Education student receives scholarships to ‘make a difference in the world’

Maryam Sadat Sharifian, a University at Buffalo doctoral student in the Graduate School of Education, has received three awards to encourage her “to make a difference in the world”: the International Peace Scholarship, the 2015 Margaret McNamara Memorial Scholarship and the 2015 Bank-Fund Staff Federal Credit Union Scholarship.

A native of Iran, Sharifian is an early childhood education doctoral student in the Department of Learning and Instruction and a graduate assistant at UB’s Early Childhood Research Center.

The International Peace Scholarship, established by the Philanthropic Educational Organization to underscore how education is the cornerstone of world peace and understanding, is awarded to women from foreign countries pursuing their graduate studies in the United States and Canada.

The 2015 Margaret McNamara Memorial Scholarship, presented to 34 women from developing countries pursuing various areas of graduate study in the United States and Canada, assists women in furthering their education so they may return to their home countries and work to make a difference in the lives of women and children.

Sharifian also received a prestigious Bank-Fund Staff Federal Credit Union Scholarship. The Bank-Fund Staff Federal Credit Union annually donates funding in the form of a grant to the Margaret McNamara Memorial Fund in support of women’s education. A recipient of the Margaret McNamara Memorial Scholarship is selected to receive the additional grant in order to further her education.

All three awards will contribute to the costs of Sharifian’s education, from tuition to research costs.

Read more.

20 UB faculty, staff receive SUNY Chancellor’s Awards

The University at Buffalo again was well-represented among winners of the 2015 SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence, with seven faculty members, two librarians and 11 staff members being honored for outstanding achievement. The 20 UB recipients match last year’s number, which was the most in recent memory. The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities recognizes the work of those who engage actively in scholarly and creative pursuits beyond their teaching responsibilities. UB’s 2015 recipients are:

  • Stella Batalama, professor and chair, Department of Electrical Engineering;
  • Ralph Benedict, professor, Department of Neurology;
  • Ann Bisantz, professor and chair, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering; and
  • Sriram Neelamegham, professor, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.

Read more.

CEL graduates emerging minority and women entrepreneurs

Megan McNally, executive director of The Foundry, has been named Protégé of the Year by the Allstate Minority and Women Emerging Entrepreneurs (MWEE) program, a joint venture by the University at Buffalo School of Management’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL) and the UB Center for Urban Studies.

McNally earned a $1,500 prize for the honor. She says the MWEE program taught her important lessons that will guide her work at the Foundry, a business incubator and community space on Buffalo’s East Side.

“When running a startup of any kind, it is hard to prioritize competing needs, so learning to rank needs and tackle the most pressing first has been extremely helpful,” McNally says.

Levino Johnson, founder and owner of Executive Investigation & Security, was awarded second place and a $1,000 prize. Catrice Huff, founder and director of Up, Up, and Away Child Care Center, took third place and a $500 prize.

The awards were handed out at a graduation ceremony for five CEL programs on June 3 at UB’s Center for the Arts.

Read more.

UB’s Govindaraju receives international career honor for his groundbreaking research contributions

Venu Govindaraju, a globally recognized expert in machine learning and pattern recognition, has received the IAPR/ICDAR Outstanding Achievements Award from the International Conference on Document Analysis and Recognition (ICDAR).

The award, presented by the International Association for Pattern Recognition (IAPR), recognizes individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the field of document analysis and recognition in the areas of research, student training, industry interaction and service to the profession.

The citation for the award recognizes Govindaraju for his pioneering contributions to pattern recognition and its application to the fields of handwriting recognition, multilingual document analysis, and biometrics; and for the development of real-time engineered systems.

Govindaraju, UB’s interim vice president for research and economic development, and a SUNY Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, will accept the award at ICDAR 2015, Aug. 23-26, in Gammarth, Tunisia.

“Venu is one of UB’s most accomplished faculty members, who is having tremendous impact on his field and on our university’s research enterprise,” said Charles F. Zukoski, UB provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “We are immensely proud of his success and congratulate him on this well-deserved, international recognition.”

Read more.

UB senior wins shot put gold at NCAA Championships

UB senior Jonathan Jones continued his record-breaking ways, winning gold in the shot put yesterday and becoming the first national champion in UB’s Division I history. Now a six-time All-American, Jones had a school-record heave of 20.78 meters on his second attempt to take top honors at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships hosted by the University of Oregon.

“Bringing a national championship back to Buffalo is a dream come true,” said throws coach Jim Garnham Sr. “Jon beat some awesome talent today, but it was a nail biter. There’s something special about him. It hasn’t quite hit me yet that we have a national champion. I’m on cloud nine.”

Darrell Hill of Penn State matched Jones’ 20.78-meter performance on his third attempt, but Jones’ first throw of 20.31 meters bettered Hill’s second-best mark. Jones had secured himself the top position entering the finals, allowing him the last laugh. He fouled three consecutive throws — his third, fourth and fifth attempts — but with the win in the bag, finished with a solid 20.57-meter toss.

“For our program, for our university, this moment is enormous,” said director and head coach Vicki Mitchell. “Jon has brought so much pride to UB and this track & field program. It’s a fantastic accomplishment.”

Jones has tallied three indoor and three outdoor All-America finishes in the shot put. Most recently, he placed third at indoor NCAAs, matching the top finish in program history, and also had placed fourth as a sophomore at the outdoor championships. He edged his school record of 20.75 meters set at the USATF National meet in 2014 and improved his season-best mark of 20.70 meters on the day.

Read more.

UB neurology chair receives Doctor of the Year award from Myasthenia Gravis Foundation

Gil I. Wolfe, MD, Irvin and Rosemary Smith Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurology at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, has been selected to receive the 2015 Doctor of the Year award from the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America (MGFA).

Wolfe is an expert on neuromuscular disorders with a special focus on myasthenia gravis (MG), the most common disease of neuromuscular transmission. MG results from an immune-mediated disruption of communication between motor nerves and muscle – an assembly of structures that form the neuromuscular junction.

“I am grateful and honored to receive the Doctor of the Year award from the MGFA, an organization I have worked closely with over the years,” said Wolfe. “The foundation does a fabulous job promoting awareness of MG across numerous audiences as well as providing easy-to-understand information for patients, families and health care providers. It has been a privilege to be involved with such efforts over the years. Further, I am grateful for the MGFA’s grant support of investigative work I have been involved with over the years, from the thymectomy trial to the current international MG treatment guideline task force I am co-directing with Dr. Don Sanders of Duke University.”

Myasthenia Gravis (MG) is an autoimmune neuromuscular disease that causes weakness in the voluntary muscles.

Read more.

Engineering students place fourth in nationwide bridge contest

The task is unnerving: Design and build a steel bridge that is light, strong and easy to assemble. What’s more, your competitors are some of the best engineering schools nationwide.

Not to worry — UB engineering students are up to the task.

A 17-member team recently placed fourth — the university’s best finish yet — in the 2015 National Student Steel Bridge Competition, held May 22-23 in Kansas City, Missouri.

“It’s been a great experience,” says Ed Almeter, an Attica native who earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from UB in May while acting as project manager for the UB team. “I really enjoyed applying what we learned in the classroom into a real, hands-on experience. It was awesome to see the team come together and perform so well.”

The annual competition, which is sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the American Institute of Steel Construction, included teams from 47 universities and colleges.

The UB squad — members of the UB-ASCE steel bridge team, a UB Student Association club — began work on the extracurricular project in the fall. They spent the semester meticulously testing different versions of the bridge before deciding on a “deep truss” design, says Todd Snyder, UB-ASCE faculty adviser.

Read more.

Team heads to Nepal to study seismic performance of buildings

After a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Nepal in late April, much of the country’s buildings were destroyed.

But there also were several instances where one structure collapsed and another one, right next to it, did not. And that is why Andreas Stavridis, UB assistant professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering, is traveling to Nepal with a team of researchers.

“We want to see what that difference is — what made one structure fail and what made one survive,” he says. “We will collect data and then build models and try to rationalize that, and then explain what worked and what didn’t work and why.”

Stavridis is heading to Nepal today with colleagues from Oregon State University, the Sapienza University of Rome and the University of Porto in Portugal. Also on the trip will be Supratik Bose, a second-year UB PhD student.

Stavridis’ research focuses on masonry structures and about 60 percent of Nepal’s buildings are masonry — made of adobe, bricks or stone, for example. Roughly 25 percent are concrete frames infilled with masonry panels, he says.

“Masonry structures don’t give us much of a warning, they just collapse,” he explains. “Modern structures contain steel reinforcement that prevents such catastrophic collapses and are designed to stay standing, despite damage, so we can evacuate safely. Masonry structures without reinforcement have a very poor behavior when it comes to earthquakes. They just collapse.”

While in Nepal, the team will travel to different buildings and classify each structure as damaged, mildly damaged or not damaged — and what must be done to make these buildings safe. A representative from Nepal’s National Society for Earthquake Technology will lead the group.

Read more.

20 UB faculty, staff receive SUNY Chancellor’s Awards

UB again was well-represented when recipients of the 2015 SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence were announced recently, with seven faculty members, two librarians and 11 staff members being honored for outstanding achievement.

The 20 recipients match last year’s number of award winners, the most in recent memory.

The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities recognizes the work of those who engage actively in scholarly and creative pursuits beyond their teaching responsibilities. Recipients are Stella Batalama, professor and chair, Department of Electrical Engineering; Ralph Benedict, professor, Department of Neurology; Ann Bisantz, professor and chair, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering; and Sriram Neelamegham, professor, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.

The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching honors those who consistently demonstrate superb teaching at the undergraduate, graduate or professional level. Recipients are Peter Bradford, associate professor, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology; Steven Miller, associate professor, Department of English; and Mary Nell Trautner, associate professor, Department of Sociology.

The Chancellor Award Winners for Excellence in Professional Service honors professional staff performance excellence “both within and beyond the position.” Recipients are Beth A. Corry, associate vice president and controller, University Business Services; Elaine R. Cusker, associate dean for academic affairs and undergraduate education, Division of Academic Affairs, Office of the Provost; John DellaContrada, associate vice president for media relations and stakeholder communications, University Communications; Valerie Frerichs, associate laboratory director, Department of Chemistry; Jacqueline Molik Ghosen, assistant dean and director of communications, School of Management; Krista L. Hanypsiak, director of general education; Kevin Leary, assistant to the director, Arts Management Program; and Patricia Shyhalla, associate vice provost for resource management, International Education.

The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Librarianship recognizes “skill in librarianship; service to the campus, the university and to the field; scholarship and professional growth; and major professional achievements.” Recipients are Theodora Belniak, associate librarian, Charles B. Sears Law Library, and Michelle Zafron, associate librarian, Health Sciences Library.

The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Classified Service recognizes classified staff members who have consistently demonstrated superlative performance within and beyond their position. Recipients are Vickie Searight, undergraduate secretary, Department of Biological Sciences; Deborah Szurgyi, clerk 2, Department of Oral Biology; and Paul Wilcox, maintenance supervisor, UB Anderson Gallery.

Read the bios of winners here.

UB graduating senior dedicated to worldwide gender equality wins Fulbright Scholarship to Jordan

When UB Fulbright winner Samah A. Asfour was a junior studying in the Aix-en-Provence of France, she didn’t fully understand discrimination toward the Arab community until she met her host mother.

“Oh, look,” the woman said to her grandson after first meeting Asfour. “Last semester we had someone with blond hair and blue eyes. And now we have someone who is all brown.”

This story of Asfour’s initial encounter — the first of numerous “unconsciously prejudiced comments,” as Asfour remembers, by the woman whose house she would live in for four months — has a happier ending. Both are now close after Asfour became a kind of unofficial cultural ambassador to her host, a French woman born in Algeria.

“I made a promise to myself: I was determined to change her attitude and preconceived notions,” says Asfour. “I wanted to show her that the stereotypes were not true. I wanted to show her as an Arab and Muslim woman, I am free. I’m not oppressed, contrary to her beliefs and what the media portrays. I am an educated, free-spirited Arab woman who has a family that supports my ambitions, dreams and goals.”

For Samah Asfour, cultivating that ability to empower women is what her Fulbright award is all about. It’s UB’s third Fulbright Award this year and fourth national scholarship honor, including the prestigious Boren Scholarship. And Asfour is just the latest outstanding UB student to translate a passion into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a universally acknowledged elite academic honor.

Read more.