Dr. Collins – whose own personal research efforts led to the isolation of the genes responsible for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington’s disease and Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome – will receive the Doctor of Science degree, honoris causa, from SMU during the ceremony. The entire event, including Collins’ address, will be live streamed at smu.edu/live.
“We are honored to have a pioneering scientist and national leader of Dr. Collins’ stature as featured speaker at Commencement,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “His life is testament to a strong, unwavering commitment to the search for scientific knowledge paired with deep religious faith. He has much to share with us.”
As NIH director, Collins oversees the work of the largest institutional supporter of biomedical research in the world, spanning the spectrum from basic to clinical research. He was appointed by President Obama in 2009 and was asked to remain in the position by President Trump in January 2017. As director, he has helped launch major research initiatives to advance the use of precision medicine for more tailored healthcare, increase our understanding of the neural networks of the brain to improve treatments for brain diseases, and identify areas of cancer research that are most ripe for acceleration to improve cancer prevention and treatment.
While director of NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute, he oversaw the HGP, a 13-year international effort to map and sequence the 3 billion letters in human DNA. HGP scientists finished the sequence in April 2003, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of James Watson and Francis Crick’s seminal publication describing the double-helix structure of DNA. It remains the world’s largest collaborative biological project and one of the most significant scientific undertakings in modern history.
For SMU senior Dylan DeMuth, a “no” from an SMU professor changed his life. When Professor Eric Bing told DeMuth he was not yet qualified to enroll in his global health class, he gave the premed student a challenge to “improve your grades and call me in a month.”
Dylan DeMuth and Prof. Eric Bing (right)
He also asked DeMuth a rhetorical question: “How would you avoid getting malaria if you went to Africa?”
“Get a malaria vaccine?” DeMuth suggested.
“No. To keep from getting malaria, you must start taking anti-malaria medicine a week before you go to Africa,” Bing said.
DeMuth got the point. A sophomore chemistry and economics major with a 3.0 grade point average at the time, he sought tutoring before his midterm exams, instead of waiting until he was struggling with challenging science and math courses. He met with Bing a month later to report improvement on his midterm tests – the beginning of a mentorship that inspired DeMuth to re-choreograph his life.
Now a senior ready to graduate, he is teaching global health workers in Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda and the United States the life-changing philosophy Bing taught him.
“I distinctly remember that phone conversation with Dylan,” says Bing, professor of global health and director of SMU’s global health program in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. “I remember thinking, ‘This kid is special, there was clarity, there was calm certainty.’ But he wasn’t ready for the class.'”
“It’s a huge motivation to present your work before people,” said Aparna Viswanath, a graduate student in engineering. Viswanath presented research on “Looking Around Corners,” research into an instrument that converts a scattering surface into computational holographic sensors.
The goal of Research Day is to foster communication about research between students in different disciplines, give students the opportunity to present their work in a professional setting, and to share the outstanding research being conducted at SMU.
SMU reserves one Monday each April to celebrate the achievements of students, faculty, staff members, trustees and administrators in the two ceremonies. The Honors Convocation recognizes academic achievement at the University and department levels.
The University will present several awards for excellence – including its highest honor, the “M” Award – during the 2017 Hilltop Excellence Awards. The ceremony begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Theater.
Follow SMU Student Activities @SMUStuAct for live updates from the ceremony, and share your Twitter and Instagram posts from the Hilltop Excellence Awards with the #HilltopExcellence hashtag.
This year’s convocation speaker is Jo Guldi, assistant professor of history in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. A native Dallasite, Guldi studies the history of Great Britain and the British Empire, landscape history, legal history, property law, infrastructure, digital methods, international development, and agrarian studies. As a digital and data historian, she also oversees the lecture series “Data is Made Up of Stories: University-wide Futures From the Digital Humanities,” offered through the Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute. Among other things, the series illustrates how text mining is used across different disciplines – from digital mapping of the transatlantic slave trade to an app that captures the inspiration for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. (more…)
From Perunapalooza to Pony Preview, from Meadows Museum Family Day to the Luck of the Loydians Residential Commons celebration, and from the Red-Blue Scrimmage to Mustang Fan Fair, SMU Founders’ Day Weekend was packed with activities for the entire community. Take a look back with these photos by Kim Leeson and Guy Rogers III.
The community is invited to join the celebration at several public events including Meadows Museum family day, the Mustang spring football game, and performances of the spring dance concert. The George W. Bush Presidential Center also will offer guided bluebonnet tours of the Native Texas Park on the grounds of the center.
Matthew B. Myers, a global marketing and strategy expert with special expertise in cross-border business relationships and Latin American economies, has been named dean of SMU’s Cox School of Business. He will assume his new duties on August 1, at which point Albert W. Niemi Jr., who has been dean of the school since 1997, will transition to full-time teaching.
Matthew B. Myers
“As the new dean of the Cox School of Business, Matt Myers brings extraordinary energy for outreach to the regional, national, and global business community,” said Steven C. Currall, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs. “The range of his previous administrative and professorial experiences also equips him to lead the school toward even greater faculty research excellence, as well as innovative educational programs for Cox undergraduates, graduate students and working executives. Furthermore, Matt is deeply committed to collaborations with other academic units on the SMU campus to advance interdisciplinary academic programs and initiatives.”
“The Cox School of Business and its international academic reputation will be in good hands with Matt Myers,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “His expertise in global trends, particularly in cross-border and Spanish-language markets, will be invaluable to our faculty and students – especially as programs such as the Cox School’s Latino Leadership Initiative and the Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center in Dedman College continue to evolve. In addition, his vision and leadership as a fundraiser will help secure the ongoing health of these centers of excellence, as well as the promise of innovations to come.”
Follow SMU senior economics major and student athlete Jeremy White as he networks and explores job opportunities at the SMU Spring Career and Internship Fair in this Mustang Minute! video from SMU News’ Myles Taylor.
SMU students Shivani Burra, left, and Narcey Negrete lead a tribute at the Bullenhuser Damm Memorial Garden in Hamburg, noting that 1.5 million children were killed during the Holocaust.
Twenty-eight members of the SMU and DFW community traveled throughout Germany during Spring Break to study the Holocaust. “In confronting historical sites of unmitigated, premeditated terror, we’ll come to grips with historical memory as it applies not only in Germany, but also in our own country,” says Rick Halperin, director of the trip’s sponsor, SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program.
While many of their fellow students were sleeping in over winter break, 17 SMU students came back to school in January before classes resumed for a “no grades” design project that delivered a design solution they called “ModPod” for sponsoring partners at Better Block Foundation and Good Faith Energy.
The challenge was to design a flat-pack (think about what comes in an assemble-it-yourself box from IKEA) solar charging station that urban dwellers can use for mobile devices like cell phones and laptops. Better Block Foundation uses a human-centered approach to offer consulting, tools and support for the prototyping of initiatives that can help develop more livable neighborhoods, so designing for them means coming up with simple designs that can work on sidewalks and in parks. Good Faith Energy is a North Texas solar energy provider, and the company donated $500 to help cover students’ costs.
As the clock begins to tick, students in these Immersive Design Challenges start brainstorming, designing, building small models and learning to “fail forward.” No worries, though, because learning and adapting from mistakes is part of the process where participants quickly adjust and repeat rapid prototypes to overcome obstacles and drive toward better solutions.
Students self-sort into teams that focus on what they can best contribute – from computer-aided design, to physical construction with traditional power tools, to operation of a 3-D printer, to making the final presentations that “sell” the design to the sponsors. It is this divide-and-conquer approach that draws SMU students from programs and majors all over campus.
The final design that emerged from the January competition is a curvy plywood design that can be snapped together and function as a vertical piece, or a horizontal unit that can be used as a bench. Modular additions can be snapped on to allow the mounting of solar panels, a battery pack, power outlet, even a method for locking your bike and phone. You can watch a time-lapse video of the students assembling the prototype.
ModPod now becomes part of Better Block Foundation’s wikiblock, an open-source toolkit of designs for urban furniture-like benches, planters and bus stops that are available for free download. The common denominator for all of the wikiblock designs is that parts are crafted out of plywood cut with a computer-assisted router, and most can be assembled without glue or nails “to make a block better.”
“Dream it. Print it. Build it. Live it.” That’s the wikiblock mantra.
Immersive Design Challenges are hosted throughout the year in the Deason Innovation Gym, nicknamed “the DIG,” in SMU’s Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering. These competitions are a big draw for engineering students, of course, but are open to students from all majors and minors, resulting in the kind of inter-disciplinary teams that successful businesses have learned are the best incubators for good ideas.
Students have to apply for a spot on the team. They don’t earn any class credit, and the participants have to be willing to give up a holiday or between-semesters break to get uninterrupted access to the DIG. They work round-the-clock (sleeping bags, junk food, lots of Red Bull) to design, prototype and build solutions to design challenges that come to the University from real-world businesses and non-profits.
So, you have to ask, why do it? For SMU first-year computer engineering student Sunjoli Aggarwal, getting to spend more time in the DIG was the big draw. She’d taken a class in fall 2016 that allowed her to spend a little time working in the big makerspace on the ground level of Caruth Hall, but not nearly enough.
“I felt that everyone in the DIG was extraordinarily skilled and always seemed to know exactly what they were working on, and so I wanted to reach a point where I felt comfortable going to the DIG,” Sunjoli explained. The application form for the Immersive Design Competition emphasized that no previous experience with DIG tools was necessary, so she took a leap of faith and signed up to participate.
“The experience was amazing! The most fun times were when some of us would stay at the DIG until midnight, blasting music, working hard, and having fun out of our excitement about the project,” Sunjoli said. Getting to meet and work with their business partners from Good Faith Energy and Better Block Foundation made the whole experience even better, she said, because they were working for a purpose.
Sunjoli found that her presentation skills were valuable to the team, and you can see how she explained part of the project to an audience that included sponsors Better Block Foundation and Good Faith Energy on the last day of the competition.
What happens next?
Better Block Foundation will upload the cutting guides and assembly instructions for the plywood pieces to its wikiblock to make the plans available, open-source, for communities to use for streetscape improvement projects. Some of the students who are interested in the solar component of the design will move forward with its development with Good Faith Energy, and hopefully a manufacturing partner, to make a marketable and publicly accessible, plug-and-play solar generator.
The next Immersive Design Challenge in the Deason Innovation Gym is expected at the end of the spring 2017 semester.