UTB highlights research during annual event - Brownsville Herald: Valley

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Posted: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 4:54 pm, Fri Feb 8, 2013.

Research usually hidden behind lab walls is out in the open this week at the 14th annual Research Symposium at the University of Texas at Brownsville.

UTB continues to end its partnership with Texas Southmost College, and research is a key component distinguishing it from the mission of the community college. UTB administrators also describe the impact of research as going much further, helping to retain students and boost their performance as well as becoming a potential economic engine for the city.

Today, the “Renewable Energy and Nano-Science” research event will be held from 8:30 a.m. to noon in Salon Cassia of the Education and Business Complex, according to a press release. Faculty from the engineering, chemistry, environmental science and physics and astronomy departments will present their work. The College of Science, Mathematics and Technology will host the event.

There are no public events on Thursday, but on Friday the university will host the “Mexican and Border Economic and Business Issues” symposium from 1 to 4:30 p.m. in Room 1.224 of the Education and Business Complex. The keynote speaker will be Andre Mollick, a professor of economics at the University of Texas–Pan American in Edinburg, the release said. Mollick’s talk is titled “Productivity Effects on the Wage Premium of Mexican Maquiladoras.”

On Tuesday, Bernard Arulanandam, of the University of Texas at San Antonio, was the keynote speaker. He is the associate dean of research for scientific innovation and a professor of microbiology and immunology.

Before an audience of students and faculty surrounded by research poster presentations, Arulanandam spoke about finding a vaccination against chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease.

“Chlamydia in a community is often a silent infection,” he said.

It may enhance the transmission of HIV and is linked to persistence of HPV, he said.

The poster presentations on Tuesday spanned various areas of research from attitudes toward gun control, work about epilepsy, cholera and Alzheimer’s disease to physical fitness and herbal remedies used to treat diabetes and obesity.

Arulanandam told the audience chlamydia is present worldwide, with 4 to 5 million cases in North America. He said in countries such as Africa and Asia cases of the disease may eventually lead to blindness.

“There are many flavors of chlamydia in the population,” Arulanandam said.

Allan Oak, an English lecturer, attended the lecture and luncheon. He said UTB has done a good job of placing undergraduates in labs.

“I think research can be very good later on,” he said, noting he teaches mostly freshmen. “That’s what inspires students. Real work inspires more than an exercise.”

Oak said this is only his second semester on campus, but his assumption is research will help attract higher quality science, technology, engineering and math students. He said his focus is helping first year students think like college students, instead of high schoolers.

“It’s a big intellectual jump for them,” he said.

Late last year UTB opened its brand new, state-of-the-art biomedical research building which was officially dedicated in January with University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa as a guest.

University President Juliet V. Garcia and UTB Vice President for Research Luis Colom have hosted at least two meetings with area media in an effort to highlight the impact research might have on the region and students.

Colom has said research is a pivotal connection to education for students, career training, technology development, commercialization and improving community life.

Mario Perez, an UTB-TSC kinesiology major in his junior year, said he’s had classes in the new research building, finding the space and its technology impressive. He came to the event on Tuesday to support a friend, he said.

“It’s nice,” Perez said of the building. “I like it. ... It can make people interested in new things. I think now we need to take advantage of the labs, and all we have, because they are expensive.”

On Monday, the College of Nursing hosted speakers for the talk “Genes, Genetics and Genomics: Evidence Based Practices” at The Arts Center as part of the UTB-TSC Research Symposium.

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