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UB Today

A publication of the University at Buffalo Alumni Association

Spring 2012

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Breaking news

‘Smart Windows’

Sarbajit Banerjee in front of scanning electron microscopy image. Photo by: Douglas Levere, BA ’89

New materials science research at UB could hasten the creation of “smart” windows that reflect heat from the sun on hot summer days, but let in the heat in colder weather. The findings concern a unique class of synthetic chemical compounds that are transparent to infrared light at lower temperatures, but undergo a phase transition to begin reflecting infrared when they heat up past a certain point.

UB researchers report they have managed to manipulate the trigger temperature for vanadium oxide, one such material. The advance is a crucial step toward making the compound useful for such applications as coatings for energy-saving windows.

By preparing vanadium oxide as a nanomaterial instead of in bulk, the scientists managed to lower the compound’s trigger point from 153 degrees Fahrenheit to 90. Doping vanadium oxide nanowires with tungsten brought the temperature down further, to 7 degrees Fahrenheit. Molybdenum doping had a similar, but smaller, effect. Researchers also found that they were able to induce a phase transition using an electric current instead of heat.

Sarbajit Banerjee, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, led the studies, collaborating with Sambandamurthy Ganapathy, assistant professor of physics, to head the research on the use of the electric current. “Definitely, we are closer than we’ve ever been to being able to incorporate these materials into window coatings and other systems that sense infrared light,” says Banerjee.

Academic Insight

Sounds Like the Birds

Micheal Dent, associate professor of psychology, conducts extensive and well-regarded research into the perception and processing of complex acoustic stimuli in birds and small mammals— from cats to mice—using both behavioral and physiological techniques.

Much of her current work involves birds. Those that populate Dent’s immaculate labs are budgerigars—parakeets or “budgies”—and zebra finches. Most have been bred by Dent and her graduate students to participate in her studies. About 30 of the colorful denizens, all with names and distinct personalities, are involved in studies at any one time.

“Most birds are very smart, and once they’re trained to respond to cues, ours will take part in many different learning and hearing studies,” Dent says. “They can live up to about six years and, fortunately for us, they never go deaf as they age in the way most animals do.”

One of the 20 chirping budgies and finches perched in the “vacation room”—where the birds live when not involved in a study—is “Yoda.” He was among four parakeets fitted with tiny headphones for a recent Dent investigation related to the lateralization of acoustic signals in birds. The headphones permitted the birds to listen to sounds directed to their right or left ears. That study, published recently in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, found, among other things, that small birds localize sounds the way that humans do by using both interaural time and level differences—that is, by employing the difference in arrival time and intensity of a sound to each of their ears.

Budding Architects

story imageDouglas Levere, BA ’89

Students from Buffalo’s School 53 teamed up with Beth Tauke, associate professor of architecture, to design a bridge for the Architecture + Education exhibition that ran in January in the CEPA Gallery in Buffalo. Featuring colorful, functional environments and infrastructures, the exhibition was produced during 10-week hands-on classroom projects that used architectural principles along with lessons in math, earth sciences, geography, physics and animal behavior.

UB People

Golden Globe Name-Dropping

If you did more than watch the 2012 Golden Globes for the fashions, you may have heard two names come up in some of the acceptance speeches: Harvey Weinstein and Brad Grey. Did you know both are UB alumni? Weinstein, BA ’01, and the Weinstein Company were behind “The Descendants” (Best Motion Picture— Drama), “The Artist” (Best Motion Picture—Comedy or Musical and Best Original Score—Motion Picture) and “The Iron Lady” (Best Performance for an Actress in a Motion Picture, Meryl Streep). Grey, BA ’79, is CEO of Paramount Pictures, which won for “Hugo” (Best Director—Motion Picture, Martin Scorsese) and “The Adventures of Tintin” (Best Animated Feature Film). Results of their Oscar nominations were pending at UB Today press time.

BrEaking Research

Study Finds Risk Factors for CCSVI, MS

 “Our results suggest that risk factors for CCSVI in this group of volunteers are remarkably similar to those of possible or confirmed importance to MS ...” Robert Znadinov

The first study to investigate risk factors for the vascular condition called CCSVI (chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency) in volunteers without neurological disease has identified what UB researchers call a remarkable similarity between this condition and possible or confirmed risk factors for multiple sclerosis (MS).

Their study investigated associations between CCSVI and demographic, clinical and environmental risk factors in a large control group of volunteers who did not have known central nervous system disease.

“Our results suggest that risk factors for CCSVI in this group of volunteers are remarkably similar to those of possible or confirmed importance to MS, but we do not yet understand the whole story,” says Robert Zivadinov, professor of neurology at the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and senior author on the study.

The study of 252 volunteers “was designed to help provide scientists and the MS patient community with new information that, combined with the results of studies that are still ongoing at UB, will ultimately help explain CCSVI and its relationship to MS,” says Kresimir Dolic, a lead author on the study. Dolic, a radiologist from the Department of Radiology, University Hospital, Split, Croatia, was a visiting fellow at the Buffalo Neuroimaging Analysis Center, part of UB’s Department of Neurology, where the study was conducted.

Academic Insight

Primordial Weirdness

Story image

Did the early universe have just one spatial dimension? That’s the mind-boggling concept at the heart of a theory that Dejan Stojkovic, assistant professor of physics, and his colleagues proposed in 2010. They suggested that the early universe—which exploded from a single point and was very, very small at first—was one-dimensional (like a straight line) before expanding to include two dimensions (like a plane) and then three (like the world in which we live today).

Futurity.org, which presents research news from leading universities, voted this story as one of the top ten research stories of 2011.

Now, in a new paper in Physical Review Letters, Stojkovic and Loyola Marymount University physicist Jonas Mureika describe a test that could prove or disprove the “vanishing dimensions” hypothesis.

Because it takes time for light and other waves to travel to Earth, telescopes peering out into space can, essentially, look back into time as they probe the universe’s outer reaches.

Gravitational waves can’t exist in one- or two-dimensional space. So Stojkovic and Mureika have reasoned that the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), a planned international gravitational observatory, should not detect any gravitational waves emanating from the lower-dimensional epochs of the early universe.

Stojkovic says the theory of evolving dimensions represents a radical shift from the way we think about the cosmos—about how our universe came to be. The core idea is that the dimensionality of space depends on the size of the space we’re observing, with smaller spaces associated with fewer dimensions. That means that a fourth dimension will open up—if it hasn’t already—as the universe continues to expand.

University News

Hubbard, Wells Named Vice Presidents

Laura E. Hubbard, associate vice president for budget and finance at the University of Oregon, has been named vice president for finance and administration. Nancy L. Wells, who has held leadership positions at a variety of institutions, including Stanford and McGill universities, has been appointed vice president for development and alumni relations.

Story imageHubbard

Hubbard will oversee UB’s strategic financial planning and analysis of resource use and development. She will provide leadership for the institution’s ongoing efforts to pursue innovative business solutions and develop operating strategies that enhance revenues and efficiency. Hubbard previously served as director of capital planning and budget, assistant vice president for administration and interim vice president for finance and administration at the University of Idaho and, before that, as finance and administrative officer, as well as director of facilities administrative services, at Washington State University.

Story imageWells

Wells will help to foster a culture of philanthropy vital to enhancing UB’s mission of excellence, leading the university in its next capital campaign and strengthening engagement with its more than 219,000 alumni worldwide. Most recently, Wells was director of development for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the largest repertory theater in the U.S. As vice principal for development and alumni relations at McGill University, Wells planned and directed the quiet phase of a $500 million campaign. She also served as Stanford’s major gifts officer for Europe, and was vice president of development at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Academic Insight

Designing Homes for ‘Wounded Warriors’

Story imageThe IDeA Center will partner with the Wounded Warrior Home Project to study the usability of the homes after their completion. The goal is to improve future projects.

Danise Levine, MArch ’96, is an architect with experience in universal design and accessible design. Recently, the assistant director of UB’s Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA Center) completed design work with the Wounded Warrior Home Project in Fort Belvoir, Va., where her expertise guided the layout of two homes.

Both new homes—the Freedom Home and the Patriot Home—address a variety of challenges that veterans might face. For instance, exterior lights at entry points provide enhanced security and comfort for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries and vision loss. Glass doors provide visual access to the outside. Automatic entry doors that are wider than usual provide unobstructed accessibility for someone with a limb amputation or to a person who uses a wheelchair.

“The collaborative nature of the project allowed all members of the design team to contribute in their area of expertise, which I think shows in the strength of the final product,” says Levine, who has been working with the Wounded Warrior Home Project since it began to take shape in February 2010.

University News

Solar Strand Takes Shape

Story image

The Solar Strand project was designed by renowned landscape architect Walter Hood to be a multi-use site for education, research and sustainable energy. When completed later this year, it will produce 750,000 watts of electricity—enough to power 700 student apartments on the North Campus—and to help UB with its goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2030. The project is being funded with a $7.5 million grant from the New York Power Authority.

University News

Donation Creates Fund to Commercialize Research

A UB faculty member has anonymously donated $1 million to establish a fund that supports commercializing the discoveries and inventions of his UB colleagues.

The donation will establish the Bruce Holm Memorial Catalyst Fund, named for the UB senior vice provost who died last year. The anonymous gift, made as a match challenge, will be used to finance prototype development, proof-of-concept studies and other research that will advance UB faculty inventions and translate them into useful products and treatments to benefit society.

The Bruce Holm Memorial Catalyst Fund will be based in UB’s Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR), which works to transform the inventions of UB faculty and students into products and services that benefit our community.

SUNY Distinguished Professor in the medical school, Holm was director of UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences. He worked diligently to attract high-profile researchers and inventors to Buffalo.

University News

Lockwood Cybrary: From Drab to Fab

story image

The recent transformation of a popular spot in Lockwood Memorial Library is garnering rave reviews for its fresh, exciting new look. The Cybrary in Lockwood was once a white-walled, multicolor-floored room with an institutional vibe, leading students to refer to it as “the cave.” That dullness has since given way to a creative use of color that builds on UB’s branding. The site has been further beautified by a unique use of computer-generated images based on research conducted by UB students and faculty. The mural image along the back wall is a replica of an enzyme protein for drug metabolism. It is based on research carried out by Thomas Furlani, PhD ’85, director of UB’s Center for Computational Research.

By the numbers

International Enrollment

1
[Rank among comprehensive public research universities in percentage of enrollment that is international]
18.5
[Percent of total enrollment that is international]
17
[Rank among U.S. campuses with largest enrollment of international students]
101.9
[Economic contribution in millions of dollars that UB international students make to WNY’s 26th Congressional District]
5,185
[Number of international students]
1.5
[Percentage increase in number of international students over preceding year]

SOURCE: “Open Doors 2011,” Institute of International Education

 

Flashback 1949

Winter Carnival

Winter Carnival Photo: UB Archives

Instead of moaning about the Buffalo snow, UB students in the mid-20th century used snow to their advantage. Winter Carnival was an anticipated annual event in February. It included such events as a ski fashion show, ice-skating, snow sculpture contest, skiing contests, an all-freshman talent show, a king and queen contest, a beard-growing contest and a jazz concert.

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UB in the News

Fox News reports on UB research using nanoballoons and lasers to deliver anti-cancer medication

4/11/2014 The medications are deliverd straight to the tumor itself.

TIME Magazine reports on UB study about a new way to get college students to reconsider binge drinking

4/11/2014 Talking about the link between alcohol and cancer may work as a deterrent.

Forbes reports on UB research about the dangers of texting while walking

4/11/2014 UB professor of emergency medicine says putting your cell phone down when walking may save lives.

More of UB in the News