US News ranks UB in top 50 among public universities; No. 1 for grads with least debt

Top-notch academics and the lowest possible debt: that’s the win-win value offered to students by the University at Buffalo, according U.S. News and World Report.

This year, UB for the first time cracked the top 50 among the best public “national universities” in the country – ranking No. 48, up three spots from last year’s No. 51 ranking. U.S. News bases its rankings on an assessment of 1,600 of the country’s four-year colleges and universities. Among both public and private national universities, UB is ranked No. 103, up 6 spots from last year and an improvement of 17 spots over the past 5 years.

And UB continues to outperform its peers on value. UB is ranked No. 1 among public colleges and universities nationwide for graduating students with the least amount of debt. Among both public and private schools, UB is ranked No. 8 for the least debt.

According to U.S. News, for those UB students who graduate with debt (55 percent of students don’t have any debt upon graduation), the average debt amount is $17,455. At national universities with the “most debt,” students graduate with average debt of $35, 902 to $41,060, according to U.S. News, and as many as 87 percent of students graduate in debt.

For the first time, UB also was ranked one of the best colleges for veterans, at No. 23. This category, introduced last year, lists top-ranked schools that participate in federal initiatives to help veterans and active service members apply, pay for and complete their degrees.

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C&E News picks X-ray crystal study as one of the world’s top 10

An X-ray crystal structure solved by a University at Buffalo chemistry professor has been chosen as one of the world’s top 10 molecular structures ever solved.

The list was compiled by the science and technology magazine of the American Chemical Society, Chemical & Engineering News (C&E News), to celebrate the 100 anniversary of X-ray crystallography, the technique that gave scientists their first peek into the atomic world.

In the Aug. 11 issue of C&E News, the editors wrote that choosing 10 favorite X-ray crystal studies was tough. “That’s no easy task: there are now nearly 1 million to choose from. But we persevered. We zeroed in on a handful that answered pressing chemical questions of their day.”

The editors chose the work of Distinguished Research Professor of Chemistry Philip Coppens from the 1990s because it ushered in a new era of X-ray crystallographic research, allowing chemists to study short-lived, excited-state molecules. Until that point, the technique had only allowed scientists to study molecules when they were inactive. Because molecules often pass through excited states just before reacting, they were of special interest to chemists.

A few months ago, Coppens was contacted by a C&E News editor.

“I was called for some information for an issue highlighting a hundred years of crystallography,” says Coppens, “but I was not told in what context. I only found that my structure was in the top 10 when some friends in Europe, who received the issue earlier, wrote to congratulate me.

“What did I think? Well, I knew that we were attempting things that had not been done before and which would be important, because the excited states we wanted to probe were structurally unknown and very reactive precursors in chemical reactions,” he recalls. “But I did not expect that we would be quoted on par with the DNA double helix, transfer RNA and other structures of such importance.”

In the early 1990s, Coppens and his UB colleagues completed what was believed to be the first, structural study of an excited molecule, providing scientists with a glimpse of the distortions that a molecule undergoes in the milliseconds or nanoseconds before it reacts chemically. Coppens and colleagues studied sodium nitroprusside, primarily because its presumed electronic excited state lasts for hours, far longer than other molecules, when the crystal is cooled to very low temperatures. They found that in its excited state, the molecule underwent a number of important structural changes. The 1994 achievement, published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, was reported as the first X-ray crystallographic solution of a molecule in its excited state.

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UB education student and ‘regular English teacher’ chosen for national media literacy award

University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education doctoral student Denise Grandits, a middle school literature teacher in St. Amelia School in Tonawanda, is the latest recipient of the Media Literacy Award from the National Council of Teachers of English.

Grandits received this national recognition for her work integrating new media and literacies into her seventh- and eighth-grade literature class at St. Amelia. The award goes to an individual, team or department that has implemented and refined exemplary media literacy practices in the school environment.

Grandits, a student from the Department of Learning and Instruction, is in her third year at St. Amelia.

“I am humbled, honored and, to be honest, still in shock, that I have been named this year’s recipient,” says Grandits.  “I always knew my students were excited and motivated to learn, but until my studies in my doctorate program at University at Buffalo, I didn’t have the words or theories to back up what I saw happening.

“I can’t believe this happened to just a regular English teacher in regular America.”

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UB names first WBFO-Silvers Visiting Professor in Arts, Humanities

The University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences and its Humanities Institute has announced the name of its first WBFO-Eileen Silvers Visiting Professor in the Arts and Humanities.

She is Rosalyn Diprose (pronounced DIP-rose), PhD, professor emeritus of philosophy, University of New South Wales in Australia, an internationally recognized scholar of feminist and continental philosophy whose work has had a broad impact across disciplines.

Diprose will hold the visiting professorship from Aug. 26 through Oct. 6, during which time she will be involved in several activities. Among them is “Biopolitics, Health and Sexualities: An Interdisciplinary Symposium with Rosalyn Diprose,” a free public event presented by UB that will take place 1-4:45 p.m. Sept. 5 at Hallwalls Center for Contemporary Arts, 341 Delaware Ave., Buffalo.

She also will present a free public lecture, “The Body and Politics,” at 5 p.m. Sept. 25 in 640 Clemens Hall, UB North Campus, and team-teach a graduate seminar, “Arendt: Natality, Politics and Narrative.”

Much of Diprose’s published research applies concepts from 20th-century existential and feminist philosophy to the development of ideas about community, generosity and responsibility. She also addresses social and political issues, especially in biopolitics.

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UB to offer online graduate certificate in music learning theory

The University at Buffalo’s Graduate School of Education expands its online services this fall by offering a fully online advanced graduate certificate program in music learning theory, a curriculum that teaches educators how to instruct their students to become better musicians and appreciate music throughout their lives.

“Music learning theory is an explanation of how we learn when we learn music. It’s based on an extensive body of research and practical field-testing,” says Maria Runfola, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Learning and Instruction.  “This new certificate program will provide music teachers a comprehensive sequence for teaching musicianship to learners of all ages and abilities.”

The advanced graduate certificate in music learning is a 15-credit certificate designed for those interested in advanced study in music learning theory — or MLT — and its practical applications, Runfola says.

Those who successfully complete this program will have the knowledge and skill to guide others in developing better musicianship and to become lifelong learners and consumers of music.

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UB’s Jeffrey Higginbotham named fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

D. Jeffrey Higginbotham, PhD, of Buffalo, associate professor and chair of the Department of Communicative Disorders and Sciences in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences, will be named a fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) at the association’s 2014 annual convention being held Nov. 20-22 in Orlando, Florida.

Higginbotham is a clinician and educator whose work confronts human issues associated with disability, including the question of how disabled identities are constructed.

He directs the UB Signature Center for Excellence in Augmented Communication (CEAC) and is a partner in the university’s Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Communication Enhancement (AAC-RERC).

Fellowship is one of the highest honors bestowed by the ASHA, the national professional, scientific and credentialing association for more than 173,070 audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel; and students.

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Student’s water- and solar-powered lens purifies polluted water

Water may appear to be an abundant resource, but in some parts of the world clean water is hard to come by.

That could change through the work of Deshawn Henry, a sophomore civil engineering major, who researched how to improve a 6-foot-tall, self-sustaining magnifying glass.

Properly termed a water lens, the device uses another abundant resource — sunlight — to heat and disinfect polluted water. Since the frame for the lens can be constructed from commonly found materials — wood, plastic sheeting and water — the lens can be built for almost no cost, offering an inexpensive method to treat water.

The device may not look like much, but it can heat a liter of water to between 130 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit in a little more than an hour, destroying 99.9 percent of bacteria and pathogens.

“The water lens could have a huge impact in developing countries,” says Henry, who performed the study under James Jensen, professor in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering.

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Med students serve community before studies begin

Service learning — where students put what they’re learning to work by volunteering in the community — has been steadily growing in popularity at the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, with more than half of medical students taking the service learning elective.

This year, there’s a new twist: For the first time, all incoming UB medical students will be required to log at least 10 hours of service learning annually for all four years of medical school.

To kick off this new requirement and give classmates a chance to work together before classes started on Monday, the medical school held its inaugural Medical Student Day of Service last Saturday.

Nearly half of the incoming class took part. Sixty first-year students joined 10 upperclassmen at sites that included:

  • Buffalo City Mission Thrift Shop, where students sorted and organized donations.

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Richard named fellow of American Chemical Society

John Richard, UB Distinguished Professor in the University at Buffalo Department of Chemistry, was named a 2014 fellow of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

The ACS recognized Richard and 98 other scientists named fellows at the society’s 248th national meeting in San Francisco on Aug. 11.

Fellow status in the ACS, one of the world’s largest scientific societies, is among the highest honors a chemist can achieve, with fewer than 1 percent of members awarded the distinction. Recipients are selected for their outstanding contributions to chemistry and the society.

“The American Chemical Society plays an important role in explaining the importance of chemistry to the public, and in advancing the careers of professional chemists,” says Richard. “I am happy that the society has recognized my contribution to their mission.”

A UB faculty member since 1993, Richard studies how enzymes make slow reactions fast. He has studied a range of problems related to the mechanisms for organic reactions and for their catalysis by enzymes – proteins that enormously accelerate the rate of biological reactions, which are essential for sustaining life.

Richard has edited 15 books and authored more than 200 publications, with 84 appearing in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. He has received numerous awards, including the 1988 First Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) 2007 Special Creativity Award.

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‘CanJam’ joint to fly on Virgin Galactic flight

Gyroscope-aided bikes and cars may one day rule the road. But before the technology reaches the ground, a University at Buffalo research team will test similar equipment in outer space.

The Canfield joint actuation manipulator — nicknamed “CanJam” by the researchers — was selected by NASA to join the first commercial research flight on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

The tennis-ball sized device was designed by Manoranjan Majji, lead researcher and assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “CanJam” can automatically control a satellite using a Canfield joint — a spherical joint that can point anywhere on a hemisphere — as well as an automated program that stabilizes the device when disturbed, and a wheel.

The manipulator allows a user to steer satellites using a wheel with three degrees of freedom — tilting forward and backward, swiveling left and right, and pivoting side to side. Unlike traditional joints, the device also contains three motors as a failsafe if by chance one motor fails.

Traditional technologies used by NASA and other agencies occasionally don’t produce the necessary torque to rotate aircraft, also known as singularities, which make it difficult to build attitude-control systems. Due to its design, the “CanJam” system doesn’t create singularities, simplifying attitude control, says Majji.

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