Wactawski-Wende accepts honor on behalf of Women’s Health Initiative

University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions Dean Jean Wactawski-Wende has accepted the 2015 Association for Clinical and Translational Science (ACTS) Team Science Award on behalf of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), one of the largest clinical trials ever undertaken in the U.S.

Wactawski-Wende, chair of the WHI steering committee, accepted the award April 16 at the ACTS annual meeting in Washington, D.C. The award acknowledges and recognizes the growing importance of interdisciplinary teams to the translation of research discoveries into clinical applications and eventually widespread clinical practice.

UB, a national and global leader in epidemiology and women’s health research, has played a key role in the groundbreaking National Institutes of Health-funded WHI for more than two decades.

The primary goal of the WHI was to reduce coronary heart disease, breast and colorectal cancer and fractures linked to osteoporosis among postmenopausal women through prevention strategies and identification of risk factors.

The initiative has brought far-reaching new insights into health care practice for women. Originally involving more than 162,000 women across the nation, including nearly 4,000 women from Western New York, WHI researchers sought to gather essential clinical data on the major diseases affecting women, on whom remarkably few studies had ever been done.

“In addition to the Women’s Health Initiative, UB is home to a range of high-profile national research programs, including the world’s longest running COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) trial, cutting-edge cardiovascular research and development of innovative devices for treating vascular disease,” said Michael E. Cain, UB vice president for health sciences and dean of the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“With five health sciences schools, rare among academic health centers, UB is in a very strong position to best leverage research collaborations both inside the university and with external partners.”

Read more.

UB’s Fulbright Scholar has passion for teaching children, cultural diversity

Abigail LaPlaca — award-winning Latin American dance team choreographer, lover of languages, worldwide adventure-traveler, University at Buffalo Presidential Scholar and 2015 Fulbright Scholar — saw her vision of the transforming power of education come to life in an 8-year-old Dominican Republic girl named Tainalis.

While volunteering to teach English through UB’s Honors College during spring break her sophomore year, LaPlaca first saw Tainalis as she ran into the makeshift classroom in the small city of Monte Cristi. Tainalis was one of about 100 young students who had come to learn English in a program that teaches what LaPlaca called “the local, eager children.”

Once again, LaPlaca found a lasting connection revolving around education, cultural diversity and a shared sense of humanity.

“She scampered into the classroom, headed straight for the books and darted over to me with one firmly in hand,” LaPlaca recalled. “It was none other than ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’ by Dr. Seuss.

“We sat down in a corner together and began reading,” LaPlaca wrote in the personal statement that obviously spoke to the Fulbright judges. “I would say a word and she would repeat it. Soon, I realized that we were reading simultaneously.

“As my voice faded away, hers continued on alone, halting, yet clear: ‘Oh, the places you’ll go! You’re off to great places! Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting. So get on your way!’”

LaPlaca, who turned 22 in March, willingly recounts this story with the zeal and expression of someone who savors language and who admits she doesn’t dodge the limelight. She tells it with all its conflicting joy and heartbreak. The rustic classroom with the concrete floor was surrounded by a typical Dominican environment: “brilliantly hued flora disguising and distracting from the crumbling, barbed-wire fenced dwellings that lined the hard, mud-packed streets of Monte Cristi,” the small, poor Dominican fishing village bordering on the Gulf of Mexico where LaPlaca spent her week as a teacher volunteer.

The experience with Tainalis illustrates how LaPlaca views education: Schools and classes that reach students can merge imagination and opportunity. Education can transform lives.

Read more.

Biotechnology venture takes first place in UB entrepreneurship competition

Three graduate students took first place in the University at Buffalo’s Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition (Panasci TEC) for a biotechnology venture that offers a revolutionary new way to deliver cancer drugs.

Michael Bisogno, MD/MBA student, of Smithtown; Kevin Carter, a master’s student in biomedical engineering, of Georgetown, Guyana; and Jonathan Smyth, third-year law student, of Syracuse, will receive $25,000 in startup capital, as well as in-kind services valued at more than $27,000 for their company, PhotoZyne.

The dosage and effectiveness of typical cancer drug treatments are limited because of their severe toxicity. Enter PhotoZyne, which offers an effective and minimally invasive solution. A “smart” nanoballoon safely delivers cancer treatments directly to solid tumors. Administered intravenously, the drug then is activated by exposure to a special laser light probe.

The creators say the focused delivery helps to decrease recurrence, resistance and side effects. And survival rates are higher because the cancer can be treated effectively in one concentrated dose.

Carter co-invented the technology with Jonathan Lovell, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, and brought in Smyth and Bisogno to help bring it to market.

Read more.

UB summit to promote empowerment of women in STEM careers

As part of its commitment to increase opportunities for female students and other women to build careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), the University at Buffalo will host its inaugural Women in STEM Summit.

It will be held April 23 from 8:30 a.m. to noon in the Student Union on the UB North Campus. The event is free and open to the public.

“There are terrific opportunities in the U.S. for young women entering STEM fields now; I want our current and future students to understand that,” said Liesl Folks, dean of UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “Ours is an increasingly technological society, and STEM education is a ticket to a great career. The Women in STEM Summit seeks to promote that, to get that message out.”

According to a recent U.S. Department of Commerce study, while women fill close to half of the jobs in the U.S. economy, they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs. The U.S. Census Bureau noted in a 2013 American Community Survey Report that among science and engineering graduates, men are employed in a STEM occupation at twice the rate of women: 31 percent compared to 15 percent.

April’s summit will focus on encouraging more women to enter the science and engineering workforce, and supporting those on the path already.

The event will bring STEM undergraduate students, scholars and educators from UB together with professionals from the WNY community to share academic and professional experiences.

It will feature panel discussions with local thought leaders representing various STEM disciplines. The keynote address will be delivered by Rachel Haot, New York State’s chief digital officer and deputy secretary for technology in the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Read more.

UB social work professor honored with national award

Deborah Waldrop, a professor in the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, received a prestigious Award of Excellence in Research from the Social Work Hospice & Palliative Care Network (SWHPN) at the organization’s annual General Assembly in Philadelphia.

The award recognizes her 16 years of research dedicated to advancing the field of palliative care.

“To be nominated by my peers and have this kind of recognition is an incredible honor and privilege,” says Waldrop.

Waldrop’s groundbreaking research extends from her experience as a hospice social worker and having spent 20 years in hospitals before that. She knows both the challenges families faced in the past given only a difficult set of limited options and the better choices they have today created through the inception of hospice and palliative care.

“My driving force is to make a difference in what we understand about the psychosocial care that people need and the psychosocial issues they experience,” she says. “This includes how a diagnosis and disease trajectory influences a person within their specific social environment — their family, their job, their finances and the people around them. A life-limiting diagnosis doesn’t just affect the person who is ill. It moves through their whole social network.”

Read more.

Kapoor Hall is UB’s latest LEED-certified building

John and Editha Kapoor Hall, the home of the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, has been certified gold under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices.

Kapoor Hall is UB’s ninth LEED-certified facility. Its green design exemplifies the university’s commitment to reducing its environmental footprint across all three campuses.

The pharmacy school officially opened its new home, named for alumnus John N. Kapoor and his late wife, Editha, on the South Campus in 2012 following a renovation.

The building includes many green design features. It provides plenty of natural daylight (75 percent of all space in the building receives natural light), reduces water use through features such as low-flow faucets, and lowers energy costs by more than 30 percent compared with a standard building of the same size that doesn’t implement eco-friendly design.

“This remarkable building is emblematic of our commitment to our pharmaceutical sciences and pharmacy students who will become leaders in their fields,” said James M. O’Donnell, professor and dean of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. “Our vision is to be a leader in education, research, wellness, clinical practice and service — a commitment which extends to promoting the health and sustainability of our environment as well.

“We are proud that John and Editha Kapoor Hall has earned this distinction for green building leadership. It is a world-class facility, providing us with an opportunity to have an even greater impact on improving the health of our students and faculty as well as our community.”

The building houses a state-of-the-art Pharmaceutical Care and Teaching Center and has improved linkages between all of UB’s health science schools and the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Read more.

Five teams enter final round of UB entrepreneurship competition

Five teams will vie for more than $60,000 in startup funding and in-kind services in the final round of the Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition (Panasci TEC) on April 15 in the University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts.

Selected from a record 33 first-round pitches, the finalists feature a diverse array of ventures: Buffalo Automation Group, a robotics startup that develops self-navigating technology for boats and ships; SMART WALLS, deployable, precast concrete walls used to protect buildings or entire neighborhoods against water-related hazards; PhotoZyne, a biotechnology venture that has developed a novel therapeutic agent delivery platform; College Underground, an app that connects college students with relevant on-campus information; and Pawraiser, a crowdfunding platform to raise money for animals in need.

Since the competition began, 14 local businesses have launched with the first-place prize money, and most remain in business today. The first Panasci TEC champs sold their business, Campus Labs, for $40 million in 2012.

This year, the team that presents the best plan for launching a viable new business in Western New York will earn $25,000 in seed money.

Read more.

Winners announced in UB School of Management undergraduate DEAL Expo

A cybersecurity competition and a think tank implemented by undergraduate students in the University at Buffalo School of Management took top honors in the third annual DEAL (Display of Efforts, Aptitudes and Leadership) Expo, an event that showcases undergraduate achievements in the school.

Juan Jimenez of Somers and Nicholas Johns of Rochester took first place and a $750 prize in the Best Applied Experience category for their project “Center for Development and Strategy (CDS),” a student-run think tank that has founded a number of initiatives to spread awareness of key issues in development, encourage student collaboration and publish new research.

In the category of Best Research, Aaron Fiebelkorn of Williamsville earned first place and a prize of $750 for his project, “Hacking a Scheme to UB NetDef’s Cybersecurity Competition,” which highlighted his plan to launch a UB-hosted cybersecurity competition for teams of college students.

Rony St. Simon of Alfred and Evan Chen of Williamsville took a $500 prize and the Open House Choice award for their project “Behind the Scenes of the Student Association.” The award is a special honor chosen by accepted students at the university’s spring open house held March 28, the same day as the DEAL Expo.

The DEAL Expo is a student-run poster contest that provides undergraduate students in the School of Management the opportunity to showcase their best research, class projects, internship experiences and creative activities.

Read more.

UB’s Smart Laundry goes high-tech: ‘Opening Day’ maiden cycle set for April 10

Laundry facilities at two University at Buffalo dormitories will make the traditional college cleaning ritual a thing of the past, thanks to a smartphone  application that links current technology with students looking for available washers and dryers.

“The era of students waiting for machines looks to be ending,” said Andrea Costantino, director of UB’s Campus Living.  “Our students appreciate convenience, and we’re always looking for ways to meet their needs. The CBORD smartphone-based system certainly is an easier way for us to provide an important service here on campus.”

What: An “Opening Day” unveiling of renovations at Wilkeson and Fargo laundries. Eighty-four machines were converted to interface with CBORD Mobile ID, a web and smartphone application.

Where: Fargo Laundry Lounge inside the Ellicott Complex on UB’s North Campus.

When: 1 p.m. Friday, April 10.

Suds and Settings: The smartphone application allows students to search for available washers and dryers from their room or anywhere on campus, view wait times for machines in use, anonymously alert previous users via text messages when their laundry is ready for removal and receive email or text message notifications when machines become available.

Read more.

Three UB engineering students win coveted Goldwater scholarships

Three University at Buffalo juniors will receive Goldwater scholarships, a prestigious national honor that supports undergraduates studying science, mathematics or engineering.

The students are:

·         Stephanie M. Kong, a chemical engineering major from East Amherst.

·         Sharon Lin, a chemical engineering major from Schenectady.

·         Kristina Monakhova, an electrical engineering major from Liverpool.

They are among 260 award winners chosen by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program from a nationwide pool of 1,206 sophomores and juniors. Congress established the program in 1986 to honor Barry Goldwater, a five-term senator from Arizona.

Each award winner will receive up to $7,500 per year to cover educational expenses.

“The Goldwater scholarship committee could not have chosen three more deserving scholars than Stephanie, Sharon and Kristina. They have excelled in the classroom and laboratory, and set an example for other students to emulate,” said Liesl Folks, dean of UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “The awards are especially gratifying because of the emphasis UB places on encouraging women, minorities and other underrepresented groups to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.”

Universities may nominate up to four undergraduates annually, and each of UB’s four 2015 nominees — all UB Honors Scholars — received recognition. Junior Dante A. Iozzo, a dual major in physics and mathematics from Lewiston, earned an honorable mention.

“Goldwater scholarships are extremely competitive. Fortunately at UB, we have the good problem of having no shortage of exemplary students to nominate. This is no doubt a reflection of the quality of our student body,” said Elizabeth Colucci, UB’s coordinator of fellowships and scholarships.

This year’s award winners are a point of pride for UB’s engineering school. Since 2012, six undergraduate engineering students – including five from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering – have won the prestigious award.

Read more about UB’s Goldwater recipients.