Gage Greening: Highlighting Advancements in Cancer Detection

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Gage turning on the diffuse reflective microendoscope

Welcome to my second blog entry! During the fall 2013 semester, I wrote about my research experience thus far as part of the College of Engineering Honors Program. I am now in my last semester before I graduate and am in the process of writing my honors thesis.

My research is focused on designing a diffuse reflective microendoscope (DRME), a non-invasive method that may aid in the early detection of cancer in the oral cavity or gastrointestinal tract. Under this umbrella, my research is divided into two goals. My first goal is to develop a method for creating optical phantoms that replicate the optical properties of epithelial tissue. My second goal is to build the DRME and computationally model how light behaves through phantoms and epithelial tissue.

The majority of my research last semester was the development of my first goal. I was able to design ultra-thin phantoms that replicate optical properties of human epithelial tissue, such as in the oral cavity. When epithelial tissue becomes cancerous, it becomes more optically absorbing, meaning that cancerous lesions appear darker than surrounding healthy tissue. While a dark cancerous region on the tissue surface is easily detectable by normal endoscopic methods, occasionally cancer will exist below the tissue surface. This results in undetected cancer and abnormalities. Thus, the DRME attempts to reduce the amount of false negatives. My goal is to detect hidden cancers that are not easily detectable by conventional clinical methods. Because of this, I created “dark” phantoms to simulate cancerous tissue and “light” phantoms to simulate healthy tissue. Then, I was able to stack individual layers to create a multi-layered phantom with “dark” cancerous regions buried at varying depths within “light” healthy regions. Continue reading

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Hands-on History

A professor and three students examine a small, leather-bound manuscript.

Professor Steve Sheppard and Bumpers College honors students (l-r) Andrew Dugan, Christina Crowder and Grace Heymsfield examine a ca. 1350 copy of the Magna Carta, currently on display in Mullins Library.

Honors students enjoyed an opportunity to examine, touch and discuss rare historical documents in Mullins Library yesterday. Pages from the Gutenberg Bible, a leather-bound, ca. 1350 copy of the Magna Carta and the front page of the Sept. 23, 1862 Issue of the New York Times, where the Emancipation Proclamation was printed for the first time, are currently on display in Mullins as part of an exhibition featuring rare materials from the Remnant Trust.

Two students examine a large page, laid out like a medieval manuscript.

Honors students Hogan Heathington and Shana Kolesar examine a page from the Gutenberg Bible, the first printed book.

Hogan Heathington, a mechanical engineering/physics major, was especially taken with the copy of the Magna Carta, written in a fine chancery script with notations in the margins. “That’s real gold,” he said, pointing to an illuminated letter decorated with elaborate swirls of blue and gilt, “but it’s the lapis used for the blue that was most valuable then.”

Steve Sheppard, associate dean for research and faculty development and the William H. Enfield Distinguished Professor of Law, dropped by to give the big picture background on the pocket-sized Magna Carta, one of many copies of the Charter and statutes distributed to courts and noblemen across England.  “This was the 1350 version of the Arkansas Code,” he explained. Continue reading

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Portrait of an Artist, Mid-Career: 5 Questions for Jura Margulis

Pianist is performing at a grand piano, arms outstretched above the keyboard.

Jura Margulis performing in Lugano, Switzerland, 2013. Photograph by Adriano Heitmann/IMMAGINA.

Pianist Jura Margulis has won international acclaim for his compellingly communicative performances, as well as for the range of his tonal palette and his consummate virtuosity. He has performed around the world for 35 years and has recorded twelve CDs covering a wide spectrum of repertoire, with the latest CDs to be released this spring. Since 1999 he has taught at the University of Arkansas and was named the inaugural holder of the Emily J. McAllister Endowed Professorship in Piano in 2008. He has performed at venues ranging from the Berlin Philharmonic Hall to the Hollywood Bowl and, in a halftime performance for football fans, at the Reynolds Razorback Stadium. it has been more than two years since he last performed in Fayetteville.

Jura Margulis. Photograph by Adriano Heitmann/IMMAGINA.

Jura Margulis. Photograph by Adriano Heitmann/IMMAGINA.

Beginning at 5 p.m. on Thursday evening, April 3, 2014, Jura Margulis will discuss his repertoire selection with students and music lovers, then perform an intimate “house concert” in the Honors Student Lounge in Ozark Hall, with a reception to follow. This special evening with Jura Margulis is the latest event in the Honors College Invites series, in which renowned thinkers and doers share their craft with the campus and community. Join us! (Be sure to R.S.V.P. at honorscollege.uark.edu/invites and plan to come early, as seating will be limited.) Below, Margulis recalls his earliest encounters with the piano, and shares what he most enjoys about his career now. Continue reading

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Postcard from Rome: Darby Guinn

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Darby Guinn overlooking the Roman Forum.

 

Darby Guinn, honors English and journalism major, took her January intersession course abroad in Rome. Darby was one of 15 students who worked with classics professor David Fredrick to establish narrative and initial level designs for an online, game-centered version of the course Introduction to Classical Studies in Rome. The game will focus on the fictional (but plausible) history of a Roman family from the mid-Republic through late Antiquity, and the action will take place in the Circus Flaminius, the Theater of Marcellus, The Temple of the Vestals and the Ara Pacis, among other ancient sites. Once in Rome, Darby was met with towering 2,000-year-old architecture, the stress of trying to order a salami sandwich in Italian, and a new-found love for making the past come alive through video game writing.

Without Dick Kelty, I would not have survived my trip abroad. No, Dick was not on my trip, and no, I’ve neither met him nor know what he looks like. Dick Kelty invented the modern backpack in 1952, and I thanked him for it every day that I was abroad in Rome, Italy, studying Ancient Roman society for a video game. Whether it was toting around my books and sketchpads as we ran around an ancient ghost town or packed to the brim as we sprinted through the infamous Charles de Gaulle Airport, my backpack proved its worth time and time again as others fumbled with rolling bags. I’ll just go ahead and start this out with some advice: if you go abroad, bring a backpack, and make sure it’s a good one. It could very well save your life.

The one thing people really didn’t prepare me for was how much walking I’d be doing. After day two, I learned to pop ibuprofen in anticipation of the bruised feet and twisted ankles the cobblestone roads tended to give me, and for the sore shoulder from my backpack (which is a necessary evil). However, they also didn’t prepare me for how awestruck I’d be every second of every day that I was there. One second, I was certain that we were lost, and the next we would all be frozen to the spot, staring at the 2,000-year-old temple (now a functioning church) that is the Pantheon. Continue reading

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Arkansas Engineers Abroad: Surveying More Tomorrow

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Standing water in More Tomorrow, Belize. Photo by Jake Pitts.

Most students spend their winter break relaxing, visiting with family and friends, and logging a good amount of time on the couch; this winter break, a group of engineering students left their homes early and flew more than 1,300 miles away from Fayetteville.

Arkansas Engineers Abroad (AEA) is a student-led organization at the University of Arkansas. Over winter break, eight AEA students, six of them members of the Honors College, went to the village of More Tomorrow in Belize to work on a Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) project to improve the water quality in the village. The students plan to improve the water quality by implementing a deep-aquifer well and water tower to replace the current water sources: shallow-aquifer wells, rainwater catchment systems, and the local river, which have tested positive for various contaminants. The project is currently in its final stages; the foundation, piping and drilling of the well have been completed, and this past trip was spent surveying the villagers to assess their health, sanitation practices and water uses. The students also collected water samples from domestic rainwater catchment systems in the village.

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Photo by Kimberly Cribbs.

During the rainy season, the roads to More Tomorrow are almost impassable, a major reason why More Tomorrow is so poverty stricken. Although the village is only 15 miles outside the capital of Belize, it is often overlooked due to the lack of accessible roads.

Continue reading

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Postcard from Rome: Nick Kordsmeier

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The statue Il Porcellino found in Florence. The University of Arkansas has a replica outside University House on Maple.

Honors chemical engineering student Nick Kordsmeier spent his summer studying the masterpieces of Michelangelo and Caravaggio, learning Italian from native Romans, hiking the still-active Mt. Vesuvius, and eating some of the world’s best gelato. Here is an excerpt from his post to the Honors College blog:

This summer I spent five weeks in the heart of Italy studying abroad in Rome, one of the most exciting and beautiful places I’ve ever been. I took part in the newly designed U of A Summer Campus in Rome program, taking art lecture and beginning Italian. And I can’t imagine a better place to study either of those subjects.

Studying art history in Rome was one of the most rewarding academic experiences I’ve ever had. In Rome, art surrounds you at all times—everywhere you walk (and you do walk a lot), you see breathtaking fountains and buildings, unbelievable church ceilings, and infinitely picturesque alleys. We would spend half of our class time learning how to appreciate art and the other half on site visits actually appreciating it up close and personal. And because much of Rome seems aesthetically untouched by modern times, it was easy to imagine walking in the same footsteps as artists like Michelangelo and Caravaggio, making their masterpieces easier to appreciate on a more human level. Continue reading

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Making the Most of Research Travel

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A group of engineering students on the way to San Francisco for the 2013 annual meeting of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

 You’ve received an Honors College Travel grant to attend the annual meeting of the American Society for Horticultural Science in Waikoloa, Hawaii. Or maybe you’re a history major, and you’ve got a travel grant to fund research at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas.

Congratulations! Presenting your work at a conference, conducting research in an archive, or any type of research travel off campus present great opportunities to kick start your career. Just keep in mind that this is not the time to hit Waikoloa beach, explore all of the fabulous new malls or check out Austin’s fabled music scene.

Below, we offer some advice on how to make the most of this opportunity (and work in some of the tourist stuff, as well).

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Dr. Fiori’s Tips for Surviving Finals Week, Sanity Intact

Woman in white lab coat stands at door to her office in a clinic.

Local psychiatrist and honors alumna Rachel Fiori

Finals week: the week where we all walk around like zombies and eat Doritos or whatever two-month-old frozen dinner we have left in our freezer. This is the week where we stop remembering to smile or leave our apartment or change out of our pajamas. You are probably asking yourself, why are we hearing about finals in January? Well, according to our trusted source on collegiate mental health, honors alumna and local psychiatrist Rachel Fiori, to have a stress-free finals week come May, you have to start now.

“Finals week doesn’t have to be stressful. It’s almost like a week off from school, if you do it right” Dr. Fiori said. The key – “Don’t wait until the week before finals to start preparing; you really need to start at the beginning of the semester.”

Let’s all work hard this semester AND let’s be happy while we do it. Here’s how:

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Report from Belize

A student in scrubs measures a man's blood pressure.

Armin Mortazavi led community health screenings on a service learning trip to Belize.

Armin Mortazavi is a sophomore physics and biochemistry major who has already embarked on biophysics and membrane research at the University of Arkansas. A service learning trip to Belize last summer gave him some valuable lessons outside of the lab and classroom, opening his eyes to the importance of listening and a caring touch when meeting with patients. Here is an excerpt from one of Armin’s journal entries, written while he was in Belize.

May 22, 2013

…We went to the house of an old man who has been in a bed for eight years after a stroke and couldn’t talk. He has lain there for eight years. I couldn’t imagine going through that, not too mention that he was 91. The family keeps him clean but he never gets out of the bed to see the world or sunlight. His fingernails had fungus all over them and they hadn’t been well maintained. We tried to clean them and cut them but it was too painful for the man. He just wanted some attention and human contact, just somebody to be next to him and touch him. I learned from this trip that people need attention and the idea that somebody is caring for them. There was no need to take the blood pressure of the man with cancer who was surely to die within a couple of months, but we did it for his comfort. Which to me is the idea of palliative care, to give comfort to the patient. Continue reading

Posted in Belize, Biochemistry, J.William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, Physics, Service, Study Abroad | Leave a comment

Finding a Faculty Mentor

  • Willilam Lewis, physics major, and Reeta Vyas, professor of physics. Willilam Lewis, physics major, and Reeta Vyas, professor of physics.
  • Cara Osborne, assistant professor of nursing, and Kelly Toner, nursing major. Cara Osborne, assistant professor of nursing, and Kelly Toner, nursing major.
  • Spencer Shinabery, chemistry major, and Nan Zheng, assistant professor of chemistry. Spencer Shinabery, chemistry major, and Nan Zheng, assistant professor of chemistry.
  • Luke Knox, art major and Kristin Musgnug, associate professor, painting. Luke Knox, art major and Kristin Musgnug, associate professor, painting.
  • Matt McIntosh, professor of chemistry, and Kanesha Day, chemistry major/drama minor. Matt McIntosh, professor of chemistry, and Kanesha Day, chemistry major/drama minor.
  • Jennifer Herrera, chemical engineering major, and Shannon Servoss, assistant professor of chemical engineering. Jennifer Herrera, chemical engineering major, and Shannon Servoss, assistant professor of chemical engineering.
  • Ali McAtee, chemical engineering major, and Jamie Hestekin, associate professor of chemical engineering. Ali McAtee, chemical engineering major, and Jamie Hestekin, associate professor of chemical engineering.
  • Mathias Bellaiche, biophysics and biophysical chemistry major, and Daniel Fologea, research assistant professor, biological sciences. Mathias Bellaiche, biophysics and biophysical chemistry major, and Daniel Fologea, research assistant professor, biological sciences.
  • Katelin Cherry, biomedical engineering major, and Jeffrey Wolchok, assistant professor, biological and agricultural engineering. Katelin Cherry, biomedical engineering major, and Jeffrey Wolchok, assistant professor, biological and agricultural engineering.

You’ve finally settled on a major, and are now beginning the long process of selecting a project for your honors thesis. One of the first steps you’ll need to take is finding a mentor to guide your research along the way. With many options among the faculty in your department – and with the intimidating prospect of contacting prospective mentors – getting started can be daunting. Here are some tips to point you in the right direction. Continue reading

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