Dedman College

Research: Gamers join researchers in the fight against cancer

John Wise, Pia Vogel and Corey Clark

SMU researchers (l-r) John Wise, Pia Vogel and Corey Clark are tapping the power of an online gaming community to fight cancer. Photo: Hillsman S. Jackson

The massive computational power of an online gaming community has even more clout than supercomputers in the fight against cancer, according to SMU biochemical researchers and video game developers. The two groups are partnering with the world’s vast network of gamers in hopes of discovering a new cancer-fighting drug.

Biochemistry professors Pia Vogel and John Wise in the Department of Biological Sciences and Corey Clark, deputy director of research at SMU Guildhall, are leading the University’s assault on cancer in partnership with fans of the best-selling video game Minecraft.

With 122 million copies of the game sold worldwide and more than 55 million active players each month as of February 2017, Vogel and Wise expect deep inroads in their quest to narrow the search for chemical compounds that improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs.

“Crowdsourcing as well as computational power may help us narrow down our search and give us better chances at selecting a drug that will be successful,” said Vogel. “And gamers can take pride in knowing they’ve helped find answers to an important medical problem.”

Up to now, Wise and Vogel have tapped the high-performance computing power of SMU’s Maneframe, one of the most powerful academic supercomputers in the nation. With ManeFrame, Wise and Vogel have sorted through millions of compounds that have the potential to work. Now, the biochemists say, it’s time to take that research to the next level — crowdsourced computing.

A network of gamers can crunch massive amounts of data during routine gameplay by pairing two powerful weapons: the best of human intuition combined with the massive computing power of networked gaming machine processors.

Taking their research to the gaming community will more than double the amount of machine processing power attacking their research problem.

“With the distributed computing of the actual game clients, we can theoretically have much more computing power than even the supercomputer here at SMU,” said Clark, who is also an adjunct research associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. In March, SMU Guildhall was named No. 1 among the world’s Top 25 Graduate Schools for Video Game Design by The Princeton Review.

“If we take a small percentage of the computing power from 25,000 gamers playing our mod we can match ManeFrame’s 120 teraflops of processing power,” Clark said. “Integrating with the Minecraft community should allow us to double the computing power of that supercomputer.”

Even more importantly, the gaming community adds another important component — human intuition.

Wise believes there’s a lot of brainpower eager to be tapped in the gaming community. And human brains, when tackling a problem or faced with a challenge, can make creative and intuitive leaps that machines can’t.

“What if we learn things that we never would have learned any other way? And even if it doesn’t work it’s still a good idea and the kids will still get their endorphin kicks playing the game,” Wise said. “It also raises awareness of the research. Gamers will be saying ‘Mom, don’t tell me to go to bed, I’m doing scientific research.’”

The Vogel and Wise research labs are part of the Center for Drug Discovery, Design and Delivery (CD4) in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. The center’s mission is a novel multi-disciplinary focus for scientific research targeting medically important problems in human health. Their research is funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.

— Margaret Allen

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog

2017-05-18T16:20:15+00:00 May 18, 2017|News, Research|

Four distinguished SMU scholars named 2017 Ford Research Fellows

Four outstanding SMU professors were honored for their scholarship and research with 2017 Ford Research Fellowships. The awards were presented during the Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, May 4.

This year’s recipients are Stephanie Al Otaiba, Teaching and Learning, Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development; Jeffrey Kahn, Dedman School of Law; Zhong Lu, Earth Sciences, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; and Bruce Marshall, Perkins School of Theology.

Established in 2002 through a $1 million pledge from trustee Gerald J. Ford, the fellowships help SMU retain and reward outstanding scholars. Each recipient receives a cash prize for research support during the year.

Stephanie Al Otaiba is the Patsy and Ray Caldwell Centennial Chair in Teaching and Learning in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. Her research interests include school-based literacy interventions, response to intervention, learning disabilities, diverse learners, and teacher training. She has published more than 110 journal articles and book chapters and has also developed reading curricular materials. Her research has been supported by several federally funded grants from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences and Office of Special Education Programs, and from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Jeffrey Kahn is a professor in Dedman School of Law whose areas of expertise include U.S. constitutional law, administrative law, Russian law, human rights and counterterrorism. His latest research focuses on the right to travel and national security law; his most recent book, Mrs. Shipley’s Ghost: The Right to Travel and Terrorist Watchlists, critically examines the U.S. government’s no-fly list. Professor Kahn’s work on Russian law has been noted by name by the editors of The New York Times and published in various law reviews, as well as the peer-reviewed journals Post-Soviet Affairs and Review of Central and East European Law. Professor Kahn is a founding member of the Advisory Board of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Education Program and a Fellow of the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies.

Zhong Lu is the Shuler-Foscue Endowed Chair and director of graduate studies in the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. His geophysics research focuses on the use of satellite-borne radar to detect subtle changes in the earth’s surface preceding volcanic eruptions. He also researches volcano deformation, earthquake deformation mapping, fault geometry and modeling, and ground-water basin analysis. His work with InSAR (Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar) includes underground nuclear explosion monitoring, landslide monitoring and water-level changes of wetlands. Professor Lu has been awarded more than $3 million in grants from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the U.S. Geological Service, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Bruce Marshall is the Lehman Professor of Christian Doctrine in Perkins School of Theology. He ranks among the top scholars in the world who conduct research and write about the most enduring and debated of Christian beliefs – namely, the doctrine of the Trinity. His research and writing focus on this doctrine, as well as the relationship between Christianity and Judaism. He is also an expert on the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas and has lectured widely throughout the United States and abroad on topics ranging from Trinitarian theology to Christology. Professor Marshall has written two books and more than 90 articles, book chapters, and reviews, and is a frequent speaker in both national and international venues.

2017-05-18T13:45:21+00:00 May 18, 2017|Faculty in the News, For the Record, News|

Five receive 2017 Faculty Senate Outstanding Staff Awards

The SMU Faculty Senate honored five staff members for outstanding performance with 2017 Faculty Senate Outstanding Staff Awards. The honors were presented during the Senate’s last meeting of the 2016-17 academic year on Wednesday, May 3.

This year’s winners:

  • James Dees, Graduate Student Administration, Lyle School of Engineering
  • Pamela Goolsby, Events and Facilities, Perkins School of Theology
  • Teresa Janicki, World Languages and Literatures, Dedman College
  • Carolyn Jeter, Executive Assistant to the Provost and VP for Academic Affairs, Office of the Provost
  • Sandra Oswalt, Sponsored Projects, Office of Research and Graduate Studies

In addition to the glass trophies presented to each honoree, they received gifts ranging from season tickets to art books to museum memberships, donated by SMU Athletics, the SMU Bookstore, SMU Dining Services, Meadows Museum and the Meadows School of the Arts.

2017-05-11T13:09:26+00:00 May 10, 2017|For the Record, News|

Ernest Jouriles named SMU’s first G. Dale McKissick Endowed Professor of Psychology

Ernest JourilesErnest N. Jouriles, Dedman Family Distinguished Professor in SMU’s Department of Psychology and an internationally recognized expert in the psychology of family and relationship violence, has been named the University’s first G. Dale McKissick Endowed Professor of Psychology. He will begin his new duties on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017.

The professorship was made possible in 2014 through the estate of SMU alumnus McKissick, who graduated with a B.B.A. degree in 1950 and M.B.A. degree in 1954.

Jouriles has several programs of research (in collaboration with SMU Professor of Psychology and Dedman College Senior Associate Dean for Research Renee McDonald). One program focuses on violence in adolescent romantic relationships and is dedicated to reaching a better understanding of risk factors for sexual and relationship violence among adolescents, and using this knowledge to develop and evaluate interventions for preventing such violence.

A second program focuses on children’s exposure to interparental conflict and violence. Through this research, Jouriles aims to better understand why children’s exposure to interparental conflict and violence sometimes leads to mental health problems and sometimes does not. He also uses this knowledge to develop and evaluate interventions to assist children in high-conflict and violent families.

Jouriles received his Ph.D. degree in clinical psychology from Stony Brook University in 1987, at which time he began work as an assistant professor at the University of Houston. He joined SMU as chair of the Department of Psychology in 2003 and served in that position for 12 years, until summer 2015. During that time, he established the department’s APA-approved doctoral program in clinical psychology.

He has published more than 100 scientific articles, chapters and books, and his research has appeared in journals including the Clinical Psychology ReviewPsychology of ViolenceJournal of Adolescent HealthJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology and Behavior Therapy, among others. In addition, he has directed or co-directed numerous funded research projects. He also teaches research methods and developmental psychopathology at SMU and assists agencies in the Dallas community in helping them provide empirically supported services to families and children.

> Learn more about Ernest Jouriles’ research at the SMU Research blog

2017-05-02T14:58:37+00:00 May 2, 2017|For the Record, News|

SMU’s Center for Presidential History to host panel on Trump’s first 100 days Thursday, April 27, 2017

White House, line drawingSMU’s Center for Presidential History will look back at the victories, defeats and head-scratchers from President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office during a panel discussion at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 27, 2017 in the Mack Ballroom, Umphrey Lee Center.

The panel will feature perspectives from SMU faculty members specializing in history and communications, as well as from the CEO of the George W. Bush Presidential Center and the deputy editorial page editor of The Dallas Morning News.

A light coffee will precede the event at 6:30 p.m. The event is free; RSVPs are required. Free passes will be emailed to registered guests before the event. Seating is limited, and not guaranteed.

> RSVP for “Assessing Trump’s First 100 Days” at Eventbrite

“The first 100 days is crucial for setting the tone of a presidency,” said Center for Presidential History Director Jeffrey Engel. “You shouldn’t look so much to measure accomplishments, but rather style and efficiency, which is all the more intriguing when we have an administration with historically limited levels of experience.”

> See video from the SMU CPH’s March 2017 event, “Hope or Alarm in the Age of Trump”

The panelists include:

 — Kenny Ryan

> Visit SMU’s Center for Presidential History online: smu.edu/cph

2017-04-25T15:00:36+00:00 April 20, 2017|Calendar Highlights, News|
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