Diabetes prevention model less effective for non-college graduates

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

LAWRENCE — Key prescriptions to prevent and manage diabetes — physical activity and a healthy diet — don't appear to be working as well for Americans who didn't graduate college, according to University of Kansas researcher's new study.

"Essentially those with a college degree or more education are benefiting more from the positive health behavior of physical activity than other groups," said Kyle Chapman, doctoral candidate in sociology. "That's going to create more inequality in the future."

The key finding of the study is after controlling for diet, body-mass index and social factors, adults with a college degree who are physically active were 6 percent less likely to have pre-diabetic symptoms or elevated levels of blood glucose than college-educated adults in the U.S. who are considered physically inactive. For adults with some college, a high school diploma or who never graduated high school, at best physical activity only accounted for a 1 percent less chance they would have pre-diabetic symptoms. The research addressed Type 2 diabetes — the most common form of diabetes — in which the body does not use insulin properly.

"What we see here are these big differences in those at risk for diabetes," Chapman said. "This means in the future we're going to keep seeing these numbers increase and not increase at the same pace depending on people's levels of education."

Generally being active reduced the likelihood that individuals would have full-blown diabetes as well. However, the probability of having diabetes was lowest among people with a college degree at 2.5 percent for those physically active and 4.4 percent for those inactive. By contrast, a person with no high school diploma had a 5 percent probability of having diabetes if they are physically active and 7.2 percent if inactive.

The study analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2007-2012 that combined interviews, physical exams and laboratory tests. Chapman will present his study, Diabetes Disparities by Education and Activity Level, at 8:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 24, at the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting in Chicago.

"It does raise questions on whether or not we want to suggest to practitioners and to public health officials for initiatives on things we can do to alleviate some of the problems, especially in the lives of those with less than a high school education," Chapman said. "What can we do to make physical activity more beneficial?"

He said the findings seem to support past research that has shown that people of higher levels of education tend to have access to environments that are more conducive to exercise and healthier lifestyles, such as gym memberships or living in nicer neighborhoods that encourage walking.

Also, he said college graduates likely can work in jobs that give them more financial stability and flexibility that will allow them to live with fewer social stressors than people living paycheck to paycheck or those in blue-collar jobs that are more physically demanding but not necessarily physically healthy.

"Education has been shown to affect people's behavior on multiple levels. Not only does it give you the capacity to think critically, but once you're in a different education level, there's sort of a different culture around the people that you associate with," he said. "There are different standards of doing things and things are encouraged or discouraged."

The study doesn't recommend steps to correct the disparities, but it should serve as a starting point for discussions on how to address preventing and managing diabetes, especially among individuals for which the current practices are less effective, Chapman said.

"This is real, and if we continue down this road, we're going to be helping the college-educated more than we're helping the less educated," he said. "The less educated are the people who actually need it more. They have higher rates of diabetes and pre-diabetes than other groups to begin with. So if our positive interventions are helping everyone but helping the most educated group more, then we need to adjust our strategy to hopefully improve everyone's health no matter your social status."

Strategic hire to enhance KU autism research program

Thursday, August 13, 2015

LAWRENCE — Matthew Mosconi, a psychologist and neuroscientist who studies autism spectrum disorders, will join the University of Kansas as an associate professor in the Clinical Child Psychology Program and associate scientist in the Life Span Institute starting Tuesday, Aug. 18.

Mosconi was recruited from the University of Texas Southwestern after a national search as part of KU’s Biobehavioral Approaches to Neurodevelopmental Disorders initiative. The interdisciplinary collaboration provided funds to support the development of breakthroughs in etiological mechanisms, preventive approaches and intervention methods to reduce the challenges for individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders. In addition, the position was made possible by a KU Strategic Initiative grant to the LSI’s Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training: Phase II Expansion.

Mosconi’s research is focused on understanding the development of behavioral and cognitive issues characteristic of autism spectrum disorder and identifying the brain mechanisms that cause these issues. His work also examines brain-behavior linkages in related monogenic conditions associated with autism, including Fragile X syndrome. This work aims to determine pathophysiological mechanisms involved in different forms of autism so that biologically based tests useful for early identification can be developed and new targets can be identified to advance treatment discovery efforts.

“Dr. Mosconi’s arrival represents a clear enhancement of the university’s research strengths in autism and neurodevelopmental disabilities,” said John Colombo, Life Span Institute director. “He represents the best of the new generation of nationally visible autism researchers, and we firmly believe that he will contribute to the tradition of high-quality intellectual and developmental disabilities research here at KU.”

Mosconi earned his master’s degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He then completed his post-doctoral fellowship in cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has been supported by the National Institutes of Health at each level of his academic career, and he currently is leading multiple studies investigating the neurobiological bases of sensorimotor and cognitive dysfunction in autism and related disorders. In addition, Mosconi’s research focuses on subtle familial patterns of sensorimotor and cognitive disruptions that may offer insights into the genetic bases of autism spectrum disorders.

“We are happy to be able to expand our portfolio to include interdisciplinary translational research in autism spectrum disorders,” said Ric Steele, director of the Clinical Child Psychology Program. “Dr. Mosconi’s work will enhance our understanding of the neural mechanisms of autism and related disorders.”

Mosconi’s expertise in the assessment and treatment of children with autism and related disorders will also strengthen the ability of the KU Child and Family Services Clinic to provide much-needed services to the community, Steele said.

Mosconi joins other KU scientists who have contributed to the understanding and treatment of autism and related disorders, including Debra Kamps, director of the Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training, an affiliated center of the Life Span Institute. 

KU community, public invited to presentations by College dean candidates

Thursday, August 13, 2015

LAWRENCE — Four candidates for the position of dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Kansas will make public presentations during their respective campus visits.

The dean search committee, led by Professor of English Marta Caminero-Santangelo, invites students, faculty and staff to attend the presentations and provide feedback of their impressions. Each candidate will share their ideas on the topic “21st Century Challenges to Liberal Arts and Sciences (and how KU will address them).” The university will release information about each candidate roughly 48 hours before his or her talk. The schedule of public appearances is:

  • Candidate 1 presentation: 4 p.m.-5 p.m., Monday, Aug. 24, in the Centennial Room, Kansas Union
  • Candidate 2 presentation: 4 p.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 27 in the Centennial Room, Kansas Union
  • Candidate 3 presentation: 3-4 p.m. Sept. 2 in the Centennial Room, Kansas Union
  • Candidate 4 presentation: 3-4 p.m. Sept. 4 in Alderson Auditorium, Kansas Union

Evaluations of all candidates are due by 8 a.m. Sept. 8.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is the home of the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, mathematics, arts and languages at KU. It includes the School of the Arts the School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures, and the School of Public Affairs & Administration. It offers more than 100 majors, minors and certificates in 53 academic departments and programs, enrolling 15,000 undergraduate and 2,000 graduate students and employing more than 600 faculty.

Eighty-four undergraduates present summer research

Thursday, August 13, 2015

LAWRENCE  Each summer, undergraduate students from around the world join current University of Kansas students in conducting research with KU faculty. Eighty-four of these students presented their research last month at the KU Summer Undergraduate Research Poster Session at The Commons.

“This year’s Summer Poster Session was a wonderful mix of KU students and students from other universities who have spent their summer conducting research. The presentations give these students the opportunity to share their findings with the larger KU community,” said John Augusto, director of KU’s Center for Undergraduate Research.

Presenters included students taking part in the following programs:

  • Beckman Scholars Program
  • Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) Scholars Program
  • McNair Scholars Program
  • National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Programs sponsored by the following units:
    • Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS)
    • Department of Chemistry
    • Department of Chemical & Petroleum Engineering
    • Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
  • National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) Program sponsored by CReSIS
  • Office for Diversity in Science Training programs
  • Pharmaceutical Chemistry Summer Undergraduate Research Program
  • Undergraduate Research Award recipients

The poster session was sponsored by KU’s Center for Undergraduate Research.  Students who presented their work are listed below, along with their hometown, home institution, project title, faculty mentor and department:

In-state students


  • Preston Dennett, Augusta, KU, “A Role for piRNA in Chromosome Disjunction in C. elegans, ”Lisa Timmons, molecular biosciences



  • Bradley Harris, Lawrence, KU, “Development of Rapidly Gelling Hyaluronic Acid Gels by Click Chemistry, ” Stevin Gehrke, chemical & petroleum engineering
  • Colby Barrett, Lawrence, KU, “5-Membered Ring Closure via Intramolecular Nucleophilic Attack by Nitrogen Ylides on C=C Bond of Cyclopropenes, ” Michael Rubin, chemistry
  • Devany West, Lawrence, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Understanding the Development of the Mechanical Properties of Biopolymer Hydrogel Networks,” Stevin Gehrke, chemical & petroleum engineering
  • Dominique LeBeau, Lawrence, Haskell Indian Nations University, “Caenorhabditis elegans Cell-Adhesion Molecule, Syg-2, Interacts Genetically with Wnt Pathway Components to Control the Anteroposterior Neurite Growth of the VD GABAergic Neurons,” Brian Ackley, molecular biosciences
  • Jaeki Shin, Lawrence, KU, “Blood Group CHARMM Simulation,” Wonpil Im, molecular biosciences
  • Nicole Humphrey, Lawrence, KU, “Competing Values: Prioritization of Social Equity Among City Administrators,” Shannon Portillo, School of Public Affairs and Administration
  • Samantha Beauchamp, Lawrence, KU, “Finding Downstream Binding Targets of C. elegans EXC-7 Protein,” Matthew Buechner, molecular biosciences
  • Venkata Malladi, Lawrence, KU, “CHARMM Simulations of the Neo-Lacto Series,” Wonpil Im, molecular biosciences



  • Laurissa Marcotte, Hays, KU, “Characterizing the Electromagnetic Properties of Fiberglass/Epoxy Composite Materials,” Emily Arnold, aerospace engineering, CReSIS



  • Alyssa Cole, Garden City, KU, “African-American Women and the Vietnam War,” Clarence Lang, African & African-American studies



  • Emmaline Lorenzo, Leawood, KU, “Quantum Yields of a Photochromic Molecule at Photostationary State,” Christopher Elles, chemistry
  • Monica Ketchum, Leawood, KU, “Effect of Buffer on the Interaction of Synthetic Lung Surfactant Protein, MiniB, with Cholesterol, at Air-Buffer Interface,” Prajnaparamita Dhar, chemical & petroleum engineering
  • Dalton Leprich, Lenexa, KU, “Microbial Colonization of Teeth May Predict Susceptibility to Recurrent Dental Caries,” Brendan Mattingly, undergraduate biology
  • Sean Holloway, Mission, KU, “Wideband Radar Simulator for Evaluation of Direction-of-Arrival Processing,” John Paden, electrical engineering & computer science, CReSIS
  • Dharam Patel, Olathe, KU, “The Production, Purification, and Post Translational Modification of PvdJ Module 2 in Pseudomonas aeruginosa,” Audrey Lamb, molecular biosciences
  • Kayla Wilson, Olathe, KU, “The Role of Fasciclin III (Fas3) in Drosophila Melanogaster Septate Junction Structure and Function,” Robert Ward, molecular biosciences
  • Marilyn Barragan, Olathe, KU, “Rheology of Cartilage for Hydrogel Precursor,” Michael Detamore, chemical & petroleum engineering
  • Austin Feathers, Overland Park, KU, “Conformal Dual-Band HF/VHF Radar Antenna System Design for Implementation on a Small UAS,” Stephen Yan, electrical engineering & computer science, CReSIS
  • Emily Binshtok, Overland Park, KU, “The Therapeutic Value of Anti-Metastatic MicroRNAs in Breast Cancer,"  Liang Xu, molecular biosciences
  • Gabriel Alaniz, Overland Park, KU, “Diversifying Audiences in Mainstream Regional Theaters: a Kansas City Case Study,” Nicole Hodges Persley, theatre, American studies
  • Justin Massey, Overland Park, KU, “Protein-Protein Interaction Screens in Chlamydia Trachomatis Using the Bacterial Two Hybrid System,” P. Scott Hefty, molecular biosciences
  • Karie Robertson, Overland Park, KU, “Inhibiting Biofilm formation in Pseudomonas aeruginosa with Novel Compounds,” Mario Rivera, chemistry
  • Rana Aliani, Overland Park, KU, “The Effects of nfm-1 on Migration of Q Neuroblasts in Caenorhabditis elegans,” Erik Lundquist, molecular biosciences
  • Suwoo Kim, Overland Park, KU, “Molecular Dynamics Simulation of Gangliosides in Homogenous POPC Bilayer,” Wonpil Im, molecular biosciences
  • Zachary Hills, Overland Park, KU, “Purification and Post-translational Modification of PchF, a Nonribosomal Peptide Synthetase Involved in Pyochelin Biosynthesis,” Audrey Lamb, molecular biosciences
  • Alexandria Roy, Shawnee, KU, “miR-137 Mediated Knockdown of Krüppel-Like Factor-4 (KLF4) in Breast Cancer, ” Liang Xu, molecular biosciences
  • Blaine Ragsdale, Shawnee, KU, “Building Normative Cerebral Blood Flow Maps for Healthy Adults Using Arterial Spin Labeling (ASL) Magnetic Resonance Imaging,” Lila Chrysikou, psychology
  • Sam Peterson, Spring Hill, KU, “In Vitro Iron Transfer between a High Affinity Non-Absorbed Iron Chelator and Deferasirox,” Cory Berkland, pharmaceutical chemistry



  • Kynser Wahwahsuck, Leavenworth, Haskell Indian Nations University, “Identifying the Active Site Base Residue in Lysyl Oxidase-Like 2,” Minae Mure, chemistry



  • Anatole Telegin, Paola, Ottawa University, “Comparisons of Petal Cell Size between Sister Species of Genus Penstemon Using Fluorescent Microscopy,” Lena Hileman, ecology & evolutionary biology



  • Abbey Whisler, Hutchinson, KU, “A Graphical User Interface and Database Management System for Documenting Glacial Landmarks,” John Paden, electrical engineering & computer science, CReSIS



  • Carrie Albers, Smolan, KU, “Peptide Synthesis of Cyclic DTPPV,"  Teruna Siahaan, pharmaceutical chemistry



  • Cornelius Baker, Wichita, KU, “Self-Reports of the Effects of Race/Ethnicity on Diagnosis of Clinical Depression,” Stephen Ilardi, psychology
  • Eva Mohr, Wichita, KU, “Characterization of a targeted platinum chemotherapy for head and neck cancers,” Laird Forrest, pharmaceutical chemistry
  • Jacob Chamberlin, Wichita, KU, “High School Athletes’ Perceptions of the Climate in Their Off-Season Training,” Mary Fry, health, sport & exercise science
  • Joshua Schroeder, Wichita, KU, “Poly N-Vinylformamide Double Networks and Charge Complexations,” Stevin Gehrke, chemical & petroleum engineering
  • Michael Cory, Wichita, KU, “Towards Small Molecule Rescue of the Lac Repressor via Computational Approaches, ” John Karanicolas, molecular biosciences
  • Ricardo Gonzalez, Wichita, KU, “Detection of Peroxynitrite in Macrophage Cells Using HKGreen-3 and Microchip Electrophoresis with Laser Induced Fluorescence,” Susan Lunte, chemistry



  • Ian Turnbow, Topeka, KU, “Alcohol, Anxiety, & Hispanic Males: Patterns of Student Alcohol Consumption at the University of Kansas,” Tamara Baker, psychology



  • Jacob Peterson, Bonner Springs, Colorado State University, “Taxonomic Relatedness and Interspecific Relations between Key Atlantic Species and Their Correlation to Patterns of Population Synchrony,” Daniel Reuman, ecology & evolutionary biology



  • Alicia Brown, Page, Airzona, Haskell Indian Nations University, “Pramiplexole Increases Progressive Ratio Breakpoints for Probabilistic and Certain Reinforcers,” David Jarmolowicz, applied behavioral science
  • Jennah Seaver, Bishop, California, Haskell Indian Nations University, “Analyzing the Efficacy of the Addition of a Survival Unit into the Science Program 'Ice, Ice, Baby' to Promote Environmental Awareness on Behalf of the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets,” Cheri Hamilton, CReSIS
  • Justin Jacobs, Long Beach, California, California State University, Long Beach, “Phylogenetic Analysis of the Mantidactylus lugubris Complex with the Description of a New Species Endemic to Ranomafana National Park,"  Richard Glor, ecology & evolutionary biology
  • Judith Flores, Vista, California, California Sate University San Marcos, “Optimizing Microsphere Whispering Gallery Mode Resonators for Sensing,” Robert Dunn, chemistry
  • Nizhoni Woodie, Montrose, Colorado, Haskell Indian Nations University, “The Expression and Function of CYCLOIDEA-like Genes in a Radial Symmetric Flower, Solanum lycopersicum,” Lena Hileman, ecology & evolutionary biology
  • Luanne Hale, Northglenn, Colorado, KU, “Evaluation of Sensory Reinforcement in Rats when Primary Reinforcers are Delayed,” David Jarmolowicz, applied behavioral science
  • Ishan Nag, Middlebury, Connecticut, Western Connecticut State University, “Analysis of the Ability of Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Mutants to Store Iron,” ”Mario Rivera, chemistry
  • Jeff Cole, Cave Spring, Georgia, Samford University, “Molecular Evolution of Sperm Protein Genes in Danaus Butterflies,” Jamie Walters, ecology & evolutionary biology
  • Drew Cesta, Downers Grove, Illinois, Elmhurst College, “Development of a Diagnostic Agent to Detect Neuroinflammation in the Brain of Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis (EAE)-induced Mice,” Teruna Siahaan, pharmaceutical chemistry
  • Jordan Compton, Homewood, Illinois, Grinnell College, “Palladium-catalyzed Decarboxylative Dearomatization,” Jon Tunge, chemistry
  • Domenic Boe, Calmar, Iowa, Wartburg College, “Toward Mercapto-Terminated Linear Azulenic and Biazulenic Linkers Relevant to Molecular Electronics,” Mikhail Barybin, chemistry
  • Bailey McLernon, Attleboro, Massachusetts, Framingham State University, “Organocatalytic Debenzylation of Secondary Amines, ”Michael Clift, chemistry
  • Ryan Hamelin, Fitchburg, Massachusetts, Fitchburg State University, “Non-Resonant Excitation of Photochromic Molecules in the Plasmonic Field of Gold Nanoparticles,” Chris Elles, chemistry
  • Diana Schreier, Apple Valley, Minnesota, Drake University, “A Comparison of the Expression and Activity of Drug Transporters Among Various Cellular Models and Human Liver Tissues,” Michael Wang, pharmaceutical chemistry
  • Jeremy Barnes, Buckner, Missouri, Park University, “Modeling Excited States of Large Molecular Systems Using Hybrid QM/QM Methods with Point Charge Embedding,” Marco Caricato, chemistry
  • Amr El Afifi, Kansas City, Missouri, KU, “The Organization, the Activist, and the Other: Violence and Public Opinion in Egypt, ”Mike Wuthrich, global & international studies
  • Rebecca Flournoy, Kansas City, Missouri, Tulane University, “Effects of Land-Use History on Biogeochemical Processes in Surface vs. Deep Soil from the Calhoun Experimental Forest,” Sharon Billings, ecology & evolutionary biology
  • Kyle Monize, Liberty, Missouri, KU, “Ligand-Binding Requirements of an Unusual LuxR Homolog in the Human Pathogen Burkholderia pseudomallei,” Josephine Chandler, molecular biosciences
  • Cody Schultz, O'Fallon, Missouri, Truman State University, “Determining the Size and Location of Lysyl Oxidase-Like 2 (LOXL2) in Breast and Breast Cancer Tissue Samples,” Minae Mure, chemistry
  • Gregory Reeves, Pleasant Hill, Missouri, KU, “The Role of Transposable Elements in the Neural Degeneration of Drosophila (Fruit Flies),” Stuart Macdonald, molecular biosciences
  • Jacob Stops, Pryor, Montana, KU and HaskeDavido, molecular biosciences
  • Aidan Dmitriev, Lakewood, New York, KU, “Characterization of the Lipooligosaccharide Transport System of Chlamydia Trachomatis,” Scott Hefty, molecular biosciences
  • April Arquilla, Youngstown, Ohio, College of Wooster, “The Role of Visual Signals in Drosophila Biarmipes Courtship,” Jennifer Gleason, ecology & evolutionary biology
  • Hanna Dornhofer, Portland, Oregon, Reed College,” Stand Dynamics in a Mature Oak-Hickory Forest of Northeastern Kansas: Human Disturbance Can Cause Ecological Succession,” Bryan Foster, ecology & evolutionary biology
  • Hannah Ashberry, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, Millersville University, “AFM Based Fabrication of Gold Nanowires through Electroless Deposition,” Cindy Berrie, chemistry
  • Natalie Venette, Forney, Texas, Missouri State University, “Does Synergism between Telomeric and Non-Telomeric P Elements in Drosophila Melanogaster Amplify piRNA Pools to Protect Against P Element Mediated Germline Sterility,” Justin Blumenstiel, ecology & evolutionary biology
  • Mia Furgurson, Dallas, Texas State University, “Neurological Study of Zebrafish Using Fast-Scan Cyclic Voltammetry,” Michael Johnson, chemistry
  • Katie Smith, Midvale, Utah, University of Utah, “Pathogenesis of Type III Secretion System Effector IpaD in Shigella,” Wendy Picking, pharmaceutical chemistry
  • Sumar Quint, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Winona State University, "  Microfluidic ELISA Array Chip for Multiplexed Biomarker Detection,” Yong Zeng, chemistry.


International/Unknown hometowns

  • Bonnie Cobb, University of Saint Mary, “Effects of Condition on Courtship Success, ” Jennifer Gleason, ecology & evolutionary biology
  • Jack Rogers, KU, “Effect of Polymer Conformation on Mechanical Properties of Double Network Gels,” Stevin Gehrke, chemical & petroleum engineering
  • Sylvia Nunez, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, “Evolution of Salinity Tolerance in an Invasive Cnidarian,” Paulyn Cartwright, ecology & evolutionary biology
  • Luisa Cardoso, Salvador, Federal University of Bahia, Brazil, “Reactivity of a Series of Mn(IV)=O Complexes,” Timothy Jackson, chemistry
  • Dongyu Li, Harbin, KU, “Relational Mobility, Cultural Orientation, and Intimate Relationships,” Glenn Adams, psychology
  • Esha Abbi, Dublin, Dublin City University, “Development of a Method for Monitoring ATP and its Metabolites as Biomarkers for Traumatic Brain Injuries by Capillary Electrophoresis," Susan Lunte, chemistry
  • Shoichi Tachiyama, Tokyo, KU, “Mutation, Expression, and Purification of PcrG for EPR Studies,” Roberto De Guzman, molecular biosciences
  • Gladys Saruchera, Harare, Mount Holyoke College, “Development of a Hyaluronic Acid and Epidermal Growth Factor Conjugate For Cosmetic Applications, ” Laird Forrest, pharmaceutical chemistry.

Art and Design Building to be named for former Chancellor Laurence Chalmers

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

LAWRENCE — It was August 1969 when the 11th chancellor of the University of Kansas, E. Laurence Chalmers, arrived on the Hill.

It will be August 2015 that his name is forever displayed on Mount Oread.

On Sunday, Aug. 23, the building currently known as the Art and Design Building will be dedicated and designated as E. Laurence Chalmers Hall. The naming ceremony will take place at 3 p.m. in Marvin Hall, followed by a reception in the newly named Chalmers Hall student study area.

“The naming of the Art and Design Building in former Chancellor Chalmers’ memory is a fitting way to kick off this year’s KU 150 celebration,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “Chancellor Chalmers was an integral figure in KU’s history. He created a precedent for resiliency in times of hardship, and we are so pleased to have this opportunity to honor his legacy.”

Gray-Little will speak at Sunday’s event, along with Zoe Newton, vice chair of the Kansas Board of Regents, and William M. Tuttle Jr., professor emeritus of American studies. Chalmers’ sons — E. Laurence Chalmers III and Thomas Chalmers — will be in attendance, as will former KU chancellors Del Shankel and Archie Dykes.

Once the building is designated, it will be the first time that every previous KU chancellor is represented by a building on campus.

The naming ceremony is part of a larger schedule of Hawk Week events that includes Traditions Night on Saturday, Aug. 22, and Opening Convocation on Sunday, Aug. 23. All events are open to the KU community and public.

Hailed as a student and faculty advocate at Florida State University, Chalmers arrived in Lawrence during a time where the rights of both groups were tested by oppression and violence. He inherited a university in the midst of turmoil in response to the Vietnam War and widespread civil unrest.

In his first speech to students and faculty, Chalmers addressed concerns of the day.

“A true university cannot long survive disruption from within or repression from without,” he said in his inaugural address to the university. “We have the right and indeed the obligation to defend our institution against both of these destructive forces.” These words are emblazoned on the dedication plaque that will hang in Chalmers Hall.

During his three-year tenure as chancellor, Chalmers handled crises such as the burning of the Kansas Union and attacks on the Military Science Building. Despite calls from the Kansas Legislature and the Kansas Board of Regents to quell student protests and oust controversial professors, Chalmers remained a staunch supporter of freedom of assembly and academic expression.

In many accounts of Chalmers’ leadership, focus is given to the challenges of his administration, not his triumphs. In May 1970, with the help of Student Senate and faculty, Chalmers prevented more violence on campus by giving students the choice to continue or end their coursework early. He remained focused on students — never bowing to the pressure of the state to suppress students’ ability to protest, yet always maintaining campus safety.

Chalmers brought in significant donations to the university and opened the Wichita campus of the KU Medical Center in 1971. Construction of Wescoe Hall, dedicated in honor of former Chancellor W. Clarke Wescoe, began during Chalmers’ time on the Hill. Chalmers strengthened the system of shared governance between Student Senate and university administration that still exists today. When Chalmers resigned from the university in 1972, the Wichita Eagle put it best: “Students are the losers.”

A supporter of the arts, Chalmers went on to become the director of the Art Institute of Chicago Art for nine years.

He died in 2009.

“Chancellor Chalmers was a scholar, an advocate and a Jayhawk,” Gray-Little said. “We are proud to honor his memory and his legacy of academic freedom and freedom of speech at the University of Kansas.”

Central Asians' view of democracy not the same as Westerners', book says

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

LAWRENCE – As countries in Central Asia move toward more authoritarian governments and concerns over human rights abuses increase, a new book explores why the West’s efforts to promote democracy in the region have failed.

In “Democracy in Central Asia: Competing Perspectives and Alternative Strategies,” Mariya Omelicheva, associate professor of political science at the University of Kansas, argues that the idea of democracy in Central Asia has been adapted to the local contexts and borrow more from the Russian and Chinese models than the ideals spread through the U.S. and European Union.

“These competing perspectives of democracy, which are often derided and dismissed in the West, should be taken much more seriously because it partly explains why the U.S. and EU are losing ground in this territory and why Russia and China still hold a lot of leverage on these governments,” Omelicheva said.

The book reflects months of field work in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Omelicheva collected data from focus groups of students who had participated in U.S. exchange programs, allowing them to reflect on the similarities and differences in politics and cultures. She also conducted one of the region’s first public opinion surveys on people’s knowledge and perceptions of democracy.

While popular belief holds that democracy is a universal ideal, Omelicheva’s research found more than half of the Central Asians she surveyed would support any political regime capable of maintaining order. And more than 85 percent of the respondents didn’t see a government priority in enacting democratic principles.

“Democracy does not have a universal meaning despite its immense popular appeal and frequent references by politicians and ordinary people,” Omelicheva said. “Democracy and the related concepts of civil society, human rights and the rule of law are cultural creations and products of political and social contexts.”

Respondents spoke of personal freedoms, such as being able to wear what they wanted, but they had trouble articulating the core principles of human rights. For example, many didn’t recognize that job promotions based on age and clan standing, not merit, violated human rights.

“They didn’t believe that was a violation of their rights. They didn’t even voice a possibility of challenging those social practices,” Omelicheva said.

Focus group participants in Kyrgyzstan referred to the concept of democracy as “hot air” and “rubbish.” In Kazakhstan, participants linked democracy to having a strong leader and spoke of the need to draw on the region’s historical roots when building a democratic country.

Citing human rights violations following Sept. 11 and the use of military to enact foreign policy, Central Asians said they were disillusioned by American-style democracy. With off-the-shelf techniques and a condescending approach, the West’s efforts to spread democracy in the region haven’t been well thought out, Omelicheva said. 

“That is not going to work in Central Asia,” Omelicheva said. “What has been proposed is not culturally sensitive, consistent or credible in the eyes of the population or government.”

Omelicheva is also the author of  "Counterterrorism Policies in Central Asia" and is the principal investigator on a project that will map organized crime and terrorism hotspots in Eurasia.

Research into mammal evolution focuses on pivotal Eocene interval in Turkey

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

LAWRENCE — Supported with a five-year, $580,000 award from the National Science Foundation, scientists from the University of Kansas are departing this month to investigate how climate, plate tectonics and other factors influenced evolution by bringing species together in modern-day Turkey 42 million years ago during the Eocene epoch.

“What we learn could tell us a lot about the future of natural environments and the distribution of species as the planet becomes warmer through time,” said Christopher Beard, senior curator at KU’s Biodiversity Institute and Foundation Distinguished Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology.

Beard and his colleagues will focus on the “Middle Eocene Climactic Optimum,” an interval of warmer temperatures around the globe that coincided with shifts in plate tectonics to create a new setting for mammals in the area now comprising Turkey.

Indeed, a breakdown of longstanding environmental barriers during this time may have brought about a migration of animals from Asia into Africa, including anthropoid primates that were the distant ancestors of humans.

“We’ve always suspected that changes in the Earth’s physical environment must have a major impact on biological evolution, but this has rarely been addressed in great detail in the fossil record,” Beard said. “Our Turkish project is designed to do this.”

The researchers will begin fieldwork in Turkey this month, joining Turkish colleagues from Eskisehir Osmangazi University. Any fossil specimens they unearth will come back to KU for analysis and then be returned to Turkey to be housed in a museum.

Beard said members of the team already have discovered specimens relevant to research into Eocene biology in the region.

“The most important discovery we’ve made so far took place in central Anatolia,” he said. “There, we found an ancient community of fossil mammals that is utterly unique for two reasons. First, many of the fossil species are completely unlike any other fossil mammals we’ve ever seen. Second, even in cases where the Turkish fossils are somewhat familiar, they occur alongside other types of mammals they’ve never been found with before. One of the groups of mammals we’ve found is an extinct group called embrithopods, which look vaguely like rhinos except they had two nasal horns that diverged from each other in a Y-shaped pattern.”

The KU researcher said embrithopods are commonly found in Africa, but there they typically occur alongside African mammals. By contrast, in Turkey the embrithopods lived among mammals obviously related to species from Europe and Asia.

“We’ve stumbled upon a four-dimensional jigsaw puzzle with many missing pieces, and we’re trying to determine how these different mammals got to be in Turkey, when they got there, and what this tells us about bigger and more fundamental evolutionary processes,” Beard said.

But piecing together this puzzle will require expertise from the traditional fields of structural geology, paleontology and paleoclimate.

To better understand the interplay between the tectonic and climatic evolution of Turkey, Beard has partnered with co-investigator Mike Taylor, associate professor of geology. Taylor is an expert in collisional processes related to the Indo-Asian collision and plateau-building processes.

“The Turkish-Iranian plateaus lie to the west of the Himalayas and Tibet, and to me represent a more youthful stage of mountain building, so I'm very excited to understand this particular tectonic setting and how it may relate to what Tibet may have looked like prior to 55 million years ago, when India collided with the southern margin of Eurasia,” Taylor said.

The team is focused in part on the role the region played in the evolution and migration of anthropoid primates — ancient forerunners of Homo sapiens. Thus, the project could shed light on the little-understood movement of these primates precisely at the moment that Turkey was being assembled geographically — at least two tectonic “microplates” collided with what is now the northern part of Turkey around this time — making this region a crucial juncture of modern day Asia, Europe and Africa.

“Currently, all we know is that anthropoid primates lived on either side of Turkey during the latter part of the Eocene. They first evolved in Asia  — probably Southeast Asia — and made their way to Africa prior to the end of the Eocene,” Beard said. “Africa and Asia were separated by a seaway that connected what is now the Mediterranean Sea with the Indian Ocean at that time. Turkey may or may not have been an island in this sea, close to the southwest edge of Asia. So it’s at least possible, and perhaps likely, that anthropoid primates and other mammals used Turkey as a stepping stone to get across this sea on their way to Africa.”

The researchers said the work could inform science about the role climate change played in mammalian evolution and be especially relevant today, when temperatures are again shifting due to global climate change.

“We want to test whether the extreme climatic conditions of the Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum led to the colonization of Africa by early anthropoids and other mammals,” Beard said. “If our ideas are correct, then we’ll be able to show that climate change has a much greater impact on biological evolution than we ever thought previously.”

Grégoire Métais (Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris) and Faruk Ocakoğlu (Eskişehir Osmangazi University) are the primary collaborators with the KU team. The project also will afford research opportunities and training for graduate students. Beard said he hoped the project would help boost interest and respect for paleontology in the Middle East.

“Traditionally, paleontology and evolutionary biology have been downplayed across the Middle East, but this area holds a vast and highly important fossil record that needs to be studied,” he said. “I’m hoping that our project contributes toward greater mutual understanding and collaboration as well as blazing some trails with respect to the scientific resources in the region. We’ve known for decades that paleontology can be one of the first scientific disciplines that attracts the attention of kids when they are young. If we can show kids in the Middle East that their own part of the world has something important to teach us about the history of life on Earth, I’m guessing some of them will be inspired to pursue careers in science.”

Top image: Researchers scour Turkish hills for fossils from the Middle Eocene Climactic Optimum.

Map: Anatolia in the middle Eocene, at the biogeographic crossroads among Africa, Europe and Asia. Possible pathways for mammalian dispersal are shown in red.

Researcher:  Principal investigator Chris Beard performing fieldwork in central Anatolia.​

Fossils: With Eocene fossils like this one, the KU team is looking at how different mammals arrived in Turkey and how that ties to fundamental evolutionary processes.

Bottom image: The team will investigate the interplay between tectonic, climatic and biological evolution in Turkey. 

Images courtesy Christopher Beard.

Improvement in women's education in Middle East has not translated to economic, political success

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

LAWRENCE — Though women in the Middle East and North Africa have made major educational attainment gains in recent years, they have not translated into means of influence such as labor market participation and political representation.

Gail Buttorff, University of Kansas assistant professor of political science, examined gendered access to wasta, or political and social capital, for the Women's Rights in the Middle East Program conducted with Bozena Welborne, assistant professor of government at Smith College.

The researchers found that women in Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Yemen and the West Bank and Gaza Strip don't have access to one important type of social capital known as wasta, which allows individuals in positions of power the opportunity to grant assistance when requested. It also allows individuals to streamline bureaucratic processes to gain access more easily to employment, legal documentation and university admission.

"Wasta continues to be important in employment opportunities, in both the private and public spheres, as well as fundamental to the election and work of members of parliament," Buttorff said.

The researchers found that Algeria, Morocco and Lebanon all demonstrated relatively similar levels of wasta usage across genders, although the overall usage rates vary across the three countries.

In Jordan, Palestine and Yemen, though, men reported using wasta at much higher rates than women. In Yemen, for example, 46 percent of men reported having used wasta, while only 29 percent of women reported such.

The researchers said that as part of this preliminary analysis, they suspected that wasta usage could be related labor force participation, as Morocco and Lebanon have a higher percentage of women in the labor force. But Algeria has lower female labor force participation rates than Jordan, Palestine and Yemen.  

"If women have differential access and voters perceive this to be true, how does this affect the ability of female candidates to be elected? And what does gendered nature of wasta mean for improving women's political representation?" Buttorff said. "Given the pervasiveness of wasta in Arab life, does differential access to wasta represent another hurdle to improving the status of women, especially translating educational gains into economic opportunities and political representation?"

She said the next line of research should examine whether the outcomes of political and social capital are different for men and women in Arab countries.

"Much more work needs to be done to understand differences in usage across genders, as well as in the type of wasta used, to really grasp potential policy implications," Buttorff said.

Buttorff and Welborne conducted the research through Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy.

TRIO McNair Summer Research Symposium encourages undergraduate scholarship

Monday, August 10, 2015

LAWRENCE — Twenty University of Kansas TRIO McNair Scholars presented their summer research projects at the McNair Research Symposium on July 24 at the Kansas Union. Since 2003, the annual program has hosted a total of 240 student presentations.

The TRIO McNair Scholars program, established at KU in 1992, is part of the Achievement & Assessment Institute’s Center for Educational Opportunity Programs (CEOP) and provides low-income, first-generation and underrepresented minority students with the necessary skills, resources and support to prepare and earn placement in graduate programs to pursue doctoral degrees.

Research in the 2015 symposium cohort addressed topics in theatre, neuroscience, psychology, microbiology, environmental sciences, social welfare, physical education, history, political sciences and public administration, journalism and student affairs.

“The symposium provides students opportunities to gain valuable skills in research communication by presenting their summer research projects to a broad audience, including KU faculty, staff, colleagues and family,” said TRIO McNair Scholars Program Director Mulu Negash. “The symposium supports McNair’s mission to make students competitive candidates for doctoral study and also supports KU’s Bold Aspirations strategic initiative by cultivating and nurturing intellectual and scholarly engagement for undergraduate students.”

The TRIO McNair Research Symposium is the culmination of the McNair Scholars Program’s annual paid Summer Research Internship (SRI). During the SRI, students spent the last two months working on independent research projects, attending GRE and graduate application courses, and participating in weekly colloquia while developing skills in communication, networking, professional development and research methodology.

The 2015 SRI participating McNair Scholars:

Gabriel Alaniz, Overland Park junior. Faculty mentor: Nicole Hodges Persley. Alaniz is a theatre major with research interests in the various forms of multicultural theatre. Alanz completed a case study of the Kansas City regional theaters to investigate audience diversity.
Cornelius Baker, Wichita junior. Faculty mentor: Steven Illardi. Baker is a behavioral-neuroscience major. Baker examined the effects of race and ethnicity on the diagnosis of clinical depression.

Max Bearce, Johnson City. Faculty Mentor: Ludwin Molina. Bearce graduated May 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Bearce’s research project was an extension of his 2014 SRI project investigating the relationship between collective identity and guilt, group attitudes and group relevant action when white and Japanese American participants recollect the history of Japanese interment in the U.S.

Samantha Beauchamp, Kansas City, Kansas, junior. Faculty Mentor: Matthew Buechner. Beauchamp is a microbiology major. Beauchamp examined the EXC-7 mRNA binding protein in Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) to attain a better understanding of the homologous HuR protein that is overexpressed in many human cancers.

Elizabeth Burney, Louisville, Kentucky, sophomore. Faculty Mentors: Paul Stock and Robert Antonio. Burney is an environmental-science major. Burney researched the socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of Kansas food deserts and oases.

Trinity Carpenter, Richmond junior. Faculty Mentor: Andrew Zinn. Carpenter is a social-welfare major. Carpenter investigated the experience of incarcerated mothers who have lost their parental rights as a result of the Adopt and Safe Families Act.

Jacob Chamberlin, Wichita junior. Faculty Mentor: Mary Fry. Chamberlin is a physical education major. Chamberlin examined the effects of motivational climate on athletes’ motivation to participate in offseason training programs.

Alyssa Cole, Garden City senior. Faculty Mentor: Clarence Lang. Cole graduated in May 2015 with a double-major in the fields of history and African and African-American studies. She examined the role of African-American women in the Vietnam War. Cole will begin working toward her masters’ degree in African and African-American studies at KU in fall 2015.

Michael Cox, Augusta sophomore. Faculty Mentor: Donald Haider-Markel. Cox is a political science major. Cox researched the potential for discrimination against individuals of the LGBTQ community in Kansas long-term care facilities.

Darinka Delatorre-Castillo, Guadalajara, Mexico, junior. Faculty Mentor: Robert Ward. Delatorre-Castillo is a neurobiology major. She investigated the proteins affecting gene expression of the trachea and insulin-signaling pathway of flies (i.e., Drosophila melanogaster).

Jeffery Durbin, Fort Scott senior. Faculty Mentor: Christopher Ramey. Durbin is majoring in behavioral neurosciences with an emphasis in language processing. His SRI project, “Are We Our Brain?,” examined the relationship between neurocentrism and determinism.

Amr El-Afifi, Kansas City, Missouri, sophomore. Faculty Mentor: Mike Wuthrich. El-Afifi is a dual major in political science and journalism. El-Afifi’s SRI project examined the change in public opinion in regards to the legitimacy of Egypt’s state-enacted violence from 2008-2014.

Nicole Humphrey, Lawrence senior. Faculty Mentor: Shannon Portillo. Humphrey is a double-major in political science and public administration. To examine the prioritization of social equity in public-administration practices, Humphrey interviewed city administrators from multiple municipalities in Kansas and KU students in the Masters of Public Administration program.

Dalton Leprich, Lenexa sophomore. Faculty Mentor: Brendan Mattingly. Leprich is a microbiology major. Leprich’s SRI project examined the human oral microbiome and their influence on human oral cavities.

Kierstin McMichael, Wichita junior. Faculty Mentor: David Roediger. McMichael is an English major with minors in sociology and history. McMichael examined the ethical issues regarding taking photos to increase the appearance of campus diversity in KU admissions materials.

Michael Miller, Kansas City, Missouri, sophomore. Faculty Mentor: Tamara Baker. Miller is a psychology major. Miller investigated the influence of discrimination, identity and traditional views of masculinity on African-American male self-identity.

Joy Mosier-Dubinsky, Pittsburgh junior. Faculty Mentor: Alexander Hall. Mosier-Dubinsky is a history major. Mosier-Dubinsky examined women of antiquity through the work of Plutarch in order to gain a better understanding of gender and female roles of antiquity.

Kristina Padilla, Denver junior. Faculty Mentor: Lisa McLendon. Padilla is a journalism major with a minor in women, gender and sexuality studies. Padilla gathered personal narratives of female motorcyclists to share women’s perspectives on the joys of riding, gender norms for riders and embodiment.

Allora Richey, Augusta senior. Faculty Mentor: Paula Fite. Richey graduated in May 2015 with degrees in psychology and human biology. Richey examined the influence of hostile attribution bias on the relationship between childhood maltreatment and aggression.

Ian Turnbow, Topeka sophomore. Faculty Mentor: Tamara Baker. Turnbow is a psychology major. Turnbow investigated the relationship between alcohol abuse and anxiety disorders in Hispanic males at KU.

More on the program
The McNair Scholars Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education as one of the TRIO programs and was established at KU in October 1992. It is one of 151 Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Programs nationwide. By preparing students for doctoral study from groups traditionally underrepresented in graduate education, the program is designed to help ensure that the next generation of American faculty members represents the diversity of our society at large.

Professor, students part of team that uncovered gate to biblical city

Monday, August 10, 2015



LAWRENCE – A visiting University of Kansas professor is part of an archaeological excavation that discovered the entrance gate and fortification wall to the ancient biblical city of Gath.

This summer Eric Welch, a visiting assistant professor of Jewish studies, and three KU students were part of a team working on the Ackerman Family Bar-Ilan University Expedition to Gath. Known today by its Arabic name, Tell es-Safi, Gath, which is in central Israel, it was first settled in the Early Bronze Age in about 3500 B.C. From the 12th through ninth centuries B.C., it was occupied by Philistines and is referenced in the Bible as the home to the giant Goliath and later to where David fled to escape King Saul.

In July, the expedition uncovered a fortified wall with towers and what may be one of the largest gate complexes ever found in Israel. Nearby, archeologists unearthed an altar and artifacts linked to textile and metalwork.

“One of the reasons we are so excited, gates are places of administration,” Welch said. “If you look in the Bible, important things happen at city gates. That is where transactions and judgments are made. It is a major portal of the city’s comings and goings. So it is not surprising to find market, religious and industrial activity there.”

Welch has been part of the expedition since 2006. He is currently overseeing the excavation of an upper section of the site where the city’s elite lived. For four weeks this summer, junior Darra Stuart, Iowa City, Iowa; and graduates William Hershkowitz, Hopkins, Minnesota, and Tyler Engler, Minnetonka, Minnesota, joined Welch.  

Artifacts suggest sudden and massive damage to Gath around 830 B.C., when Hazael, king of Aram Damascus, besieged and destroyed the city. A siege trench, one of the earliest ever found, has been dated to that era. Welch described uncovering a room with collapsed walls where dozens of pots remained, a grinding stone was still sitting on top of a grinder, and a jar for wheat was next to one for flour.

“You feel like you are walking into someone’s kitchen,” Welch said. “It was absolute and total devastation, which was horrible for them but really great for archeologists because it gives us a snapshot of life at that moment.”

Little is known about the Philistines, who were often cast as villains in the Old Testament. The uncovering of the gate and the potential to find written inscriptions on or near it could provide more clues to the Philistines’ language, religion and origin.

“We know they were the bad guys in the Bible, but we don’t know exactly why,” Welch said. “We are trying to better understand their culture.”

After 830 B.C., the archeological record indicates the Philistines never returned to Gath. Later Judeans, Romans and Muslims lived on the site. During the Medieval Crusades, a fort and castle were built there.

Next year, Welch would like to bring more KU students to dig at Tell es-Safi. Plans are for Welch to direct work on a new section near the gate entrance.

The expedition is headed by Bar-Ilan University professor Aren Maeir and along with KU includes research teams from the University of Melbourne, University of Manitoba, Brigham Young University, Yeshiva University and Grand Valley State University.

Each summer, volunteers are welcome to come to the site and dig. 

Top image: An overview of the upper section of Gath, where Eric Welch, KU visiting assistant professor, oversees excavation. 

Middle image: Eric Welch, who has been working at Gath since 2006, takes measurements.

Bottom image: William Hershkowitz, who graduated this year, was among the three KU students who were part of the team this summer. 

Credit: The Ackerman Family Bar-Ilan Expedition to Tel es-Safi, Yiftach Moran and Eric Welch.


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