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UB Today

A publication of the University at Buffalo Alumni Association

Spring 2011




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Snow Mounds Snow Mounds Sergio López-Piñeiro, assistant professor of architecture, partnered with the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy to plow the snow in the parking lot of Buffalo’s Front Park into 15 giant mounds. “This project explores how to plow the snow in ways that result in interesting landscapes,” says López-Piñeiro. Front Park is part of the system of parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. To read the full article click here. Photo by Sergio López–Piñeiro

Breaking Research

Walking to school may curb risk of heart disease

Walking to school

A simple morning walk to school could reduce stress reactivity in children during the school day, curbing increases in heart rate and blood pressure that can lead to cardiovascular disease later in life, according to a UB study.

UB researchers reported in the August 2010 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise that children who took a simulated walk to school later experienced smaller elevations in systolic blood pressure, heart rate and perceived stress while taking a short exam than children who had gotten a simulated ride to school.

Cardiovascular reactivity—including changes in heart rate and blood pressure due to stress—is associated with the beginnings of cardiovascular disease in children and atherosclerosis—the dangerous build-up of cholesterol, calcium, fat and other substances in artery walls—in adults.

“The cardiovascular disease process begins in childhood, so if we can find some way of stopping or slowing that process, that would provide an important health benefit,” says James Roemmich, UB associate professor of pediatrics and exercise and nutrition science and senior investigator on the study, which he completed with graduate students Maya Lambiase and Heather Barry. “We know that physical activity has a protective effect on the development of cardiovascular disease, and one way it may be doing so is by reducing stress reactivity.”

Because it’s not known how long the protective effect of a bout of exercise lasts, parents and educators should promote active play time throughout the day, Roemmich says.

To read the full article click here.

Examining side effects of statins

Examining statins Vladutiu

A UB geneticist’s research on the side effects of statins suggests that a small percentage of individuals who take the cholesterol-lowering drugs have a genetic profile that puts them at risk for experiencing cognitive side effects, such as amnesia, fuzzy thinking and learning difficulties. Moreover, these symptoms can be misdiagnosed as dementia.

Georgirene D. Vladutiu, professor of pediatrics, neurology, and pathology and anatomical sciences, describes her findings in an article, “It’s Not Dementia, It’s Your Heart Medication,” published in the September/October 2010 issue of Scientific American Mind.

In discussing the controversy surrounding this hypothesis, the article explains that Vladutiu and her group published a study in 2006 that suggests that a small percentage of individuals who take statins may have a genetic defect related to cellular energy production that puts them at risk for developing life-threatening muscle disease.

The article explains that both brain and muscle cells are high energy users whose reaction times and functions are dependent upon cholesterol.

Vladutiu heads a research group that has received three grants from the National Institutes of Health totaling $2.5 million to explore ways to identify whether a person taking statins to treat high cholesterol may develop life-threatening muscle disease and to investigate the genetics behind these myopathies.

Read the full story here.

How rare is the fingerprint?


A UB professor—who in 2001 provided the first scientific evidence that fingerprints truly are unique—has developed a way to computationally determine the rarity of a particular fingerprint and, thus, how likely it is to belong to a particular crime suspect. The UB research represents the first attempt to determine the rarity of a fingerprint using computational tools.

By combining machine learning with the ability to automate the extraction of specific patterns or features in a fingerprint and then compare it with large databases of random fingerprints, Sargur N. Srihari, co-author and SUNY Distinguished Professor in the UB Department of Computer Science and Engineering, and co-researchers were able to come up with a probability that a specific fingerprint would randomly match another in a database of a given size. Srihari’s co-author is Chang Su, a doctoral candidate in the UB Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

“Current procedures for forensics do not provide a measured accuracy for fingerprint analysis,” says Srihari. “When we look at DNA, we can say that the likelihood that another person might have the same DNA pattern as that found at a crime scene is one in 24 million. Unfortunately, with fingerprint evidence no such probability statement can be made. Our research provides the first systematic approach for computing the rarity of fingerprints in a scientifically robust and reliable manner.”

To read the full article click here.

University News

Engineering building named for Jack and Barbara Davis

Building named for Jack and Barbara Davis Jack and Barbara Davis

The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences will name its new building Barbara and Jack Davis Hall to honor the Western New York couple who has given $5 million toward the construction and enhancement of the facility. The hall is under construction on the North Campus and slated for completion in September 2011.

Jack Davis, BS ’55, a well-known industrialist and graduate of the UB engineering school, says he and Barbara also will give a portion of his estate to the school upon his death and the balance when Barbara dies. “I have greatly benefited from the opportunity UB gave me to become an engineer,” Davis says. “What I am doing now is preparing my estate and that includes taking care of UB in return for the education the university gave me.”

The Davises, who gave $1.5 million to the school in support of the new building in 2008, have given another $3.5 million to the project, for a total of $5 million, the largest donation by individuals in the engineering school’s history.

UB Engineering Dean Harvey G. Stenger Jr. said the school is grateful to Davis not only for this generous gift, but also for his longtime support of the Western New York economy by providing good jobs at his Buffalo-area company, I Squared R.

“Jack knows from personal experience what it means to work your way through college and build your own business,” Stenger says. “As a result, he knows the value of strong companies to producing economic growth in our region. He has spent his career creating good–paying jobs for graduates. And he has hired many of our graduates and given them the chance of a lifetime: to work at what they know. For that, and for his very generous support of this outstanding facility, we thank him.”

To read the full article, click here

University News

Going green with car-share program

Z car

UB has launched a partnership with Zipcar Inc., providing the campus with access to the world’s leading car-sharing service. The cost-effective and convenient transportation option is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to all students, faculty and staff members ages 18 and older. Zipcar is an environmentally friendly alternative that supports UB’s Climate Action Plan and its efforts to improve campus sustainability. Every Zipcar takes 15 to 20 privately owned vehicles off the road.

“After a very thorough analysis, we are excited to include a car-sharing service in our alternative transportation program, UB Carfree, that meets all the needs of our campus community,” says Maria Wallace, director of Parking and Transportation Services at the University at Buffalo. “In addition, Zipcar supports UB’s commitment to reducing or offsetting our greenhouse gas emissions. This new offering will help us ease congestion and ultimately reduce the university’s carbon footprint.”

Zipcar has established partnerships with more than 200 universities, including Syracuse University, SUNY Geneseo, SUNY Oswego, SUNY Purchase and the University of Rochester. Zipcar utilizes a network of local vendors to service and clean its fleet.

To read the full article click here.

Academic Insight

Helping African AIDS research

For more than 10 years, UB’s HIV Clinical Pharmacology Research Program has helped fight the global AIDS epidemic by hosting visiting pharmaceutical scientists from countries like Zimbabwe and Nigeria to teach them how to conduct clinical trials and research on HIV/AIDS.

“Through our relationship with the University of Zimbabwe and our UB-UZ International Training Program, we have established a highly successful HIV/AIDS pharmacology program that is becoming a center of excellence in the region.” Gene Morse

Now in recognition of its success and the need to expand these efforts, the National Institutes of Health has awarded a total of $2.3 million to the laboratory, housed in the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences.

The new grants bring to more than $11 million the funds that the UB HIV Clinical Pharmacology Research program has been awarded since 2008.

With the latest funding, the UB researchers, led by Gene D. Morse, professor in the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and associate director of UB’s Center of Excellence, will be able to intensify efforts to train in-country laboratory specialists where HIV/AIDS infection rates are highest globally, test their bioanalytical proficiency and conduct quality-control analyses of HIV/AIDS clinical trials and their pharmacology-focused research studies.

“Through our relationship with the University of Zimbabwe and our UB-UZ International Training Program, we have established a highly successful HIV/AIDS pharmacology program that is becoming a center of excellence in the region,” Morse says.

To read the full article click here.

Linking technology to the urban landscape

Linking technology to the urban landscapeShepard

How can technology cultivate a sense of community in an urban environment and connect us with the world around us?

Two new projects by Mark Shepard, assistant professor of architecture and media study, address that question, enabling city dwellers to leverage their cell phones as tools for discovery as they navigate city streets and other public spaces.

The first, Serendipitor, is a navigation app Shepard developed for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Users enter an origin and destination, and adjust the complexity of the recommended route to fit their schedule and preferences. Serendipitor then generates step-by-step directions punctuated by surprising instructions: Pick a stranger and follow that person for a few blocks, for instance, or go to the nearest flower shop, buy a flower and give it to a passerby.

A second program Shepard created allows users of mobile devices to “plant” and “prune” sounds in WiFi hot zones, creating community sound gardens in urban spaces.

“Mobile and other situated technologies are increasingly part of the material world that we move through.” Mark Shepard, Assistant Professor of Architecture and Media Study

“The sound garden draws on the culture of urban community gardening to shape the sonic topography of cities in a collaborative way,” says Shepard, who has installed tactical sound gardens around the world. “Serendipitor is more for the individual. It encourages you to look around you, to be more aware of your surroundings. It assists with navigation, but really it’s designed to help you find something by looking for something else.”

To read the full article click here.

Law School only one in state to raise bar pass rate

The Law School is the only law school in the state to register a higher pass rate among first–time candidates taking the July bar exam, advancing its pass rate to 83 percent, 2 percent higher than the previous year. The slight increase runs counter to a drop reported by 12 of New York’s 15 law schools, which reported lower pass rates, some by substantial margins. The increase in UB grads passing the bar in 2010 compared with 2009 was welcome news for university officials who praised the increase as confirmation of the commitment of its students and the effectiveness of the law school’s ability to prepare its students for the legal profession.

To see the full article click here

UB People

UB grad named Somali prime minister

Somali Prime MinisterMohamed AP Photo, Somalia's Presidential Pres Service

In a remarkable turn of events, Mohamed A. Mohamed, MA ’09 & BA ’94, has been appointed prime minister of his native Somalia. A U.S. citizen, Mohamed, 49, abruptly went from living in suburban Buffalo with his wife and four children—and working for the New York State Department of Transportation—to leading a war-torn country beset with a humanitarian crisis. His position lasts until August 2011, when the transitional government’s mandate will expire.

Mohamed acknowledges the enormous challenges in governing a land in which more than a third of the population relies on food assistance and infant mortality is among the highest in the world. “There has not been an effective government for 20 years, and you’re fighting against a highly effective al-Qaida regime without Western support,” Mohamed told The Buffalo News. “My first priority is to provide law and order, and to bring peace and stability to Somalia. The second thing is to create an effective government without any corruption.”

Somalia’s president, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, was giving a speech in New York in September, when Mohamed traveled there to offer the president suggestions on how members of the Somali community could help their homeland. The president was looking for candidates to succeed Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke; it came up that Mohamed had worked at the Somali embassy in Washington in the mid-1980s. Mohamed was “shocked” to be asked for his resume and later nominated for the position.

By the numbers

Looking back —UB in the 1990s

[Campus buildings in 1992: 180 today]
[Total international enrollment, 1996; 4,911, fall 2010]
[Annual undergrad in-state tuition and fees in dollars, 1994; $7,136 fall 2010]
[Total enrollment, 1998; 29,049]
[Cost in dollars of a personal computer, January 1996; cost in 2010: $670]

University Archives, UB Office of International Education, U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics,

UB People

Honors for Takeuchi

Takeuchi Takeuchi

Kenneth Takeuchi, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor, was named the 2010 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching New York Professor of the Year, a first for a UB faculty member. He received the award Nov. 18 at an awards luncheon at the W Hotel in Washington, D.C., followed by an evening reception at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Takeuchi, who has instructed more than 4,500 students during his 27-year UB career, has served as a mentor to a number of student programs, including the Minority High School Student Research Apprenticeship Program, the New York State Summer Institute for Science and Mathematics, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Biological Sciences Education Program, and University Honors College. He is a recipient of the McNair Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award, the CSTEP Essential Piece Award and the American Chemical Society’s Stanley C. Israel Regional Award for Advancing Diversity in the Chemical Sciences.

To read the full article click here.

Speaking Of

California Governor

California Governor Schwarzenegger

“I’m a perfect example of huge victories but also huge defeats. … When you’re in America, no one holds you back. The only one holding you back from achieving success is you.”

Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Distinguished Speakers Series, Alumni Arena, Jan. 27, 2011

Flashback 1994

Center for the Arts makes its grand opening

Center for the Arts Center for the Arts Photo: UB Archives

The Center for the Arts, with its two-story atrium lobby and vaulted skylight, is a visual focal point of UB’s North Campus and is long familiar to UB alumni for its diverse shows and invigorating array of artistic performances. Home to four theaters, including the 1,750-seat Mainstage, the Center for the Arts also houses two art galleries, video production and sound studios, dance studios, a foundry and a screening room, along with classrooms, faculty offices and studios for sculpture, painting, etching and printmaking.

The UB departments of Art, Media Study and Theatre and Dance moved into the Center for the Arts in September 1993, despite the fact that performance and exhibition areas were not yet complete. One year later, the center’s full opening marked the first time in UB history that all of the university’s arts departments were located in close proximity, creating new possibilities for collaborative ventures by students and faculty members.

A Grand Opening Festival offering numerous dance, theater, music and literary performances ran from Oct. 28-Nov. 20, 1994, and formally introduced the spectacular new Center for the Arts to UB and all of Western New York.

Festival audiences enjoyed performances by the Canadian Brass, the Amherst Saxophone Quartet, the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. The Department of Theatre and Dance staged Bertolt Brecht’s “The Threepenny Opera,” and the Zodiaque Dance Company performed “Monument,” a tribute to the music of Miles Davis. Tanzfabrik, the Berlin Dance Company, performed a dance theater interpretation of “The Voice in the Closet,” a book authored by the late Raymond Federman, SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the UB Department of English.

Before the grand opening celebration, UB’s 13th president, the late William R. Greiner, observed that the Center for the Arts held “a lot of promise for Western New York artists and cultural institutions.” He predicted that it would become “the base for fuller, more effective cooperation between UB and the community we serve.”

At 16 and counting, the Center for the Arts continues to fulfill its promise by supporting a broad spectrum of campus and community artistic endeavors.

Kathleen Quinlivan, MLS ’87, University Libraries

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UB in the News

Should mass shooting videos be public?

11/17/2017 NPR?s The Takeaway talks to Matthew Grizzard , assistant professor of communication, about the debate over whether the public should have access to footage of mass shootings.

Are face scans leading to bad science?

11/14/2017 An article in The Atlantic about artificial intelligence and the potential to use facial scans to infer personality traits and behaviors interviews Mark Frank , professor of communication, about this controversial area of research.

Adversity increases our resilience

11/13/2017 An article in The Wall Street Journal about resilience and what it takes to overcome a difficult childhood quotes Mark Seery , associate professor of psychology.

More of UB in the News