School of Management opens new undergraduate center

In a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 30, the School of Management celebrated the opening of its new Undergraduate Learning and Community Center, a destination for more than 2,900 undergraduates in the school to connect with their peers and develop skills for lifelong success.

Located in the lower level of Jacobs Management Center, the 5,800-square-foot space includes tutoring facilities, three classrooms, a glass-walled breakout room and the Frank and Marilyn Clement Undergraduate Community Hub, named for the center’s lead donors.

Seattle residents Frank, BS ’66, and Marilyn Clement were present to cut the ribbon before an audience that included faculty, staff, students and alumni.

“The Undergraduate Learning and Community Center is a place for our undergraduates to gather and feel at home from the moment they step on campus,” said Paul E. Tesluk, interim dean of the School of Management.

Connie Hanel, manager of the Undergraduate Learning and Community Center, talks about the center during a guided tour. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

“The state-of-the-art center will help attract the best students to the School of Management, further cementing our reputation as one of the best business schools in the world,” Tesluk added.

Within the facility, undergraduates can take advantage of a variety of services to help them meet their academic goals. Center-certified tutors lead one-on-one and group tutoring for several courses, and an ESL coach is available to assist international students with their English skills and adjustment to American culture. Study groups, open work sessions and workshops also are offered.

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UB Police earns ‘gold standard’ for accreditation

University at Buffalo Police have earned the approval of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA), becoming the only police department in the state to be accredited through IACLEA, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement (CALEA) and the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (NYS DCJS).

It is the latest recognition of the department’s efforts to adhere to the highest professional standards in law enforcement, according to Police Chief Gerald W. Schoenle Jr.

UB Police received strong praise from the prestigious accreditation organization – which Schoenle called the “gold standard” for university policing – for its procedures and personnel, and called it “an accredited police agency providing the best possible police services to their community.”

The assessment team noted that it was especially impressed with the department’s involvement in the campus community and the support the university shows for UB Police, which provides a full range of professional law enforcement services to the campus.

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Zirnheld among 100 Inspiring Women in STEM

Jennifer L. Zirnheld, associate professor of electrical engineering, has been named by INSIGHT into Diversity magazine as one of 100 Inspiring Women in STEM.

The national award recognizes women whose work and achievements are encouraging a new generation of women to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) while also providing support to others working in STEM fields.

Zirnheld, whose research focuses on the use of electrical engineering innovations in fighting cancer, has written and served as co-investigator on grants, contracts and fellowships from industry and government. She also serves on the steering committee for the UB Institute for the Strategic Enhancement of Educational Diversity (iSEED).

Zirnheld cites serving as a mentor for undergraduate students as among her most rewarding experiences. She was one of five faculty members who were honored in 2011 with the inaugural UB Faculty Award for Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity. The award recognizes faculty who establish a strong professional mentoring relationship with students, act as role models for methods of inquiry in their disciplines, and promote responsible and ethical conduct of research or creative activity.

“Jennifer has demonstrated an ability to inspire students — especially female students — to seek careers in STEM-related fields,” says Liesl Folks, dean of UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “We are delighted that she has received this well-deserved recognition.”

“I always urge students to take advantage of a key asset that is available to them — the fact that UB is a top research university,” Zirnheld says. “I encourage them to try an internship or REU (a research experience for undergraduates) as soon as possible. Participation can help to build up their resume and they could discover career paths that they may never have considered.”

Zirnheld emphasizes the important role former UB engineering faculty members played as her mentors when she was a student.

“I was in my senior year and not sure what I was going to do when I graduated,” she says, “when Richard Dollinger, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering in the UB engineering school, invited me into his research lab.

“The invite was for 8 a.m. on a Saturday, so I put it off. Eventually, I decided to check it out and had my own transformative moment that inspired me to go on to graduate school and a PhD. Dr. Dollinger helped to shape my thinking and my career.”

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Read our profile of Dr. Zirnheld here.


UB to host Military Veteran Preview Day on Nov. 14

The University at Buffalo invites veterans and active duty or reserve members of the U.S. armed forces to attend a university-wide Military Veteran Preview Day on Nov. 14 in the Center for the Arts on UB’s North Campus.

UB is ranked No. 23 among national universities in the U.S. News and World Report’s listing of “Best Colleges for Veterans.” The ranking evaluates schools that participate in federal initiatives to help veterans and active service members apply, pay for and complete their degrees.

“The purpose of the day is to expose veterans to the many undergraduate and graduate and professional programs here at UB and to provide a glimpse into the many support services available to them,” says Daniel Ryan, event co-organizer and director of UB’s Off-Campus Student Services and Veteran Services.

A full agenda is available on UB’s Military Preview Day website. Registration is required for the free event.

The day’s keynote speaker will be Patrick J. Long, a U.S. Navy officer who earned a law degree at UB in 2000, practiced law at Hodgson Russ in Buffalo and is now teaching legal writing, analysis and research in the UB Law School.

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UB student receives prestigious space research scholarship

Kristina Monakhova, a junior electrical engineering major at the University at Buffalo, has another accomplishment to add to her list.

She was awarded the John R. Sevier Memorial Scholarship Award, which annually recognizes two students nationwide who are interested in a science or engineering career, with an emphasis on space research or space science education.

The honor, which includes a $2,000 prize, was one of four scholarships awarded Oct. 6 by the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), an independent, nonprofit research corporation that works to advance space science and technology.

To be considered for USRA scholarships, an applicant must be a full-time undergraduate student within two years of earning a bachelor of science degree in an engineering or science field at an accredited four-year college or university.

“Ms. Monakhova’s depth and breadth of research interests, her friendly, collegial nature, her ability to plan and execute research, and organize and deliver presentations all are truly outstanding,” said John Crassidis, PhD, CUBRC Professor in Space Situational Awareness.

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Tripathi: ‘We are on the brink of a new future’

When Satish K. Tripathi came to UB as the university’s provost in 2004, UB was “a very fine institution with a solid foundation and great potential.” Now, a decade later, “I see a remarkable institution, a world-class university taking its rightful place alongside some of the best research universities anywhere,” UB’s president told members of the university community, alumni and friends on Friday during his third State of the University address.

Speaking to an audience in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall on the North Campus, Tripathi outlined the progress UB has made across the university and the many ways it is transforming both the local and global communities.

He began by noting recent faculty and research highlights:
*UB hired 110 faculty members and 157 staff members in the past academic year.
*Total research funding from all sources is at an all-time high of $388 million.
*Faculty and staff members continue to receive national and international recognition as the recipients of major awards like National Science Foundation CAREER Awards and Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships, as well as being named fellows in the prestigious scholarly associations in their fields, among them the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the American Psychological Association.
*UB has had the “lion’s share” of appointments as SUNY Distinguished Professors during the past five years.

Having world-class faculty attracts world-class students, Tripathi pointed out, and UB is recruiting more of the best undergraduate, graduate and professional students.

“These are intellectually passionate, motivated students who know they want to use their talents to make a difference in the world,” he said. “And they come to UB “because they know they will find opportunities here that will challenge them to do just that, to the very best of their abilities.”

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Kwon receives award to reduce hazmat accidents

Safety often takes a back seat to speed when transporting hazardous materials, such as radioactive materials, gasoline or medical waste from hospitals.

But a hazardous materials (hazmat) routing simulator that UB researcher Changhyun Kwon is developing aims to place safety at the forefront of shipping dangerous chemicals.

His research, “Advancing Routing Methods in Hazardous Materials Transportation,” is supported by a five-year, $400,000 National Science Foundation CAREER grant. The CAREER award is among the foundation’s highest honors for young investigators.

“Current hazmat routing methods are at an elementary level,” says Kwon, assistant professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. “Most hazmat carriers do not consider risk; they find the shortest path and use it, regardless of the risk level around that route. That is not enough.”

The possibility an accident occurs during shipment is small, but the results are often catastrophic. While some carriers use the average risk of an accident to determine their routes, Kwon’s risk-adverse simulator will base transportation routes on worst-case scenarios.

“I’m coming up with a new risk measure to capture the extreme cases of hazmat accidents,” Kwon says.

The simulator is inspired by a similar risk-adverse technique in the finance industry, whose risk-management software has improved significantly, says Kwon. The new method may compromise delivery time, but trucks will become less vulnerable to large accidents.

Nearly one in five commercial trucks on the road is carrying hazmat, says Kwon. And according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2013 roughly 4,800 incidents resulted in almost $79 million in damages.

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$1.4 million NIH grant to study effects of arsenic on cancer tumor production

University at Buffalo faculty member Xuefeng Ren has received a $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate the mechanisms of arsenic carcinogenesis — the process by which exposure to arsenic transforms normal cells into cancer cells.

Chronic exposure to arsenic, a ubiquitous element widely distributed in the natural environment, affects up to 100 million people in 70 countries, including the United States. It can lead to increased morbidity and mortality from both non-cancerous and cancerous effects, including diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, cardiovascular diseases and cancers of the bladder, lung, kidney and skin.

Many environmental scientists are wrestling with ways to deal with the problem at its most ubiquitous source: groundwater that is naturally contaminated with inorganic arsenic compounds.
Ren and his team, however, will employ an integrated approach that combines cell and molecular biology with epidemiology in order to decipher how chronic arsenic exposure works in the body. This could lead to new methods of prevention and treatment.

Ren, an assistant professor of epidemiology and environmental health in the School of Public Health and Health Professions, says that although the relationship between arsenic exposure and cancer is well documented, the mechanisms by which arsenic participates in the production of tumors are not clear.

He says researchers theorize that arsenic causes changes in the epigenome, which is the record of chemical changes to the DNA and histone proteins that affect both gene expression and carcinogenesis.

His long term goal, he says, is to define the effects and consequences of chronic arsenic exposure on the epigenome, which could allow targeted therapeutic interventions with epigenetic-targeting drugs.

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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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