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Thomas C. Skalak

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VP for Research

New & Noteworthy
September 2013

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Virginia Ventures Forum
The Virginia Innovation Partnership, a statewide network designed to accelerate innovation and economic growth, hosted the inaugural Virginia Ventures Forum on Friday, September 6, 2013. The forum, open to the public, showcased Virginia Innovation Partnership projects, offered keynote talks by global investment leaders and included periods of networking time for participants and forum attendees.  CONTINUE READING

University publishes stunning diversity map of US
A new map paints a vivid picture of just how demographically diverse Houston's population is. A researcher at the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service created "The Racial Dot Map," which illustrates the racial demographics of the nation using one colored dot per person. CONTINUE READING

Innovative Breast Cancer Treatment Combines Surgery and Radiation Therapy in a Single Day
A new surgical technique allows early-stage breast cancer patients to shrink treatments from up to seven weeks to the same time as their surgery – with lesser effects on surrounding tissue.  Radiation Oncologist Dr. Timothy Showalter in the School of Medicine said the use of IORT combined with CT on rails-guided brachytherapy will improve treatment coverage of the highest-risk areas around the breast tumor while limiting the amount of healthy tissue exposed to radiation.  CONTINUE READING

Humans Hardwired to Feel Others’ Pain, Study Finds
Your brain is hardwired to feel empathy for those close to you, according to a new study. Empathy is the ability to understand another person's feelings. "With familiarity, other people become part of ourselves," study author James Coan, Professor in the Department of Psychology in the College Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, said in a university news release. CONTINUE READING

UVa Researchers Investigate How HIV Mutates
HIV is an elusive virus that is quick to mutate to escape the immune system. The discovery by researchers suggests that the virus does this by controlling a genetic process, changing how much of itself is produced at any given time. The discovery sheds light on the HIV infection process and could open the door to new treatments. “It was a big surprise to us that there seems to be this selection for a set level of this activity to be there. In some patients, it changed with time. In some patients it went up, and in other patients it went down,” said David Rekosh, PhD, of Myles H. Thaler Center for AIDS and Human Retrovirus Research in the School of Medicine. “What we don’t know yet is why, or what meaning this has for the infection. But what’s important about our study is the fact that the gene is changing in this way. This tells us that regulating it is important to the virus.” CONTINUE READING

The Humanities Studies Debate
In the 21st century economy, does a humanities major still make sense for college students?  Arguments are discussed on OnPoint with Tom Ashbrook.  Guests include Mark Edmundson, Professor of English in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and author of the Washington Post essay “Why major in humanities? Not just for a good job — for a good life” and the book “Why Teach: In Defense of a Real Education.” 

Researchers Expose Troubling Bias In Forensic Psychology
It's already known, of course, that lawyers may choose to call only experts who support their cases. So there's probably a biased sample of psychologists going on the stand in the U.S., anyway. But psychologists from the UVa School of Medicine & Sciences and Sam Houston State University wanted to see if a large sample of psychologists, chosen without a side in mind, might also be vulnerable to bias. CONTINUE READING

Engineering Professor Don Brown to Lead New Big Data Institute
Don Brown, William Stansfield Calcott Professor of the Department of Systems and Information Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, has been named the Big Data Institute’s founding director. The institute will reside in Olsson Hall and report to the Executive Vice President and Provost. UVA Today science writer Fariss Samarrai recently met with Brown to learn more about the new Big Data Institute, which is an initiative of the University’s strategic plan. CONTINUE READING

Successful Trial of Focused Ultrasound for Essential Tremor
In a 15-patient trial reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, all 15 reported substantial improvement in their quality of life one year after treatment, which requires no surgery. “We are very pleased to report these findings, and the publication of the study in the New England Journal of Medicine validates the significance of the study even though it is a very early-stage investigation,” said School of Medicine’s Dr. Jeffrey Elias, the study’s lead investigator. “A project of this magnitude could only be possible with the collaboration of large team of clinicians and researchers. I am proud that UVa is committed to assembling the world’s top neuroscientists to tackle a problem like this.” CONTINUE READING

SOM receives $14.4 million from NIH to battle deadly heart condition
The School of Medicine, leading a consortium of institutions, has been awarded $14.4 million in federal backing to find better ways to predict which patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy - the most common genetic heart disease - are at the greatest risk of heart failure or sudden death. CONTINUE READING

Researcher Leads NFL Thigh Pad Testing in Support of New Mandate
After the National Football League implemented a new rule for 2013 mandating all players wear thigh pads, the league asked UVa biomechanical researchers to test how well available thigh pads protected players against injuries. “The league not only required the pads, but wanted to give the players some information to make smart decisions about which pads to use,” said Richard Kent, deputy director of UVa’s Center for Applied Biomechanics, a joint venture of the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Medicine. CONTINUE READING

Rivers on Rolaids
Something surprising is happening to rivers in the eastern part of the United States.  Scientists from the Universities of Virginia and Maryland say human activities are changing the basic chemistry of the water. In a survey of 97 rivers from Florida to New Hampshire over up to six decades, scientists have discovered the water becoming less acidic – a surprise in light of how much acid rain has fallen in this part of the world. “Our initial thought was it must be the concrete – that all these heavily developed Eastern rivers with cities and what not, the concrete is essentially dissolving into the river," said  Michael Pace, Professor of Environmental Sciences in the Graduate School and College of Arts & Sciences at UVa.  CONTINUE READING

Heart MRI Test Can Identify Patients at High Risk of Heart Attack, Death
An imaging test commonly used to diagnose coronary artery disease has an untapped potential to predict which patients with the disease are at the greatest risk for heart attacks and other potentially deadly heart problems, researchers at the University of Virginia Health System have determined. Coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease and a leading cause of death worldwide. Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or CMR, is often used to diagnose the condition, but new UVa research shows that CMR stress testing has an underappreciated predictive power – one that may help doctors determine the best course of treatment and potentially save patients’ lives. CONTINUE READING

Needlestick Law Saving Up to $415 Million, Prevents 100,000 Health Care Injuries Yearly
A federal law intended to protect health care workers from accidental needlesticks has slashed the number of such injuries by more than 100,000 annually and is producing a yearly cost savings of up to $415 million, a new study from the School of Medicine suggests. The study marks the first time the researchers have quantified the national reduction in costs and injuries following the implementation of 2000’s Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, a law UVa helped champion. CONTINUE READING

Inspired by nature: textured materials to aid industry and military
The lotus leaf has a unique microscopic texture and wax-like coating that enables it to easily repel water. Taking his inspiration from nature, a professor has figured out a way to make metals and plastics that can do virtually the same thing. Mool Gupta, Langley Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Director of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Lasers and Plasmas, has developed a method using high-powered lasers and nanotechnology to create a similar texture that repels water, captures sunlight and prevents the buildup of ice. CONTINUE READING

Creating Nursing
What does it take to make a nurse? Baby boomers are aging. People are living longer. Medical technology is rapidly changing. So what is being done to keep up with the dramatically increasing need for qualified nurses?  Listen to the discussion on Virginia Insights. Guests include: Pamela A. Kulbok, D.N.Sc., R.N., The Theresa A. Thomas Professor of Nursing (School of Nursing) and Professor of Public Health Sciences (School of Medicine) as well as Chair of the Department of Family, Community, and Mental Health Systems (School of Nursing).  CONTINUE READING



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