Spacey, Legend highlight 2015-16 Distinguished Speakers Series

Singer/songwriter, producer, philanthropist and entrepreneur John Legend and cancer physician Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Emperor of All Maladies: a Biography of Cancer,” will join Kevin Spacey, Academy Award-winning actor, director, writer and star of “House of Cards,” to headline the speakers in the University at Buffalo’s 2015-16 Distinguished Speakers Series.

The 29th annual series also will feature Laverne Cox, a transgender advocate and award-winning actress from “Orange is the New Black;” Liz Murray, the bestselling author of “Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard” and this year’s UB Reads author; and Charles Ogletree, an internationally renowned legal theorist who will present UB’s 40th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration.

All programs will take place at 8 p.m. in Alumni Arena, UB North Campus, on the following dates:

  • Sept. 16: Laverne Cox
  • Oct. 14: Liz Murray, UB Reads Author
  • Nov. 18: John Legend, Undergraduate Student Choice Speaker
  • Feb. 11: Charles Ogletree, 40th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration keynote speaker
  • April 6: Siddhartha Mukherjee, sponsored by Roswell Park Cancer Institute
  • April 27: Kevin Spacey, Undergraduate and Graduate Student Choice Speaker

Subscription orders for the Distinguished Speakers Series may be placed after Aug. 3. Tickets for individual lectures will go on sale Aug. 21 by noon.

For more information on the speakers, subscription and ticket prices, and sponsors, visit the series’ website:


UB receives four SUNY Innovative Instruction Technology Grants

UB has been awarded four SUNY Innovative Instruction Technology Grants (IITG) to fund campus innovations and initiatives that have the potential to be replicated and scaled up throughout SUNY.

Since 2012, UB has received more than $415,000 in IITG seed grant funding to support faculty and staff at the forefront of leveraging technology in support of teaching and learning.  The program is open to SUNY faculty and support staff across all disciplines.

UB’s four new IITG awards will fund:

  • An initiative to create self-guided online career modules.
  • A project that aims to improve student learning and engagement in massive open online courses (MOOCs).
  • Development of an innovative instructional model that encourages collaboration between the humanities and STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).
  • An online faculty development course that focuses on quality course design and effective strategies for teaching.

In addition to the funding from SUNY, UB is contributing in-kind resources, such as technology support, to each project.

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UB engineer gets $24K NSF grant for Nepal earthquake research

After a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Nepal in late April, Andreas Stavridis, University at Buffalo assistant professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering, decided to travel to Nepal with a team of researchers to examine why certain structures held up and others did not.

For that work, Congressman Brian Higgins announced on Thursday that Stavridis received a $24,040 National Science Foundation award.

“Natural disasters are inescapable and exact unthinkable consequences,” Higgins said. “This award puts researchers right here, at the University at Buffalo, at the forefront of efforts to learn from destruction and provide insight into best preparedness practices moving forward.”

Earlier this month, Stavridis and the team of researchers and graduate students traveled to Nepal for data collection and investigation of architectural and structural response to seismic activity. The data collected will be used to evaluate current U.S. guidelines for assessment of existing structures and inform Nepal rebuilding and recovery efforts.

The grant is provided through the NSF’s Rapid Response Research program which supports proposals requiring urgent access to data, specifically research associated with disasters.

NIH awards $12 million to UB for pharmacy research

The National Institutes of Health has awarded $12 million to the University at Buffalo School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences to lead a comprehensive quality assurance program in NIH-funded labs conducting HIV/AIDS and related clinical research programs worldwide.

“We are very excited that our expertise continues to be recognized as a valued contributor to the global effort to end the HIV epidemic,” said Gene D. Morse, principal investigator on the grant, SUNY Distinguished Professor at UB and associate director of UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences.

“This award highlights our established role in this critical area that contributes to global HIV clinical pharmacology research efforts,” Morse said. “Building on our extensive experience, our group has been selected to provide a broad-based quality assurance program that will facilitate global HIV/AIDS treatment research by collaborating with university-based pharmacology laboratories that are engaged in these research efforts.”

The Clinical and Pharmacology Quality Assurance (CPQA) contract runs for seven years.

The UB researchers will conduct quality assurance on clinical pharmacology research, including HIV prevention, HIV cure and eradication, antiretroviral treatment strategies, viral hepatitis drug development, tuberculosis treatment and therapeutic interventions for HIV end-organ diseases and chronic inflammation.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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