News & Events


UTSA, UT Health Science Center host San Antonio Stem Cell Conference Oct. 18-20

(Oct. 19, 2010)--Stem cell researchers from across Texas as well as world leaders in this field from across the country are gathering in San Antonio at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center Oct. 18-20 for a conference with the theme, "Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine: New Solutions to Old Problems."

The San Antonio Stem Cell Conference is a collaborative effort of researchers at UTSA and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (Health Science Center) through the San Antonio Life Sciences Institute (SALSI).

"Stem cell research offers a tremendous opportunity to advance treatments for a variety of diseases, including cancer; diseases that affect the brain, heart and blood systems; and debilitating conditions including battlefield trauma," said John McCarrey, professor in the UTSA Department of Biology and director of UTSA's San Antonio Institute for Cellular and Molecular Primatology. "This conference seeks to bring together experts in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine from across the city as well as other parts of Texas and other parts of the U.S. to discuss current stem cell research and the implications of that new knowledge."

"This conference is important for two reasons: it gives scientists a chance to learn about the most recent developments in stem cell biology," said Vivienne Rebel, one of the organizers and an assistant professor in the Department of Cellular and Structural Biology at the Health Science Center's Greehey Children's Cancer Research Institute. "Also, this puts the latest information out to the public. We hope the media will come and report back to the community -- and get the conversation going."

The conference will include a panel discussion on stem cell research in Texas from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 19. Before the panel discussion, conference organizers will invite researchers and the media to submit questions. The discussion will be led by John Gearhart, director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Panelists will include Peggy Goodell (Baylor College of Medicine), Col. Robert Hale (Brooke Army Medical Center), and Steven Wolf and Bettie Sue Masters (Health Science Center). Masters is a member of the National Academies' Institute of Medicine.

Keynote speakers and their respective topics will include:

  • Alan Trounson, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, "A Model for Translation of Stem Cell Discoveries"
  • Rudolf Jaenisch, MIT/Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, "Stem Cells, Pluripotency and Nuclear Reprogramming"
  • Elaine Fuchs, Rockefeller University, "Skin Stem Cells in Morphogenesis, Homeostasis and Wound Repair"
  • Hans Keirstead, University of California, Irvine, "Human Embryonic Stem Cell Derivates for Clinical Application"

The conference agenda also includes presentations by San Antonio stem cell experts from UTSA, the UT Health Science Center, the Southwest Research Institute and the U.S. Army Institute for Surgical Research, along with presentations by experts from the Baylor College of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh and University of Minnesota.

The San Antonio Stem Cell Conference is one of 48 projects funded by SALSI, an institute authorized by the Texas 77th Legislature to strengthen the biomedical and biotechnology industries in South Texas by developing a framework for research collaboration. SALSI's focus includes regenerative medicine and prosthetics, medicinal chemistry, neuroscience, health disparities, biomedical engineering, research education and mentoring.

The conference sponsors are the Sam and Ann Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, Kinetic Concepts Inc., STEMCELL Technologies, Miltenyi Biotec Inc., Baker BioScience Solutions, GlobalStem, Southwest Research Institute, Eppendorf, New Brunswick Scientific, Trevigen Inc., Fluidigm Corp. (Lower Midwest), Greehey Children's Cancer Research Institute and San Antonio Institute for Cellular and Molecular Primatology.

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The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country's leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled a record $259 million in fiscal year 2009. The university's schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 26,000 graduates. The $739 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg.

The University of Texas at San Antonio is one of the fastest growing higher education institutions in Texas and one of nine academic universities and six health institutions in the UT System. As a multicultural institution, UTSA aims to be a national research university providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment. UTSA serves more than 30,300 students in 65 bachelor's, 49 master's and 21 doctoral degree programs in the colleges of Architecture, Business, Education and Human Development, Engineering, Honors, Liberal and Fine Arts, Public Policy, Sciences and Graduate School. Founded in 1969, UTSA is an intellectual and creative resource center and a socioeconomic development catalyst for Texas and beyond.


To view the original article please go to: http://www.utsa.edu/today/2010/10/stemcellconf.html


Army Research Laboratory $2.4M award aids cognitive monitoring tool development

(Oct. 8, 2010)--Imagine the daily work environment of Army soldiers. Seated in windowless tanks and restricted from visual cues, they travel over bumpy roads bouncing wildly up and down over rugged terrain. Their tanks' audio and video monitors are the only connection to the outside world, but they know their environment is dangerous. As the situation becomes more intense, they try to respond to an array of informational cues, but soon it becomes hard to focus. When will their attention decline? When will fatigue set in? What is happening in the brain?

UTSA researchers Kay Robbins, professor of computer science in the College of Sciences; Nandini Kannan, professor of management science and statistics in the College of Business; and Yufei Huang, associate professor of electrical engineering in the College of Engineering, hope to answer those questions soon. Led by Robbins, the study's principal investigator, the interdisciplinary trio received a five-year, $2.4 million award from the Army Research Laboratory. Their research project is part of a $25-million initiative to improve human-system interactions.

To date, cognitive monitoring tools have been limited, mainly allowing researchers to collect data in a laboratory environment and interpret it long after the monitoring session. Over the next five years, however, the UTSA researchers will develop methods to monitor the brain and interpret the massive amounts of data collected in real time.

UTSA's research collaborators include the Army Research Laboratory, DCS Corp., University of California, San Diego, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, University of Osnabruck in Germany and National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan.

"Traditionally, cognitive monitoring has been conducted in simple lab settings under controlled conditions," said Robbins. "This study takes that concept to the next level by developing adaptive tools researchers can use to collect, manage and interpret neurological and sensory data in real-time. It is our hope that the tools will help individuals focus on their critical needs so they can quickly process information and make decisions in a variety of stressful situations."


To view the original article please go to: http://www.utsa.edu/today/2010/10/cognitiveresearch.html


UTSA, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio showcase SALSI research

(Oct. 8, 2010)--The San Antonio Life Sciences Institute (SALSI), a collaboration of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and UTSA, generated a 172-percent return on investment in its first five years, officials said yesterday at a meeting at UTSA.

SALSI has supported 48 collaborative research projects since 2004; these projects resulted in 119 new scholarly publications and 20 joint inventions. Additionally, SALSI has launched seven joint educational initiatives between the two UT institutions including master of science and Ph.D. degree programs in biomedical engineering.

Legislators mingled with researchers at the UTSA Main Campus and heard a progress report on SALSI, which is dubbed "The Collaborative Engine for South Texas' Knowledge-Based Economy." SALSI's goal is to develop synergies in research and education that would exceed the combined efforts of the institutions if each were acting alone.

To date, SALSI has helped researchers acquire an additional $8,264,825 in research funding beyond the $4,810,473 originally awarded. Moreover, UTSA and the UT Health Science Center expect soon to see additional returns on investment for 14 new projects that received SALSI funding this year.

Ongoing research targets glaucoma, prostate cancer, drug delivery, HIV, diabetes, aging, hearing loss and more. UTSA and UT Health Science Center researchers who team up to conduct SALSI-supported pilot projects are required to apply for extramural funding within 12 months of receiving SALSI grants.

Authorized by the 77th Legislature, SALSI funding has strengthened the biomedical and biotechnology industries in South Texas by developing a framework for research collaboration and graduate education between an educational institution and a health science center. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Rep. Robert Puente wrote the Senate and House legislation that authorized creation of SALSI in 2003.

Joo Ong, USAA Foundation Distinguished Professor and Department Chair at UTSA, spoke about the collaborative nature of the joint graduate program in biomedical engineering and its impact on student enrollment and research. Thirty master of science (M.S.) students and 41 Ph.D. students are in the biomedical engineering program. Eight students have received the M.S. degree and 12 the Ph.D. since the first degrees were awarded in December 2007. One graduate is working in government, 11 are in academia and five are working in industry. Three are in advanced programs, such as the M.D.-Ph.D. dual-degree program.

"The quality of our students is on a par with Duke University and UT Austin in STEM areas [science, technology, engineering and mathematics]," said Ong.

Amelie G. Ramirez, Dr.P.H., of the Health Science Center, discussed SALSI-funded health disparities research performed in conjunction with Zenong Yin, UTSA professor of health and kinesiology. Their combined teams are conducting a two-year obesity and diabetes prevention project in three preschools that teach primarily Mexican-American children.

Effective use of resources

A possible merger of UTSA and the Health Science Center was studied in 2002 and again this year. In May, a special advisory panel chaired by Peter T. Flawn, president emeritus of UT Austin and former president of UTSA, reported to the UT System Board of Regents that there was no compelling reason for, and no cost benefit from, merging the two institutions.

SALSI is a practical way the institutions can work together. "The blue-ribbon panel found that a merger would be expensive, but we already have a vehicle, SALSI, that should grow and develop," said Brian Herman, vice president for research at the Health Science Center. "It captures many of the benefits of a merger in a much more cost-efficient manner."

Robert Gracy, UTSA vice president for research, said, "SALSI starts with science but ends with commercialization and educating the next generation of scientists. SALSI dollars have been put into proof-of-concept funds to take inventions to the marketplace."

Gracy said SALSI is helping UTSA on its trek to Tier One research status. Herman said the institute is "playing a vital part in the movement of San Antonio from a service-based economy to a knowledge-based economy."

Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., chancellor of the UT System, said, "SALSI is the perfect example of inspiring and incentivizing collaboration. It allows faculty from both UTSA and the UT Health Science Center San Antonio to develop joint degrees and collaborative research."

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The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country's leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled a record $259 million in fiscal year 2009. The university's schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 26,000 graduates. The $739 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways "We make lives better," visit the Health Science Center website.

The University of Texas at San Antonio is one of the fastest growing higher education institutions in Texas and one of nine academic universities and six health institutions in the UT System. As a multicultural institution, UTSA aims to be a national research university providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment. UTSA serves more than 30,300 students in 65 bachelor's, 49 master's and 21 doctoral degree programs in the colleges of architecture, business, education and human development, engineering, honors, liberal and fine arts, public policy, sciences and graduate school. Founded in 1969, UTSA is an intellectual and creative resource center and a socioeconomic development catalyst for Texas and beyond.


To view the original article please go to: http://www.utsa.edu/today/2010/10/salsiresearch.html


Computer science professor Dakai Zhu receives $400K NSF CAREER Award

(Sept. 30, 2010)--Dakai Zhu, UTSA assistant professor of computer science, has received a five-year, $400,000 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to research how multi-core processors can be used to develop smart car technology.

The CAREER award goes to junior faculty members who embody the role of teacher and scholar by integrating teaching excellence with outstanding research. Zhu is the fifth faculty member in the UTSA Department of Computer Science to receive the award.

"CAREER awards are extremely competitive and are given to junior researchers who show significant promise in their areas of research expertise," said George Perry, dean of the UTSA College of Sciences. "Professor Zhu's award is the fifth in a row received by our Department of Computer Science, which demonstrates that the department is flourishing as UTSA grows toward Tier One status."

Zhu, who joined the Department of Computer Science in 2005, specializes in scheduling theory, real-time systems, low-power computing and parallel and distributed systems. The CAREER award will fund his research on the scheduling theory of real-time computing systems. While computer processors work well individually in computers, cell phones and other electronic gadgets, combining them in a complex system like an automobile poses many challenges. Zhu will study ways to ensure that each processor in a multi-core system completes its required tasks in the proper sequence and amount of time. He also will study ways to determine if each processor in a multi-core system is working at maximum capacity.

Zhu's research has significant applications for vehicles with smart technology. Examples currently on the market include vehicles that parallel park themselves or warn their drivers of an obstacle. The technology also is used to control anti-lock brakes and the fuel injection system. Zhu, however, envisions that research like his will contribute to the development of the ultimate smart vehicle, one that will drive itself while properly navigating obstacles or detecting the distance to another car to help avoid collisions.

Previous UTSA recipients of NSF CAREER awards include UTSA computer science professors Jeffery Von Ronne (2009), Qing Yi (2008), Carola Wenk (2007) and Daniel Jimenez (2006), as well as engineering professors Yufei Huang (2005) and Hai-Chao Han (2007).


To view the original article please go to: http://www.utsa.edu/today/2010/09/dakaizhu.html


UTSA receives $12M NIH grant to establish interdisplinary health center

(Sept. 22, 2010)--The University of Texas at San Antonio announced today its College of Sciences will receive a five-year, $12 million Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) grant from the National Institutes of Health to strengthen UTSA basic and applied health research. The funding is one of the largest NIH grants the university has received in its 41-year history.

Over the long term, program administrators believe the new grant will propel UTSA research to groundbreaking progress regarding health disparities, the differing rates diseases occur in various populations.

"This NIH grant is a remarkable achievement for our College of Sciences and the RCMI team of researchers at UTSA," said President Ricardo Romo. "This funding will give us the ability to add new laboratories and acquire the latest scientific equipment so we can continue to advance our ability to improve lives with better health."

"Through the generous support of the National Center for Research Resources at the NIH, we are investing in infrastructure that will serve our researchers well many years into the future," said Andrew Tsin, RCMI program director. "It is our hope that these tools will help us understand the mystery of why some diseases like diabetes and obesity affect certain populations more than others."

The RCMI program has existed for a decade and is a critical component of UTSA's progress toward Tier One research status. The program has helped the university transform strong scientific areas into competitive health research programs. The new funding will support UTSA's evolution to premier research status by expanding resources and infrastructure as outlined in the UTSA strategic plan.

The RCMI grant will fund faculty members whose research has great relevance to human health. Additionally, it will provide funding for advanced scientific equipment and four staffed laboratory facilities to house the equipment. Those facilities include the new Nanotechnology and Human Health Laboratory, where researchers will synthesize nanomaterials for diagnostics, drug and gene delivery, tissue engineering and electron microscopy; the enhanced Protein Biomarkers Laboratory, where scientists will identify and study protein biomarkers for disease diagnosis and targeted therapy including biomarkers specific to minority populations; the Biophotonics Laboratory, where researchers will study biological processes at the molecular level in live cells with exceptional detail; and the Computational Systems Biology Laboratory, where researchers will simulate biological systems, live-cell imaging and protein biomarker research using high-performance computing infrastructure.

>> Learn more about the equipment in each facility at UTSA's RCMI website.

UTSA's RCMI program is one of only 18 RCMI programs at universities across the nation. The University of Texas at San Antonio is one of the fastest growing higher education institutions in Texas and one of nine academic universities and six health institutions in the UT System. As a multicultural institution, UTSA aims to be a national research university providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.


To view the original article please go to: http://www.utsa.edu/today/2010/09/nihgrant.html


UTSA, CPS Energy announce $50M agreement for green energy research

(June 8, 2010)--San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro joined the CPS Energy Board of Trustees and The University of Texas at San Antonio on Tuesday to announce a 10-year, $50-million agreement to position San Antonio as a national leader in green technology research.

Castro called the creation of the Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute at UTSA a "game-changing partnership" between a university and a city-owned utility that is unlike any other in the country.

"This is a bold step," said Castro. "Ratepayers will get a more efficient utility, the city will get the economic development value of robust research and development in San Antonio, and the university will spiral ever more quickly to Tier One status."

CPS Energy officials hailed the agreement as a strategic move that will help the utility invest ratepayer money wisely at a time when utilities across the country are working to implement sustainable technologies.

Last year, with approval from the San Antonio City Council to change fuel adjustment charges, the utility allocated $859 million through 2020 to the Save for Tomorrow Energy Plan (STEP). STEP aims to reduce energy use by 771 megawatts by 2020 through customer rebates and incentives, including $156 million to weatherize up to 45,000 homes in Greater San Antonio.

"The strength of the agreement with UTSA comes from the partners working together to set the agenda," noted CPS Energy Board Chairman Charles Foster. "CPS Energy gets localized research, and UTSA gets a real-world laboratory by partnering with the community-owned utility. We will need this kind of information as we change with the energy industry. If we can help to develop it in our own community, based on our customers and our weather, then the information better serves our customers."

"This is a great opportunity for UTSA to do work on a global scale that benefits our local community," added CPS Energy Acting General Manager Jelynne LeBlanc Burley. "As we make the transformation from a traditional utility to one that is focused on providing competitively priced power in a sustainable way, we will look to the institute to help us develop a secure smart grid and to understand how our customers will interact with that new technology."

Les Shephard, an internationally renowned expert on energy policy who joined UTSA earlier this year after a long career at Sandia National Laboratories, will head the institute, formerly known as the Institute for Conventional, Alternative and Renewable Energy.

"We welcome this partnership with CPS Energy as it will not only make San Antonio one of the nation's leaders in sustainable energy innovation, but also provide a significant boost to UTSA in its steady growth toward a research intensive university of Tier One status," said UTSA President Ricardo Romo.

Shephard said all the pieces are in place for a nationally recognized institute in San Antonio. The city has two outstanding utilities -- the San Antonio Water System, which has a long track record in the area of conservation, and CPS Energy, whose energy-efficiency efforts are newer but just as exciting.

Also, the area has a strong foundation of academic and research entities with robust green programs including the Southwest Research Institute as well as the Mission Verde Center, a city partnership that includes the Alamo Colleges and Texas A&M University's Texas Engineering Experiment Station.

"In the last two years UTSA has been aggressively hiring experts in the area of green energy research and this new agreement will accelerate the acquisition of top quality talent to San Antonio," said Mauli Agrawal, dean of the UTSA College of Engineering, who was instrumental in persuading Shephard to join UTSA.

Shephard added that the wealth of energy resources present in Texas makes San Antonio an ideal place for energy-related research and development and attractive to experts from around the nation.

The agreement calls for CPS Energy to invest up to $50 million over 10 years in the institute. The first two years' investment will be $3.5 million from funds currently allocated to research and development. Future funding will be developed by the scope of the projects defined by the partnership and subject to annual approval by the CPS Energy Board of Trustees.

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About CPS Energy

CPS Energy is the nation's largest municipally owned natural gas and electric utility providing service to approximately 707,000 electric customers and 322,000 natural gas customers in and around San Antonio. The utility ranks among the nation's lowest-cost energy providers while ranking No. 1 in wind-energy capacity among municipally owned utilities and No. 1 in Texas in the amount of solar-generated electricity under contract.

About UTSA

The University of Texas at San Antonio is one of the fastest growing higher education institutions in Texas and the second largest of nine academic universities and six health institutions in the UT System. As a multicultural institution of access and excellence, UTSA aims to be a national research university providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment. UTSA serves nearly 29,000 students in 64 bachelor's, 49 master's and 21 doctoral degree programs in the colleges of Architecture, Business, Education and Human Development, Engineering, Honors, Liberal and Fine Arts, Public Policy, Sciences and Graduate School. Founded in 1969, UTSA is an intellectual and creative resource center and a socioeconomic development catalyst for Texas and beyond.


To view the original article please go to: http://www.utsa.edu/today/2010/06/cpsagreement2.html