Monthly Archives: February 2012

NSF, FDA, A&T organize international workshop on biodegradable metals for medical implants

The National Science Foundation and the Food and Drug Administration are teaming up with N.C. A&T and Germany’s Hannover Medical School to hold a daylong public workshop on the emerging field of biodegradable metals.

“State of the Art in Biodegradable Metals: A Food & Drug Administration logoThink-Tank Workshop” will be held Friday, March 30, at the FDA’s White Oak campus in Silver Spring, Maryland. It is expected to draw researchers from around the world. The agenda and registration information are available at the event’s website,

“This conference provides a unique opportunity for global experts in the field of biodegradable metals to come together to review the current status of the field, to identify key challenges remaining, and to explore opportunities to meet those challenges through collaboration,” said Dr. Jagannathan Sankar, director of the NSF Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials at N.C. A&T.

“We hope this session will be the first of many that will help accelerate access to this technology, which promises better outcomes for patients.”

Biodegradable metal implants have potential in certain types of surgery, including orthopedic, craniofacial and cardiovascular, through the use of devices that safely degrade once they are no longer needed. This could eliminate the need for surgical removal of devices.

The conference will cover the breadth of current knowledge in the field, especially regarding magnesium-based systems such as those being developed by the ERC.  Hannover is an ERC research partner, as are the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Cincinnati.

Sessions will cover such topics as in vivo studies of magnesium implants in musculoskeletal and cardiovascular applications, corrosion control, cytotoxicity, alloy design and characterization, sensor technology, and biodegradable iron.

Presenters will include a select group of global experts from academia, large industries, small entrepreneurial networks, and the FDA. A panel discussion will cover current views on this technology.

Bililign gives distinguished lecture at UConn on analysis of organic acids from biomass burning

University of Connecticut logoAround the world, forests and grasslands are being cleared for agriculture. Increasingly, the biomass being produced by this clearing is being burned, adding to the atmosphere carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane and other hydrocarbons, nitric oxide, nitrous oxide, organic acids, inorganic acids and atmospheric particulates and aerosols.  This process may be a significant driver of global atmospheric and climate change.

One especially problematic group among these pollutants is gas-phase organic acids, a significant but poorly understood class of volatile organic compounds.  N.C. A&T physics professor Dr. Solomon Bililign is studying these acids in the atmosphere, and that work was the subject of his address at the University of Connecticut last week when he delivered the Norman Hascoe Distinguished Lecture.

Dr. Bililign’s slides are here.  The abstract of his talk:

Study of Vibrational Overtone Induced Dissociation of Organic Acids From Biomass Burning Using Cavity Ring Down Spectroscopic Techniques
Recent information suggests that on the global scale, biomass burning is much more extensive and widespread than previously thought. Biomass burning refers to the burning of the world’s forests and grasslands and agricultural lands following the harvest for land clearing and land conversion. Combustion products of biomass burning include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, nonmethane hydrocarbons, nitric oxide, nitrous oxide, organic acids, inorganic acids and atmospheric particulates and aerosols. One poorly understood, but significant class of volatile organic compounds (VOC) present in biomass burning is gas-phase organic acids and inorganic. These acids are extremely difficult to measure because of their adsorptive nature. Measurements of a variety of organic acids (e.g. acetic acid, peracetic acid, formic acid, pyruvic acid, glycolic acid) and inorganic acids (HNCO, HONO, HCl, HBr, HNO3) were made in Pasadena, California, during May and June 2010 as part of CalNex 2010. Particulates and aerosols produced during biomass burning impact the radiation budget of the Earth and, hence, impact global climate. It is thought that as much as 90% of global biomass burning is human-initiated and that such burning is increasing with time. Hence, biomass burning may be an important driver for global atmospheric and climatic change.

Work in our laboratory uses two methods, Cavity Ring Down Spectroscopy and Mass Spectrometric methods, to characterize some of the properties of the organic acids and aerosols. The following will be presented in this talk.

(a) Use of cavity ring down spectroscopy to measure absorption cross sections for overtone induced photochemistry (vibrational overtone excitation of an O-H bond in organic acid molecules present in the atmosphere). Overtone excitation has been shown to cause dissociation of molecules leading to OH radical production for several species. Results of for acetic acid and peracetic acid will be presented.

(b) Proposed use of cavity ring down CRD technique to determine the optical properties of aerosols composed of mixtures of different absorbing and non-absorbing species and to determine their complex refractive indices and extinction efficiency and progress in this area will be presented.

30 freshman innovators, 13 fresh innovations: The N.C. A&T Freshman Innovation Challenge

Ask N.C. A&T freshmen for their ideas about new or better products to make a difference in the world, and these are some of the answers you get: a chemical bar-code system for tracking firearms, an iron that applies starch while you iron, and a hydraulic system to keep tractor-trailers from jackknifing.

And, best of all, according to a panel of six judges, a combination wristwatch and personal digital assistant to help students manage their time more effectively.

These bright ideas were among 13 submitted by teams competing in the university’s first Freshman Innovation Challenge.  A total of 30 students participated.  The Division of Research and Economic Development invited 2011-12 freshmen to develop an idea for making a difference in the world. The judges rated the submissions on the basis of originality, practicality, benefits of the innovation, and quality of the poster presentation.  All of the teams were invited to present posters on their proposed inventions at the Colors of Innovation event held this week at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering.

The winning entry was the iWatch, developed by Kelyn Greene and Faris Matar.

The problem: “One problem we are seeking to solve is the lack of consistency most college students have when working to balance schoolwork with social factors and many other aspects of the college experience.  Some students oversleep and miss classes, and others do not know how to manage their time properly. We all procrastinate at some point, and the iWatch would help that slacker of a student get his or her head on track.”

The solution: The iWatch is envisioned as a watch with a digital touchscreen and personal assistant software that would preset alarms for 20 minutes before every class and an hour before the student’s first class of the day.  After a certain amount of time the snooze function would no longer be an option. A USB port would be used to download schedule information.  “The software plans out your day with designated homework, study times, downtimes, time to eat, etc.  This reduces stress and organizes a student so he/she isn’t overwhelmed with the great load of work he or she is faced with.”

The result: The iWatch would help students manage their time properly. “He or she will be more resistant to the possible stress, pressure and negativity that may come his or her way.” Fewer students would drop out, and more would enter the work force.  A global market is anticipated.

Greene and Faris will share a $500 award.  The second-place finishers, Jordan Maness and Catherine Miller, will split $300 for the firearm tracking system.  Third-place finishers Jawari Boyd and Saeed Jones received $200 for the anti-jackknifing system for trucks.  The fourth-place award of $100 went to Lauren Pearson, Ambrose Wallace, and Naeem Gibson for the “Pressed and Neat” iron.

The winning teams will be matched with faculty mentors to further develop their ideas.

The iWatch has already caught the eye of renowned inventor and engineer Lonnie Johnson, keynote speaker for Colors of Innovation.  He asked the university to keep him posted on the iWatch team’s progress. Johnson holds more than 100 patents. He is a nuclear and mechanical engineer, formerly with NASA and the U.S. Air Force.  He is best known for inventing the Super Soaker water gun.

Candidates for VC of DORED to visit in March

All members of the university community are invited to meet the four finalists for the position of vice chancellor for research and economic development.  All four will visit campus next month for interviews and public presentations.  The candidates, their current positions, and the dates of their visits:

  • Dr. Z. George Hong; Purdue University, co-director, Center on Religion and Chinese Society; Wednesday March 14.
  • Dr. Joseph M. Stevenson; Technology Management Group and U.S. Department of Defense, national consultant/subject matter expert; Friday March 16.
  • M.K. “Ram” Ramasubramanian; National Science Foundation, program director for Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship, and N.C. State University, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering; Monday March 19.
  • Dr. Barry L. Burks; University of North Carolina at Charlotte, associate director, Charlotte Research Institute, and adjunct professor of physics;  Tuesday March 27.

Here is the full schedule for their visits.

Anatomy of an elevator pitch to the NSF

Chart: "Anatomy of an Elevator Pitch"Last fall, the National Science Foundation introduced a new competition for its Engineering Research Centers:

“The ERC Elevator Pitch Competition was inaugurated as as a means to embed entrepreneurial thinking within the centers, a task that represents a cultural shift within academia, where startup activity is usually not part of the tenure process. The competition featured undergraduates, Masters students, PhDs and post-docs all competing for the Innovation Accelerator-sponsored $5,000 prize. Though the contestants were all technology students, they had to speak in business terms, some of them for the first time.”

The ERC for Revolutionizing Biometallic Materials, led by N.C. A&T, won the competition.  Da-Tren Chou, a PhD student in bioengineering from ERC partner the University of Pittsburgh, was the designated pitcher. Here are the details, as reported by the New Venturist website.

“The US needs more Da-Trens – researchers who cross the chasm from the lab to the marketplace by morphing basic research into products and services that can change the world.

An African leader’s “charm offensive” on AIDS

The New York Times profiles Michel Sidibé of Mali, head of the United Nations AIDS program, in its Profiles in Science feature:

“Mr. Sidibé, 59, is a former relief worker, rather than a physician, and, along with English and French, he speaks West African Mandingo, the Tamashek of the Tuaregs and other languages.

“With a combination of bonhomie and persistence, he has delivered difficult messages to African presidents very persuasively in his three years in office: Convince your men to get circumcised. Tell your teenage girls not to sleep with older men for money. Shelve your squeamishness and talk about condoms. Help prostitutes instead of jailing them. Ask your preachers to stop railing against homosexuals and order your police forces to stop beating them. Let Western scientists test new drugs and vaccines, despite the inevitable rumors that Africans are being used as guinea pigs.”

2012 criminal justice roundtable begins Feb. 22

The Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice will host its eighth annual criminal justice roundtable on four Wednesdays in February and March: February 22 and 29 and March 21 and 28. The hour-long presentations will begin at noon in Bluford Library, Room 258.

The roundtable is an opportunity for faculty and students to present research for peer discussion and review. It is also an important aspect of the department’s commitment to undergraduate and faculty research.

Topics and presentations include “Fletcher et al v. Lamone et al: The Political Impact of Prison Gerrymandering” and “Small States and the WTO: An Analysis of the Antiqua-U.S. Internet Gambling Dispute.” Among the presenters are James P. Mayes, assistant professor; Dr. Daniel White, professor; and Shon F. Barnes, adjunct instructor, all from the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice.

For further details about the roundtable or the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice, call 336 285-2046.

WNAA: Whitney & the state of the music industry

Something a little different for a Friday morning: WNAA-FM looks at the death of Whitney Houston and the state of the recording industry through interviews with a record executive and a radio programmer.  The interviewers are Dwayne Wickham, director of the A&T Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies, and Felicia Lawrence, a senior journalism and mass communications major. The 30-minute program will be on the air at 10 a.m. today (Eastern Standard Time). It’s available anytime online through the A&T Register website.

Keynote speaker for Colors of Innovation 2012: Inventor and nuclear engineer Lonnie Johnson

African Americans have been under-represented in scientific history, but the contributions of black scientists and inventors have had a significant effect on America’s life and times.  Next week, approximately 100 Guilford County high school students will get a special look at that history as part of N.C. A&T State University’s second annual Colors of Innovation event.

The students will spend Thursday, February 23, at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering (JSNN). They’ll meet the 12 teams of freshman contestants in the university’s first Freshman Innovation Challenge and hear from A&T undergraduate and graduate students about their research projects.  The high school students also will tour the JSNN.

Nuclear engineer and inventor Lonnie Johnson

Lonnie Johnson

Keynote speaker for the event will be Lonnie Johnson, inventor, entrepreneur and former engineer for NASA and the U.S. Air Force.  Johnson worked on projects including the stealth bomber and the Galileo mission to Jupiter before becoming famous for a radically simpler invention that he developed on his own – the Super Soaker water gun, one of the world’s consistently top-selling toys for the last 20 years.  His firm, Johnson Research and Development, holds more than 100 patents. Its best known product is a new type of engine that converts heat directly into electricity.

The students also will view a presentation on black inventors and scientists, including:

  • George Washington Carver, the first major African American scientist;
  • Charles Drew, inventor of the blood bank;
  • Patricia Bath, ophthalmologist, who invented laser and ultrasound treatments for cataracts; and
  • Sandra Johnson, last year’s keynote speaker, who was a member of the team that developed the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue.

The Colors of Innovation was developed as a Black History Month outreach project by the Division of Research and Economic Development at N.C. A&T.  The program encourages high school students to become innovative thinkers and problem solvers, and to take greater interest in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Elsevier’s practices, politics spur scientists’ boycott

Update: The number researchers boycotting Elsevier is now over 5,000.  There’s also a graphic representation of Dr. Gowers’s position.

Researchers across many disciplines and around the world are taking action against the business practices of academic publishing giant Elsevier, and the movement’s momentum may be carrying it toward a critical mass.  Some 4,900 scientists around the world have signed a statement refusing to publish in, edit for and/or referee for the company’s 2,000 journals.

It’s old news that its critics find Elsevier’s high subscription costs and expensive bundling policies unethical. But today there’s a political issue as well, as detailed in an op-ed column in The Boston Globe:

“Now Elsevier is supporting an odious bit of legislation known as the Research Works Act. Currently, the National Institutes of Health has a rule: If the American people pay for research, then they should be able to see the results without paying again. This is simple fairness. Yet the legislation would end that policy, further boosting Elsevier’s profits by locking important biomedical research, the stuff of life and death, behind paywalls.”

The movement’s current surge appears to have been generated by the high-profile British mathematician Timothy Gowers. His original blog post last month has generated at least 315 responses and inspired the creation of The Cost of Knowledge website.

Worth noting: Elsevier is the contractor/developer for the Reach NC faculty database.