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University Gazette

 

Tell us how you survived your childhood
Carolina First Campaign update
Panel discussion brings poverty issues to light
Employee Forum News: Moeser commends Griffin’s contributions
Faculty Council: Faculty Council, chancellor discuss tuition recommendations
BOG raises salaries for most UNC system chancellors
Faculty, students use international expertise to engage with students across North Carolina
University Center for Civil Rights receives Ford Foundation grant
FYI research: Fishing for answers leads Burmeister to dominant theory
UNC partners on largest diameter telescope 
What ITS About: ITS supports University's mission in more ways than meet the eye
UNC receives EPA funding for campus bioinformatics center
Campus police offer safety tips

Tell us how you survived your childhood  

For the past two Decembers, the Gazette has kicked off the holidays with memories submitted by faculty and staff.  We enjoyed reading them so much that we’re going to do it again this year — but with a twist.

As everyone knows, the holidays are a great time to reminisce and to be thankful, and this time around we want to know what stands out for you as something so reckless, so hapless or so tragic that it’s a wonder you survived.

For some of us it was the mercury we scavenged from a broken thermometer that became a favorite plaything; the high dives into a quarry during summer vacation; or perhaps even a childhood accident or illness.

Send us your favorite survival story, whether funny or poignant, and we’ll share selected ones in our Dec. 7 issue. Plus, you’ll be included in a drawing for dinner and a show.

As a special treat, Margaret Skinner, director of public relations at the Carolina Inn, has provided dinner for two at the inn. Emil Kang, executive director for the arts, donated two tic kets to the Feb. 24 Mark Morris Dance Group performance at Memorial Hall.

Everyone who submits a memory will be included in the drawing for the meals and tickets, and we’ll publish the winner’s name on Dec. 7, too.

Send your anecdotes of no more than 150 words to Gazette, CB# 6205, or e-mail gazette@unc.edu.

Entries must be received by Nov. 28.

The Gazette staff reserves the right to edit all entries for style and length.

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Carolina First Campaign update

Gift of the Month - October.  

Gift:$400,000.  

Donor:  Spray Foundation, Atlanta, Ga.  

Purpose: College of Arts and Sciences.      

Atlanta’s Spray Foundation gives $400,000 to the College of Arts and Sciences, supporting the Kenan Faculty Fund, the Spray-Randleigh Fellows and the departments of history, philosophy and classics. The Spray Foundation is a member of the Lux Libertas Society of donors that have given more than $1 million lifetime to the University. The foundation’s Carolina First Campaign commitments now total more than $2.7 million.   

Amount of campaign complete: 75 percent.

 Amount raised in October: $12.9 million.

 Campaign runs through: Dec. 31, 2007.

More information: carolinafirst.unc.edu.

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Panel discussion brings poverty issues to light

Jared Bernstein likened the way most Americans treat poverty to the way he once dealt with the mind-rattling sound of the subway trains that rambled past his apartment window in New York City.

The noise was loud, incessant and, at first, unbearable. But after a few weeks, he stopped hearing them — almost as if they weren’t there.

Until Hurricane Katrina, Bernstein observed, poor people in this country had become much like those trains: unseen, unheard and treated almost as if they were not there.

Bernstein was one of a host of speakers who participated in a panel discussion held Nov. 9 in Carroll Hall titled: “Katrina’s Lessons: Moving Forward in the Fight Against Poverty.”

Moderating the discussion was John Edwards, the former U.S. senator and vice presidential candidate who directs the School of Law’s Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.

The event was part of a wide-ranging discussion on the causes and cures to poverty that a group of scholars from around the country held on campus Nov. 9.

“A lot of Americans saw literally for the first time the level of poverty that exists in much of America,” Edwards said. “They saw an economic and racial segregation in New Orleans that we all know exists in many places in America. And the question I think for us, all of us, is: How do we sustain the nation’s attention? Is this window of opportunity, generated by this terrible tragedy, transient, or is it something that we can maintain so that we as a nation, as a national community, can actually do something about it?”

Bernstein and other panel members took their turns answering that question and others that Edwards had posed to them in preparation of the event.

Bernstein, the director of the Living Standards Program at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., said it has been fashionable since Katrina to blame the media for not reporting on poverty.

Bernstein quoted author David Shipler, who reported on poverty for the New York Times for more than 20 years, who said “there is no more telling indictment of reporters and editors than the surprise felt by most Americans in seeing the raw poverty of New Orleans residents after Hurricane Katrina.”

But Bernstein said such criticism is a bit harsh.

“I think newspaper reporters are responding to demand and I don’t think there is a lot of demand for that kind of information,” he said.

Ray Boshara, director of the Assets Building Program at the New America Foundation, said some of the invisibility of the poor is the result of increasing economic segregation.

“When people don’t live and work with people who are different than they are, they lose sympathy for people who are different than they are.”

One way to end poverty, Boshara said, is to start allowing poor people to build assets. Through the tax code, the federal government spends roughly $300 billion a year helping people to buy homes, send their children to college, start businesses and built nest eggs for retirement.

But many poor people do not pay taxes, or have bank accounts, Boshara said. For years, poor people were denied the ability to accumulate wealth because of asset limits imposed by public assistance programs.

Boshara said that there should not be asset development for one half of the country and asset denial for the other half.

“In America, we agree that equality of opportunity is very important, but equality of outcome is something that we really don’t buy into,” Boshara said. “With an asset strategy, we can ensure that inequality in outcomes in one generation does not become inequality of opportunity in the next.”

Boshara said he represents the fourth generation of his family in the United States and he was the first to graduate from college.

Edwards drew laughs from the crowd when he asked, “You are not the son of a mill worker too, are you?”

“A restaurant worker,” Boshara responded.

Anna Burger, who directs the Service Employees International Union’s political and field operations, said the labor movement helped establish middle-class security for working-class families. When she was growing up in the 1950s in Pennsylvania, one out of every three workers belonged to a union; today, that ratio has dropped to one in 12.

This decline, she said, may be putting the American Dream out of reach for future generations.

“The truth today in America is that the next generation is at risk of having a worse life than their parents, economically and socially,” Burger said.

Burger and Bernstein argued that a social movement needed to emerge to keep that from happening.

The lone conservative voice on the panel was Tim Kane, an economist from the Heritage Foundation, who suggested things are not as bad as they seem in this country, and that even for the poor they are getting better rather than worse.

“We have a lot of scholars here, and scholars can be very brilliant and impressive,” Kane said. “And they can be dangerous. I think the most important scholar of all, though, is experience.”

The experience of Katrina, he said, taught that government can fail and that a company like Wal-Mart, reviled as it may be by some, provided a case study in how to respond to a disaster.

Katrina also taught that “nature is a powerful and mighty thing, mightier than human civilization in many ways,” Kane said.

Before finger pointing, the force of nature has to understood as the major culprit.

“If I’d seen a city in Europe flooded the way we saw New Orleans flooded, I wouldn’t have thought, wow, Chirac really screwed this one up. I’d have thought this is a humanitarian crisis.”

Another point Kane made is that a policy of lower taxes that began with Ronald Reagan and continues today with George Bush has produced an unprecedented period of growth. The problem is that not everyone in America has shared in that prosperity.

When there are free markets, poverty goes down, Kane said, and the evidence is not only here but in countries such as China and India.

“If you want to fight and win a war on poverty, you’ve got to get the private sector at full steam and get the unemployment rate as low as possible because that is where people learn skills.”

William Julius Wilson, director of the Joblessness and Urban Poverty Research Program at the Malcolm Weiner Center for Social Policy at Harvard University, joined Bernstein and others in cautioning of the danger of blaming the victim for circumstances beyond their control.

Those circumstances can be short-term —such as not having a car to flee the floodwaters in New Orleans — or long-term, such as trying to compete in a global economy for low-skilled jobs that are rapidly disappearing.

Wilson said big-city riots in the 1960s burned the plight of the inner-city ghetto into the collective conscientiousness of America — a process that was repeated after rioting in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But in recent years, Wilson said, the public has been uninformed about the degree and scope of poverty.

Boshara said another contributing factor to the lack of attention about poverty is the nature of modern politics.

“No politician loses a race because they are not doing enough on poverty,” Boshara said. “We need to somehow make a moral problem a political problem is what it really comes down to, and John Edwards is making a big contribution in that area.”

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Moeser commends Griffin’s contributions

Newly elected delegates joined the Employee Forum meeting Nov. 2, and candidates for office provided insight into their ideas for the upcoming year as elections draw near.

Employee Forum recognizes Stone

Ernestine Stone recently earned the Employee Forum Peer Recognition Award for Congeniality.

Stone works as a social research assistant and office assistant in the School of Social Work.

She has been with the school for eight years and was with UNC Hospitals prior to that for a total of 21 years of state service

Stone's colleagues nominated her for the honor.

Forum Chair Tommy Griffin charged delegates, who recited an oath that the members “share the Employee Forum’s vision to seek to continually improve the quality of life at the University” for “its students, faculty and employees through mutual understanding, recognition of employee contributions and respect for the worth of the individual.”

Chancellor James Moeser was on hand, and former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the School of Law, joined the meeting later. Moeser welcomed the new delegates and thanked the members for their contributions to the University.

“As I listened to you take the oath, it struck me again how important it is for you to come together representing all the employees of the University,” Moeser said. “You are contributing your time and energy to make this a better place to come to work every day. I am convinced that the Employee Forum does that. I thank you for your willingness to be part of that effort to make this a better University.”

As a new forum chair will be elected in December, Moeser took the opportunity to thank Griffin for his four years of service to Carolina.

“He has represented the employees of this University with passion, with courage, with a friendly, positive attitude and has really made a difference,” the chancellor said. “I can tell you that Tommy Griffin knows every member of the Board of Trustees and they know him. He has really represented all of you exceptionally well.”

Moeser said he looks forward to working with the next leadership of the forum, since this is an important transition time.

He said this is also an important time of transition for the university system, as new UNC President Erskine Bowles will take office in January.  Bowles is a 1967 Carolina graduate and “a proud alumnus” Moeser said.

Bowles will be on campus Nov. 21 to meet with Moeser and vice chancellors,  the chancellor’s advisory committee, trustees, the new Engagement Task Force, and the executive committees of the forum and the Faculty Council.

“I hope that he takes away from his visit with you that employees here really do feel like a part of the community,” Moeser said. “We have issues to address, but it is a great opportunity for us to meet with him.”

Moeser also addressed benefits issues facing employees. The chancellor noted the increase in out-of-pocket costs in the state health plan.

“This is just yet another sign that the state benefits package is increasingly non-competitive with the private sector and indeed with our peer institutions across the country,” he said. “This is an issue that all of us need to focus on. I encourage you to discuss these issues with President-elect Bowles when he visits campus.”

Later, Edwards came forward to speak with delegates and field questions to follow up on an invitation from the forum. He discussed the current focus on poverty through the law school.

“The purpose of this is to focus on why people live in poverty in America and what we can do about it,” he said. “I myself have spent a huge amount of my time advocating the cause of people who work hard for a living and are still struggling.”

Edwards said the forum is already working on these issues.

“Your agenda is in so many ways the agenda that my life is about now,” he said. “I would be proud to help you. Everything that I learned today and read before indicates that what you are out there fighting for is the same thing I am out there fighting for. I am proud to be here with you.”

While fielding questions, Edwards shared his opinion about the right to organize, health care, affordable housing and the  national minimum wage. In parting, Edwards told the forum members to “keep on doing what you are doing.”

In other action, the forum passed a resolution to honor retired physics professor Joe Straley, who passed away recently after serving on the faculty from 1947 to 1980. The resolution noted that Straley “throughout his 90 years, was a tireless advocate for peace, security, freedom and justice for all people.”

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Faculty Council, chancellor discuss tuition recommendations

Faculty pay was identified as the top priority to address by the Chancellor’s Tuition Task Force, followed closely by offering more competitive stipends for graduate teaching assistants, Chancellor James Moeser told the Faculty Council on Nov. 11.

Moeser said the tuition task force and the student fee task force did not reach a consensus on a recommendation, but forwarded him an array of different options.

Their respective reports will be presented to the University Board of Trustees later this month for review and discussion. Moeser said he would present a recommendation to the trustees for consideration at their January meeting.

Moeser told Faculty Council that revenues generated by campus-based tuition increases have enabled the University to offer pay increases to faculty based on merit, market and equity considerations.

Since they were authorized in 2000-01, he said, campus-based tuition revenues have generated more than $19 million for faculty pay increases based on that criteria, he said.

Moeser said the ability to offer these raises has helped the University to keep top faculty members who have received offers from other universities.

During the 2004-05 academic year, for instance, the University retained 21 of the 32 faculty members who received outside offers.During the 2003-04 academic year, the University kept 26 of 43 faculty members who received outside offers.

Moeser said the goal of the University is to be proactive by paying faculty members what they are worth before they receive an outside offer. Moeser said the UNC Board of Governors (BOG) on Nov. 11 approved guidelines for campus-based tuition and fee increases for the 2006-07 academic year.

At Carolina and N.C. State University, the system’s two Level 1 research universities, the BOG limit for increases for resident undergraduates is $451.

Moeser said he would not forward any recommendation that exceeded the $451. Since January 2004, University trustees have followed a dual set of guidelines for resident and non-resident undergraduates.

The trustees’ policy calls for resident undergraduate tuition to remain in the bottom quartile of the University’s national peers. Moeser said resident undergraduate tuition could be increased by $1,300 next year and still stay in the bottom quartile.

Conversely, the trustees’ policy calls on non-resident undergraduate tuition to be value-driven and market-driven, with the goal of meeting but not exceeding the 75th percentile of national peers.  

Tenure proposal
In another matter, Faculty Council members had a lengthy discussion about a proposal presented by the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee to amend tenure regulations.

The amendment proposal deals with the question of when the clock should start for the 12-month required notice of non-reappointment. Currently, the 12-month notice of non-reappointment begins from the date the negative decision is made. Under the proposed change, the clock for the 12-month notice would not start ticking until the date of any on-campus review or appeal that results in a final decision unfavorable to the faculty member.

History Professor Melissa Bullard, the member of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee who presented the proposal, said the policy change attempts to be more humane and fair to tenure-track professors during a period of high stress in their careers.

But some members of Faculty Council questioned the unintended consequences of the policy, from synchronizing the extended notice period to the academic calendar to hiring faculty members and the logistical problem of finding faculty members able to serve as reviewers for appeals.

The proposal was in response to a situation faced by one faculty member over the past five years. The Faculty Hearings Committee, in its annual report completed in October, said the request for an interpretation of what is a timely notice of a decision not to reappoint was precipitated by a case that involved denial of tenure and promotion, an appeals hearing, a return of the decision to the department, and a new decision to tenure and promote that was then denied at the next level.

The hearings committee forwarded the request for an interpretation to the Committee on University Government, which subsequently sent the request to the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee, which brought the matter to the Faculty Council for discussion.

Some faculty questioned the worth of amending tenure regulations to address a situation that happens so rarely. One issue that was explored was whether the current policy and proposed amendment comply with guidelines of the American Association of University Professors. Associate Provost Stephen Allred said the policy, in current form or with the proposed amendment, meets AAUP guidelines.

Faculty Chair Judith Wegner referred the proposal back to Chancellor’s advisory Committee.

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BOG raises salaries for most UNC system chancellors

The UNC Board of Governors (BOG) has approved salary increases for 13 of the 16 chancellors in the UNC system, including University Chancellor James Moeser, as part of an effort funded by the General Assembly to make chancellor salaries more competitive nationally.

Moeser and N.C. State University Chancellor James Oblinger, who head the system’s major research campuses, will each receive a $35,100 increase that will take their annual salaries to $309,897.

The system wide salary increases, based on merit and length of service, were approved Nov. 11 at Molly Corbett Broad’s last meeting as system president.

They are being funded by a special $334,147 appropriation by the Legislature in this year’s state budget that was earmarked for UNC system chancellor raises.

The appropriation was not a response to any specific request from the Office of the President.

However, BOG members have expressed concerns about the competitiveness of chancellor salaries that have been lagging behind those of peers nationally for several years.

In August, the board adjusted its salary ranges for all senior academic and administrative officers, bumping the approved salary range for chancellors at Carolina and N.C. State to a minimum of $335,962 and a maximum of $537,559.

Even with the new 12.77 percent pay increase — the same as Oblinger’s — Moeser’s salary falls well below the Office of the President’s range.

Raises for other UNC system chancellors ranged from 8 percent at Fayetteville State to 15 percent at N.C. A&T and N.C. Central. Two newly hired chancellors did not receive increases, and the N.C. School of the Arts has an interim chancellor.

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Faculty, students use international expertise to engage with students across North Carolina

Carolina faculty members are going beyond the University community to share their expertise in classrooms across North Carolina. Several faculty members are participating in the K-12 International Outreach Program, which is offered through the University Center for International Studies (UCIS).


As part of a community engagement effort,  Yuki Aratake gives a presentation on the Japanese language at Carrboro Elementary School.

The program is comprised of students, faculty, staff and community members with international experience who give presentations on different international themes. The program seeks to enrich international education in primary and secondary level schools all over the state. Some teachers may lack the resources to provide an adequate overview of other countries, cultures and global issues.

The program is mainly comprised of UNC students who have studied or lived abroad and international or exchange students. The faculty who participate, offer the students the unique experience of learning from experts that have dedicated their careers to their specific field.

The presentations are not limited to traditional international topics, and range from mathematics and science to health and fitness. Jack Snoeyink, a professor of computer science, adds a unique spin to his presentation by using origami, the ancient art of Japanese paper folding, to introduce mathematical and scientific concepts. With origami, Snoeyink teaches geometric concepts of symmetry, polygons and polyhedra and scientific concepts of atoms, bonds and protein folding.

Faculty or other individuals interested in participating in the UCIS K-12 International Outreach Program should contact program coordinator Tara Muller at 843-6860 or tara_muller@unc.edu for more information.

Snoeyink, who also teaches a first year seminar titled “Folding: from paper to proteins,” said that origami is simply a more engaging alternative to two-dimensional models that are typically used in classrooms. Origami allows the students to create the right geometry for how bonds attach and therefore provides a hands-on activity for students.

“Origami is a great way to get people to think about math in a different way,” Snoeyink said. “It is just naturally self-motivating.”

Presentations like this one give students a break from the routine curriculum and give them a sense of accomplishment after creating something with the origami.

Snoeyink encouraged faculty amd students to get involved with the unique program. He plans to ask first-year seminar students to begin presenting through the program.

“How inspiring is service when people take what they learn and teach other people about it?” he asked.

Yuki Aratake, a lecturer in the Asian Studies department who teaches Japanese language, is currently active with the program. Her presentations focus on Japan, but also aim to clarify confusion about different Asian cultures. She touches upon the various aspects of Japanese culture including origami, customs and practices of Japanese children, costumes and language. She also stresses the similarities and differences among the various Asian languages.

Aratake reaches out to young students who may be interested in learning the Japanese language. She said that many of students said the reason they chose to pursue an education in Japanese is because they were exposed to it in primary or secondary school by a guest presenter or speaker.

Aratake is also the faculty adviser to the Japanese Club on campus. She teaches club members how to give presentations on Japanese culture and encourages them to get involved with the program. She believes students learn most when they teach to others what was taught to them and encourages them to do some of their own research.

Flora Holt, assistant professor of anthropology, began presenting across the state when she was a graduate student at the University. She shares unique expertise on the ecological and cultural diversity of Ecuador’s Amazon. She focuses a presentation on the indigenous Huaorani culture and emphasizes their relationship with the changing rainforest environment.

Holt’s goal in her presentation is to evoke a sense of appreciation for people from such a different culture. She also wants to inform these younger students of their connection with Ecuador and how behaviors here may affect what is happening in the Amazon.

“When these students think of the rainforest they tend to not make the connection with the indigenous people that have lived there for millennia and the threats that they face,” Holt said.

She seeks to eliminate the stereotypical notions that people often have of the Amazon and to shed light upon the fact that there are people who live in that environment.

In her interactive presentation, Holt uses images of her work in the Amazon, clips of the National Geographic channel and other hands-on props. A favorite of students is when she demonstrates how a blowgun is used by placing balloons all over the room and using the gun to shoot them down. The goal is to inform students that the Huaorani are in fact “ingenious and not a primitive people.”

“There is a critical need for programs like these,” Holt said, emphasizing Carolina’s public mission to serve the larger community of the state of North Carolina, “And there is a wealth of international expertise here at the University and a potential to really enrich the K-12 curriculum.”  

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University Center for Civil Rights receives Ford Foundation grant

The University Center for Civil Rights has received a grant that will allow expansion of its outreach to communities across the Southeast and increase opportunities for law students to learn the skill of civil rights advocacy.

The Ford Foundation, an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization that focuses on issues of democracy and justice, recently awarded the $300,000 grant.

“What’s so encouraging about this grant is that it’s a general support grant, so we can use it to support all of our programs, not just one of them,” said Anita Earls, the center’s director of advocacy.

The center, created in 2001 and a component of the School of Law, conducts research and convenes students, faculty, attorneys and policy advocates around issues of civil rights and social justice, especially in the South.

The center is committed to advancing civil rights, specifically in education, economic justice, housing and community development and voting rights.

The center’s outreach has included Charlotte, Clayton, Thomasville and Moore County, among others. In Charlotte, the center has worked with the Harvard Civil Rights Project to raise awareness of and create concrete plans to address the resegregation of many Southern schools.

Jack Boger, the center’s deputy director, said he viewed this funding as a second-generation grant for the center. The first-generation grants, including one from the Ford Foundation, were used to establish the center and its programs.

The second wave of grants will be used to expand the center’s programs and outreach.

“It will allow us to take on some new projects that we haven’t yet identified, but for which we now have the capacity,” he said.

Boger said support from center director and leading civil rights attorney Julius Chambers and the University have been essential in creating the center, pursuing grants and having a prominent presence in minority and low-income areas statewide and throughout the Southeast.

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Fishing for answers leads Burmeister
to dominant theory

This is a fish story. But it’s not about the one that got away — it’s about the ones that stayed behind. When Sabrina Burmeister, now a research assistant professor at Carolina, and her colleagues at Stanford University took dominant male African cichlid fish out of their tank, the remaining subordinate males became dominant within minutes.


Two dominant cichlid males dispute a territorial boundary as a way to demonstrate authority.

Previous experiments have shown that, given the chance, a subordinate cichlid male will eventually become dominant. For example, when researchers take a subordinate male out of his tank and put him in a new tank, the subordinate’s colors will, in time, change from drab to bright. He’ll start sporting a new black stripe called an eye bar, and he’ll generally start behaving like he owns the tank and all the females in it. But those changes have tended to happen over the course of a few days.

So Burmeister decided to see what would happen if she more or less instantly removed the dominant male from the tank. She did it at night, in complete darkness, when the cichlids can’t see well and aren’t very active.

Burmeister wore infrared night-vision goggles and took the dominant male out one hour before turning the room lights back on.

“We used this nighttime, kidnap-the-bully approach as a gentle way of not disturbing other fish in the tank,” Burmeister said.

When the lights came on, it didn’t take long for the subordinate male to realize that the top fish was gone.

Within minutes, the subordinate’s colors started to change. He developed an eye bar and started bullying the rest of the fish.

“Once they start changing, there’s no question that they’ll become dominant within two to 10 minutes,” Burmeister said. “It’s like they decide to go for it. They know their position in the hierarchy, and they make a decision to change.”

Burmeister and colleagues then examined the brain cells of the formerly-subordinate cichlids.

They were looking for a gene called egr-1, which helps turn other genes on and off. Their theory was that the egr-1 in the brains of newly dominant males would signal hormone-producing cells to start growing.

The hormone-producing cells would then quickly help make the subordinate male dominant. Compared to both dominant males and subordinate males, newly dominant males had twice as much egr-1 in their brains.

Study co-author Russell Fernald, of Stanford University, said this research provides the first direct evidence that changes in social status can trigger cellular and molecular changes in the brain.

“I think there could be parallels in human social status change,” he said. “If you’re in a situation that’s socially awkward, it may influence how well you can speak, or your sense of yourself may be altered. Those reactions have to have some kind of cellular underpinnings.”

Burmeister said these fish are always on the make, so to speak. “They must constantly be ready, because they make the shift in no time,” she noted. “They keep track of who’s who and who’s the biggest so they can take the opportunity to reproduce.”

The study appeared in the November issue of PLoS Biology. The study’s third co-author is Erich Jarvis of Duke University. The National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation funded this research.

Provided by the Division of Research and Economic Development
Editor: Neil Caudle
Writer: Jason Smith

 

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UNC partners on largest diameter telescope

The Southern African Large Telescope, or SALT, will be able to record distant stars, galaxies and quasars a billion times too faint to be seen with the unaided eye — as faint as a candle flame at the distance of the moon.


Among the first photos taken with SALT, the Lagoon Nebula’s central region shows great detail.

SALT began operating Sept. 1, and its Nov. 10 dedication culminated a five-year construction project.

University officials attended the instrument’s dedication in Sutherland, a small town in the Northern Cape province of South Africa.

South African President Thabo Mbeki presided over the ceremony. Robert Shelton, executive vice chancellor and provost, Bernadette Gray-Little, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Chris Clemens, physics and astronomy professor, represented UNC at the ceremony.

“Our partnerships with SALT in South Africa, as well as with other major telescopes in Chile, give UNC faculty, graduate students and undergraduates better access to the skies over the Southern Hemisphere than any other academic institution in the United States,” said Bruce Carney, senior associate dean for the sciences and Samuel Baron professor of astronomy.

“With our remote observing center here on campus, our undergraduate and graduate students, as well as the faculty, will be able to carry out their work without an excessive travel burden.”

The construction and operation of SALT was made possible by the participation of 11 partners from South Africa, Poland, the United States, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. UNC contributed about
$1 million to the project, through a combination of public and private funds. The project cost around $32 million.

SALT will be able to gather more light than any other Southern Hemisphere telescope, with a hexagonal mirror array 11 meters wide. The telescope released its first color images on Sept. 1, using its full array of mirrors and a new imaging camera named SALTICAM, marking the achievement of “first light.”

The telescope will allow astronomers to record light that was emitted 13.5 billion years ago and that has taken that length of time to reach earth.

SALT also will enable scientists to explore not only the earliest galaxies and quasars, but the scale and age of the universe, the life and death of stars in nearby galaxies and planetary systems around other suns.

SALT rounds off and complements a three-telescope series. The Southern Observatory for Astrophysical Research, or SOAR, telescope in Cerro Pachon, Chile, began operations in late 2004. UNC plays a larger role as one of four partners in the $32-million SOAR project.

In September, UNC astronomer Dan Reichart and undergraduate student Josh Haislip used SOAR to document the distance of an explosion scientists recently determined to be the farthest ever detected: a gamma-ray burst from the edge of the visible universe.

In addition, UNC received two National Science Foundation grants totaling $912,000 in 2004 to build the six Panchromatic Robotic Optical Monitoring and Polarimetry Telescopes, or PROMPT, at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, also in the Chilean Andes. PROMPT has been in a construction phase but should begin regular science operations in the next few months. UNC is the lead partner on PROMPT, with multiple research collaborators.

SALT partners include the National Research Foundation of South Africa, Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Board, Rutgers University, the Georg-August University of Göttingen in Germany, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, Dartmouth College, Carnegie Mellon University and the United Kingdom SALT Consortium.

For information on SALT and to see images from first light, visit www.salt.ac.za.

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ITS supports University's mission in more ways
than meet the eye

What do you think of when you hear the term ITS?

If you realize that it’s the acronym for Information Technology Services, you might think first of computers. Of laptops and desktops, of miles of cables, of people speaking what sounds like English but making little sense.

And you’d be right. But ITS also stands for basic support to the University’s teaching mission — not as an acronym, but as what we do every day. Here are some examples.  

Data backup 101
Faced with a problem in common, ITS-User Support and Engagement and the academic departments of English and Communications developed a short speech on data backup.

“We have an informal top-10 list of problems that get people down here [to the ITS Response Center],” said Bruce Egan, associate director of the center, “and data backup is right up there on that list. We came up with a five-minute presentation on the dos and don’ts of data backup. We targeted the English 11 and 12 classes because everyone has to take them. And the departments were intrigued because they were tired of hearing that the computer ate the papers.”

Because it’s easy to take some things for granted, here’s the list presented to English 11 and 12 students:

To keep your computer happy (and keep your sanity):

Back up data and documents;

Keep anti-virus software up-to-date;

Don’t open attachments or click on links from unknown e-mail senders;

Run Spybot/Adaware once a week;

Don’t share illegal music or video;

Limit “free” software downloads; and

Take care of your computer.  

Exam scanning
In a small office on the top floor of Hanes Hall, Jeff Williams oversees exam scanning, a service that’s key to evaluating students, courses and instructors.

To have Jeff scan a test given to a section of a class, a teaching assistant (TA) will submit an answer key — a properly marked Scantron sheet — along with the answer sheets turned in by the students in the group. ITS computers compare the answer key to each test paper and grade the individuals.

Computers also “grade” the test itself; that is, Jeff provides the TA with an analysis of the results. If everyone in the class missed question 10, for example, the TA can investigate whether the question was worded misleadingly.

Jeff can either return the tests to the TA or post the results to Student Central for students to retrieve with a password. In a typical week, Jeff handles 30 exams, or about 3,700 scans. During finals, he’ll see nearly 150 exams, or 12,500 scans.

He also processes the course evaluations at the end of each term — fall and spring semesters and two summer sessions.

Now that ITS Franklin (see page 1) is open for business, a backup scanner will be based there, but the main scanning office will stay on central campus.  

Other services
ITS also supports the course-management system Blackboard; selects, orders and distributes computers through the Carolina Computing Initiative (CCI); designs and supports technology-enabled classrooms; supplies computer labs with equipment and staff; and assists with video conferencing, audio-video production, streaming media and multimedia support.

Chances are, employees involved with an academic department interact with some facet of ITS every day classes are in session. And of course through the LearnIT column, which alternates with this one, employees are familiar with IT classes that they can take either with an instructor or online. Those opportunities are offered year round.

ITS is proud to support Carolina in teaching, research and service to the people of the state of North Carolina.  

Have questions about technology or Information Technology Services?

Send your question to Loretta Bohn, communications editor, at ljbohn@email.unc.edu, or Elizabeth Evans, manager for training and education, at LearnIT@unc.edu.

You can always visit the ITS web site (its.unc.edu), the Help site (help.unc.edu) or the Help Desk at 962-HELP if you have a pressing need.

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UNC receives EPA funding for campus bioinformatics center

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently awarded $4.5 million to the University to establish a cutting-edge environmental bioinformatics research center.

The Carolina Environmental Bioinformatics Research Center on campus brings together many researchers and disciplines, combining expertise in biostatistics, computational biology, chemistry and computer science to advance the field of computational toxicology.

The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey received the other grant, for a total of $9 million to be contributed by the agency over the next five years.

The centers represent a major component of the EPA’s computational toxicology program that is using computer models to study the relationship between environmental contaminants and their potential adverse effects.

The university-based research centers will augment the EPA’s research at its National Center for Computational Toxicology (NCCT), established in 2004 in Research Triangle Park.

Bioinformatics is the use of computers in biological research to analyze or predict molecular composition and evaluate changes to genes and proteins in an organism. The research conducted by the university centers will focus  on how chemicals can adversely affect health and the environment and provide predictive models to screen and test chemicals, as well as human health and ecological risk assessments.

The centers are funded through the EPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program. To learn more, visit www.epa.gov/ncer/2005bioinformatics.

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Campus police offer safety tips

Following a recent assault and robbery on Pittsboro Street at the western edge of campus, public safety officials urged the University community to use caution and follow the following safety tips:

Don’t walk alone at night. Use the buddy system. Walk in well-lit areas of campus.

Report suspicious activity by calling 911 or by using emergency call boxes located across campus.

Use UNC’s Point-to-Point Express service, free to students, operating between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. daily. Access UNC’s free Point-to-Point demand service by calling 962-7867 (962-P-TO-P) and providing your UNC personal identification number. The service is available to UNC students, faculty and staff at locations not served by the P2P Express Route or after normal P2P Express service hours.

Use Chapel Hill Transit, free to all passengers. Web site: www.chtransit.org.

Use the free Safe Ride Program, serving parts of campus, Chapel Hill and Carrboro from 11:15 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Web site: www.unc.edu/saferide.


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