Page 1


Digging Panama Canal Connections Through UF Research

Dr. Bernie Machen President

Spring 2014, Vol. 19, No. 1

Dr. David Norton Vice President for Research Board of Trustees C. David Brown II, Orlando – Chair Christina Bonarrigo, Gainesville Susan Cameron, Ft. Lauderdale Christopher T. Corr, Lake Lure NC Charles B. Edwards, Ft. Myers James W. Heavener, Winter Haven Marc Heft, Gainesville Carolyn K. Roberts, Ocala Jason J. Rosenberg, Gainesville Juliet Murphy Roulhac, Plantation Steven M. Scott, Boca Raton David M. Thomas, Windermere Explore is published by the UF Office of Research. Opinions expressed do not reflect the official views of the university. Use of trade names implies no endorsement by the University of Florida. Š 2014 University of Florida. Editor: Joseph M. Kays Art Director: Katherine Kinsley-Momberger Design and Illustration: Katherine Kinsley-Momberger Paul Messal Nancy Schreck Writers: Rebecca Burton Joseph M. Kays Cindy Spence Copy Editor: Patricia B. McGhee Printing: StorterChilds Printing, Gainesville Member of the University Research Magazine Association

Bus Stop Planning for communities where children can walk or bike to school could improve health and save money.

Post-doctoral researcher Jorge Velez Juarbe prospects for fossils near the Panama Canal. Photo by Jeff Gage


Science In The City In the Jacksonville urban laboratory, UF Health scientists are finding ways to solve some of our most challenging medical problems.




Research News Briefs

Cover Story

Digging Panama



The Panama Canal expansion offers UF and its partners unprecedented scientific and educational opportunities.

UF Rising

Ph.D. Mentors

UF Preeminence Campaign



Here are a few examples of the widening Innovation Deficit:

David Norton Vice President for Research


ver the past year, university leaders from around the country, including UF President Bernie Machen, have been arguing that federal budget cuts to research and higher education are creating an “innovation deficit” at a time when other nations are steadily increasing investments in those areas. Last year, President Machen and 162 other university leaders sent an open letter to President Obama and Congress arguing that closing this widening gap between needed and actual investments in research and education must be a national imperative. The higher education leaders noted that investments in those areas lead to the types of innovation and new technologies that power the nation’s economy, create jobs and reduce the budget deficit while ensuring the U.S. maintains its role as global leader. And last month leaders of the business, higher education, scientific, and high-tech manufacturing communities launched a new initiative called “Close the Innovation Deficit” because they are concerned about cuts and stagnating federal investments in research and higher education.


Spring 2014

▸ Over the last 10 years, research and development spending as a share of economic output has remained nearly constant in the United States, but has increased by nearly 50 percent in South Korea and nearly 90 percent in China. ▸ From 1996 to 2007, R&D expenditures in the U.S. grew by an average of 5.8 percent annually. During the same time period, China’s average annual growth was 21.9 percent ▸ Between 2000 and 2008, the number of engineering doctorates awarded in China more than tripled to 15,000. This compared to a total of 8,100 in the United States, of which only about 3,200 went to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. ▸ The United States spent up to 17 percent of discretionary spending on R&D during the 1960s, in part due to the space program, which resulted in a great deal of spinoff innovation; in recent years, outlays have fallen to around 9 percent of the federal discretionary budget. ▸ The United States has historically been the single largest R&D performing country, but in 2009, countries in Asia matched our total expenditure of $400 billion. ▸ China’s recent purchase of 128 cuttingedge genome sequencers has given it the world’s largest next-generation sequencing capacity — with more sequencing capacity than the entire United States, and about one-third of total global capacity.

Emerging economic powers like China and South Korea have dramatically increased their investments in research and higher education in recognition of the enormous benefits such investments have had for the U.S. economy. But despite this success, U.S. investment in research and technology continues to decline, most notably as a result of the “sequestration” legislation that took effect in March 2013. A survey last October of nearly 300 higher education institutions nationwide found that the mandatory cuts to discretionary spending (from which research budgets are funded) have taken a heavy toll. About 70 percent of the respondents reported a reduction in the number of new federal research grants and delays in already-funded projects. UF held its own in fiscal year 2013, finishing within 1 percent of the previous year with $640.6 million in research awards, but funding from National Institutes of Health, our largest sponsor, was down 7 percent and only a 30-percent increase in industry funding kept us level. Unfortunately, the spending bill approved by Congress and signed by the president in January and the proposed fiscal year 2015 budget released in March do little to close the innovation deficit. Under the budget proposal, spending on research and development at civilian science agencies would increase by just 0.7 percent, to $65.9 billion. Funding for the NIH does not even reach pre-sequestration levels and continues the decline of support for NIH since 2003. If the United States is to remain a leader in a 21st century world fueled by technological advances, we must continue to invest in our universities. I encourage you to learn more about the Innovation Deficit by visiting

UF Researchers Help Sequence Loblolly Pine Genome To look at the humble loblolly pine — grown in neat rows on large farms throughout the southeastern U.S. and milled for things like building lumber and paper — you would never think that its genetic code is seven times larger than a human’s. That is just one of the things researchers, including two from UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and the UF Genetics Institute, learned as they sequenced the loblolly pine genome for the first time. They also discovered genes resistant to a devastating pine forest disease. It’s the largest genome sequenced to date and the most complete conifer genome sequence ever published. It was described in the March issues of GENETICS and the journal Genome Biology. The tree is the primary source of pulpwood and saw timber for the U.S. forest products industry. The size and complexity of conifer genomes has, until now, prevented full genome sequencing. To sequence a genome, it must first be broken down into smaller, more manageable data pieces in order for computer programs to handle them. The pieces are then assembled and annotated — or described — as scientists look at each stretch of base pairs to see which genes are present, where they are on the genome and what they do. Different genes control different traits or characteristics in the living organism. The loblolly pine genome has 22 billion base pairs, while the human genome has 3 billion.

Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

“It’s a huge genome. But the challenge isn’t just collecting all the sequence data. The problem is assembling that sequence into order,” said David Neale, a professor of plant sciences at the University of California, Davis, who led the project. John M. Davis, professor and associate director of the UF School of Forest Resources and Conservation, and Katherine Smith, a biological science technician with the USDA Forest Service’s Southern Institute of Forest Genetics, took the lead in annotating the genes in a portion of the genome. They were looking for genes controlling resistance to fusiform rust, a disease that infects southern pines and renders them unfit for wood products. What they found was a whole family of resistance genes. “Commercially, it is the most economically devastating disease of the southern pines,” Davis said. “If growers didn’t have genetic resistance, we would have no pine plantations — it’s that important.” Florida’s nearly 16 million acres of timberland supported economic activities that generated $14.7 billion in economic impact in recent years and provided nearly 90,000 fulland part-time jobs. A molecular understanding of genetic resistance is a valuable tool for forest managers as they select trees that will develop into healthy groves. More than 500 million loblolly pine seedlings with these resistance genes are planted every year throughout the U.S. The loblolly genome research was conducted in an open-access manner,

benefitting all 31 researchers at 13 universities and institutes, even before the genome sequencing effort was completed. Data have been freely available throughout the project, with three public releases starting in June 2012. The work was supported in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Davis said his work is not finished — and might never be — because annotating a genome is a process that goes on forever. “It never stops because we are always adding meaning to the genome sequence as we learn about other genomes,” he said.

“Commercially, it is the most economically devastating disease of the southern pines. If growers didn’t have genetic resistance, we would have no pine plantations

— it’s



— John Davis

John M. Davis,

Kimberly Moore Wilmoth

Explore 5

College of Medicine

Pig Kidneys May Relieve Human Transplant Shortage

“The idea was to use a natural architecture,

something we could never craft synthetically.


idea is if you put the human stem cells in, they will start to differentiate and

remodel the scaffold.

— Edward Ross


Spring 2014

K idney failure patients in the not-too-distant future may have a new option that sidesteps the current organ shortage, lengthy wait and potential rejection: Grow your own. UF researchers are using a pig kidney as a “scaffold” in which they are building a human version by injecting it with stem cells grown from the patient. Those cells will “take over” the pig kidney, allowing it to be transplanted into humans. If successful, the researchers say, the process could reduce the wait for a kidney from years to several months and save tens of thousands of lives annually. “It is so exciting, this whole new therapeutic path,” said Dr. Edward Ross, a nephrologist and professor of medicine at UF Health. Ross is collaborating on the project with Chris Batich, a professor of materials

science and engineering and biomedical engineering at UF. The challenge that prompted them and their team into action is daunting. More than 106,000 people in the United States await kidney transplants, according to data from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. But because so few kidneys are available, fewer than 17,000 receive transplants each year and nearly 500,000 undergo chronic dialysis treatments. Batich and Ross want to change that, and they say the process is relatively simple in theory. Step one is to take a kidney failure patient’s skin cells and turn them back to stem cells by adding certain chemicals and growth factors. Step two is to wash the pig kidney of all of its cells, a process called decellularization. Ross said this is a crucial step and must be done

carefully to avoid harming the structure of the organ, or washing away the chemical signals that cause the cells to differentiate. After pumping in just the right amount of detergent to clean out the swine cells, the almost translucent organ becomes a scaffold — something like a building in which the human cells can grow. “The idea was to use a natural architecture, something we could never craft synthetically,” Ross said. “The idea is if you put the human stem cells in, they will start to differentiate and remodel the scaffold.” Ross said they are moving forward with the next steps of seeding the cells and then incubating them for growth. To get the human skin cells to turn into structures such as blood vessels, they need to be placed in the correct region of the scaffold. The kidneys are hooked up to devices containing pumps and vacuums to help push the cells to their new homes. “There are certain chemicals in the scaffold that tell them what to become, so different parts of the scaffold have different signals,” Ross said. “If stem cells land in a particular spot, they will know how to develop.” The cells could then begin to “talk” to each other, reproduce and claim the pig kidney’s blood vessels and other structures as their own. Although the team is still waiting to see that happen in the pig kidneys, they have successfully proved it using rat organs in a study published in the journal Organogenesis in 2012.

Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

Gene Makes Citrus Susceptible To Canker R esearchers from UF’s universities worked on the project as well. Institute of Food and AgriCitrus canker cultural Sciences are closer continues to be a to finding a possible cure for problem and exists citrus canker after identifying in most citrusa gene that makes citrus trees growing areas in susceptible to the bacterial Florida. While pathogen. Citrus canker, which causes scientists like Hu are devoted pustules on fruit, leaves and to eradicating twigs, is a highly contagious the disease, plant disease and spreads many other rapidly over short distances. researchers are Wind-driven rain, overhead now also battling irrigation, flooding and citrus greening, human movement can spread which threatens to citrus canker. Human transport of infected plants or fruit wipe out the $9 billion industry. spreads the canker pathogen Citrus canker is caused over longer distances. by the bacteria Xanthomonas In Florida, the last citri.  While studying the extensive canker outbreak bacterial pathogen’s role occurred beginning in in infected citrus, 1995, which led to THE researchers were an ultimately able to identify unsuccessful a gene in eradication citrus critical program that to the develended in opment of 2006. That citrus canker, effort cost known as the an estimated susceptibility, or $1 billion and GENE “S,” gene. stimulated renewed By finding the efforts for more effective and economical controls. susceptibility gene, researchers say they are closer to a cure Farmers destroyed more than 16.5 million citrus trees for the disease. “The S gene represents an between 1995 and 2012. excellent candidate for control Yang Hu, a former docmeasures for the citrus bactetoral student working with rial canker,” Hu said. Jeff Jones, a professor in “Once you know what plant pathology, found the the susceptibility gene is, it’s critical trait in the bacterium possible to design multiple that is necessary for disease strategies for disease control,” development.  Hongge Jia, Jones said. a researcher at UF’s Citrus The research paper was Research and Education published online in January in Center in Lake Alfred, and the Proceedings of the National Nian Wang, an associate Christopher Batich, Edward Ross,  Academy of Sciences. professor in microbiology and cell science also based at Yang Hu, Jeffrey Jones, Rebecca Burton the Citrus REC, along with six researchers from three Kimberly Moore Wilmoth Because the kidney would contain the patient’s own cells, using these modified pig kidneys could ultimately reduce the need for anti-rejection drugs that cause harsh side effects. Ross said about six research teams are working on similar studies around the country, but UF is the only group that has tinkered with the idea of using a human patient’s own stem cells. Researchers at Harvard have used somewhat mature cells and rodent scaffolds, but Ross said for the process to work ideally, he believes stem cells are the way to go. Although the UF study is still in its preliminary stages and a transplant using a converted pig kidney could be 10 years away, the team is optimistic. But Batich said the success will depend on the amount of financial support given to support this area of research. “Our next step is to overcome the barriers to get the cells to grow long enough and to differentiate,” Ross said. Batich said his goal of working toward solving the transplant problem was made possible by the collaborative nature at UF. “UF is probably the only place in the country that has so many departments and groups in walking distance of each other and so it’s a really unique opportunity to be able to do this type of work,” Batich said. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could actually push this ahead so someone succeeds in getting it?”

Citrus canker causes unsightly pustules on fruit, leaves and twigs.


“ ”

“Once you know what the susceptibility gene is , it’s possible to design multiple strategies for

disease control.

— Jeff Jones

Explore 7

Florida Museum of Natural History

Jeff Gage

Fossils Show Crustaceans Vulnerable To Coral Reef Decline

UF postdoctoral researcher Adiël Klompmaker examines fossils of ancient crustaceans.


scientists predict as

much as


percent of the

world’s reefs may collapse within


years , with a

much higher percentage affected by the end of the century due to natural and human-influenced changes such as ocean acidification, diseases and coral bleaching.


Spring 2014

M any ancient crustaceans went extinct following a massive collapse of reefs across the planet, and new UF research suggests modern species living in rapidly declining reef habitats may now be at risk. The study shows a direct correlation between the amount of prehistoric reefs and the number of decapod crustaceans, a group that includes shrimp, crab and lobster. The decline of modern reefs due to natural and human-influenced changes also could be detrimental, causing a probable decrease in the biodiversity of crustaceans, which serve as a vital food source for humans and marine animals such as fish, said lead author Adiël Klompmaker, a postdoctoral researcher at the Florida Museum of Natural History. “We estimate that Earth’s decapod crustacean species biodiversity plummeted by more than 50 percent during a sharp decline of reefs nearly 150 million years ago, which was marked by the extinction of 80 percent of crabs,” Klompmaker said. “If reefs continue to decline at the current rate during this century, then a few thousand species of decapods are in real danger. They may adapt to a new environment without reefs, migrate to entirely new environments or, more likely, go extinct.” Some scientists predict as much as 20 percent of the world’s reefs may collapse within 40 years, with a much higher percentage affected by the end of the century due to natural and human-influenced changes such as ocean acidification, diseases and coral bleaching.

The study is the first comprehensive examination of the rise of decapod crustaceans in the fossil record. Researchers created a database of fossils from the Mesozoic Era, 252 million to 66 million years ago, from literature records based on museum specimens worldwide. The data included 110 families, 378 genera and 1,298 species. They examined the patterns of diversity and found an increase in the number of decapod species was influenced by the abundance of reefs, largely due to the role of reefs as a provider of shelter and foraging. Researchers call this period the “Mesozoic decapod revolution” because of the 300-fold increase in species diversity compared with the previous period and the appearance and rapid evolution of crabs. Compiling information about crustaceans on this scale has historically been a challenge for researchers because most decapods possess a fragile and weakly calcified exoskeleton that does not fossilize well. “Only a scant fraction of decapod crustaceans is preserved in rocks, so their fossil record is limited,” said study co-author Michal Kowalewski, Jon L. and Beverly A. Thompson Post-Doctoral Fellow Invertebrate Paleontology. “But, thanks to efforts of paleontologists, many of those rare fossils have been documented all around the world, finally giving us a chance to look at their evolutionary history in a more rigorous, quantitative way.”

Florida Museum of Natural History

Shell Hunters Impact Ecosystems

Global tourism has increased fourfold over the last 30 years, resulting in humaninduced seashell loss that may harm natural habitats worldwide, according to a UF scientist. Appearing in the journal PLOS ONE in January, the new study by researchers from the Florida Museum of Natural History and the University of Barcelona demonstrates that increased tourism on the Mediterranean coast of Spain correlated with a 70 percent decrease in mollusk shells during the tourist season in July and August and a 60 percent decrease in other months. Scientists fear shell removal could cause significant damage to natural ecosystems and organisms that rely on shells, said lead author Michal Kowalewski, Jon L. and Beverly A. Thompson PostDoctoral Fellow Invertebrate Paleontology. “It’s too early to tell whether this depletion is substantial enough to trigger major environmental changes. However, our results suggest that we should not ignore this issue,” Kowalewski said. In the study, researchers conducted multiple monthly Adiël Klompmaker, surveys from 1978 to 1981 Stephenie Livingston and from 2008 to 2010 on Llarga Beach, a small stretch of shoreline on the coast of

Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

Jordi Martinell

Study Shows Coral Reefs Can Be Saved Located on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, Llarga Beach has experienced a threefold increase in tourism since the 1970s. As a result, seashells numbers have decreased more than 60 percent.

Spain. Based on area hotel sales data, researchers estimate the number of tourists visiting the beach increased threefold over the last 30 years, with most visits during the summer. Over the same time period, the number of shells on the beach decreased by more than 60 percent. The survey area has experienced no new commercial fisheries or urban development since the 1970s, suggesting human activity unrelated to tourism is unlikely to have contributed substantially to the shell loss, Kowalewski said. Although a popular destination, the beach is not a major tourist hot spot, and the shells found there are not beautiful, diverse or valuable to collectors. If a relationship between increased tourism and accelerated shell removal can be detected at a place that is not famous for its shells, it is likely that beaches known for their shells and frequented by collectors have had even more substantial impact, Kowalewski said. “Shells are remarkable in that they serve multiple functions in natural ecosystems,

from beach stabilization to building materials for bird nests,” Kowalewski said. Shells also provide a home or attachment surface for diverse marine organisms, including algae, seagrass, sponges and other micro- and macro-organisms. Though tourism-related shell loss may one day prove harmful, Kowalewski said more rigorous quantitative case studies are needed to fully understand the impact and develop reliable beach management practices aimed at shell protection. Some countries already recognize the negative effects of shell removal, including the Bahamas, which limits the quantity of shells tourists can export without special permits. “Humans may play a significant role in altering habitats through activities that many would perceive as mostly harmless, such as beachcombing and seashell collecting,” Kowalewski said. Michal Kowalewski,

Stephenie Livingston

A lthough some scientists suggest that coral reefs are headed for certain doom, a new study by UF and Caribbean researchers indicates even damaged reefs can recover. In a 13-year study in the Cayman Islands, warm ocean temperatures led to bleaching and infectious disease that reduced live coral cover by more than 40 percent between 1999 and 2004. But seven years later, the amount of live coral on the reefs, the density of young colonies critical to the reefs’ future health, and the overall size of corals all had returned to the 1999 state, the study showed. Much of the reef surrounding Little Cayman Island is protected, so damage from fishing, anchoring and some other human activities is minimized, said UF researcher Chuck Jacoby. “Nevertheless, all coral reefs, even those that are wellprotected, suffer damage,” Jacoby said. “Little Cayman is an example of what can happen, because it is essentially free from local stresses due to its isolation, small human population and generally healthy ecology.” Tom Frazer, a professor of aquatic ecology, and Jacoby, a courtesy faculty member in UF’s Soil and Water Science Department, said the study shows reasons to protect coral reefs, even though some scientists believe there’s little point in putting more resources into reef management. “There’s a debate over how resilient coral reefs are,” said Frazer, director of UF’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, part of the Institute of Food and

Agricultural Sciences. “Some say it’s a lost cause. We believe there’s value in making sure coral reefs don’t die.” Despite occupying less than 0.01 percent of the marine environment, coral reefs harbor up to 25 percent of the different species of marine organisms. Overfishing, runoff containing sediments and nutrients, coral mining, tourism and coastal development have long threatened coral reefs. Now, scientists say, global warming is accelerating the destruction. Despite these travails, the new UF study offers hope for coral reefs, if humans pay more attention to protecting them. “In addition to saving the living organisms that make coral reefs their homes, safeguarding the habitats could ensure millions of dollars for the fishing and tourism industries, not to mention maintaining barriers that protect coastal areas and their human inhabitants from tropical storms,” Frazer said. The study was published in November in the online publication Public Library of Science. From 1999-2012, scientists, including Frazer and Jacoby, studied reefs around Little Cayman Island, an area known for its healthy reefs. Researchers wanted to see how well the reefs stood up over time under a variety of stresses that included, for example, increased sea surface temperatures. Tom Frazer, Chuck Jacoby,

Brad Buck

Explore 9

College of Public Health and Health Professions

Mental Exercise Benefits For Seniors Persist

“This would be like going to the gym for between five and


weeks , never going again, and still seeing positive effects

a decade later.

— Michael Marsiske

10 Spring 2014

Older adults who received as few as 10 sessions of mental training show long-lasting improvements in reasoning and speed of processing skills 10 years after the intervention, according to UF Health researchers with the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly, or ACTIVE, study. The study findings appeared in January in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. “Our prior research suggested that the benefits of the training could last up to five years, or even seven years, but no one had ever reported 10-year maintenance in mental training in older adults,” said ACTIVE researcher Michael Marsiske, an associate professor of clinical and health psychology at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions. “One of the reasons that this is surprising has to do with how little training we did with participants, about 10 to 18 sessions. This would be like going to the gym for between five and 10 weeks, never going again, and still seeing positive effects a decade later.” Participants who received the cognitive training also reported significantly less difficulty with daily living tasks, such as housework, medication management and shopping. Funded by the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Nursing Research, the ACTIVE study involved 2,832 seniors aged 65 to 96 who were divided into groups for 10 training sessions in memory, reasoning or speed of processing. Training was conducted in 60- to 75-minute sessions over a five- to six-week period.

Some participants were randomly selected to receive booster training 11 and 35 months following the initial training. A control group received no training. Researchers conducted outcome assessments immediately after the training and again two, three, five and 10 years later. The researchers selected training programs in memory, reasoning and speed of processing because those cognitive abilities are important for activities of daily living and there is evidence that they decline with old age, Marsiske said. “If we can boost these basic skills we think we can also boost everyday functioning or help people maintain their independence,” said Marsiske, a member of UF’s Institute on Aging. At the 10-year mark, nearly three-quarters of study participants who received reasoning training and more than 70 percent of speed of processing participants were performing at or above their baseline level compared with about 62 percent and 50 percent, respectively, of control participants. While memory improvements were not sustained 10 years later among participants in the memory training group, older adults in all three of the training groups reported less decline in their ability to perform daily tasks. Future research

may examine whether longer training periods or booster sessions may help older adults maintain gains in memory performance, Marsiske said. ACTIVE investigators are currently studying ways to extend mental training beyond the training sessions to activities that older adults can do on their own, such as computerized training programs and workbooks that couples can do together. Marsiske and other researchers are also evaluating the effect of combining mental exercise with physical exercise. “With the ACTIVE study I think we’ve permanently shattered the myth that old dogs, and older humans, can’t learn new tricks,” Marsiske said. A critical thing to do as we get older is to challenge ourselves with new things … because learning new things seems to be the real secret to maintaining mental functioning in old age.” Michael Marsiske,

Jill Pease

McKnight Brain Institute

Peanut Butter Test Can Help Diagnose Alzheimer’s next to the open nostril while the patient breathed normally. The clinician then moved the peanut butter up the ruler one centimeter at a time during the patient’s exhale until the person could detect an odor. The distance was recorded and the procedure repeated on the other nostril after a 90-second delay. The clinicians running the test did not know the patients’ diagnoses, which were not usually confirmed until weeks after the initial clinical testing. The scientists found that patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease had a dramatic difference in detecting odor between the left and right nostril — the left nostril was impaired and did not detect the smell until it was an average of 10 centimeters closer to the nose than the right nostril had made the detection in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. This was not the case in patients with other kinds of dementia; instead, these patients had either no differences in odor detection between nostrils or the right nostril was worse at detecting odor than the left one. Of the 24 patients tested who had mild cognitive impairment, which sometimes signals Alzheimer’s disease and sometimes turns out to be something else, about 10 patients showed a left nostril impairment and 14 patients did not. The researchers said more studies must be conducted to fully understand the implications. “At the moment, we can use this test to confirm diagnosis,” Stamps said. “But we plan to study patients with mild cognitive impairment to see if this test might be

used to predict which patients are going to get Alzheimer’s disease.” Stamps and Heilman point out that this test could be used by clinics that don’t have access to the personnel or equipment to run other, more elaborate tests required for a specific diagnosis, which can lead to targeted treatment. At UF Health, the peanut butter test will be one more tool to add to a full suite of clinical tests for neurological function in patients with memory disorders. One of the first places in the brain to degenerate in people with Alzheimer’s disease is the front part of the temporal lobe that evolved from the smell system, and this portion of the brain is involved in forming new memories.

“At the moment, we can use this test to confirm diagnosis.


we plan

to study patients with mild cognitive impairment to see if this test might be used to predict which patients are going to get



— Jennifer Stamps

Jesse Jones

A dollop of peanut butter and a ruler can be used to confirm a diagnosis of early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, UF Health researchers have found. Jennifer Stamps, a graduate student in the UF McKnight Brain Institute Center for Smell and Taste, and her colleagues reported the findings of a small pilot study in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences. Stamps came up with the idea of using peanut butter to test for smell sensitivity while she was working with Dr. Kenneth Heilman, distinguished professor of neurology and health psychology in the College of Medicine. She noticed while shadowing in Heilman’s clinic that patients were not tested for their sense of smell. The ability to smell is associated with the first cranial nerve and is often one of the first things to be affected in cognitive decline. Stamps also had been working in the laboratory of Linda Bartoshuk, director of human research in the Center for Smell and Taste. “Dr. Heilman said, ‘If you can come up with something quick and inexpensive, we can do it,’” Stamps said. She thought of peanut butter because, she said, it is a “pure odorant” that is detected only by the olfactory nerve and is easy to access. In the study, patients who were coming to the clinic for testing also sat down with a clinician, 14 grams of peanut butter — which equals about one tablespoon — and a metric ruler. The patient closed his or her eyes and mouth and blocked one nostril. The clinician opened the peanut butter container and held the ruler

“We see people with all kinds of memory disorders,” Heilman said. Many tests to confirm a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias can be timeconsuming, costly or invasive. “This can become an important part of the evaluation process.”

Graduate student Jennifer Stamps demonstrates a test using peanut butter and a ruler to help accurately diagnose Alzheimer's disease in its early stages.

Jennifer Stamps,

Marilee Griffin

Explore 11

College of Engineering

Safer Football Helmet Addresses Rotational Forces



cells within the helmet respond, so no matter the angle of impact, the helmet automatically protects

any part of the head.

— Ghatu Subhash

12 Spring 2014

Bone-crushing tackles may make football fans avert their eyes in horror, but Ghatu Subhash studies collisions, impacts and crashes, both on the field and off. The UF professor needs to do so in order to perfect his design for a safer helmet, which could address the increasing concerns about concussions and other head injuries in sports from Pop Warner to the National Football League when testing is complete. Subhash and his collaborators have designed a helmet that protects against traumatic brain injury by accounting for the two kinds of force athletes encounter during a football game. Traumatic brain injuries occur 1.7 million times a year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 20 percent of those injuries are sports-related, including concussions that can cause long-term damage. “Currently, most football helmets are designed for linear force,” said Subhash, the Knox T. Millsaps Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “Our design takes into account linear and rotational force.” A linear hit is a centered, frontal hit that pushes the head straight back. Helmets today, however, fail to account for rotational hits, which cause 40 percent of

head injuries. The rotational hits occur because a helmet is round, and a frontal hit that misses the middle of the helmet can slide to the side, causing a shearing motion that jostles the brain inside the skull. Both forces can cause traumatic brain injury. “This rotational force can be serious even when the impact is low,” Subhash said. Each kind of force requires a different kind of protection, so Subhash and his colleagues designed a helmet with two kinds of protective chambers to cushion the skull. One layer uses Newtonian fluids and the other uses a special fluid known as non-Newtonian. Newtonian fluids are water and air; nonNewtonian fluids are like gels. Layers of the two fluids form a protective padding, reducing the impact to the head. Together, the two layers absorb and distribute energy. As one layer experiences force and compresses, the fluid inside expands through a connecting tube into the next layer, neutralizing the force. When the pressure is removed, the chambers return to their original state, allowing for repeated use. One layer alone wouldn’t work, Subhash said. For instance, a foam or gel padding that experienced force would just transmit that force to the inside of a helmet, still impacting the skull. “The fluid-filled cells within the helmet respond, so no matter the angle of impact, the helmet automatically protects any part of the head,” Subhash said. The fluid-filled cushions work well in the laboratory, and the next stage will be

testing on a wider scale with companies interested in manufacturing the helmets. An Associated Press review of NFL penalties in 2013 found that football players receive an illegal blow to the head or neck almost once each game. The NFL last year settled a lawsuit by more than 4,500 former players, pledging $800 million to diagnose and compensate retired players who blame their brain disorders on tackles during their careers. While the sports applications are obvious, they were not the inspiration for the research, Subhash said. For 15 years, he has been working to improve body armor and helmets for soldiers in combat, looking at materials that are resistant both to impact and velocity from bullets and other objects. UF neurosurgeon Ian Heger found out about his work, and the two began collaborating with UF radiology Professor Keith Peters to develop a more protective sports helmet. “Soldiers, skateboarders, bicyclists, firefighters, construction workers and athletes in other sports can benefit from this design,” Subhash said. The protective layers also are designed to be inexpensive and easy to use in retrofitting a helmet, making them ideal for parents who want to protect sports-minded children. “You could go to the store and buy strips of this material and a $10 helmet and make it safer,” Subhash said. “This works for kids, works for soldiers, and for professional athletes, too.” Ghatu Subhash,

Cindy Spence

College of Veterinary Medicine

A n alternative to a widely accepted vaccination protocol in cats could literally move the needle for feline cancer treatment, according to UF researchers. “One to 10 cats out of every 10,000 vaccinated against infectious diseases develop cancer at the vaccine injection site,” said Julie Levy, the Maddie’s Professor of Shelter Medicine at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine. “It’s still important to vaccinate because death from these infections is much more common than the cancer, but unfortunately this complication is one that does affect thousands of cats each year.” When administering vaccinations, veterinarians typically follow the current recommendations of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, giving the injections below the elbow or the knee joint in the leg. That protocol is based on the understanding that the most effective treatment for cancer that occurs near vaccine injection sites is radical surgery — amputation of a limb. “Many cat owners elect not to pursue the most effective treatment — radical surgery of the tumor — because excision of tumors in the limbs and torso is often disfiguring, painful and expensive,” Levy said. But in a report published online in October by the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, Levy and a national team of experts in infectious disease and vaccinology report that administering vaccinations in the tip of the cat’s tail appears to be as effective as vaccines at traditional sites. The researchers

say tail vaccination would make surgical treatment of any cancer occurring near the site much easier, less invasive and less disfiguring for the animal, which could encourage more owners to treat the disease in their pet when it occurs. As a first step in amassing information for the study, the researchers developed a questionnaire that was sent to veterinary oncologists practicing around the world. Oncologists were asked to rank 11 potential vaccination sites, and to note their top three preferred sites, considering only surgical treatment of sarcomas that might develop at those sites. When the tail emerged as a favored site, the team performed a trial to see if cats would even allow it to be done to them. Sixty cats that had come for spay or neuter services through the Operation Catnip trap-neuter-return program at UF were enrolled in the study. The study showed that cats tolerate tail vaccination at least as well as the currently recommended injection site in the hind leg. “Dr. Levy’s study is very important for a number of reasons,” said Julius Liptak, a surgery specialist and a founding fellow in surgical oncology with the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. “Firstly, it is important that vaccinations in the tail are effective in providing the necessary immunity against infectious and communicable diseases,” he said. “Secondly, vaccinations in the tail are easy to perform and well tolerated by cats, which will

Sarah Carey

Vaccinating Cats In Tails Could Save Lives

hopefully mean that general practitioners will be willing to change their vaccination protocols and try this new location.” Most important from a cancer treatment perspective, “If vaccinations on the end of the tail become a widely adopted practice, then amputating the tail is a much easier and less traumatic procedure, which will hopefully result in a much greater potential to cure this disease,” Liptak said. The study was supported by grants from Maddie’s Fund, the Merial Veterinary Scholars Program and the Harold H. Morris Trust Fund for Research in Diseases of Small Animals.

Junior UF veterinary student Cleon Hendricks and Dr. Julie Levy collaborated in the tail vaccination study through the Merial Veterinary Scholars program.

Julie Levy,

Sarah Carey

Explore 13

14 Spring 2014

Photography by Jeff Gage

By Joseph Kays

The Panam a Canal

e xpansions offe rs UF and its partne rs unpre ce de nte d scie ntific and e ducational opportunitie s


ruce MacFadden hacks his way through the gray

clay of Panama with a prospector’s hammer, carving out a perfect protrusion to sample its magnetic orientation. He seems oblivious to the massive container ship gliding almost silently through the muddy brown waters of the canal just yards away.



Finally, he has a piece that will work. It’s about three inches in diameter, protruding in such a way that he can carve a flat surface on it with his well-worn sheath knife. That done, he pulls a geologist’s Brunton compass from his bag and lays it atop the rock. He aligns the needle with magnetic north, then uses the compass’ sturdy metal case as a straight edge to record the sample’s alignment with a pencil. The Earth’s magnetic field has reversed many times over its history, so by determining the orientation of this layer of rock, MacFadden and his team can accurately date the fossils they find here. “In order to find out the age of the fossils, we find out the age of the rocks that the fossils are contained in,” he says between swings. “We use the pattern of magnetic reversals in the past to tell us where we are in the geologic time scale.”

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He gingerly pries the chunk from the hillside, hoping it won’t crumble in his hands. He assigns it a sample number, records it in his field notebook and hands it to a student to wrap for shipment back to Gainesville for testing. One down, 24 to go. Some samples require a heavy pickaxe to tease them out, MacFadden’s breathing becoming more labored with each swing. The sweat beads on the paleontologist’s forehead beneath his hardhat and a safari shirt sticks to his skin. Here in Panama, just 9 degrees north of the Equator, the July sun is merciless, even at 9 a.m. As the principal investigator on numerous projects and with a host of graduate students to mentor, MacFadden has to maximize his opportunities to get into the field because he still has many scientific questions to answer, and time is running out.

You wouldn’t think a couple of months would make much difference to scientists who study fossils that are 20 million years old. But while geologic time is slow, the jungle is unrelenting. For 100 years, the Panama Canal has served as the gateway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, but as international sea trade has boomed, ships have grown ever larger, with many now exceeding the capacity of the canal’s locks. So, in 2007 Panama initiated a $7-billion project to expand the canal, adding two new, larger locks on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides and widening and deepening the canal at numerous locations. The expansion will

Bruce MacFadden has traveled the world searching for fossils, recording each location on the cover of his field notebook. Inside, he keeps meticulous notes about his observations, including the readings from his Brunton compass, a favorite of geologists.



more than double the canal’s capacity, allowing ships up to 1,200 feet long and 160 feet wide to make the transit. It will also allow ships to pass each other, even at the tightest spots, ending the alternating one-way system now employed. While the expanded canal is expected to be a boon to Panama and international trade, it is the construction that most interests MacFadden and his colleagues. The contractors are doing all the heavy lifting for the paleontologists, excavating more than 150 million cubic meters of soil. “This expansion is providing a oncein-a-century opportunity to access new rock outcrops rich in fossil diversity,” MacFadden says. “But within a year after the excavations are finished, all the outcrops will be covered by grass and no longer accessible to our team, so we’re racing against the clock for the next couple of years, trying to discover everything we possibly can.” And there’s a lot to discover in Panama, because millions of years ago Panama was the place where North met South. “Where we are right now was the southernmost tip of North America,” MacFadden says. “Just to the south, between here and Colombia, there was a very deep seaway called the Central American Seaway that was a barrier to animals dispersing into South America and animals coming from South America into North America.” Then, about 4.5 million years ago the two continents came together with the formation of the Isthmus of Panama, which served as a bridge for animals to cross in both directions in what’s called the Great American Biotic Interchange. “We’re interested in the kinds of animals that lived in this area before the formation of the bridge, about 19 to 21 million years ago, during the time period geologists call the Miocene,” MacFadden says. “That’s the age of the

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The PCP PIRE team heads for another site along the Panama Canal. Inset, Teachers Charles O'Connor from Florida and Jill Madden from Santa Cruz, California, with PCP PIRE Project Assistant Claudia Grant.

fossils we’re finding from the outcrops exposed along the canal.” For much of his career, MacFadden has focused on the evolution of horses, publishing dozens of papers in prestigious journals and authoring what is considered the definitive book on the subject. Then, in 2002 he was invited to tour Panama with researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, or STRI. The Smithsonian has been active in Panama since 1910, during U.S. construction of the canal, and STRI maintains extensive research capabilities throughout the country. Initially, MacFadden just planned to work on fossils Smithsonian paleontologists and Canal Zone geologists had collected in the 1960s and ‘70s that had never been described, but when a rich deposit of fossils was discovered in 2004 during construction of the new Centenario Bridge carrying the Pan-American Highway over the canal, he proposed new digs. “I had some small projects working along the excavations for Centenario Bridge, but they allowed us to develop some partnerships down here,” MacFadden says. When Panama announced the canal expansion in 2007, MacFadden realized it would provide access to even more of the fossil deposits they had been studying near the bridge. “I realized that the expansion was going right through the same age fossil deposits that we had been digging for several years,” he says. “This presented an extraordinary opportunity to advance understanding of the ancient biodiversity of this area.” The partnerships MacFadden had been building with these smaller projects all came to fruition in 2009, when the National Science Foundation announced a new cycle of Partnerships in International Research and Education, or PIRE, grants.



Jorge Velez Juarbe

Catalina Pimiento

Bruce MacFadden


VELEZ. IF YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT FOSSIL SHARKS YOU GO TO CATALINA PIMIENTO … IF YOU WANT TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT FOSSIL HORSES OR THE EARTH’S MAGNETIC FIELD, YOU TALK TO ME. EACH OF US HAS BOTH A GENERAL UNDERSTANDING OF THE BROAD FIELD AND A SPECIFIC OR FOCUSED EXPERTISE. THAT’S HOW YOU BUILD A TEAM.” — BRUCE MACFADDEN “When the solicitation for the PIRE grants came out, it was just what I was looking for in terms of being able to fund a large, complex, multinational research and education project focused around the Panama Canal,” he says. But MacFadden and his colleagues at the Florida Museum of Natural History — museum director Doug Jones and paleontologist Jon Bloch — knew competition for the PIRE grants was going to be fierce and that their proposal needed to be comprehensive. “Think about what PIRE stands for — Partnerships in International Research and Education,” MacFadden says. “NSF takes each one of those four parts of that program very seriously.”

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Drawing on relationships built over decades of research, the team began pulling together elements that addressed all four components of the PIRE mission. Along with STRI, they partnered with the Authoridad de Canal de Panama to do the excavations and collect geologic and paleontologic samples from the canal. And they partnered with SENACYT, the national science foundation of Panama, to support Panamanians, some of whom are UF students. They included opportunities for American students to travel to Panama and Panamanian and Colombian students to travel to the United States.

And they planned outreach programs that would take the research to the general public. In July 2010, NSF awarded UF $3.8 million for the Panama Canal Project PIRE and the digging began in earnest. Post-doctoral researchers and graduate students are the backbone of the PCP-PIRE Project and UF has assembled a team with diverse expertise. “Every one of my students is better at something than I am and that’s the way it should be,” MacFadden boasts like a proud father. “Within this team everybody has a different expertise. If you need a good anatomist you go talk to Jorge Velez. If you want to talk about fossil sharks you go to Catalina

Geology master's student Aldo Rincon measures a camel jaw he discovered along the Panama Canal.

Pimiento, if you need to know the age of rocks, you talk with David Foster, chair of UF’s geology department. If you want to understand about fossil horses or the Earth’s magnetic field, you talk to me. Each of us has both a general understanding of the broad field and a specific or focused expertise. That’s how you build a team.” From their base at STRI in Panama and remotely from the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, postdocs Velez, Austin Hendy and Aaron Wood supervise more than a dozen graduate students doing much of the fossil gathering along the canal. “The day-to-day discoveries are made mostly by younger members of the team,” MacFadden says. “We have student interns who go out in the field every day looking for fossils. They get out early in the morning, put in a half day of work before it’s either too hot or the rains come, then go back in and study what they found.” There are three ways to collect fossils in the field — surface prospecting, quarrying and screen washing. In surface prospecting, researchers walk along an outcrop looking for

anything distinctive. It might be a bone or a shark’s tooth or a fragment of a sea urchin, depending upon where you are in the rock column. “Surface prospecting is hot,” MacFadden says. “You’re walking along in the hot sun and you might go for hours and hours and not find anything, and then boom, you find something really cool, like a fabulous shark’s tooth or an animal that’s new to science.” If there seems to be a concentration of fossils in one area, they settle in and start quarrying. “Basically, instead of just walking along the surface we stay in one area and concentrate our digging,” MacFadden says. The third way of collecting fossils is by bagging up the sediments, bringing them back to the laboratory and rinsing them through progressively smaller screens. Gary Morgan, a curator from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science and UF alum, is the team’s lead scientist studying tiny fossils recovered by the screenwashing efforts. It takes a great deal of patience and extremely sharp eyes to do this kind of

work. What looks like just another rock to the average observer turns out to be the fossilized tooth of a prehistoric pig. While some finds are large, like a camel jaw, many are almost microscopic, like tiny fish teeth or snails. But they are all part of a giant jigsaw puzzle the researchers are painstakingly putting together in search of understanding about how life evolved in this important region of the planet. The researchers have identified three main formations along the canal. The oldest — the Las Cascadas Formation — is about 21 million years old. It was in this layer that doctoral student Aldo Rincon toiled for two years teasing fossils from the dirt, only to discover that many were from the same species of camel. “When I came back to the museum, I started putting everything together and realized, ‘Oh wow, I have a nearly complete jaw,’” Rincon says. Rincon’s discovery was important, MacFadden says, because it extended the range of this family of camels much farther south. “The family originated about 30 million years ago and were widespread




Rob Hoffman


Santa Cruz, California teachers Jason Tovani and Jill Madden at the Gatun fossil site near the Atlantic terminus of the Panama Canal in July 2013. throughout North America, but prior to this discovery, they were unknown south of Mexico,” he says. The middle formation — the Culabra — dates back to when oceans covered the area about 20 million years ago. Here there are fossils of marine mammals, sea urchins and sharks like the 60-foot-long Megalodon. “Megalodon has been a large part of the project in terms of our understanding of marine life,” MacFadden says. “Megalodon is the subject of Catalina Pimiento’s doctoral dissertation in UF’s biology department and she has become the world expert on this shark.” Modern sharks are known to have shallow-water nursery areas where the moms protect their babies, but based on her discoveries in Panama, Pimiento has shown for the first time in any fossil record the presence of Megalodon nurseries. “The study provides evidence of Megalodon behavior in the fossil record,” says Pimiento. “Behavior doesn’t fossilize, but we were able to interpret ancient protection strategies

22 Spring 2014

used by extinct sharks based on the fossil record.” The youngest formation is called the Cucaracha Formation and dates to about 19 million years ago. It was here in March 2012 that intern Stephanie Lukowski discovered the jaw of a beardog just a few dozen meters north of the Centenario Bridge. “At this quarry, the teeth and bone are usually either fragmentary or look like they’ve been ground down from being dragged along a river bottom by the current. This makes sense because these rocks were deposited by an ancient stream,” says post-doctoral researcher Aaron Wood. “What makes this discovery somewhat unique is how well preserved the jaw is. The jaw, rhino shoulder blade, and other specimens found close by — including a rodent jaw, two types of turtles and a horse tooth — are almost pristine. We hit the jackpot with this discovery in terms of information density.” Mindful of the E for Education in PIRE, MacFadden and his colleagues built many education and outreach

The PCP PIRE teachers, including Laura Beach (third from right), developed a lesson plan for a group of Panamanian fifth graders. components into their original proposal, and they have since expanded them even more. “Education outreach is a really important component of this project. It’s what NSF calls Broader Impacts,” MacFadden says. “Why should society care or benefit from the science that we’re doing? So we have many different components of our project that relate to Broader Impacts.”

Rob Hoffman Rob Hoffman

One of the most innovative involves bringing middle and high school science teachers to Panama for several weeks each summer to get authentic research experience working alongside PIRE team members. “It is possible, perhaps common, in the United States to become a science teacher without ever having participated in scientific research or practiced science beyond the classroom,” says Jason Tovani, a curriculum and instruction coordinator with the Santa Cruz (California) County Office of Education, who participated in the Panama field work in July 2013. “Through this experience, the practice of science came alive. We were thrust into the dynamic and exciting world of ‘doing’ science.” His colleague, Jill Madden, a science teacher at Cesar Chavez Middle School in Santa Cruz, adds: “As a science teacher it has always been my goal to inspire young people about science. I want them to think of themselves as scientists by involving them in authentic experiences. I want them to be excited about what they study and to find the ways in which it is relevant to their lives. The PIRE Panama Project immersed me in exactly the authentic science education I seek to provide for my students. I was a student doing real science with real scientists.” MacFadden marvels at the impact exposing the teachers to the Panama project has on children, calculating that the dozen teachers to participate so far have reached more than a thousand students each year. He also encourages his students to get into the classroom, and in 2013 Catalina Pimiento visited the Santa Cruz, California schools to talk about Megalodon, fossils and paleontology. “For me, professionally, it’s really cool at this stage of my career that I could have an impact on so many schoolchildren,” MacFadden says.

Another outreach program involves the spectacular BioMuseo Panama. Located on the Amador Causeway at the Pacific Ocean entrance to the Panama Canal in Panama City, the BioMuseo was designed by worldrenowned architect Frank Gehry. Its colorful roof is visible for miles and is said to mimic the plumage of the country’s many tropical birds. The museum, which is scheduled to open in mid 2014, is divided into eight galleries that trace the origin of the Isthmus of Panama and its huge impact on the planet’s biodiversity. They include a gallery illustrating the tectonic forces inside the Earth that formed the isthmus through three 14-foot-high sculptures. In another gallery, titled “When Worlds Collide,” the great exchange of species between North and South America when the isthmus closed is illustrated through a stampede of animal sculptures. As part of the PIRE project, UF faculty and staff have been collaborating with the BioMuseo for the past three years, providing them with fossil casts for display in some of the galleries, developing a temporary exhibit using fossils collected from the canal and providing a giant Megalodon shark jaw on long-term loan. “Our Panama Canal PIRE project has been transformational in terms of research, international partnerships and outreach,” says Doug Jones, director of the Florida Museum of Natural History. “We have made fascinating paleontological discoveries that will allow us to rewrite the chronology and dynamics of the first land connection between North and South America. At the same time our growing international team of collaborators includes students, teachers, university faculty and museum professionals who have done an outstanding job of communicating the significance of these discoveries to the broader public.”

The colorful BioMuseo was designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. A giant bear dog is part of the exhibit "When Worlds Collide."





he Panama Canal Museum was established in 1998 to preserve the history of the United States in Panama, particularly the construction and operation of the Panama Canal between 1904 and 1999. Led by volunteers who had lived and worked in the Panama Canal Zone, the organization quickly accumulated a large collection of artifacts, books, photographs and other archives and opened a display area in Seminole, Fla. In 2009, museum leaders and representatives of the University of Florida began discussions about transferring the museum’s collection to UF’s George A. Smathers Libraries, where it would be expanded, permanently preserved and made available to the public. This partnership of museum and Molas are a form of traditional appliqué art library was formalized in 2012 with the establishment of the joint UF from the Kuna Indians of Panama. Panama and the Canal collection. According to the formal mission statement, this growing collection will “document, interpret, and preserve the Panama Canal Museum Collection and articulate the leadership role of the United States in the history of Panama, with emphasis on the construction, operation, maintenance and defense of the Panama Canal, the Canal Zone and people of all nationalities who contributed to their success.” This collection unites and strengthens many existing resources to promote teaching and scholarship about the history and future of the extraordinary human achievement of the Panama Canal. Much of this extensive work is being made possible by a three-year, $500,000 Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, awarded in 2012. With this grant, the UF Libraries are supporting the integration of museum materials and community, organizing a campuswide Centennial Celebration of the Panama Canal’s opening and leading a national dialogue about best practices in museum-library collaborations. This museum-library partnership also has many important community stewardship aspects to ensure that knowledge of the Canal Zone is gathered and recorded. These include more than four dozen oral histories conducted by UF’s Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, a traveling speaker’s bureau and educational programs and the Friends of the Panama Canal Museum Collection organization that advises the library on collection management. This novel Some of the more than 200 stereographic images from the Panama Canal construction.

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s home to one of the nation’s oldest and largest Latin American Studies programs and one of the largest Latin American libraries in the country, UF is hosting numerous events during 2014 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal. Construction of the Pedro Miguel Lock on the Pacific Ocean side of the Panama Canal, June 1910. The S.S. Ancon becomes the first ship to officially transit the Panama Canal on August 15, 1914.

integration of museum and library services, materials and communities positions UF on the leading edge of innovations in library practice. UF has several strengths that helped to make it the logical home for the Panama Canal Museum collection. Because of Florida’s cultural past, UF has a long tradition in Latin American studies dating back to the establishment of the university’s Inter-American Institute in 1930. The libraries’ Latin American Collection is among the largest and most distinguished collections of Latin American materials in the United States. Portions of the collection have been digitized and preserved in the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC), an online resource with more than 35 international partners. The tremendous Latin American expertise at UF allows the university to harness a variety of existing resources to promote the visibility of and access to the Panama collections. After the bulk of the collection was transferred to UF in mid 2012, library personnel and volunteers quickly began cataloging, preserving and digitizing thousands of items. Over the past two years, the library has processed more than 14,000

museum items, including more than 200 stereographic photographs from the canal construction era, government documents and records, books, ephemera such as high school yearbooks from Canal Zone schools, and more than 1,200 molas, appliqué art from the Kuna Indians of Panama. “Extensive work has been done to create, organize, preserve, publicize and provide access to the Panama Canal Museum collection,” says library Associate Dean Rachel Schipper. “This was the immediate and most urgent need identified by the Panama Canal Museum community, and UF is regularly referred to as the ‘savior’ of the collections.” By early 2013 many of the items were online at, and during the year the Panama and the Canal digital collection received more than 1.4 million online views. The library continues to solicit and receive new materials, including more than 1,500 objects in 2013. Just as with the fossil record, the UF Library is perfectly positioned to ensure the preservation and access for future generations to the diverse materials that document the creation of the Panama Canal age.

Panama Considered: Remembering the Past, Embracing the Future — March 19-21, 2014 The 63rd Annual Conference of UF’s Center for Latin American Studies featured more than 30 speakers on scientific, social and political issues in Panama. Among the participants in this three-day conference were the Secretary General of Panama’s National Secretariat of Science and Technology (SENACYT), the CEO of the Panama Canal Authority, the director of the Museo del Canal Interoceanico and two former United States ambassadors to Panama. “The conference provided a much richer portrait of Panama and its history than is commonly perceived, including a focus on such topics as the Afro-Panamanian heritage, indigenous peoples and popular art,” says Richmond Brown, associate director of the Center for Latin American Studies and chair of the conference committee.

Panama Canal Centennial Celebration — ­ August 15-17, 2014 The UF Libraries are taking the lead on a year-long celebration of the canal centennial. Among the events planned are more than a dozen exhibitions; display of a 40-foot model of the canal; the Symphony of the Americas Summerfest concert, under the direction of Panamanian conductor James Brooks-Bruzzese; Panama Canal Zone Day at the Florida Museum of Natural History with traditional dancers, foods, Latin American butterflies, storytelling, fossils and family photographs; and a presentation at the Harn Museum of Art featuring molas or appliqué art from the Kuna Indians of Panama. Explore 25 Explore


26 Spring 2014



he story is apocryphal, passed though generations: When I was your age, I walked five miles to school (and 10 miles back, if the storyteller really wants to pull your leg), in the snow and rain with no shoes, and... Exaggerations aside, chances are there is a nugget of truth in the tall tale. In 1969, 48 percent of children walked to school. Of those who lived within one mile, 89 percent walked to school. In 2009, 13 percent of children walked to school, the number increasing only to 35 percent for those within a mile. What happened? University of Florida urban and regional planning Professor Ruth Steiner says the choices communities have made in the last four decades about land planning have caused a cultural shift in school transportation. And that shift comes with a price. “With schools, we really need to pay greater attention to the environment for walking, because if you don’t facilitate walking you could adversely affect the health of children,” Steiner says. “There’s also a belief logically that the habits we develop as children we carry through life, so if we don’t teach children to bicycle, for example, they may never learn to bicycle, and bicycling can be part of a healthy lifestyle as we age.” The health benefits of walking or biking to school — what Steiner calls “active transportation” — could help in the fight against childhood obesity. A third of children born in 2000 or later may suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that between one and three children between the ages of 6 and 19 are overweight or obese, with a direct cost to society of $14 billion per year. Add to that a $21.8 billion national tab for school busing — or $443 per student — and the cost of not walking adds up.

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Then imagine, Steiner says, putting even a fraction of that money into classrooms. For what it costs to bus children, each student could have an iPad, or a sturdy bicycle, or a smaller class size. Florida alone spends $935 million to bus fewer than half the state’s schoolchildren. “Think about school buses as an investment,” Steiner says. “If you owned a business, would you buy a vehicle you used a maximum of four hours a day, nine months of the year?” While it’s a seemingly simple decision — to walk or not to walk — a lot of factors go into it, says Steiner, director of the Center for Health and the Built Environment in the UF College of Design, Construction and Planning. The center examines the connection between how we build communities and the health of the people who live in those communities. Suburban development patterns — sprawl — including neighborhoods with plenty of streets ending in cul-de-sacs but few sidewalks, discourage walking and biking, and often are not well connected to the activities of daily life, like grocery stores. “It turns out that the way we have been designing our cities is not healthy for us,” Steiner says. “Travel to school can be an important piece of physical activity.” The potential to get children walking and biking to school again piqued the interest of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded Steiner’s initial research into how school siting affects travel to school. Researchers had been studying the correlation between children’s activity and health, and Steiner’s work showed that school locations affect the decision to walk. The federal Safe Routes to School program started in 2005 and uses $629 million in funding to improve the safety of roads and build sidewalks near schools, while promoting community involvement. After five years

of the program, a study in five states found that walking increased 45 percent and biking 24 percent. The decision to walk or bike depends on where schools are located, where people live and the number of children who live in neighborhoods near schools. Steiner has collected examples from across the state of school siting gone wrong (see opposite page). Intangible factors also come into play. The first missing children photos showed up on milk cartons in 1984, heightening fears of stranger danger. A vicious cycle also comes into play: traffic around a school may cause a parent to drive a child rather than allowing her to walk, but multiple parents making that decision is what creates the traffic around the school. In most communities, the drive to and from school accounts for 15 percent to 25 percent of peak hour traffic, Steiner says. When local planners, school planners and transportation planners all work together, Steiner says, “We get the golden apple of the school that is well integrated into the community with opportunity for children to walk.”

• A Pasco County school built 15 years ago on a six-lane highway. “Guess how many kids walk?” Steiner asks. Zero. The district opted not to spend $1.5 million on an overpass between the combined elementary and middle school campus and the huge subdivision across the street.

• An Orange County school with a wall between the school and a subdivision less than 100 feet away. Although many students can see the school from their yards, they have to walk or bike half a mile or more to get to it.

• In Alachua County, an aerial photo shows a large subdivision near a school, but no sidewalk to get the children there safely.



Schools are too important to the life of a community to be relegated to leftover parcels of land donated by a developer or the cheapest land available, Steiner says. Established school sites, too, offer opportunities for planning. “We are building schools all the time even as we are closing other schools,” Steiner says. “Neighborhoods will go through periods where there’s a very low census of children around a school, but that doesn’t mean children won’t be there in the future.” Instead of closing schools in an enrollment slump, Steiner says districts could follow a model in New York City, where such schools are repurposed as community or senior centers, until the surrounding neighborhood cycles back into one with children. “Once we close a school, we actually can leave a big hole in the community,” Steiner says. “And we have to be mindful that we are not just making an investment for 40 years, we may be making an investment for 100 years. Stable neighborhoods will go through cycles.

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“What if you stay with a school? You might actually be able to make the neighborhood come back faster,” Steiner says. “Communities can decide to value public resources, and schools are one of those resources.” Active transportation plays a big role in New Urbanism, a land planning and design movement that started in the late 1980s to promote walkable neighborhoods, with jobs, shopping, restaurants and public facilities such as schools all within walking distance of homes. In contrast, in many communities today, Steiner says, the rules are biased in favor of an automobile-centric, suburban style of development. “Unless we change the conversation, the incentives or the regulations we are going to continue to design in this same way, and we’re going to get the same results we’ve always had,” Steiner says. “Think how often you see a sidewalk or a bike lane and then it stops. We would never do that to automobile drivers but we do it to bicyclists and pedestrians all the time.

“I’ve come to believe that there is a certain part of public policy that assumes that sprawl is a foregone conclusion.” Some studies indicate that creating an environment conducive to walking also creates opportunities for people to get to know their neighbors. Just because more people are walking doesn’t necessarily lead to more community, Steiner says, but it does lead to better health. “People will walk anywhere they have to, but in places where it is easier to walk, you’re more likely to see people walking,” Steiner says. There are equity issues, too. Often, the poor walk because they have to, the wealthy because they choose to. Still, walking, whether to reach a destination or for recreation, is part of a health habit, Steiner says, and one that could be grounded in simply walking to school. “If we look at the full cost of school transportation, we aren’t accounting for the lifelong habits that would be developed if we found a way to design our schools and integrate them more

centrally within our community, where children could walk to school.” At centrally located schools, children often will walk or bike. That’s the experience of Mike Gamble, principal of Howard Bishop Middle School in Gainesville, which has several child-filled neighborhoods nearby. He estimates about 40 percent of students that are not bused to the magnet program walk to school. Getting a sidewalk this school year helped. The students already were walking, but the sidewalks make it a safer trip. Although Gamble, an avid cyclist, bikes to school, he says few of his students do because they don’t own bicycles. Those who do bike sometimes forget their locks, but they know they can stash their bikes in his office. “We want to promote biking and activity,” Gamble says. “We open up the gym in the morning. We’re all about getting the kids moving.” Steiner says a rule of thumb in transportation planning is that people give little thought to walking a quarter of a

mile. In malls, for instance, the distance between anchor stores generally is a quarter mile. One mile is the distance at which people start to think about driving, although it is only a 20-minute walk. Many parents wait longer in drop-off and pickup lines. Communities can change that, though. Walking school buses and bicycle trains work in many neighborhoods, with parents handing off the task of chaperoning block by block or taking turns different days of the week. “Everybody has a reason for why they don’t want to walk their children to school,” Steiner says, “but with schools allocating less time for exercise in the school day, that makes it even more important to start and end the day with exercise.” Ruth Steiner Center for Health and the Built Environment Related website:



SCIEinN  thCeE   CITY By Rebecca Burton

ratory, UF Health the Jacksonville urban labo to solve some of ys wa g din fin e ar ts tis ien sc al problems. our most challenging medic



n the basement of the emergency medicine corridor of UF Health Jacksonville, Robert Wears, a professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine, scans engineering books and medical journals, carefully piecing together the historical puzzle of hospital safety. Bridging the fields of engineering, psychology, medicine and sociology, Wears hopes to devise an interdisciplinary plan to minimize harm in health facilities. “The way that nature has divided up her problems is not the same way the

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university has divided up its subjects,” Wears says. “You need a really interdisciplinary group.” Wears is one of many UF researchers based in the heart of Jacksonville. Located less than two hours from the main campus in Gainesville, UF Health Jacksonville has historically been known more for the clinical care it provides patients. But the research occurring at the UF College of Medicine — Jacksonville is internationally recognized. Medical doctors and scientists from around the globe collaborate regularly on groundbreaking research to improve

public health and medicine. In fact, during the past five years, federal funding for research on the Jacksonville campus has grown 110 percent. On the research side, the smaller campus in the big city has excelled in conducting clinical trials utilizing its urban population. But recently, UF Health has worked to strengthen the support system for those who want to focus on basic and translational research. The Center for Health Equity and Quality Research, or CHEQR, directed by David Wood, a professor of pediatrics, was founded to be

a one-stop shop for researchers looking to turn grant proposals into funded studies. Tina Bottini, an assistant dean in the College of Medicine — ­ Jacksonville Office of Research Affairs, says this new approach includes hiring researchers with doctorates to work with clinicians. Because clinicians have a heavy patient load as their first priority, research in Jacksonville won’t grow without scientists dedicated to research working on the campus, she says. “It’s a different mindset. The Ph.D.trained researchers are the ones who are really driving the research,” Bottini says, because they can devote 100 percent of their time to collecting and analyzing data. The center began as a partnership between the campus and the Duval County Health Department to conduct

research that would aid in eliminating health disparities. “We have a clinical population that suffers from huge health disparities,” says William Livingood, the senior research scientist at CHEQR. “It’s a natural area of research for public health and for health care.” Among the newly funded projects that began in the center is a study looking at how children with progressive diseases, such as diabetes and muscular dystrophy, transition into adult health care. Another is looking at how to best use social media to educate youth about childhood obesity. The center also aids in matching people from different fields who have similar interests. For example, Sarah Osian, a medical doctor in the Department of Emergency Medicine, is teaming

Getty Images

X A J up with a psychologist to look at breast cancer disparities in north Florida. Bottini says the new approach is working, and with at least five new doctoral researchers hired in the last year, she has seen a major increase in the number of research proposals. With a clinical population of more than 1 million people and a 600-bed teaching facility, Daniel R. Wilson, dean of the College of Medicine — Jacksonville, believes the research capacity of the Jacksonville campus will continue to grow. “There’s a very broad consensus that Jacksonville has the opportunity to develop quite a bit more in the area of bioscientific research and that the University of Florida can and has to be one of the main drivers of that over the next 10 years,” he says.



they gies before lo o hn c te w us ahead cess to ne really sets e bl “Having mac la ai av s that cially opportunitie t are co mer n e m at e tr in the nts.” of the curve to our patie e d vi iolillo o pr an we c — Dominick Ang

Photography by John Jernigan.

Cardio Care

Dominick Angiolillo, medical director of the cardiovascular research program at UF College of Medicine — Jacksonville, has one of the largest research programs on the Jacksonville campus. The program is divided into clinical and translational areas, and Angiolillo says that having postdoctoral clinical and research fellows — with training as medical doctors, Ph.D.s and Doctors of Pharmacy, was crucial in building a comprehensive research program. The bulk of Angiolillo’s research revolves around treating cardiovascular disease. For years, research on the Jacksonville campus has been ahead of the game in testing new drugs and devices to better aid at-risk heart patients.

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UF Health Jacksonville was one of the first sites in the country to clinically test drug-eluting stents, which have now become the standard of care for treating patients with blockages in the arteries of the heart. Stents are mesh tubes that are used to widen narrow and diseased arteries, and the new ones pioneered by Angiolillo’s team, known as “bioabsorbable stents,” are absorbed entirely over time after implantation in the patients’ blood vessels. The old stents were metallic and would leave metal in the heart. “Devices for coronary interventions are something our institution pioneered under Dr. Theodore Bass,” Angiolillo says. “Having access to new technologies before they are commercially available really sets us ahead of the curve in the treatment opportunities that we can provide to our patients.”

Along with stents, heart disease patients also are given different types of antiplatelet drugs, which prevent blood clots to the heart. “These drugs prevent the platelets, the essential component of clots in the arteries, from sticking together and causing heart attacks,” says Jung Cho, a courtesy postdoctoral associate in Angiolillo’s lab. Angiolillo says Jacksonville’s diverse population and the college’s research facility have helped him pursue his medical goals. “It’s a privilege for me to work in such a nurturing environment surrounded by great colleagues, great professionals and a support staff, in addition to serving a patient population that is definitely in need of advanced research,” Angiolillo says.

Ladies First

At the Emerson Medical Plaza about 15 minutes away from UF Health Jacksonville, Andrew Kaunitz regularly fields media requests from popular women’s magazines such as Self and Women’s Health. Reporters are always inquiring about Kaunitz’s pioneering research on women’s sexual health. Kaunitz is testing a drug that has the possibility of treating a problem most women are discreet about: female orgasmic disorder. The drug is a nasal spray and could be thought of as “Viagra for women,” he says. Kaunitz’s research also contributed to the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of Mirena, an intrauterine device to treat heavy menstrual

Andre w Kaunitz


regularly fields me dia requests from popular wome n’s magazines such as and . Reporters are always inquiring about Kau nitz’s pioneering re search on women’s sexual health.

bleeding. Previously, the IUD was only approved for use as birth control. “That ends up being very important for our patients because with Mirena, it means that women with this common debilitating problem of heavy menstrual bleeding have a medical option, something we can use right here in the office that allows many women to avoid surgery such as hysterectomy,” Kaunitz

says. “A lot of my patients would like to avoid gynecological surgery if they can.” Kaunitz’s lab is also serving as the lead clinical site for an investigative study testing a second-generation birth control patch with a lower dose of estrogen. The first generation of birth control patches contained high estrogen doses that put women at greater risk of side effects, such as blood clots, he says.



Preemie Problems

As a researcher, Mark Hudak is dedicated to improving the lives of premature babies. Because these infants are born so early, they are susceptible to lung and breathing problems, which could result in more serious diseases later on in life. One of Hudak’s studies is looking at whether giving surfactant, a liquid the lungs make to assist breathing, will help prevent serious breathing problems that are common in preterm babies. “The only time you’re aware that you’re trying to breathe is when you’re running fast,” explains Hudak, chair of the College of Medicine — Jacksonville’s Department of Pediatrics. “Normal everyday breathing is very easy and that is because of surfactant.” Many preterm babies are not developed enough to produce surfactant, so Hudak is experimenting with a surfactant treatment to help them breathe. As part of a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, Hudak is testing whether giving surfactant not only at birth but also at a later age could help stave off breathing problems in kids. But premature babies are not Hudak’s sole focus. He and his fellow neonatologists are seeing an increasing number of newborns suffering withdrawal from opioids, many from prescription painkillers. When mothers use illicit drugs or prescriptions such as hydrocodone

36 Spring 2014

during pregnancy, their babies will often be born with a condition called neonatal abstinence syndrome. These babies display a constellation of symptoms, such as hyperirritability, tremors, sleep disturbances, fever, vomiting and sometimes even seizures. “These babies appear to be miserable,” Hudak says. “This is a huge problem. It can happen if a mother is on street drugs like heroin. Or it can happen if she is on a prescription opioid. The babies can have pretty dramatic signs of withdrawal only a day or two after birth.” Babies suffering withdrawal are treated with small amounts of an oral opioid, then slowly weaned. But Hudak says that weaning may take weeks, extending their hospital stay. He believes there is a more efficient treatment process. “We think there are improvements that can be made,” Hudak says, such as identifying optimal drugs that would lead to shorter hospital stays. Hudak is also involved in the NIHfunded National Children’s Study, in which children and their mothers are followed from birth to age 21. The purpose of the study is to collect medical and environmental data to generate hypotheses about the origins of childhood diseases such as diabetes, autism and asthma.

Hudak says the most rewarding part of his job “comes from being able to build clinical and research programs, engage in the exploration of questions, contribute to the fund of knowledge and make a contribution to changing practice in a way that achieves better outcomes for the kids we take care of.”



babies appear to be miserabl e. This is a huge problem. can happen if a mother is It on street drugs like hero in . Or it can happen if she is on a presc rip tion opioid. The babies can have pretty dramatic signs of wit hdra wal only a day or two after birth.” — Mark Hudak




mixing bo wl de velope d with a s er nt ce ty fe , but sa e ort-term project sh a “I would like to se to d tie t no me basic one place, could produce so of skills all in ey th so d ge ga en ently rld.” a bit more perman sense of the wo ke ma e pl o pe w — Robert Wears research about ho

38 Spring 2014

Patient Safety

While College of Medicine — Jacksonville faculty members conduct most of the research at the Jacksonville campus, Wears believes the future of health care includes collaboration between fields. Wears, who is also certified in the area of human factors engineering, focuses his research on patient safety. He says that getting engineers and social scientists to work together with medical professionals in designing devices, workflow and record-keeping procedures will optimize the way a hospital operates while lowering patient risk. Wears is working on a project he describes as the social history of patient safety. His preliminary results show that for the past few decades patient safety has focused on problems doctors are most comfortable with — such as infection. “Infections aren’t as threatening to doctors,” Wears says. “So as doctors gained control of the patient safety movement it was quite natural for them to focus on infection control. The patient safety movement has gradually migrated toward a set of subjects that doctors are more comfortable with and away from subjects that they’re less comfortable with.” Getting other professions involved in patient safety research could help address problems that doctors may not understand completely, he says.

The goal of the social history project is to influence policy in a way that requires partnerships between physicians, social scientists, engineers and psychologists to improve patient safety. Wears explains that if engineers worked alongside medical professionals, the designs of the devices and machinery used in saving lives could be improved to prevent errors. “I would like to see safety centers developed with a mixing bowl of skills all in one place, not tied to a short-term project, but a bit more permanently engaged so they could produce some basic research about how people make sense of the world,” Wears says. Dominick Angiolillo Associate Professor, Department of Medicine (904) 244-3933 Mark Hudak Professor, Department of Pediatrics (904) 244-3056 Andrew Kaunitz Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology (904) 244-3109 Robert Wears Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine (904) 244-4405 Related website:



Department of Adult and Elderly Nursing College of Nursing

Department of Political Science College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Leslie Anderson Leslie Anderson uses a series of metaphors to describe her mentoring process. The “tool box” introduces students to the many methods political scientists use to collect data. “Finding the edge of the world” allows students to find the end of knowledge in their field so they can define a dissertation project that allows them to chart a course toward a new area of study. A research topic, she says, should be an “oversized jacket,” allowing them room to grow. The metaphor, “launching from Cape Canaveral,” asks students to view their dissertation not as an end to an academic journey but a point from which to launch a robust career, by asking a major scholarly question that can not only result in a Ph.D. but take them all the way to tenure. Finally, she uses the “learner’s permit” metaphor. Students learn to drive with an adult at their side, but eventually, ”… one must drive — and do scholarly research — alone.” As graduate coordinator for her department, Anderson has ample opportunity to use the metaphors. Ido Oren, chair of the department of political science, describes Anderson as a “pillar” of the department’s Ph.D. program, chairing 25 doctoral committees, with six current Ph.D. candidates. Jonathan Jones, a 2009 doctoral graduate, says he encountered setbacks during his field work in India and sent Anderson a troubled email. “Her email back was completely enthusiastic! She thought it absolutely important that I was having these challenges …” Jones says. “She bestowed confidence in me.”

40 Spring 2014

Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Ph.D. Mentors

Ann Horgas Ann Horgas says she has gained as much from mentoring her students in the College of Nursing as they have gained from her. Students and colleagues say that graciousness is typical. Former student Lois Ellis, now the director of nursing programs at Santa Fe College, said she encountered an assortment of challenges when she returned to school after 25 years. As a part-time student employed full-time, Ellis said Horgas was so sensitive to helping her juggle that they even met at Starbucks on occasion. “I often sent her long emails full of questions and concerns, and she always responded patiently and with thoughtful and helpful answers,” Ellis said. Horgas went to great lengths to help her, especially considering that Horgas experienced a death in the family as Ellis was due for her qualifying exam. To help her stay on track, Ellis said, Horgas arranged a temporary committee member and a new chair. “I was amazed that, under the circumstances, she would so calmly and carefully ensure that my needs as a student were considered,” Ellis said. Mentee Mindy S. Grall also drew on Horgas’s strength as a mentor. “… through her model behavior, I learned the true meaning of resilience, leadership, honor, and responsibility.” “A mentor also leaves a mark on the mentee that time cannot erase,” Grall says. Department of Adult and Elderly Nursing Chair Joyce Stechmiller said it is a testament to her teaching that two former Horgas mentees have been hired as assistant professors in the department.

Susan Jacobson Susan Jacobson’s first Ph.D. student jumped at the chance to nominate her for an advising and mentoring award. Fifteen years after receiving her Ph.D. from UF, Mallory McDuff, who teaches environmental education at Warren Wilson College, describes herself as an academic, an environmentalist, a writer, a mother and Jacobson’s first Ph.D. student. Even though the job market was tight when she graduated, she got three job offers — a credit, she says, to Jacobson’s mentoring. “Since my graduation, Susan and I have co-authored numerous articles, book chapters and even a book together. But in my mind, I will always be her student,” McDuff says. “… even when I don’t call her, I know she has my back.” Today, in her writing, she says she is “making connections between what matters to people and the natural communities around them. And Susan Jacobson taught me to view the world through that lens.” Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department Chair Eric C. Hallgren says a sign of her broad influence is that her nominating letters include one from a current student, one from a recent graduate and one from a graduate of 15 years ago. R. Elaine Turner, dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, notes that Jacobson has raised $1 million in grants to support 11 international students and 40 graduate research projects across 15 UF departments. She has served on 33 Ph.D. committees, chairing 15. She has twice been the CALS Graduate Teacher/Adviser of the Year and is a member of the UF Academy of Distinguished Teaching Scholars.

Kenneth Sassaman Kenneth Sassaman sees mentoring graduate students as more than creating the next generation of scholars. He sees it as an opportunity to create ambassadors for archaeology. Archaeology, says the Hyatt and Cici Brown endowed professor in Florida archaeology, should be more than “the color commentary on our collective past.” “Having been influenced by mentors versed in critical theory, I had come to expect archaeology to do more than entertain,” says Sassaman, the director of the Laboratory of Southeastern Archaeology. “I expect it to contribute directly to the challenges of our own futures. It would take a large cadre of thoughtful, young professionals to make archaeology more relevant.” Sassaman’s program attracts students interested in research in the Southeast U.S., which is a growth area for archaeology, and promises continued growth with climate change and sea level rise. He leads annual archaeological field schools that are in demand, according to Neill J. Wallis, assistant curator in archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History and a former student. Sassaman has been asked why so much of his endowment goes to his students, says Department Chair Susan D. deFrance, adding that it is a demonstration of his unselfishness. But Sassaman says it is part of his strategy for communicating to students their responsibility to the profession, the public and the future. “I am indeed spending it on myself by spending it on graduate students. Building capacity for the future is what I do.”

Stephen W. Smith When graduate students in special education look for a mentor, they often seek Stephen W. Smith, and Smith, who has chaired or co-chaired 73 doctoral and master’s committees, welcomes them. Smith says one of the most critical aspects of the educational enterprise is the development of independent learners. “Helping students overcome self doubt while, at the same time supporting and inspiring them to develop emotional resilience and requisite skills to evolve into promising teacher educators and researchers is often the result of an influential and satisfying relationship with a faculty mentor,” says Smith, the Irving and Rose Fein Endowed Professor. Second-year doctoral student Michelle M. Cumming says Smith’s passion for the field is infectious. Donna L. Pitts, another current student, says it is easy to see why Smith has won the Teacher of the Year award for the College of Education and why he is one of UF’s top 100 researchers. She also appreciates his warmth. “Earlier this year, I was diagnosed with cancer, and through the diagnosis, treatment and recovery, Dr. Smith supported me with the utmost of compassion and encouragement,” Pitts says. Gregory G. Taylor, says Smith taught him to appreciate the history of the profession. “Confident in my abilities (even when I was not), Stephen provided instruction, resources and opportunities for me,” Taylor says. “Currently entering my second year as faculty at a major research university, I continue to seek Stephen’s advice on navigating the world of academia.”

Department of Agronomy College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

School of Special Education, School Psychology, & Early Childhood Studies College of Education

Department of Anthropology College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Lynn Sollenberger Good mentors help chart a path through school, but great mentors become lifelong colleagues and collaborators, and that’s how Lynn Sollenberger’s mentees view him. In fact, his former students look forward to their annual professional meeting, where several academic generations of the “Sollenberger stables” get together to renew friendships and plan a few experiments together. Bruce Mathews, now interim dean at the University of Hawaii, said his decision to attend UF for doctoral work was based on Sollenberger’s reputation as a rising star in grassland agriculture. “Dr. Sollenberger is the most committed professor that I have ever observed when it comes to doctoral advising, and this relationship with his students has often continued well beyond the Ph.D.,” Mathews says. “Even today, I frequently seek his editorial input on grant proposals and journal article manuscripts in addition to assistance on analytical procedures, effective teacher and institutional policies.” Sollenberger says his goal as a mentor is to graduate “capable, independent, and productive scientists, who are excited about what they do …” “Graduate student mentoring is not a casual task, and like being a parent, it should not be treated casually,” Sollenberger says. “… effective mentors are hands on, interactive, and engaged with their students.” Kenneth Quesenberry, professor emeritus and interim chair of the agronomy department, supervised Sollenberger’s doctoral studies and has watched Sollenberger become a “consummate example of a university scholar and mentor.”



Maria Belen Farias

Yaima Lightfoot works in the Center for Inflammation and Mucosal Immunology, where researchers focus on distinguishing between beneficial and harmful bacteria.

Gutsy Job — Attacking Crohn’s Disease, Colon Cancer On Microbial Level YOGURT’S TAKEOVER OF THE DAIRY AISLE IS OCCURRING IN PART BECAUSE OF THE KIND OF WORK MANSOUR MOHAMADZADEH DOES IN A UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA LAB. UF has set out to become an international leader in mucosal immunology — how microbes interact with your gut and immune system. Success could mean a solid scientific grounding for prescribing 5.3-ounce cups of creamy snacks and the “good” bacteria they contain to help prevent the suffering and premature deaths of millions. So far, the marketing is ahead of the science, though. Studies do suggest a connection between the bacteria in the gut and Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, autism, obesity, colon cancer and more. But most of the findings result from work with mice — and in UF’s labs, zebrafish. Researchers face a difficult task proving that probiotics — swallowing beneficial bacteria — promotes human health because it’s nearly impossible to control what people eat short of sequestering them in a lab for days.

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It’s a field of research crucial to human health, since microbes outnumber cells by 10 to 1 in our bodies. But the study of distinguishing good from bad bacteria, figuring out how they interact with the lining of our mouths and guts, and decoding the talk between those linings and our immune systems is a relatively young area of inquiry. UF has one of the nation’s few centers for mucosal immunology, and it has a plan to recruit experts with the ability to acquire the knowledge, the research funding and the collaborators across campus and around the globe to make breakthrough discoveries. The plan is financed in part by UF’s Preeminence Plan — the push to assemble the faculty, students, buildings and programs necessary to improve on the measures of success used by so many ranking systems. The state has awarded UF $15 million a year for five years to support its drive for national preeminence, and the university is matching that amount with privately raised funding. The center will get $500,000 of that to help cover the salaries of five new researchers.

“We’re looking for very specialized minds. We believe we’ll accelerate discovery by assembling a brain trust that’s not only on the cutting edge of the biology but experts in techniques, including the use of sophisticated cell imaging and the crunching of huge amounts of data,” said Robert Burne, associate dean for research at UF’s College of Dentistry and coordinator of the project, along with Dr. Mohamadzadeh and Dr. Rob Hromas from the College of Medicine. Within the last two years, UF has put together an A team by bringing in Mohamadzadeh from Northwestern University to lead the center and world-renowned mucosal immunologists Christian Jobin from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and Ellen Zimmerman from the University of Michigan to reinforce the research efforts. Now the College of Dentistry is teaming with the colleges of medicine and veterinary medicine to bring together the interdisciplinary expertise necessary to take on such complex medical challenges. Solutions are unlikely to be as simple as “Eat this, not that.” Nonetheless, UF’s work at the molecular level aims to put immense powers of health in your hands as you reach for the refrigerated shelves of your supermarket. “We can’t wait to have the new hires join our team, because we know people with Crohn’s disease can’t wait, and diabetics shouldn’t have to continue worrying that what they eat will trigger an attack,” Mohamadzadeh said. “We do this work at a microscopic level, but we never lose sight that this is about people’s health.” Mansour Mohamadzadeh,

Chris Moran


“Down the Rabbit Hole:” This image is taken from the Salvador Dali-illustrated edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, one of the rarest and most popular books in UF’s Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature. The limited edition book, published in 1969, contains 12 illustrations and an original color etching frontispiece signed by Dali. To learn more about the Baldwin Library, visit

Non-Profit Organization U.S. Postage PAID Gainesville, FL Permit No. 94

Explore Magazine Box 115500 Gainesville, FL 32611-5500

Panama Canal Centennial Celebration —­ August 15-17, 2014


’s year-long celebration of the Panama Canal Centennial in 2014 will culminate with a weekend of events August 15-17, including a presentation at the Harn Museum of Art about molas like this one. Mola making is a reverse appliqué technique developed in the early 20th century by women living in island communities along the Caribbean coast of Panama. The UF Panama Canal Museum Collection contains more than 1,200 molas depicting such things as this bird grasping a branch, jungle cats, two-headed horses, the Garden of Eden and the seal of the United States.

UF Explore magazine Spring 2014  

Research at the University of Florida