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UB Today

A publication of the University at Buffalo Alumni Association

Spring 2013





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Main story imagePhotograph by Jonathan Reichert of Robert Frost and Victor E. Reichert at the Reicherts’ home in Cincinnati, circa 1960. (Photograph: UB Poetry Collection)

University News

Robert Frost collection given to UB

A rare collection of letters, audio files, photographs and other materials pertaining to the famed American poet Robert Frost (1874-1963) is being made available to the public for the first time.

The collection—to be permanently housed within the Poetry Collection of the University Libraries—chronicles a 24-year friendship between Frost and Victor E. Reichert, a Cincinnati rabbi who summered with Frost in Vermont. It was kept in the Buffalo home of the rabbi’s son, Jonathan Reichert, UB professor emeritus of physics, who has given this valuable and inspirational collection to UB. Scholars say the materials— officially called the Victor E. Reichert Robert Frost Collection—could provide an important, missing link between Frost’s poetry and his view of religion, which has been the subject of debate for decades.

Frost kept regular correspondence with many, but Victor Reichert (1897-1990) was among a dozen or so people in his inner circle, says Carole Thompson, founder and director of the Robert Frost Stone House Museum in Shaftsbury, Vt. The two met in 1939, when Victor’s wife, Louise, insisted they attend a Frost reading in Cincinnati. Frost invited the Reichert family to Ripton, Vt., but it would be several years before they made the trip because of World War II. Growing up, Jonathan Reichert also knew Frost. “I wanted the friendship of my father with Frost to be part of history,” Reichert told The Buffalo News of his gift.

See more photos from the Robert Frost collection.

Kiplinger’s ups UB’s ‘best value’ ranking

UB’s standing among colleges that provide a quality education at an affordable price continues to climb, according to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. The university ranks 33rd in the magazine’s 2013 list of the 100 Best Values in Public Colleges. UB ranked 38th last year, 46th in 2011 and 70th in 2010.

Kiplinger’s ranks institutions based on SAT or ACT scores, admission and retention rates, student-faculty ratios, and graduation rates, as well as financial aid and student debt upon graduation. Measures of academic quality carry more weight than measures of affordability.

UB’s score improved “thanks to its high four-year graduation rate, low average student debt at graduation, abundant financial aid, a low sticker price and overall great value,” according to Kiplinger’s.

Academic Insight

City rises inside a home

Dollhouses climb up wall of Dennis Maher’s dining room. (Photo: Douglas Levere, BA '89)

If it were possible to capture the soul of a city inside a single home, it might look something like the house that Dennis Maher has spent the past three years refurbishing on Buffalo’s West Side. In the dining room, a city is rising. A panoply of dollhouses climbs up one wall, sheltering curios like model churches, miniature barns, vintage train sets and shovel-wielding construction worker figurines.

Upstairs, more imaginary landscapes are taking shape. Greek columns, staircases and railings—all miniature— crawl across bookshelves in a library. A few rooms down, pipes from a wooden organ fall from the ceiling and rise from the floor, recalling stalagmites and stalactites in the natural world.

Maher, a clinical assistant professor of architecture in the School of Architecture and Planning, scours flea markets, thrift stores, estate sales and demolition sites for discarded treasures. He then combines these items to create new worlds inside his Fargo Avenue home.

In doing so, he transformed this once-dilapidated structure into a center for the urban imagination—a house that mirrors the idea of a city and inspires other artists to embark on urban-themed endeavors.

“Many of the objects that I collect are house-like: bird cages, jewelry boxes, dollhouses, things that seem to suggest shelter or enclosure,” Maher says. “They get absorbed into the walls and start creating fictitious cityscapes, unknown structures that inspire the imagination. I love the idea of a secret box that promulgates other openings, that acts as a catalyst for creativity.”

Watch video here.

Read New York Times story on Dennis Maher as ‘master of accumulation.’

UB People

Professor has role in ‘Lincoln’

Actor and director Stephen McKinley Henderson, UB professor of theater and dance who has had several prominent roles in film, television and stage, appears as William Slade, the president’s trusted manservant, in Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed 2012 film “Lincoln.”

Henderson says that everyone on set knew that “Lincoln” was “mission work” and a very special project. He, too, was drawn into star Daniel Day Lewis’ practice of remaining in character during the making of a film.

“He always addressed me as ‘Mr. Slade’ while on set and I always called him “Mr. President,’” Henderson says. “Even small talk was conducted in character, so when Lewis asked me how I found the weather that day, he meant the weather in Virginia on a particular date in 1864!

“The whole thing was a wonderful experience,” Henderson adds. “There is no downside to working with Spielberg or Tony Kushner, who wrote the screenplay. In fact, I’ve known Tony for a couple of years, and he’s the one who recommended me for the role of Slade.”

Henderson’s other recent roles include Solomon Hancock, the pivotal deep-throat character in the popular 2012 HBO series “Newsroom,” directed by Aaron Sorkin.


HiggsFest celebrates physics discovery

 Avto Kharchilava and Ia Iashvili (Photo: Douglas Levere, BA '89)

UB physicists were among the scientists who hunted for the elusive Higgs boson, a subatomic particle that could help explain why objects have mass. Discovery of the Higgs boson in July 2012 made headlines around the world, with news outlets from CNN to Bloomberg and Scientific American reporting on the achievement.

In December 2012, the physics department held a “HiggsFest” to celebrate the find and explain its significance. Organizers included the five UB physicists who contributed to the study of the particle, Ia Iashvili, Avto Kharchilava, Sal Rappoccio, Dejan Stojkovic and Doreen Wackeroth.

The Higgs boson is a crucial piece of the Standard Model of particle physics, which physicists use to describe how the world around us works. As Rappoccio explains, “Without something like this particle, electrons don’t have mass, so there are no atoms and there’s no life. This is a large piece of the puzzle for existence.”

For many years, the Higgs was the only particle in the Standard Model that researchers were unable to observe. That changed this past summer when scientists with the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s most powerful proton smasher, reported seeing a particle that looked tantalizingly like the Higgs. At a conference in Japan in December 2012, experts presented further evidence that the particle was indeed the long sought-after boson. Kharchilava and Iashvili were among the scientists who planned and built the Large Hadron Collider’s Compact Muon Solenoid detector (CMS), which researchers used in the search for the Higgs. Iashvili was one of two scientists in charge of jet energy scale calibration, a process critical to the CMS project’s ability to identify the Higgs boson. Rappoccio also was a part of the calibration team.


Mobile dental unit unveiled

The School of Dental Medicine has unveiled its state-of-the-art, mobile dental unit (MDU) “S-miles To Go” to address the oral health care needs of children in Chautauqua County. Constructed by LifeLine Mobile, the “Smiles To Go” dental van is a 42-foot-long, three-chair dental clinic built on a semi-trailer chassis. The new unit features a wheelchair lift, a panoramic X-ray unit, digital radiography, an intake/education area and electronic patient records. Chautauqua County is designated a Dental Health Professional Shortage Area, with few dentists serving Medicaid-eligible patients.

UB People

Alum receives nation’s highest technology award

 McCombs with Obama

Norman R. McCombs, BS ’68, who developed an oxygen production system that spawned a billion dollar industry and helped ease the pain of millions suffering from lung diseases, was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the U.S. government’s highest honor for technological achievement. McCombs received the medal from President Barack Obama during a Feb. 1 ceremony at the White House.

Obama described McCombs and other medal winners as representing “the ingenuity and imagination that has long made this nation great—and they remind us of the enormous impact a few good ideas can have when these creative qualities are unleashed in an entrepreneurial environment.” McCombs, senior vice president of research and development at Amherst-based AirSep Corp., helped develop in the 1960s a new way to separate gases. Called Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA), the method uses synthetic zeolites (a type of mineral) that act as a molecular sieve to collect targeted gases. PSA technology has been used to improve safety and efficiency in numerous industries.

McCombs was first to develop a PSA system that produced oxygen. The device, called an oxygen concentrator, is primarily used to treat people suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Today, there are approximately 1.2 million oxygen concentrators in the U.S.

Watch video of McCombs White House honor.

By the numbers

Student enrollment fall 2012

Total enrollment
Undergraduate students
Graduate and professional students
College of Arts and Sciences {UB's largest academic unit}


Source: UB Office of Institutional Analysis

University News

Land purchased for medical school

The university has purchased land at 960 Washington St. in downtown Buffalo, the first of several parcels it is assembling to make way for construction of the new School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “In moving our medical school downtown, where it will be ideally aligned with local hospitals and other key life sciences partners, UB is staying true to our roots in more ways than one,” President Satish K. Tripathi said when the purchase was announced in November 2012. The $375 million project, funded in part by NYSUNY 2020 legislation signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, is a key component of the UB 2020 plan for academic excellence.

Academic Insight

Libraries go to the dogs

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Dogs, dogs and more dogs were the main attraction at the Stress Relief Days event held during finals week in December 2012 at Lockwood and Health Sciences libraries. Pamela Rose, coordinator of Web services and library promotion in the Health Sciences Library, worked with Therapy Animals of Western New York and the SPCA’s Paws for Love program to bring 20 dogs on campus for the popular three-day event. Stress Relief Days offers students a way to ease tension during what is arguably the most anxiety-producing time of the semester. In addition to dogs and coffee and snacks, students could get a chair massage or take part in a reflexology/ reiki session.

UB Mobile app

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UB recently launched a newly enhanced mobile app to find out everything you need to know about your alma mater anytime, anywhere. Versions are available for the iPhone and Android markets.

Go to to learn more.

Breaking Research

Drug may relieve severe morning sickness

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Good news may be on the horizon for women who are stricken with severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, thanks to UB research on a drug that shows success in treating this condition.

Thomas Guttuso Jr., assistant professor of neurology in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, has been studying the drug gabapentin, an anti-seizure and anti-pain drug that he previously studied in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.

“I became interested in this drug for hyperemesis gravidarum [the extreme form of morning sickness experienced by the Duchess of Cambridge] because I saw how effective it appeared to be in treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in patients who had failed treatment with conventional antiemetics,” says Guttuso. Antiemetics are drugs currently approved for treating nausea and vomiting.

In 2010, he published in the journal Early Human Development the results of an open-label pilot study that enrolled seven women from Western New York examining the drug’s safety, tolerability and effectiveness in treating hyperemesis gravidarum.

None of the women had seen any improvement on any other antiemetic medications they had tried, Gattuso says. “But when they started with gabapentin, all of them showed a dramatic improvement.” After two weeks of gabapentin therapy, the seven women experienced an average 80 percent reduction in their nausea and a 94 percent reduction in their vomiting, and near normal levels of eating and drinking.

Although the results of the small pilot study were very encouraging, Guttuso emphasizes that a placebo-controlled study among many more patients needs to be conducted to know if gabapentin truly is effective for hyperemesis gravidarum.

SpaceVision 2012

story imageUB students talk about their love of space exploration.

SpaceVision 2012, the nation’s largest student-run space conference, drew a wide variety of space enthusiasts to the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center over a busy weekend in November 2012. There were astronauts and engineers. There were NASA research center directors. There were executives from companies like Planetary Resources, which wants to mine asteroids; and Virgin Galactic, which plans to launch tourists into space.

UB’s chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) hosted the event, which attracted about 300 people from across the country and served as SEDS’ annual U.S. convention.

Read more.

Breaking Research

Preventing recurrent ear infections

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While infants and children receive immunizations against ear infections caused by Haemophilus influenzae and pneumococcus, there is no vaccine against Moraxella catarrhalis, an increasingly prevalent bacterium that causes at least 10 percent of otitis media—or middle-ear infection—cases.

Now, scientists at UB, among a handful of researchers in the world studying this organism, have received a $1.5 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to develop a vaccine against it. The goal of the current research, funded by the NIH’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, is to identify new virulence mechanisms for this understudied pathogen, identify the structure of a candidate antigen for a new vaccine and develop a vaccine.

Research on M. catarrhalis has lagged because it was originally believed to be a “commensal” or harmless bacterium, explains Timothy F. Murphy, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Microbiology and principal investigator on the NIH grant. While it does cause milder cases of otitis media than other bacteria, Murphy says it is becoming more prevalent.

The goal of the UB researchers is to identify M. catarrhalis antigens that are very similar among all strains so that a vaccine based on a single antigen will protect against as many strains of the bacterium as possible. “Based on our results thus far, it looks like we will be able to identify antigens that are identical or very similar among all strains and genetic lineages,” says Murphy.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko

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Yevgeny Yevtushenko, the famed Russian poet, film director, actor and photographer, was on campus for several public events, Oct. 31 through Nov. 3, 2012. The 79-year-old artist is widely known for his criticism of Soviet bureaucracy. His most famous work, the provocative poem “Babi Yar,” helped expose Soviet and international anti-Semitism. Yevtushenko held an open discussion with students on Nov. 1, and that evening, approximately 500 people heard him recite his poetry.

Read more.



UB in the News

New downtown home for Jacobs School opens

12/12/2017 The Buffalo News quoted UB President Satish K. Tripathi on the opening of the new Jacobs School building. "The world-class design was a sight to behold. But to gaze upon the magnificent finished product is to fully appreciate it for the breathtaking building it is."

Gum infections may increase risk for digestive tract sores

12/8/2017 A Reuters article about a study that showed that gum infections may increase people?s risk for sores in the digestive tract that can lead to stomach cancer quotes Jean Wactawski-Wende , dean of the School of Public Health and Health Professions.

The first woman to swim the English Channel

12/6/2017 An article on Outside magazine interviews Susan Cahn , professor of history about Gertrude Ederle, who in 1926 became the first woman to swim the English Channel.

More of UB in the News