started doing STEM outreach. During my Postdoctoral Fellowship at Michigan State University, I was involved with the Neuroscience Fair and school visits for Brain Awareness Week. At Purdue University Northwest, I organized my very own Neuroscience Fair event that hosted 500 attendees.
Q: What’s your favorite neuroscience outreach event or program that you’ve done?
A: I call Brain Awareness Day (the event that will be part of Atlanta Science Festival this year) my “Super Bowl”. I love seeing all the attendees engaged with the presenters and the look on their faces when they learn the neuroscience behind the activity. It's really funny when their minds are just blown away after the gears start turning and they figure something out.
Q: Why do you think this kind of outreach is important?
A: Neuroscience outreach is important, especially for middle school girls, because that is the time in their lives when they are unfortunately taught that being smart or liking science isn't for girls. I don't expect everyone who attends our outreach events to become scientists, but I do aim to encourage an appreciation for science and to think like scientists.
We are truly in the Information Age, and it is our job as educators to help students learn how to evaluate all this information that is literally at their fingertips.
Q: How do you envision outreach playing into the future of Georgia Tech’s Neuroscience program as it continues to develop?
A: I think outreach can have a positive impact for our Tech students and for the community. I envision outreach being something that our program is known for to provide our students an opportunity to engage with the public in a way that is fun and an application of what they have learned in their classes.
I think that what we offer students in the classroom is just a small portion of their education. I would love to foster relationships with other schools and youth organizations to make neuroscience accessible to all.]]>
Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston
Director of Communications
College of Sciences
More information about the Brain Awareness Day event:
Science & Engineering Day at GT
A single lab can discard an average of 36,000 pipettes each year. Georgia Tech is addressing the problem with a solution that focuses on reuse of this critical lab tool through its Tip Cycle program.
“This does not come from the traditional recycling method; the tips are not manipulated or changed,” says Adam Fallah, project manager for the program. “It’s more reuse versus recycle. The life cycle of the pipette is lengthened.”
Housed in the Molecular Evolution Core (MEC) of the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Biosciences (IBB), the Tip Cycle program is capable of washing unfiltered pipettes to allow for multiple uses before discarding them.
MEC purchased the pipette washing technology from laboratory equipment supplier Grenova in 2020.
Typically, a research lab will purchase hundreds of boxes of pipettes, use them once, and then throw them away. This cycling program eliminates that waste and cost by reusing the pipettes.
So far, Fallah says the team has washed more than 746,000 pipettes in the last year, saving the equivalent of five tons of plastic going to waste.
Grenova’s technology is similar to a laundry washer and dryer—used pipettes are set in a tray and loaded into a washer to go through several cycles before being dried, repackaged, and sent back to a lab. The cycles include multiple-high heat rinses, UV sterilization, and sonification, which uses sonic waves to disturb any residue, like proteins, in the pipette tips.
Fallah says he uses an in-house cleaning solution and can customize it with a 5% bleaching solution if requested by a lab.
The full processing time for four boxes of tips is two hours and eight minutes. Roughly every 25-30 minutes another round of cycling begins as the boxes of tips are rotated out. Pipettes are returned to clients within 2 to 3 days.
“We can pump out 40 boxes in 5 to 6 hours a day,” says Helya Taghian, operations manager and a fourth-year student in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “We do 60 to 70 wash cycles of 200 to 300 boxes of tips a month. It would be a money sink if you bought that many tips…you have to be a pretty big lab to go through that many tips.”
Like the Sanger Sequencing Initiative, the Tip Cycle program was conceptualized at the height of Covid-19. Georgia Tech’s Covid-19 testing program was on the brink of being forced to halt the processing of Covid-19 samples as it faced a dire pipette supply shortage.
Principal research scientists Mike Shannon and Mike Farrell, along with Regents researcher and MEC technical director Anton Bryksin, called an emergency meeting to come up with a solution.
Bryksin devised an unconventional idea of washing the tips, a risky move given the sensitivity of qPCR techniques that can detect even a single molecule of RNA/DNA. Washing all the tips together also posed the potential for spreading contamination rather than eliminating it.
The Tip Cycle program garnered support from IBB and its assistant director, Michelle Wong, who recognized the potential for the project to help the university achieve its environmental sustainability goals.
Bryksin spearheaded the design of the program’s validation protocols, while Fallah took charge of implementing and organizing a student team to support the effort. The team encountered numerous hurdles in perfecting the washing process to ensure the tips were completely free of contamination, all while validating the washing protocol to maintain the accuracy of the qPCR results.
Bryksin says the program's initial success was nothing short of remarkable. It not only allowed the testing laboratory to continue processing COVID-19 samples, but also provided an environmentally conscious alternative that substantially reduced the amount of plastic waste generated by the lab.
As a result, the Institute recognized the potential of the Tip Cycle program and provided funding for its further development and enhancement.
At the same time, Taghian was one of several students supporting the Covid-19 surveillance testing program.
“There was a dark corner in the lab and my curiosity sent me there to see what Adam was doing,” she recalls. Initially, she spent much of her time helping Fallah rack pipette tips to be placed in the machine.
Eventually, she teamed up with Fallah to take the lead on developing an operational process for the program.
“I learned a lot of things about optimization,” Taghian says. “I was having a lot of fun and there was a lot of innovation in it.”
Taghian worked with fellow biomedical engineering student and program manager of the Sanger Sequencing Initiative, Nicole Diaz, to hire students for the Tip Cycle program.
Other aspects of the program began to fall in place. Data management charts and a workflow management board helped to keep operations running optimally. The duo also hired an industrial design major to create branding and a website.
“We want this to be educational,” Taghian says. “No matter what your major you can gain industry experience while doing your research. You’re dealing with vendors and actual instruments in a business environment. At the same time, your major has a place to shine.”
Scaling Up for the Future
Currently, the Sanger Sequencing Initiative and labs run by Associate Professor Kirill Lobachev and Professor M.G. Finn in the College of Sciences utilize the Tip Cycling program. Fallah says he is in talks to bring on another lab and looks to partner with teaching labs in the School of Biological Sciences to educate more students about single-use plastics in laboratories.
Fallah also wants to devise a plan to wash pipette tip plates, as well as find other ways to reuse the plastic inserts and boxes the pipettes are delivered in. The hope is to get as close to zero-waste with the program.
“Very few research institutions have a core facility with in-house services and in-house researchers assisting labs across campus,” Taghian says. “An environment exists on our campus where students can get an opportunity to explore an industry field without going off campus
Fallah says researchers are often “creatures of habit” and may gawk at the idea of reusing pipettes over fears of cross-contamination. But he stands by the efficacy of tip cycling as a sustainable way to manage pipette use and alleviate supply chain issues.
“We’re in a prime position right now to be a pioneer and change the future of labs.”
To register a lab for the program, or be hired as a student work, visit the Tip Cycle program website.]]>
Occurring annually since in 2014, the Atlanta Science Festival is a "celebration of the world-class learning and STEM career opportunities in metro Atlanta, featuring 150 engaging events for curious kids and adults at venues all across the region." As a founding sponsor, Georgia Tech has been an intricate part of the Festival since its inception. Now in its tenth iteration, this year's festival will host events from March 10 – 24, culminating in the Exploration Expo — a large, interactive event in Piedmont Park — on March 25.
Read more to hear from some of the event organizers and presenters in the College of Sciences about what this year's festival will have to offer.]]>
Director of Communications
College of Sciences at Georgia Tech
Mycorrhizal symbiosis — a symbiotic relationship that can exist between fungi and plant roots — helps plants expand their root surface area, giving plants greater access to nutrients and water. Although the first and foremost role of mycorrhizal symbiosis is to facilitate plant nutrition, scientists have not been clear how mycorrhizal types mediate the nutrient acquisition and interactions of coexisting trees in forests.
To investigate this crucial relationship, Lingli Liu, a professor at the Institute of Botany of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IBCAS) led an international, collaborative team, which included School of Biological Sciencesprofessor Lin Jiang. The team studied nutrient acquisition strategies of arbuscular mycorrhizae (AM) and ectomycorrhizal (EcM) trees in the Biodiversity–Ecosystem Functioning (BEF) experiment in a subtropical forest in China, where trees of the two mycorrhizal types were initially evenly planted in mixtures of two, four, eight, or 16 tree species.
The researchers found that as the diversity of species increased, the net primary production (NPP) of EcM trees rapidly decreased, but the NPP of AM trees progressively increased, leading to the sheer dominance (>90%) of AM trees in the highest diversity treatment.
The team's analyses further revealed that differences in mycorrhizal nutrient-acquisition strategies, both nutrient acquisition from soil and nutrient resorption within the plant, contribute to the competitive edge of AM trees over EcM ones.
In addition, analysis of soil microbial communities showed that EcM-tree monocultures have a high abundance of symbiotic fungi, whereas AM-tree monocultures were dominated by saprotrophic and pathogenic fungi.
According to the researchers, as tree richness increased, shifts in microbial communities, particularly a decrease in the relative abundance of Agaricomycetes (mainly EcM fungi), corresponded with a decrease in the NPP of EcM subcommunities, but had a relatively small impact on the NPP of AM subcommunities.
These findings suggest that more efficient nutrient-acquisition strategies, rather than microbial-mediated negative plant-soil feedback, drive the dominance of AM trees in high-diversity ecosystems.
This study, based on the world’s largest forest BEF experiment, provides novel data and an alternative mechanism for explaining why and how AM trees usually dominate in high-diversity subtropical forests.
These findings also have practical implications for species selection in tropical and subtropical reforestation—suggesting it is preferable to plant mixed AM trees, as they have a more efficient nutrient-acquisition strategy than EcM trees.
This study was published as an online cover article in Sciences Advances on Jan. 19 and was funded by the Strategic Priority Research Program of CAS and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.]]>
Georgia Tech’s Molecular Evolution Core (MEC) has solved that problem for Tech researchers through its Sanger Sequencing Initiative (SSI), which offers the same service conveniently on campus.
“What makes a researcher or a lab want to switch over to us? We provide the same if not superior-quality data to them,” says Nicole Diaz, SSI’s founder and manager, and a fourth-year student in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “We use an optimized process that is less industrialized. And the service we offer is more personal, so if researchers have any issues, we are able to be a lot more flexible than the big companies.”
Launched in 2020, SSI has evolved into a full-fledged, student-run program to collect and process samples for research labs.
Researchers can submit samples in drop boxes at one of six locations in the BioQuad – Krone Engineered Biosystems Building, Molecular Sciences And Engineering, Ford Environmental Science & Technology Building, Marcus Nanotechnology Research Center, Cherry L. Emerson Building, and the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Biosciences at Georgia Tech.
Samples are charged at $5 per tube for less than 20 samples. That price is reduced to $4 per tube with more than 20 samples. After 96 samples are processed, the price goes down to $3.50 per tube.
And with just three billing cycles based on the academic calendar—fall, spring, and summer—labs can easily reach the lowest discounted price for all samples by the end of the semester regardless of how many samples are submitted at a time, Diaz says.
Turnaround time is within three days.
The added benefit of working directly with SSI is its commitment to providing a sustainable sampling process.
“The carbon footprint is lowered by keeping samples local instead of shipping them across the country to have them sequenced,” Diaz says. “So, researchers have access to dropboxes just outside the door of their lab in the buildings here in the BioQuad.”
Lab technicians are culled from federal work study, student assistants, student volunteers, or those seeking internship credit.
“It’s great to have a foundation and building blocks where I won’t be nervous when I encounter this down the road,” says, Aaron Kent, a first-year chemical engineering student.
SSI not only services labs at Georgia Tech, but it can also support labs for institutions in the Georgia Research Alliance, a consortium of public and private universities in Georgia including Emory University, Morehouse School of Medicine and the University of Georgia.
A Novel Idea During Covid-19
Sanger sequencing has been conducted in the Molecular Evolution Core (MEC) since 2018 under the direction of research technologist Naima Djeddar. Anton Bryskin, Regents researcher and MEC technical director, wanted to expand the mission of the MEC and tap into an undervalued resource on campus—undergraduate students.
“I knew that undergraduate students at Georgia Tech are very special,” Bryskin says. “It was never thought that undergraduate students might do a part of the work typically done by researchers or technicians.”
With support from M.G. Finn, professor and chair in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and chief advisor of the MEC, the Sanger Sequencing Initiative (SSI) was launched in 2020. The height of COVID-19 proved to be a valuable time for the program. Between sample processing sessions for Tech’s COVID-19 surveillance testing program, student workers were pulled to process sequencing samples for SSI.
“It was great because these students had already been trained on clinical practices,” Diaz says. “So, we didn't have to go back and train them on what it would be like in the lab because they already had the maximum training that was necessary.”
Diaz joined the Initiative in its inception as a federal work study student. Since then, she’s led the growth and development of SSI, from processing samples to marketing to hiring to building out a lab management system for operations alongside operations manager of the MEC TipCycling program and fourth-year biomedical engineering student Helya Taghian.
Not only have undergraduate students gained valuable lab experience, Diaz said, but SSI has become a multidisciplinary effort. The staff is composed of students from biomedical, industrial, and chemical and biomolecular engineering, as well as computer science and design majors.
“We have a stacked team,” she says.
Diaz says the team is working to incorporate more automation into the process, including tracking metrics for sample processing and developing a bioinformatics solution to optimize workflow and data quality. Third-party app integration to centralize the SSI workflow was tackled by the MEC web development team—comprised of computer science (CS) undergraduates led by fourth-year CS student Bakr Redwan—whom devised a custom Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). This LIMS system will serve as SSI’s hub for all operations including processing, billing, inventory, and communications.
SSI currently process samples for several labs across campus, including for Finn, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Professor Mark Styczynski, and newly elected National Academy of Engineering Professor Mark Prausnitz, and hopes to expand to more labs in the future.
“We want to be an example program for other universities to use, implement in different capacities, and offer the same opportunities to their undergraduate students,” Diaz says.
To learn more about the Sanger Sequencing Initiative, including how to submit samples or join the program, visit their website.]]>
We recently heard from three appointees — Karla Haack, Kelly Sepcic Pfeil, Christa Sobon — on wisdom for current students, their own educational and career paths, their plans as new board members, and about the legacy and impact of giving back at Georgia Tech.
Karla Haack, Ph.D. BIO 2009
Karla Haack is an associate medical writer at Merck with more than 10 years of previous experience in research and teaching in academia. Karla utilizes her background in physiology to assist in the composition of regulatory documents. Haack is the current chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee for the American Physiological Society.
Kelly Sepcic Pfeil, M.S. CHEM 1992, Ph.D. CHEM 2003
Kelly Sepcic Pfeil is president of ArrowInno, specializing in product design and innovation consulting. She served as vice president for Frito Lay North America and PepsiCo Research and Development from 2007-2015. Prior to joining Frito Lay in 2007, she spent 14 years with The Coca-Cola Company.
Christa Sobon, M.S. PSYCH 1996
A native of Atlanta, Christa also spent part of her childhood in the suburb of Chicago. Christa is a program manager in Manheim Digital for Cox Automotive, where she leads IT and process change implementations. In that role, she delivers large scale change programs that impact operations and drive measurable business results.
Why did you want to attend Georgia Tech?
Haack: I chose to attend Georgia Tech for its reputation as an Institute where curiosity and problem solving go hand in hand. I also knew that at Tech I would be trained in the specifics of my discipline, and I would learn how to be a scientist — how to think in a cross-disciplinary way and how to engage in scientific inquiry.
Sepcic Pfeil: While completing my undergraduate degree in chemistry at the University of South Carolina, I completed summer internships at Milliken Research Center. Milliken had a liaison with a Georgia Tech chemistry professor, Charlie Liotta. He encouraged me to apply for graduate school.
Sobon: Having attended Emory University for my undergraduate degree, I wanted to attend another world-class institution to round out and augment my education.
What was it about your major or discipline that attracted your interest?
Haack: I love the field of physiology because it is the study of the interdependent mechanisms a functioning organism uses to maintain homeostasis. I was able to pursue a cell physiology project within the School of Biological Sciences.
Sepcic Pfeil: Initially I wasn’t sure if I would go to medical school or work in science research. As I furthered my education, I was more attracted to chemistry than biology. I ended up majoring in chemistry and minoring in biology in my undergraduate degree. I was always interested in the ingredients inside of products and what made them work. As a child, I read the back panel of ingredients of shampoo bottles!
Sobon: I loved that the School of Psychology was in the College of Sciences. Additionally, I was drawn by the opportunities for hands-on research and professors who were well known and well regarded in their field.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your time at Georgia Tech?
Haack: To be successful, you have to work smart and hard.
Sepcic Pfeil: The most important lesson I learned while completing M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry at Georgia Tech was a realization that science is ever-changing and you have to continue to learn and grow in your field of science. I realized I needed advanced degrees to continue to understand and grow in the field of chemistry and further my career. My Ph.D. degree certainly helped me to advance throughout the executive roles with both PepsiCo and Frito Lay research and development departments.
Sobon: Georgia Tech pushed me as a student and stretched me well outside of my comfort zone. I really developed a confidence that I could do challenging things and solve hard problems, whatever they may be.
Haack: Innovation comes when individuals with diverse perspectives and experiences work as a collective. Bring your authentic self and experiences to your work.
Sobon: There is a lot more you can do outside of research. If research is your passion, then that’s wonderful. However, if you want to contribute in ways outside of that, there are a lot of opportunities!
What do you hope to accomplish as a member of the College’s Advisory Board?
Haack: I hope to continue to make CoS and Tech a place where any student can feel valued and succeed. I look forward to helping create additional professional development opportunities for students.
Sepcic Pfeil: I hope to contribute to the College of Sciences Advisory Board to help shape the future pipeline of students. Recently my husband and I endowed a faculty chair fund to the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The endowment is designed to increase the number of women faculty within the school. So few women obtain chemistry degrees and work in the field of chemistry. I hope to make a difference for our future female scientists.
Sobon: I’m truly honored to serve on the CoSAB. My hope is to stay even more well informed of the many great things happening within the CoS and figure out how I can help the College and the associated professionals achieve goals there. To me, giving back to Georgia Tech is a combination of leveraging my time and talent (and treasure too, of course) to be a visible and engaged ambassador for the CoS.
Karla Haack, Kelly Sepcic Pfeil, Christa Sobon are joined in their CoSAB appointments by fellow new board members Mercedes Dullum and Nsé Ufot — look out for more interviews with CoSAB members over the school year ahead.
Mercedes Dullum, B.S. BIO 1975
Mercedes Dullum is a retired cardiothoracic surgeon with over 30 years of clinical practice in numerous leadership roles in hospital settings, private practice, and integrated medical practices. She served as medical director of clinical outcomes at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C., and surgical director of the Heart Failure Center at Cleveland Clinic Florida in Weston.
Nsé Ufot, B.S. PSYCH 2002
Nsé Ufot is the chief executive officer of the New Georgia Project and its affiliate, New Georgia Project Action Fund. Prior to joining the New Georgia Project, Ufot worked as the assistant executive director for the Canadian Association of University Teachers, Canada’s largest faculty union. She also served as senior lobbyist and government relations officer for the American Association of University Professors.]]>
Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston]]>
“I was involved in the initial strategic planning efforts for Cultivate Well-being and I think it will have a significant impact on campus,” said Teresa Snow, senior academic professional in the School of Biological Sciences. “Implementation is being rolled out, particularly for students right now, with more information for faculty and staff coming soon. Currently, I co-chair the JED Academic Culture sub-committee and will continue to work with colleagues to improve the academic environment.”
Snow, who is also a 2022 Serve-Learn-Sustain (SLS) teaching fellow, credits three Applied Physiology classes, one of which is required for all students before they graduate, for teaching students important practical skills. APPH 1040, 1050, and 1060 teach students how to manage stress and work through anxiety in healthy ways, and come up with resilience strategies they can rely on — not just in higher education, but for the rest of their lives.
“(APPH 1040, Scientific Foundations of Health) is a course that is directly applicable to everyday life,” Snow said, “and we want them to take those concepts and apply them. We try to adapt the curriculum, so we have been focusing more on stress and coping skills, but we also talk about healthy lifestyle, cultural differences, diversity and sustainability.”
Snow is focused on the health and wellness of first-year students, in particular.
“It’s important to get the [first-years] coming in, and help them with the transition to college life. It’s an extreme change for them. That time of adjustment and making new friends is very important,” Snow said. “We’ve been in tune with our student needs and will continue to adapt to them. Certainly we’re having conversations about student stress. We have all of our classes addressing it. We have the newer APPH 1060 class (Flourishing: Strategies for Well-being and Resilience), which is really focused on mental health. As a team we are committed to meeting students' needs and helping them thrive at Georgia Tech.
“On campus we need to do as much as we can to help them make connections, and know the resources that are available to them, and we also need to be flexible,” she said. “In our conversations with students struggling, the focus should be not only on connecting them with resources, but also giving them the flexibility to recover and succeed academically.”
Over the past two school years, she added, “students have dealt with anxiety and social isolation — they’re still trying to adjust — some classes are still in hybrid mode, but I think this semester will be a little bit more of a return to normalcy. We have to watch the Covid rates and see if the guidelines change, but being present in the classroom is important.”
Volunteerism as effective wellness tool
Snow, who used to be the sole coordinator for the Georgia Tech wellness requirement, helped develop the APPH 1050 Science of Physical Activity and Health course. As it grew, she and others in the School of Biological Sciences realized they needed another director. Christie Stewart, senior academic professional, now fills that role. School of Biological Sciences senior lecturers Michele Rosbruck and Adam Decker, and adjunct Leslie Baradel also teach the APPH classes; both Baradel and Stewart are certified Thriving and Resilience Facilitators through the National Wellness Institute.
Snow saw the wellness advantages of having students get off campus and spend time in communities working with community partners. “We give them an opportunity to do basic volunteer work, have fun and socialize,” Snow said. “We also give them opportunities to choose higher-level projects. During Covid, student teams worked remotely designing infographics and other materials with the Fulton County Health Heart Coalition to get messages out about protecting yourself and wearing masks.”
The classes are also working with partners to help children in hospitals, as well as people in between living situations and those without permanent housing in Atlanta. “Some of those [organizations] have specific projects and want to get our students’ ideas and input. They need our help and our students can use these projects to make an impact in the community.”
For several years, students in Snow’s courses have volunteered with local agencies.
In 2019, a team from APPH 1040 volunteered their time to help clean and stock Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, a non-profit home improvement store offering donated appliances, furniture, and other household items. Volunteer and Georgia Tech student Kara Ann said in a YouTube video produced for ReStore that the topic of the health class project “was working with a community partner, creating something special to give back to the community partner.”
In other projects APPH 1040 students volunteer to work on educational and garden maintenance projects at the Friends School of Atlanta, Walter’s Woods (which recently received Audubon Certification in part due to student efforts) and East Decatur Greenway. Snow told the Friends School’s Friendly Light Magazine that Georgia Tech students can use the course “to help them focus outside of themselves and do something useful for their community.”
“These projects build leadership, communication, organizational skills and self-confidence while making social connections,” Snow said. “It's a great way to improve personal well-being and mental health while helping communities and getting real-world experience.”
Links to resources
AAPH 1040 Facebook page shows other partner projects that Teresa Snow’s class have staffed with volunteers.
Georgia Tech Student Engagement and Well-Being
Mental Well-Being for Students — This 45-minute online course helps learners practice self-care strategies, recognize when they or their peers are in distress, and take action to find additional support.
Student Life: Mental Health and Well-Being — A listing of campus resources
Georgia Tech Counseling Center — Counselors available 24/7. Business hours: 404-894-2575. After business hours: 404-894-2575 or 404-894-3498
Georgia Tech Campus Police — on campus, 404-894-2500; off campus, 9-1-1.
College of Sciences satellite counselor Tara Holdampf’s office is in the Molecular Science and Engineering Building (MoSE), Room 1120B. Consulting hours are Mondays, Tuesdays, & Fridays — 10:00 AM-11:00 AM; Wednesdays, & Thursdays — 2:00 PM-3:00 PM. Click here for more info on her satellite counseling services, or call the Georgia Tech Counseling Center at 404-894-2575.
Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston]]>
The Interdisciplinary Health and Environment Leadership Development (IHE-LeaD) Program at Georgia Tech recently welcomed its inaugural cohort of 11 graduate student fellows from the College of Sciences, the College of Engineering, and the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. The IHE-Lead program is supported by a grant from The Burroughs Wellcome Fund, a non-profit medical research organization supporting biomedical science and STEM education.
The goal of the IHE-LeaD Program
Human and environmental health are intertwined. Early career researchers are acutely aware of ways in which their research has a chance to make a difference, but doing so requires collaboration across disciplinary boundaries and with community stakeholders.
“The IHE-LeaD program is designed to decrease the barriers to the translation of science for the public good”, said Joshua Weitz, professor and Tom and Marie Patton Chair in the School of Biological Sciences and the IHE-LeaD Program’s co-principal investigator. “The leadership program is intended to be a critical first step towards building an integrative research and training environment at Georgia Tech that can address some of our most challenging problems, whether in the areas of health disparities, emerging infectious disease, air quality, climate change and beyond.”
Fellows were selected based on their interest for interdisciplinary exchange and their innovative ideas for collaborative, public facing actions that advance human and environmental health. Six faculty advisers will support the researchers with the goal of turning their scientific discoveries into applications that directly benefit communities.
“For me, the responsibility of the scientific enterprise is first and foremost to be of public service for the greater good,” said Gabi Steinbach, scientific project coordinator and data communications specialist in the Weitz Group in the School of Biological Sciences, and the IHE-LeaD Program’s principal investigator. “The fellowship program captures two aspects that directly address this goal. One is the topical focus on interconnected human and environmental health, and the other is the impact-driven nature of the program.”
What to expect in the IHE-LeaD Program
Between August 2022 and May 2023, fellows will receive training in leadership and translational development. Workshops range from team dynamics to community engagement and system thinking, led by local, national, and Georgia Tech experts. The program also features a monthly seminar series with speakers from across the Institute’s colleges. That series will be open “to allow colleagues, partners, and the public to engage with our growing community,” Steinbach said.
During the program, IHE-LeaD fellows will jointly plan and implement activities based on their shared goals related to human and environmental health, which may include collaborative research, outreach events, and the development of online platforms.
The Burroughs Wellcome Fund support will also enable a two-day symposium, planned for early summer 2023. Fellows will invite and engage with regional and national academic experts, trainees, community leaders, and policy makers in their field of interest. That will give them a chance to establish professional networks, develop skills for implementing science-informed actions, and be directly involved in shaping a collaborative, interdisciplinary community.
The inspiration for IHE-LeaD
Steinbach said it is becoming increasingly obvious that human prosperity cannot be addressed effectively without considering environmental aspects such as climate change and air quality. “To reach those goals, it is crucial to focus on the interconnectedness of human health and environmental systems.” The IHE-LeaD program is built around that focus, bringing together experts at Georgia Tech who work at the forefront of advancing and protecting health from different human and environmental aspects.
“While innovative scientific progress is a necessary condition for progress, it does not readily translate into societal impact,” she said. “Established academic training focuses on scientific practice, often separated by disciplines, but can too commonly feel isolated from real-world scenarios. This absence of connection can leave individual trainees and researchers feeling disempowered, and too often disappointed.”
Steinbach and the other IHE-LeaD Fellows believe “the scientific voice” is a crucial component in tackling real-world problems. “With our program, we aim to bridge that gap and provide students with the training and opportunity to connect their passion for science with their desire to contribute to effective impact.”
Steinbach said with her background in physical and biological sciences, it has always been her goal to bridge disciplinary boundaries and connect with social scientists and experts from other fields. “This enables me to see my disciplinary blind spot and to jointly work towards truly effective and sustainable innovations,” she said.
For Sonja Brankovic, Ph.D. candidate in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, it’s the translational aspects of the program that got her attention. “ I’m interested in going into industry. I think it’s just a natural fit to learn more about that — how what I study can be more impactful. So this is something I’m really interested in.”
Nidhi Desai, Ph.D. candidate in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences explained her interest. “As an air quality instrumentalist, I feel like we talk a lot about the science, but not about the human health effects as much. So I’m really interested in learning as much as I can from this program and thinking about that more.”
Becoming an IHE-LeaD Fellow proved to be a case of perfect timing for Stephanie Bilodeau, Ph.D. candidate in the School of Biological Sciences. “I’ve just started doing local research on freshwater ecosystems in Georgia. So for the first time, I’m doing research that actually has applications for the community around Atlanta. This opportunity is ideal to help me build my skills and learn to connect my research better to the Georgia Tech community and Atlanta.”
Steinbach, IHE-LeaD’s principal investigator, hopes the initiative becomes an annual program. “We hope that the first cohort fellows will become mentors for following cohorts, and that we can grow a sustainable interdisciplinary network which facilitates public-facing impact and helps fellows develop interdisciplinary and dynamic careers.”
Learn more about the Interdisciplinary Health and Environment Leadership Program (IHE-LeaD) at Georgia Tech.
By: Renay San Miguel
Interviews: Audra Davidson
Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston]]>
College of Sciences’ 2022-2023 Haley Fellows are Karim Lakhani, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences; Cody Mashburn, School of Psychology; Andrew McAvoy, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Joshua Pughe-Sanford, School of Physics; Roberta Shapiro, School of Mathematics, and Cassandra Shriver, School of Biological Sciences.
Haley scholars receive a one-time merit award of up to $4,000 thanks to the generosity of the late Marion Peacock Haley. Haley’s estate established the creation of merit-based graduate fellowships at Georgia Tech in honor of her late husband, Herbert P. Haley, ME 1933. It is an award which may be held in conjunction with other funding, assistantships, or fellowships, if applicable.
Meet the scholars
Karim Lakhani is a 5th-year Ph.D. student who is studying paleoceanography in ADVANCE Professor Jean Lynch-Stieglitz’s lab. The fellowship will allow Lakhani to spend more time on research, where he is currently “looking at the transition between the surface ocean and the deep ocean and how that was different, so the shells I look at are from organisms that floated at specific depths in the ocean in the past.”
Cody Mashburn’s research interest is the cognitive basis of individual differences in intelligence and reasoning. “Basically, why do we see variability in how well people are able to perform on intelligence tests, and how well they are able to problem solve,” he said. Mashburn will use the funds to add “more tools to my research arsenal” and to attend relevant workshops.
Andrew McAvoy is a fifth-year Ph.D. student who plans to use the Haley funds for registration and travel-related expenses so he can present his research at scientific conferences.
“My graduate research involves studying small molecule production in Burkholderia cepacia complex bacteria, one of the most feared pathogens infecting cystic fibrosis patients,” McAvoy said.
Joshua Pughe-Sanford’s fascination with dynamics — how things move, breaking down complex behavior into simpler parts — drives his physics research. “Dynamics can describe how elementary particles collide, how neurons fire in our brain, how traffic accrues, how galaxies collide,” he said. “The list goes on and on and, in essence, the work I do can be applied to all these different fields.”
Roberta Shapiro’s research centers on using topology — the study of geometric properties that stay the same, even when they are distorted — to answer questions in complex dynamics. Saying that “mathematics is all about collaboration,” the fourth-year graduate student plans on using the funds to attend conferences “and make connections with future collaborators. That means there's more math coming soon!”
Cassandra Shriver, who is starting her second year in the Quantitative Biosciences graduate program, studies comparative biomechanics and conservation science. “Specifically, I'm curious how various morphological differences and scaling constraints affect climbing kinematics, and how these strategies might change as you increase in size from something as small as a squirrel to as large as a bear.”]]>
Georgia Tech scientists, including a researcher from the School of Biological Sciences, have formed the core of an interdisciplinary, inter-organizational team which seeks to prevent disease outbreaks by integrating the study of human behavior with computational data-driven models.
Calling themselves BEHIVE (BEHavioral Interaction and Viral Evolution), the group recently received a $1 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant toward multidisciplinary team formation and novel outbreak prevention research.
“Our goal is to bring together all these terrific researchers from different disciplines to help bring a paradigm shift in the science of pandemic prediction and prevention,” said B. Aditya Prakash, associate professor with Georgia Tech’s School of Computational Science and Engineering (CSE).
“While epidemic forecasting is compared to weather forecasting, there is an important difference. Unlike weather, our actions and behavior can change the course of an epidemic.”
Prakash is the principal investigator of the $1 million NSF grant. Fellow BEHIVE members include:
Prakash emphasized BEHIVE’s primary goal to use its interdisciplinary organization to bridge research methodologies between hard and soft sciences.
He explained that human behavior was underutilized in epidemic science before Covid-19, largely due to data scarcity and underdeveloped computational technologies. Behavioral dynamics encountered during the pandemic, such as social distancing, mask wearing, and vaccine hesitancy, has provided new research and data that now can be considered in models and simulations.
Here, BEHIVE will develop high fidelity computational models by designing new artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques that bridge human behavior knowledge and traditional epidemiological theory and models.
“It is still an open question of how we can best incorporate human behavior knowledge into the study of pandemics. That is the challenge,” Prakash said. “Our main idea is to better integrate knowledge from psychology and the humanities into pandemic science using novel computational methods.”
BEHIVE originated when team members met through various workshops held in 2020 and 2021. Prakash was an invited organizer of the National Symposium on Predicting Emergence of Virulent Entities by Novel Technologies (PREVENT).
PREVENT reported that interdisciplinary collaboration was an obstacle in predicting and preventing pandemics. For example, some vocabularies often don’t mean the same thing across disciplines, so a consistent methodology to establish a common language must be developed.
BEHIVE is custom built to solve these challenges PREVENT revealed. Along with a wealth of knowledge learned through past epidemics, each BEHIVE researcher brings to the group experience working across interdisciplinary lines.
Among the Georgia Tech researchers alone, Keskinocak interfaced with policymakers and the public on measures to slow Covid-19's spread.
Prakash’s lab led several high-profile Covid-19 forecasting initiatives, including collaboration with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Weitz teamed with fellow Georgia Tech researchers in the College of Sciences, College of Computing, and the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering to create a predoctoral training program that integrates computational modeling and data analytics into bioscience.
Keskinocak, Prakash, and Weitz together are also faculty in the Institute for Data Engineering and Science (IDEaS), one of Georgia Tech’s ten interdisciplinary research institutes. IDEaS connects research centers and efforts in foundational areas such as machine learning, high-performance computing, and algorithms.
BEHIVE’s $1 million grant is funded through NSF’s