Texas Tech University

A&S Faculty News

Spring 2018

May 2018

Schroeder Tests StickNets Ahead of Hurricane Season

John Schroeder, TTU atmospheric scientist, tests a StickNetJohn Schroeder, professor of atmospheric science in the Department of Geosciences, is a member of the Hurricane Research Team (TTUHRT) at Texas Tech's National Wind Institute (NWI). With the 2018 hurricane season approaching, Schroeder tested all 48 of the Institute's mobile StickNet platforms in preparation. "Prior to each hurricane season, a mass test of the StickNet weather monitoring platforms is performed so any measurement issues can be detected and corrected in advance of their use in a hurricane," Schroeder said in a May 31 Texas Tech Today article. "Since the data is ingested in real-time by others, it is important to have things right before you ever make a move toward the coast." ;StickNets are versatile, rapidly deployable meteorological observing stations that collect high-resolution meteorological data. Dubbed "StickNet" for its resemblance to a stick figure, the platforms are designed to be deployed in large numbers in a short period of time (three minutes or less) and by a small number of people. "When a hurricane makes landfall, many of the national weather monitoring stations fail to record information due to power loss," Schroeder said. "This leads to an information void at landfall, when and where it counts the most. This project allows us to fill that void with real-time information and therefore provide a much better understanding of how severe a particular storm is at varied locations across the landfall region. This information can then directly support forecasting, emergency response and future efforts to mitigate property loss and save lives."

Marshall Study Reveals How People Love their Pets

Philip Marshall, professor of cognitive psychology, TTU

Philip Marshall, professor of experimental (cognitive) psychology in the Department of Psychological Sciences, is on a research team that recently published "Human Loves Styles and Attitudes Towards Pets" in the journal Anthrozoos. Along with colleagues Susan and Clyde Hendrick, both Horn Professors Emeritus, Marshall showed that the six love styles identified by sociologist John Alan Lee in 1973 relate closely to a person's attitudes toward pets. Those six styles are: Eros, an intense, passionate love that is physical, mental and emotional; Ludus, a game-playing love that does not seek serious involvement and may seek out many partners; Storge, a platonic love based on friendship, fidelity and similar values; Pragma, a pragmatic, practical love; Mania, a possessive, dependent, anxious, emotional-rollercoaster type of love; and Agape, a compassionate, generous love. In the Cognitive Anthrozoology Lab, the trio and doctoral students Michelle Guthrie and Erin Logue surveyed 436 student volunteers from an introductory psychology course, using two major scales: the Pet Attitude Scale and the Hendricks Love Style Scale. They found that erotic lovers, those who view their relationship partner in a favorable way and desire closeness and intimacy with romantic partners, also view pets favorably. In contrast, ludic lovers, the game players who often have many partners and may be dishonest or manipulative, generally view pets in an unfavorable way. The survey also assessed the effects of people's relationship satisfaction and degree of social support on their views of pets. They found that individuals in high-quality romantic relationships and those who feel supported by people close to them share a favorable view of pets. "Our research suggests it might be a good idea for potential close relationship partners to have compatible attitudes towards pets," Marshall said in a May 29 Texas Tech Today article. "People who already have, or who want to have, pets in their lives might want to know how their potential romantic partner feels about pets. That may not be the deciding factor in pursuing a relationship, but given the often touted love that people say they have towards their pets, assessing compatibility about pets might provide some useful information." Marshall breeds, shows, competes and trains dogs in his spare time. He said the group's forthcoming research will focus on the ways people express love for their pets and how those mirror human-human love styles.

April 2018

Mechref to Receive Genomic Sequencer

Yehia Mechref, Horn Professor and Chemistry Chair, Texas Tech UniversityYehia Mechref, Horn Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, is a Principal Investigator of a Biomedical Research Support (BRS) Shared Instrumentation Grant announced April 17, awarded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH funds will be supplemented with funds from additional sources so that TTU's Center for Biotechnology & Genomics (CBG) can acquire a $900,000 state-of-the-art genomics sequencer and share its use with Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC). This new technology will allow the CBG to provide genomic sequencing at a much-reduced cost, which will benefit researchers at TTU, TTUHSC, and the region. The NIH grant will provide $600,000 toward the cost of the genomic sequencer; the CH Foundation will provide $150,000; TTUHSC will provide $100,000; and TTU will provide $50,000. The NIH grant was an "S10", a category that specifically supports the purchase of commercially available instruments that are typically too expensive to be procured by an individual investigator with a research project grant, and requires that the instruments be shared, according to the NIH. Mechref described this S10 grant as the first of its kind awarded to TTU/TTUHSC and that the success of the application represents true synergistic activity between TTU and TTUHSC. (Mechref noted that the success rate of S10 grant proposals nationwide in 2017 was only 16.4 percent.) "We would not have been able to receive this award without the help and the support of our colleagues at TTUHSC," Mechref acknowledged. "The S10 proposal requires the inclusion of at least three collaborators with funded NIH R01s. Dr. Afzal Siddiqui  (Professor, Vice Chair Department of Internal Medicine, Vice President Institutional Collaboration, TTUHSC) was instrumental in galvanizing the collaborative nature of this grant. We were able to include six scientists from TTUHSC, including Doctors Afzal Siddiqui, Vadivel Ganapathy, George Henderson, Maciej Markiewski, Hemachandra Reddy, and Tetyana Vasylyeva. Additionally, Dr. Siddiqui committed funds to facilitate the acquisition of the instrument." The success of this application is a true testament to the partnership across institutions and the CH Foundation that is always supportive of the TTU System, Mechref concluded.

McIntyre Awarded for Distinguished Service to US-IALE

Nancy McIntyre, professor of landscape ecology, TTUNancy McIntyre, professor of landscape ecology in the Department of Biological Sciences and curator of birds for the Natural Science Research Laboratory, received the 2018 Distinguished Service Award by the United States Chapter of the International Association for Landscape Ecology (US-IALE) at their annual meeting in Chicago on April 10. The award for Distinguished Service recognizes individuals who have contributed exceptionally to US-IALE in an extraordinary manner. McIntyre has provided nearly continuous service to US-IALE throughout the 20 years she has been a member. She served on the Executive Committee as a councilor-at-large from 2003 to 2005 and was chair of the Nominations Committee, overseeing the annual elections process, from 2005 to 2010. She has served on the Awards Committee (1998-2000) and the Foreign Scholar Committee (2007-present). McIntyre also has supported the association as an abstract reviewer for the 2005 symposium, chair of the Outreach Committee from 2003 to 2004 and a judge at numerous annual meetings. She is an avid photographer, and many of her photos grace the newly revamped US-IALE website. McIntyre has been a faculty member at Texas Tech since 2000. Her research lies at the intersection of landscape ecology, community ecology and conservation biology. She is most interested in how land conversion—specifically agriculture and urbanization—affect animal movement and habitat connectivity. Her current research projects are focused on various dimensions of wetland conservation, particularly on the unique ephemeral playas of the southern and central Great Plains. She has more than 75 scientific publications in journals such as Landscape Ecology, Ecosphere, Trends in Ecology and Evolution and the Journal of Wildlife Management.

Asquith Named Distinguished Alumnus

George Asquith, Professor in the Department of Geosciences and Pevehouse Chair Emeritus, has been recognized with a Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Geoscience Department. The award is in recognition of Asquith's distinguished lifetime achievement: "For advances in applying petrophysical data to depositional models and reservoir characterization, and for educating a generation of geoscientists through AAPG short courses and his best-selling book, "Basic Well Log Analysis'." Asquith earned his PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1966. The award was presented at the department's spring banquet April 6 in Madison, Wis. The citationist was Dr. Chuck DeMets, Chair and Alfred Wegener Professor of Geophysics.

March 2018

Sagarzazu Speaks on Venezuelan Crisis

Inaki Sagarzazu De Achurra, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, was a featured speaker at the Keys to Our Common Future initiative at the University of Kentucky on March 30. He spoke on "The Slow Demise of Venezuelan Democracy". Earlier, on March 22, He discussed the current situation in Venezuela via a webinar organized by a Latin American think tank. Sagarzazu De Achurra is an expert on Venezuelan politics and has been much in demand for insightful interviews with media outlets in Latin America, Europe, and the US about the unfolding situation in Venezuela.

Latham Receives $850,876 CPRIT Grant

Michael latham, TTU professor of chemistryMichael Latham, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, has received a $850,876 grant from CPRIT—the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas—to study a protein complex's role in repairing damaged DNA. He is focused on the protein complex Mre11-Rad50 (MR), which recognizes and begins the process of fixing breaks in our DNA. The CPRIT grant will fund Latham's research on how MR achieves these complex activities. "We experience several thousand of this type of damage to our DNA every day, and if it is not correctly repaired, diseases such as cancer can arise," Latham explained in a Texas Tech Today article published March 19. "MR, which is present in every organism on the planet, is one of the first-responders to this damage. The MR complex has many activities it uses in this role. One of these is a nuclease, an enzyme that degrades DNA, to help prepare the site of damage for repair. Other activities include holding the broken DNA together and telling the cell there is a problem." Latham said MR is important to study because random mutations of the complex have been found in certain types of cancer, including breast, ovarian and colorectal cancers. "No one knows the effect some of these mutations have on the functions of MR," he said. "This question is not only important for understanding how these sporadic mutations might lead to or promote cancer. We can also use this information as a way to fight cancer." Latham's research group will study the protein complex using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, which allows them to determine the structure of molecules in solution; biochemical assays to understand the protein's function; and assays in yeast cells to help them begin to understand how the structure and functional data come together in the cell. The team's research goal is twofold. "First, we want to know what the three-dimensional structure of the MR complex bound to a piece of broken DNA looks like. If we can understand that structure, it goes a long way to helping us understand how all of the functions work together.," Latham said. "The second goal is to study mutations that have been observed in cancer. We think these studies will tell us what activities are turned off because the protein has been changed, help us learn more about the tie between structure and function, and could possibly point toward novel anti-cancer therapeutics."

Mitchell Study Finds Gender Bias in Student Evaluations

Kristina Mitchell, TTU political science professorKristina Mitchell, director of undergraduate studies and director of online and regional site education in the Department of Political Science, is lead author of "Gender Bias in Student Evaluations," a study published in Cambridge University Press that shows women are evaluated more harshly than men when doing the same job—teaching in this case. Mitchell, along with former Texas Tech doctoral student Jonathan Martin, now an assistant professor of political science at Midland College, set out to explore whether their experiences teaching college courses as a woman and man, respectively, would be supported by data. After conducting identical online courses, Mitchell and Martin performed a content analysis of their evaluation comments, both formal university comments and informal Rate My Professor comments. They found that not only do women receive different types of comments than men, but men also receive higher evaluations than women when all other factors are held constant. "We think there is a subconscious bias in which students view men as more qualified and competent," Mitchell said in a Texas Tech Today article published March 13. "We found that students indeed refer to a man as 'professor' and a woman as 'teacher,' which contributes to the idea that students are simply more likely to think of men as qualified to teach at a university level. Because of the role that student evaluations can play in the hiring and advancement of faulty members' careers, Mitchell is now working to develop materials that help students understand the purpose of evaluations and how to fill them out in a helpful way. "I would like to see universities take a more serious look at the efficacy of student evaluations," she said. "We should explore ways to make them better. I would also like to see university administrations explore alternate measures of effective teaching, such as portfolios, self-evaluation and peer evaluation."

Sherman Study Finds Voter Values Key to Trump Win

Ryne Sherman, TTURyne Sherman, and associate professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, created an online survey in the spring of 2016 (during the Republican primary) that measured political attitudes and personal values. That included not only attitudes toward Trump but also personal desires such as fame, power and the means to help others, Sherman said in a March 12 Texas Tech Today article. After completing the survey, the thousands of respondents were told how closely their values matched Trump's. "The primary goal of this work was to gather some data about personal values associated with supporting Donald Trump," Sherman said. "This seemed important because, at the time, many prominent political commentators and former politicians thought he had no chance of winning and did not support him. So, I wondered, who did support him? Based on what we know about liking, I thought that people who felt that they shared his values would be most likely to support him. This is precisely what I found." Sherman's study was published online in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

Hayhoe Receives YWCA Award for Science

Katharine Hayhoe TTUKatharine Hayhoe, Professor in the Department of Political Science and co-Director of TTU's Climate Science Center, was one of 11 women honored March 8 by Lubbock's Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) by receiving the 2018 Women of Excellence Award for Science. The award is presented each year to recognize and honor local women who have achieved career excellence and contributed to business, industry, organizations and the community. Hayhoe is considered one of the world's leading experts on climate science. Her research focuses on evaluating future impacts of climate change on human society and the natural environment by developing and applying high-resolution climate projections. She also presents the realities of climate change by connecting the issue to values people hold dear instead of being confrontational with scientific facts. In 2017, she was named one of the 50 World's Greatest Leaders by Fortune Magazine, which honors men and women across the globe who are helping to change the world and inspire others to do the same. She was named, in 2016, to the annual Politico 50 list, which recognizes those in society who help shape policy and thinking in the U.S. "It is truly an honor to be recognized by an organization that has such a long and rich history of performing great works in support of women around the world," Hayhoe said. "It is also an honor to be included with so many other great women in the Lubbock community who selflessly give of their time and talents for the betterment of society." Among other recipients were Aliza Wong, Associate Professor in the Department of History, Director of European Studies in the College of Arts & Sciences and Associate Dean of the Honors College, who who the award for Social Justice; and Linda Donahue, Associate Professor and Graduate Advisor in the School of Theatre and Dance in the J.T. & Margaret Talkington College of Visual and Performing Arts, who won the award for Education.

Wong Receives YWCA Award for Social Justice

Aliza Wong, TTU facultyAliza Wong, Associate Professor in the Department of History, Director of European Studies in the College of Arts & Sciences and Associate Dean of the Honors College, was one of 11 women honored March 8 by Lubbock's Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) by receiving the 2018 Women of Excellence Award for Social Justice. The award is presented each year to recognize and honor local women who have achieved career excellence and contributed to business, industry, organizations and the community. Among other recipients were Katharine Hayhoe, Professor in the Department of Political Science and co-Director of TTU's Climate Science Center, who won the award for Science; and Linda Donahue, Associate Professor and Graduate Advisor in the School of Theatre and Dance in the J.T. & Margaret Talkington College of Visual and Performing Arts, who won the award for Education.

A&S Faculty and Student Speak at TWHE

Four from the College of Arts & Sciences spoke at the Texas Women in Higher Education (TWHE) regional conference, held on the Texas Tech University campus March 5. Aliza Wong, associate professor in the Department of History and associate dean of the Honors College, is a TWHE board member and described the meeting as an opportunity for women all over West Texas to discuss, inspire, collaborate and envision a more equitable and inclusive educational experience for the entire university community. Raegan Higgins, associate professor in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics, spoke on the subject, "What's the Staying Power?" Kristina Mitchell, director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Political Science, presented her topic, "It's a Dangerous Business, Being a Female Professor." Other TTU faculty and staff speakers included Wendy-Adele Humphrey, associate dean and professor in the School of Law; Jessica Carrillo, director of Enrollment and Operations in the Graduate Professional Programs for the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business; Judi Henry, senior associate athletics director and senior woman administrator for the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics; and Erin Justyna, director of the Center for Active Learning and Undergraduate Engagement. Joining faculty at the podium was Farah Mechref, an Honors College student and biochemsitry major in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemsitry, who spoke on the subject, "Muslim Daughter of the American Dream." Keynote speaker was Elizabeth Travis, associate vice president for Women Faculty Programs and a Mattie Allen Fair Professor in Cancer Research at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Mechref Named Horn Professor, Nominated to NIH Term

Yehia Mechref, Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, has been appointed by the TTU Board of Regents as a Paul Whitfield Horn Professor effective March 2. Mechref also has been invited by the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to serve as a permanent member of the Enabling Bioanalytical and Imaging Technologies (EBIT) Study Section, Center for Scientific Review, beginning July 1 this year. The NIH nomination reflects Mechref's "demonstrated competence and achievement in his scientific discipline as evidenced by the quality of his research accomplishments, publications in scientific journals, and other significant scientific activities, achievements, and honors." Mechref is Director of the TTU Center for Biotechnology & Genomics and leads a research group.

February 2018

Hayhoe Quoted in Colombian Post

Katharine Hayhoe TTUKatharine Hayhoe, Professor in the Department of Political Science and Director of TTU's Climate Science Center, gave a talk entitled "Fact or Take News? Climate Change" as part of the Double-T College speaker series. In the Feb. 27 session, held in the Tech Library's TLPDC Room 151, Hayhoe explained the science behind global warming and highlighted the key role that people's values play in shaping their attitudes and actions. In other news this month, Hayhoe was one of several quoted in a Feb. 26 Colombian Post article headlined "Hopes and Fears About Climate Change." The article served as a roundup of comments by world notables, from the Dalai Lama of Tibet and former New Your Mayer Michael Bloomberg, to feminist icon Gloria Steinem and novelist Margaret Atwood. Hayhoe was quoted as saying: "What troubles me as a scientist is the potential for vicious feedbacks within the climate system. The warming that we cause through all the carbon we produce could cause a series of cascading impacts that could lead to a much greater warming. The more carbon we produce, the higher the likelihood of these unpredictable risks. What makes me hopeful are people. I've been working with cities, states and regional transportation councils, and none of them have to be convinced of the reality of this problem. I was sitting next to an assistant city manager for Dallas, a town not known for being green, and she blew me away with her list of amazing things Dallas has done to save energy. People are preparing for change."

Van Gestel Studies Soil Carbon Response to Heat

Natasja van Gestel, TTU facultyNatasja van Gestel, Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and the TTU Climate Science Center, is lead author of, "Predicting Soil Carbon Loss With Warming", a study published Feb. 22 in the scientific journal Nature that shows a more complicated relationship between soil carbon and global warming than previously thought. Previous research suggested that, under increasingly warm conditions, soils richer in carbon would be more easily triggered to release that carbon into the atmosphere than soils poorer in carbon. Van Gestel's more exhaustive study shows the answer is not that simple. "We had access to a larger data set than was used in the original paper, and we were concerned the original paper's conclusions relied heavily on just a few experiments that had carbon-rich soils," van Gestel said. "We had access to more data points from a wide range of soils, so we could do a more powerful and balanced analysis. For a global analysis like this, having more data is always better." With the larger data set, she and her research group concluded that soil carbon responses were not easily predicted, either from soil carbon stocks or from other variables that were examined. Other members of the research group were: Zheng Shi, University of Oklahoma; Kees Jan van Groenigen, University of Exeter, U.K.; Craig W. Osenberg, University of Georgia; Louise C. Andresen, University of Gothenburg, Sweden; Jeffrey S. Dukes, Purdue University; Mark J. Hovenden, University of Tasmania, Australia; Yiqi Luo, Northern Arizona University; Anders Michelsen, University of Copenhagen, Denmark; Elise Pendall, Western Sydney University, Australia; Peter B. Reich, Western Sydney University and University of Minnesota; Edward A. G. Schuur, Northern Arizona University; and Bruce A. Hungate, Northern Arizona University. "Our study doesn't change the fact that some soils lose carbon in warmer conditions," van Gestel said. "However, our larger data set showed that the relationship between soil carbon and warming is complicated—it varies from place to place and is likely dependent on not one, but several variables."

Ardon-Dryer Speaks at Biology Seminar

Karin Ardon-Dryer, Assistant Professor and member of the Atmospheric Science Group in the Department of Geosciences, gave a talk entitled, "Aerosol, tiny particles with a large impact on clouds, precipitation, and our health," on Feb. 21 as part of the Spring 2018 Seminar Series. The talk was hosted by Matt Olson, Associate Professor of Plant Population Genomics & Bioinformatics in the Department of Biological Sciences. Ardon-Dryer leads the Ardin-Dryer Aerosol Research Group and also is a member of TTU's STEM Program.

Ramkumar Awarded Top Recognitions in India, U.K.

Seshadri Ramkumar TTUSeshadri Ramkumar, Professor of Nonwovens & Advanced Materials in the Department of Environmental Toxicology, has won an endowed oration from India's University of Mumbai—Institute of Chemical Technology. As 2017-18 recipient of the "Professor W. B. Achwal Endowed Oration Award," Ramkumar traveled to the Institute in Mumbai to give the invited lecture at the gala event on Feb. 20. He spoke about his 20-years of research in the advanced textiles field in a talk he titled "An Odyssey with Technical Textiles." The Institute's President, The Honorable G.D. Yadav, a Chemical Engineer, presided over the event, which was attended by alumni that counted top Indian statesmen and industrialists among their ranks. Ramkumar said that, apart from his research contributions, the selection committee supported his award because some of the Institute's alumni have worked toward their PhDs in TTU laboratories and are now employed in key research positions across the United States. "In the fiber science field, this oration is deemed most coveted..." Ramkumar said in a written statement. "[It is] a great achievement for TTU and Mumbai Institute." Earlier in the month, on Feb. 6, Ramkumar was awarded Fellowship in the Textile Institute, based in Manchester, England. The Textile Institute is the oldest such in the field of textiles/fiber science and, Ramkumar says, its Fellowship is one of the highest professional recognitions for scientists/technologists.

Bradley Receives Award from Texas Society of Mammalogists

Robert Bradley TTURobert D. Bradley, Professor and Assistant Chair in the Department of Biological Sciences and Director of the Natural Science Research Laboratory at the Museum of Texas Tech University, was elected to Honorary Member status by the membership of the Texas Society of Mammalogists (TSM) during their 36th Annual Meeting Feb. 16‒18. Honorary membership in the Society is granted in recognition of distinguished service to the Society and to the science of mammalogy. Bradley has attended every meeting of the Society since his first—as a student in 1984—and he has been an active, supporting member since. Bradley's graduate and undergraduate students represent the greatest number of student presenters of any faculty member over the history of TSM, having presented more than 100 papers at TSM meetings since 1997. He served the Society as President in 2002-2003, and is a permanent member of the Executive Committee. It was Bradley's suggestion while President in 2002 that TSM hold a fund-raising auction during the annual meeting to support the funding of student presentation awards. He has served ever after as enthusiastic auctioneer. The auction has allowed the Society to expand both the number of awards presented and their monetary value. Bradley has directed 21 master's and 11 PhD students to completion, all in mammalogical research; has published more than 160 peer-reviewed articles; and has co-authored one book, "The Mammals of Texas" (2016).