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The University of Alabama

UA in the News: Feb. 13, 2014

3D-printed molecule provides new perspective for cancer research
GizMag – Feb. 12
While two-dimensional modeling of double-stranded DNA molecules has been useful for the purpose of cancer research, the composition of the G-quadruplex, a four-stranded DNA sequence, has proven a different beast. A 3D printing lab at the University of Alabama has successfully produced a physical model of its molecular structure, improving understanding of its makeup and potentially, helping develop a treatment for pancreatic cancer. The project, a collaborative effort from US and London-based researchers, involved the gathering of X-ray crystallography data of the G-quadruplex molecule and translating it into a 3D printable model. “Preparing the G-qaudruplex DNA sequence for 3D printing was a challenge and certainly pushed the limits of what we thought was possible in the UA 3D Lab,” said Dr Vincent Scalfani, Science and Engineering Librarian at the University of Alabama. “The 3D printed G-quadruplex is stunning, you can see all of the symmetry, facets and angles within the molecule.” – Feb. 12

January storm brought increase in serious wrecks on rural roads
Tuscaloosa News – Feb. 12
Predictably, wrecks on Alabama roadways increased during the winter storm that surprised the state two weeks ago, though most of the severe accidents occurred on rural routes free of congestion where road speeds remained faster, according to University of Alabama researchers. “It makes sense when you think about it, but it was surprising the degree to which it happened,” said Rhonda Stricklin, associate director of analysis and outreach at the UA Center for Advanced Public Safety, in an email. Researchers at the center compared crash data reported by state and local law enforcement agencies from Jan. 25-31 with the same period in 2013. The researchers used a software analysis system developed by CAPS called Critical Analysis Reporting Environment that mines information from existing databases.

VIDEO: University of Alabama celebrates Darwin Day
Tuscaloosa News – Feb. 12
The University of Alabama celebrated the 205th birthday of famed British naturalist Charles Darwin on Wednesday with a full day of activities and exhibits. Watch the above video to see some of the celebration and what a few UA scientists had to say about the father of evolutionary sciences.

UA professor writes novel on obligations, conflicts with family
Crimson White – Feb. 13
The creation of something new doesn’t always start with having a definite end goal in mind, but instead choosing to begin the journey. More than 20 years ago, when Angela Benson, published author and associate professor of instructional technology at The University of Alabama, chose to change her flight destination for an extra $100, she began her writing career. “I was on a business trip in New Jersey at the time,” Benson said. “And, for some reason I was in a bookstore. I can’t remember the specifics of why I was in that bookstore, but I remember seeing Romantic Times magazine on the counter. And there was something about a readers ‘and writers’ conference in Savannah, Georgia. And I really don’t know what made me think, ‘I’d really like to go to there.’” After attending the conference, Benson began devoting her Saturday mornings to composing her first novel, “Bands of Gold,” published in 1994. Twenty years later, she is publishing her 13th novel, “Delilah’s Daughters.” Benson may not write every Saturday morning now, but she follows the same writing method: She first creates the characters, then builds the story around these characters and a general plot line, she said.

Artist undeterred after stray bullet leaves her paralyzed
San Angelo Standard Times (Texas) – Feb. 12
In the past couple of years, about 20 paintings by Mariam Pare have been reproduced and sold internationally. In February, she’ll be a featured artist in two shows. And, any day now, she expects to take a job that will pay her a comfortable salary to paint. Those are intoxicating developments for any artist, especially Pare. She paints with a brush in her mouth. That’s how she has created art since 1997, a year after a stray bullet struck her spinal cord while she was driving and she watched her hands drop from the steering wheel. In that instant, a promising young artist from Naperville, Ill., became a quadriplegic … Forging that path, as arduous as it was for Pare, is a “fascinating” property of the brain, said Dr. Daniel Potts, neurologist and associate professor at the University of Alabama. Founder of Cognitive Dynamics, an organization focused on expressive arts therapy for cognitive disorders, Potts noted that the brain’s capacity to generate art remains after a paralyzing injury. The issue becomes how to bring out that art. “When the end point of the normal motor pathway is taken away and the drive to produce art is still present,” Potts said, “the brain and motor system work to create a new mechanism for artistic production.”

Faculty showcase artwork
Crimson White – Feb. 13
Photographs, drawings and installations from all over the country fill the walls of the Sarah Moody Gallery. A class of graduate students sits on the floor clustered around one of the works as they discuss the exhibition with a professor. From now until March 7, the gallery will host a variety of artwork created by full-time professors at The University of Alabama. Every two years, faculty members submit recent work for the exhibition. The show gives students a chance to see what their instructors create. “We are practitioners as well as educators,” said Pete Schulte, a drawing professor at the University with a piece in the show.

Million Dollar Band to Perform in Mobile for Mardi Gras
WALA-Fox (Mobile) – Feb. 12
The University of Alabama’s marching band is coming to Mobile for Mardi Gras. This is video from last year’s BCS championship game pep rally. The Million Dollar Band will perform with the Knights of Revelry. That parade rolls downtown on Fat Tuesday which falls on March 4.

New UA professor teaches students history of science
Crimson White – Feb. 13
Wednesday morning at 9 a.m., Erik Peterson was on the third floor of ten Hoor, writing the words “Social Darwinism” and “Eugenics” on the white board. He turned to the class for discussion. “What do these words mean to you?” he asked. Peterson, a new history professor at The University of Alabama, was teaching his class on Race and Science. In one 50-minute period he brought Andrew Carnegie, birth control, Teddy Roosevelt, Manifest Destiny and Aryans together to discuss the history they all have in common. Peterson’s students said his classes are formatted to focus on learning, but he always challenges them in conversations … Peterson holds a doctorate from the University of Notre Dame in the history and philosophy of science. His background is in the sciences. He has worked in the fields of biology, archaeology and biological anthropology.

Theatre students gain auditioning experience at Tennessee workshop
Crimson White – Feb. 13
For students eager to pursue a career in performing arts, the University of Alabama theatre and dance department serves as a four-year layover in the flight toward ultimate destinations like New York and Los Angeles. This collegiate pit-stop supplies students with training and networking skills of a caliber that became apparent to seniors who attended the Unified Professional Theatre Auditions this past weekend in Memphis, Tenn … At UPTAs, students presented a 90-second package composed of a song and a monologue to representatives from over 80 different theatre companies. After this initial audition, students may receive callbacks that require them to present to individual companies later in the day.

Capstone sailing club teaches new members
Crimson White – Feb. 13
Though the University of Alabama Sailing Club has maintained unstable membership since the 1980s, its April 2011 reincarnation is going strong after more than two years. The club was founded and spearheaded by Randy Mecredy, current director of the Museum of Natural History. Mecredy has been sailing for decades as a member of the Tuscaloosa Sailing Club. “[The Tuscaloosa Sailing Club is] an older club, and by that I mean I’m the youngest member,” Mecredy said. For $10 a semester, members of the UA Sailing Club become members of the Tuscaloosa Sailing Club and can participate in any social events and outings held by either organization. “We generally do one or two boat washes as fundraisers, but sometimes we just take the daysailers out and say come along,” said Danelle Pecht, the social media chair and a junior majoring in biology. “The first time I went sailing by myself, I went out with one guy in a Colby 14. We got out to the middle of the lake, he handed me the rudder and said, ‘Sail away.’”

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.