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Ancient “Sea Monsters” Reveal How the Ever-Changing Planet Shapes Life, Past and Present

Never-Before-Seen Fossils From Angola Bring a Strange Yet Familiar Ocean Into View

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History will open a new exhibition Nov. 9, 2018 revealing how millions of years ago, large-scale natural forces created the conditions for real-life sea monsters to thrive in the South Atlantic Ocean basin shortly after it formed. “Sea Monsters Unearthed: Life in Angola’s Ancient Seas” will offer visitors the opportunity to dive into Cretaceous Angola’s cool coastal waters, examine the fossils of striking marine reptiles that once lived there and learn about the forces that continue to mold life in the ocean and on land.

Over 134 million years ago, the South Atlantic Ocean basin did not yet exist. Africa and South America were one contiguous landmass on the verge of separating. As the two continents drifted apart, an entirely new marine environment — the South Atlantic — emerged in the vast space created between them. This newly formed ocean basin would soon be colonized by a dizzying array of ferocious predators and an abundance of other lifeforms seizing the opportunity presented by a new ocean habitat.

“Because of our planet’s ever-shifting geology, Angola’s coastal cliffs contain the fossil remains of marine creatures from the prehistoric South Atlantic,” said Kirk Johnson, the Sant Director of the museum. “We are honored by the generosity of the Angolan people for sharing a window into this part of the Earth’s unfolding story with our visitors.”

For the first time, Angolan fossils of colossal Cretaceous marine reptiles will be on public display. Through Projecto PaleoAngola — a collaboration between Angolan, American, Portuguese and Dutch researchers focused on Angola’s rich fossil history — paleontologists excavated and studied these fossils, which were then prepared for the exhibition by a team of scientists and students at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas. The exhibition was made possible by the Sant Ocean Hall Endowment Fund.

“Fossils tell us about the life that once lived on Earth, and how the environments that came before us evolve over time,” said Louis Jacobs, professor emeritus of paleontology at SMU and collaborating curator for the exhibition. “Our planet has been running natural experiments on what shapes environments, and thereby life, for millions of years. If it weren’t for the fossil record, we wouldn’t understand what drives the story of life on our planet.”

The exhibition will immerse visitors in this Cretaceous environment with lively animations and vivid paleoart murals of life beneath the waves — courtesy of natural history artist Karen Carr — that bring to life 11 authentic fossils from Angola’s ancient seas, full-size fossil reconstructions of a mosasaur and an ancient sea turtle, as well as 3-D scanned replicas of mosasaur skulls. Photomurals and video vignettes will transport visitors to field sites along Angola’s modern rugged coast, where Projecto PaleoAngola scientists unearth the fossil remains from this lost world.

A Strange but Familiar Ocean
“Sea Monsters Unearthed” paints the picture of a flourishing ocean environment that in some ways will look strange to modern eyes, yet still bears striking similarities to today’s marine ecosystems.

Peculiar plesiosaurs — massive reptiles with long necks, stout bodies and four large flippers — swam alongside 27-foot-long toothy marine lizards called mosasaurs and more familiar creatures like sea turtles. From surprising mosasaur stomach contents to the one of the oldest known sea turtles found in Africa, fossils and reconstructions of these species will offer visitors a fuller picture of their remarkable life histories and the ecosystems they were a part of.

The exhibition will also explore deeper similarities across the ecology and anatomy of ocean animals then and now. After the marine reptiles that dominated these waters went extinct 66 million years ago, modern marine mammals would not only later replace them as top predators in the world’s ocean, but also converge on many of the same body shapes and survival strategies.

The Forces That Shape Life, Then and Now
This unique period in Earth’s history reveals how key geologic and environmental forces contributed to the early establishment and evolution of life in the South Atlantic. As Africa and South America drifted apart and a new ocean basin formed, trade winds blowing along the new Angolan coastline created the conditions for upwelling, an ocean process that drives the circulation of nutrients from the deep ocean to its surface. These nutrients in turn jump-started the food web that attracted the ferocious marine reptile predators featured throughout the exhibition.

Just as tectonic forces helped create this Cretaceous marine environment, they also shaped the arid coastal cliffs where the fossils are found today. Starting 45,000 years ago, a geologic process called uplift caused Earth’s crust to bulge along Angola’s coast, lifting part of the seafloor out of the water — and along with it, the layers upon layers of fossil-filled rocks where Projecto PaleoAngola scientists work.

Though humans do not operate on a tectonic scale, their actions also have major impacts on ocean life. Humans are now the ocean’s top predators, with one-fifth of the world’s population relying on food from upwelling-based ecosystems. Scientists caution that with such great pressure on modern upwelling-based fisheries, overfishing could change the future of life in the ocean by threatening fish populations, marine ecosystems and even human health. — National Museum of Natural History

About the National Museum of Natural History
The National Museum of Natural History is connecting people everywhere with Earth’s unfolding story. The museum is one of the most visited natural history museums in the world with approximately 7 million annual visitors from the U.S. and around the world. Opened in 1910, the museum is dedicated to maintaining and preserving the world’s most extensive collection of natural history specimens and human artifacts. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For more information, visit the museum on its website and on Facebook and Twitter.

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SMU students share their research at SMU Research Day 2018

SMU Research Day 2018 featured posters and abstracts from 160 student entrants who have participated this academic year in faculty-led research, pursued student-led projects, or collaborated on team projects with graduate students and faculty scientists.

SMU strongly encourages undergraduate students to pursue research projects as an important component of their academic careers, while mentored or working alongside SMU graduate students and faculty.

Students attack challenging real-world problems, from understanding the world’s newest particle, the Higgs Boson, or preparing mosasaur fossil bones discovered in Angola, to hunting for new chemical compounds that can fight cancer using SMU’s high performance ManeFrame supercomputer.

A highlight for student researchers is SMU Research Day, organized and sponsored by the Office of Research and Graduate Studies and which was held this year on March 28-29 in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center.

The event gives students the opportunity to foster communication between students in different disciplines, present their work in a professional setting, and share the outstanding research conducted at SMU.

Find out the winners of the poster session from the SMU Office of Graduate Studies.

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The CW33: Dark Matter Day rocks SMU’s campus

The CW33 TV visited SMU on Halloween to get a glimpse of International Dark Matter Day in action on the SMU campus.

The CW33 TV stopped at the SMU campus during the early morning hours of Halloween to interview SMU physics professor Jodi Cooley about the capers afoot in celebration of International Dark Matter Day.

The SMU Department of Physics in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences hosted the Oct. 31, 2017 Dark Matter Day celebration for students, faculty, staff and Dallas-area residents.

As part of the festivities, there were speaking events by scientists in the field of dark matter, including dark matter expert Cooley, to explain the elusive particles that scientists refer to as dark matter.

Then throughout Halloween day, the public was invited to test their skills at finding dark matter — in this case, a series of 26 rocks bearing educational messages related to dark matter, which the Society of Physics Students had painted and hidden around the campus. Lucky finders traded them for prizes from the Physics Department.

“In the spirit of science being a pursuit open to all, we are excited to welcome all members of the SMU family to become dark matter hunters for a day,” said Cooley, whose research is focused on the scientific challenge of detecting dark matter. “Explore your campus in the search for dark matter rocks, just as physicists are exploring the cosmos in the hunt for the nature of dark matter itself.”

Watch the full news segment.


By Shardae Neal
The CW33

On Halloween (excuse us) “International Dark Matter Day,” SMU students hosted a public witch hunt to search for the unknown: dark matter.

“What we’re doing is hiding 26 rocks that we have with the help of our society of physic students,” explained SMU Physicist Jodi Cooley.

What exactly is dark matter?

“Think about all the stuff there is in the universe,” Cooley added. “What we can account for makes up only four to five percent of the universe. The rest of it is unknown. Turns out 26% of that unknown stuff is dark matter.”

Watch the full news segment.

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SMU Dark Matter Day celebration culminates in a dark matter rock hunt on Halloween

“In the spirit of science being a pursuit open to all, we are excited to welcome all members of the SMU family to become dark matter hunters for a day.” — SMU physicist Jodi Cooley

This Halloween, people around the world will be celebrating the mysterious cosmic substance that permeates our universe: dark matter.

At SMU, the Department of Physics in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences is hosting a Dark Matter Day celebration, and students, faculty, staff and DFW residents are invited to join in the educational fun with events open to the public.

To kick off the festivities, two speaking events by scientists in the field of dark matter will familiarize participants with the elusive particles that scientists refer to as dark matter. The first talk is oriented toward the general public, while the second is more technical and will appeal to people familiar with one of the STEM areas of science, technology, engineering or mathematics, particularly physics and astrophysics.

Then throughout Halloween day, everyone is invited to test their skills at finding dark matter — in this case, a series of rocks bearing educational messages related to dark matter, which the Society of Physics Students has painted and then hidden around the campus.

Anyone lucky enough to find one of the 26 rocks can present it at the Physics Department office to receive a prize, says SMU physics professor Jodi Cooley, whose research is focused on the scientific challenge of detecting dark matter.

“In the spirit of science being a pursuit open to all, we are excited to welcome all members of the SMU family to become dark matter hunters for a day,” Cooley said. “Explore your campus in the search for dark matter rocks, just as physicists are exploring the cosmos in the hunt for the nature of dark matter itself.”

Anyone who discovers a dark matter rock on the SMU campus is encouraged to grab their phone and snap a selfie with their rock. Tweet and tag your selfie #SMUDarkMatter so that @SMU, @SMUResearch and @SMUPhysics can retweet photos of the lucky finders.

As SMU’s resident dark matter scientist, Cooley is part of the 100-person international SuperCDMS SNOLAB experiment, which uses ultra pure materials and highly sensitive custom-built detectors to listen for the passage of dark matter.

SuperCDMS, an acronym for Super Cryogenic Dark Matter Search, resides at SNOLAB, an existing underground science laboratory in Ontario, Canada. Located deep underground, SNOLAB allows scientists to use the earth as a shield to block out particles that resemble dark matter, making it easier to see the real thing.

The SuperCDMS SNOLAB experiment, expected to be operational in 2020, has been designed to go deeper below the surface of the earth than earlier generations of the research.

“Dark matter experiments have been a smashing success — they’ve progressed farther than anyone anticipated. The SuperCDMS SNOLAB experiment is quite unique,” Cooley said. “It will allow us to probe models that predict dark matter with the tiniest masses.”

For more on Cooley’s research, go to “Hunt for dark matter takes physicists deep below earth’s surface, where WIMPS can’t hide. — Margaret Allen, SMU

Dark Matter Day events at SMU:

  • Sunday, Oct. 29, 4 p.m., McCord Auditorium — Maruša Bradač, Associate Professor at the University of California at Davis, will give a public lecture on dark matter. A reception will follow the lecture from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Dallas Hall Rotunda with beverages and light snacks. This event is free and open to the public, and is designed to be open to the widest possible audience.
  • Monday, Oct. 30, 4 p.m., Fondren Science Building, Room 158 — SMU Associate Professor Jodi Cooley will present a seminar on the SuperCDMS direct-detection dark matter search experiment. This event is part of the Physics Department Speaker Series. While this event is open to the public, it will be a more technical talk and may appeal more to an audience interested in the STEM areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, especially physics and astrophysics.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 31, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., SMU Main Campus, Dark Matter Rock Hunt — The SMU Department of Physics has hidden “dark matter rocks” all across the SMU main campus. If you discover one of the dark matter rocks, bring it to the main office of the Physics Department, Fondren Science Building, Room 102, and get a special prize. All SMU students, faculty, staff and community members are welcome to join in the search.
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Class of 2017: SMU professor named outstanding teacher by UT Regents

Alisa Winkler is an SMU adjunct faculty member and research assistant professor of paleontology in the SMU Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences.

The University of Texas System has recognized SMU Research Assistant Professor Alisa J. Winkler for extraordinary classroom performance and innovation in undergraduate instruction.

Winkler, who is an SMU adjunct faculty member in the SMU Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, was named to the Class of 2017 for the Regent’s Outstanding Teaching Awards of The University of Texas. It is the Board of Regents’ highest honor. It recognizes faculty for the highest quality of instruction in the classroom, laboratory, field and online.

Winkler earned her Ph.D. in geology from SMU in 1990, specializing in mammalian vertebrate paleontology.

“To be honest, when I was young I never thought about being a teacher. Later in life it just came with the territory of being in academia,” Winkler said. “What I discovered as a teacher, however, is how much I enjoy, learn from, and am inspired by my students. Their passion for knowledge is both a challenge and a stimulus for me to continue learning myself.”

She is an associate professor at U.T. Southwestern Medical Center in the Department of Cell Biology, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

In addition to her teaching commitments and some contributions to the higher education literature, Winkler maintains an active research program in vertebrate paleontology as a research professor in SMU’s Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

In recent work, she analyzed research literature for “Fossil Rodents of Africa,” the first comprehensive summary and distribution analysis of Africa’s fossil rodents since 1978, according to SMU professor of geological sciences and vertebrate paleontologist Louis Jacobs, a world-renowned dinosaur expert and president of SMU’s Institute for the Study of Earth and Man.

“Alisa has been recognized for her teaching skills at U.T. Southwestern, but she is also globally recognized for her research on East African fossil mammals, which constrains the age and paleo-environments of human evolution,” Jacobs said. “Working from her research office in the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, and in the field in Kenya and Uganda, she is a great asset to our students and adds depth to our program.”

Winkler received a B.A. in Biology from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville in 1978. She then earned an M.A. from the University of Texas at Austin in 1982.

She has been teaching anatomy at U.T. Southwestern since 1990. Winkler is currently co-director of the Human Structure course (anatomy, embryology and radiology) for first year medical students, and director of the Anatomy course for health professions students. Both courses focus on a cadaver-based dissection laboratory, and require extensive administrative, organizational and teaching commitments.

Winkler is the recipient of numerous teaching awards from the medical students, including seven pre-clinical teaching awards and a Katherine Howe Muntz Award for Teaching in Anatomy (2010). The Human Structure course was awarded the best course award for first year courses in 2016. She was awarded an outstanding educator award in health care sciences from the health professions students in 2014.

The Regent’s Outstanding Teacher Award was established in 2008 and is offered annually in recognition of faculty members at the The University of Texas System’s eight academic and six health institutions. With a monetary award of $25,000, the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards are among the largest and most competitive in the nation for rewarding outstanding faculty performance.

Faculty members undergo a series of rigorous evaluations by students, peer faculty and external reviewers. The review panels consider a range of activities and criteria in their evaluations of a candidate’s teaching performance, including classroom expertise, curricula quality, innovative course development and student learning outcomes.

Winkler is one of 56 faculty members from across U.T.’s 14 academic and health institutions honored with the award by the Regents Aug. 23 in Austin. — SMU, U.T. System

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A Total Eclipse of the First Day of School

Dedman College, SMU Physics Department host Great American Solar Eclipse 2017 viewing

Thousands of students, faculty and townspeople showed up to campus Monday, Aug. 21 to observe the Great American Solar Eclipse at a viewing hosted by Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and the SMU Department of Physics.

The festive event coincided with the kick-off of SMU’s Fall Semester and included Solar Eclipse Cookies served while viewing the rare astronomical phenomenon.

The eclipse reached its peak at 1:09 p.m. in Dallas at more than 75% of totality.

“What a great first day of the semester and terrific event to bring everyone together with the help of Dedman College scientists,” said Dedman Dean Thomas DiPiero. “And the eclipse cookies weren’t bad, either.”

Physics faculty provided indirect methods for observing the eclipse, including a telescope with a viewing cone on the steps of historic Dallas Hall, a projection of the eclipse onto a screen into Dallas Hall, and a variety of homemade hand-held devices.

Outside on the steps of Dallas Hall, Associate Professor Stephen Sekula manned his home-built viewing tunnel attached to a telescope for people to indirectly view the eclipse.

“I was overwhelmed by the incredible response of the students, faculty and community,” Sekula said. “The people who flocked to Dallas Hall were energized and engaged. It moved me that they were so interested in — and, in some cases, had their perspective on the universe altered by — a partial eclipse of the sun by the moon.”

A team of Physics Department faculty assembled components to use a mirror to project the eclipse from a telescope on the steps of Dallas Hall into the rotunda onto a screen hanging from the second-floor balcony.

Adjunct Professor John Cotton built the mount for the mirror — with a spare, just in case — and Professor and Department Chairman Ryszard Stroynowski and Sekula arranged the tripod setup and tested the equipment.

Stroynowski also projected an illustration of the Earth, the moon and the sun onto the wall of the rotunda to help people visualize movement and location of those cosmic bodies during the solar eclipse.

Professor Fred Olness handed out cardboard projectors and showed people how to use them to indirectly view the eclipse.

“The turn-out was fantastic,” Olness said. “Many families with children participated, and we distributed cardboard with pinholes so they could project the eclipse onto the sidewalk. It was rewarding that they were enthused by the science.”

Stroynowski, Sekula and others at the viewing event were interviewed by CBS 11 TV journalist Robert Flagg.

Physics Professor Thomas Coan and Guillermo Vasquez, SMU Linux and research computing support specialist, put together a sequence of photos they took during the day from Fondren Science Building.

“The experience of bringing faculty, students and even some out-of-campus community members together by sharing goggles, cameras, and now pictures of one of the great natural events, was extremely gratifying,” Vasquez said.

Sekula said the enthusiastic response from the public is driving plans to prepare for the next event of this kind.

“I’m really excited to share with SMU and Dallas in a total eclipse of the sun on April 8, 2024,” he said.

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Construction begins on international mega-science neutrino experiment

Groundbreaking held today in South Dakota marks the start of excavation for the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility, future home to the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment.

SMU is one of more than 100 institutions from around the world building hardware for a massive international experiment — a particle detector — that could change our understanding of the universe.

Construction will take years and scientists expect to begin taking data in the middle of the next decade, said SMU physicist Thomas E. Coan, a professor in the SMU Department of Physics and a researcher on the experiment.

The turning of a shovelful of earth a mile underground marks a new era in particle physics research. The groundbreaking ceremony was held Friday, July 21, 2017 at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota.

Dignitaries, scientists and engineers from around the world marked the start of construction of the experiment that could change our understanding of the universe.

The Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) will house the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment. Called DUNE for short, it will be built and operated by a group of roughly 1,000 scientists and engineers from 30 countries, including Coan.

When complete, LBNF/DUNE will be the largest experiment ever built in the United States to study the properties of mysterious particles called neutrinos. Unlocking the mysteries of these particles could help explain more about how the universe works and why matter exists at all.

“DUNE is designed to investigate a broad swath of the properties of neutrinos, one of the universe’s most abundant but still mysterious electrically neutral particles,” Coan said.

The experiment seeks to understand strange phenomena like neutrinos changing identities — called “oscillation” — in mid-flight and the behavioral differences between a neutrino an its anti-neutrino sibling, Coan said.

“A crisp understanding of neutrinos holds promise for understanding why any matter survived annihilation with antimatter from the Big Bang to form the people, planets and stars we see today,” Coan said. “DUNE is also able to probe whether or not the humble proton, found in all atoms of the universe, is actually unstable and ultimately destined to eventually decay away. It even has sensitivity to undertanding how stars explode into supernovae by studying the neutrinos that stream out from them during the explosion.”

Coan also is a principal investigator on NOvA, another neutrino experiment collaboration of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Laboratory. NOvA, in northern Minnesota, is another massive particle detector designed to observe and measure the behavior of neutrinos.

Similar to NOvA, DUNE will be a neutrino beam from Fermilab that runs to Homestake Gold Mine in South Dakota. DUNE’s beam will be more powerful and will take the measurements NOvA is taking to an unprecedented precision, scientists on both experiments have said. Any questions NOvA fails to answer will most certainly be answered by DUNE.

At its peak, construction of LBNF is expected to create almost 2,000 jobs throughout South Dakota and a similar number of jobs in Illinois.

Institutions in dozens of countries will contribute to the construction of DUNE components. The DUNE experiment will attract students and young scientists from around the world, helping to foster the next generation of leaders in the field and to maintain the highly skilled scientific workforce in the United States and worldwide.

Beam of neutrinos will travel 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) through the Earth
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, located outside Chicago, will generate a beam of neutrinos and send them 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) through the Earth to Sanford Lab, where a four-story-high, 70,000-ton detector will be built beneath the surface to catch those neutrinos.

Scientists will study the interactions of neutrinos in the detector, looking to better understand the changes these particles undergo as they travel across the country in less than the blink of an eye.

Ever since their discovery 61 years ago, neutrinos have proven to be one of the most surprising subatomic particles, and the fact that they oscillate between three different states is one of their biggest surprises. That discovery began with a solar neutrino experiment led by physicist Ray Davis in the 1960s, performed in the same underground mine that now will house LBNF/DUNE. Davis shared the Nobel Prize in physics in 2002 for his experiment.

DUNE scientists will also look for the differences in behavior between neutrinos and their antimatter counterparts, antineutrinos, which could give us clues as to why the visible universe is dominated by matter.

DUNE will also watch for neutrinos produced when a star explodes, which could reveal the formation of neutron stars and black holes, and will investigate whether protons live forever or eventually decay, bringing us closer to fulfilling Einstein’s dream of a grand unified theory.

Construction over the next 10 years is funded by DOE with 30 countries
But first, the facility must be built, and that will happen over the next 10 years. Now that the first shovel of earth has been moved, crews will begin to excavate more than 870,000 tons of rock to create the huge underground caverns for the DUNE detector.

Large DUNE prototype detectors are under construction at European research center CERN, a major partner in the project, and the technology refined for those smaller versions will be tested and scaled up when the massive DUNE detectors are built.

This research is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science in conjunction with CERN and international partners from 30 countries.

DUNE collaborators come from institutions in Armenia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Madagascar, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom and the United States. — Fermilab, SMU

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Dallas Innovates: Mobile Makerspace Once Known as SparkTruck Rolls Into Town

The big, boxy California transplant is being adopted by Southern Methodist University and will be retooled for Texas to help teachers fuel the creative spark in students.

Reporter Dave Moore with Dallas Innovates interviewed Katie Krummeck, director of SMU’s Deason Innovation Gym in the Lyle School of Engineering, and Rob Rouse, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Teaching & Learning of Simmons School about their collaboration in design-based learning environments.

The School of Engineering and SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development are building a dedicated place for students to adopt a “maker-based approach” to education.

The Dallas Innovates article, “Mobile Makerspace Once Known as SparkTruck Rolls Into Town,” published May 19, 2017.

Read the full story.


By Dave Moore
Dallas Innovates

You might call it a maker truck in the making, and it’s about to hit the streets of Dallas to promote the maker movement to teachers and students alike.

Formerly called the SparkTruck, Southern Methodist University adopted the vehicle from Stanford University in California where it resided for the past five years.

The truck made a cross-country journey to Dallas where SMU students will redesign it, inside and out, to make it a teaching tool to help K-12 teachers to inspire and to pursue professional development through innovation.

“This big truck is a kind of rolling ambassador for the maker movement,” said Katie Krummeck, director of SMU’s Deason Innovation Gym. “If you’re not familiar with it, the maker movement is all about sharing creative challenges with people from very different backgrounds to build things.“

Krummeck said the truck will be a big boost in maker education.

“The explosion in easily available digital tools and software is fueling the fire, and it turns out that this kind of hands-on maker-based instruction is a great way to engage students in whatever subject they are learning,” she said.

SMU students will retrofit the truck to ensure that its educational mission is supported by things such as workflow, storage, and comfort.

During its journey from California, the truck carried this message on its side: “This is not a maker truck” — yet.

Krummeck is familiar with the truck. She managed the SparkTruck program at Stanford before coming to SMU in 2015.

“We’re going to develop teaching frameworks, open-source curriculum, tools, and resources as well as some really engaging professional development opportunities for educators,” Krummeck said in a release. “And we’re going to deliver these resources and experiences out of the back of this mobile makerspace. We’ll know what to call it after our students put their heads together during the design challenge we have planned for May 22-26.”

Read the full story.

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Elira Kuka, SMU economics professor, appointed to prestigious national research organization

SMU economics professor wins prestigious appointment to nation’s premier organization for impartial economic research, the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The National Bureau of Economic Research, the nation’s leading nonprofit economic research organization, has appointed SMU Assistant Professor Elira Kuka a faculty research fellow.

Kuka is in the SMU Department of Economics. She will be a fellow in the NBER’s research program on children, a key policy area.

NBER, founded in 1920, is a private, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to conducting economic research and to disseminating research findings among academics, public policy makers and business professionals.

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) is the most prestigious and active research organization in economic policy and empirical analysis in the U.S., said University Distinguished Professor Santanu Roy, chair of the SMU Department of Economics. Several Nobel laureates and Chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers (to the White House) have been fellows of the NBER, Roy said.

“To be appointed a Faculty Research Fellow at the NBER is a tremendous recognition for a young scholar like Elira Kuka, who is just completing her second year as assistant professor after her Ph.D. It is a major boost to the SMU Economics Department’s research profile and visibility,” Roy said. “Elira’s work on several important public policy issues related to children’s health, unemployment insurance and education have started appearing in the very top journals of the profession. She is on a firm trajectory to be a star in her research field.”

NBER-affiliated researchers study a wide range of topics and they employ many different methods in their work. Key focus areas include developing new statistical measurements, estimating quantitative models of economic behavior and analyzing the effects of public policies while remaining impartial and foregoing recommendations.

Over the years the NBER’s research agenda has encompassed a wide variety of issues that confront our society. Twenty-six Nobel Prize winners in Economics and 13 past chairs of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers have held NBER affiliations.

The more than 1,400 professors of economics and business now teaching at colleges and universities in North America who are NBER researchers are the leading scholars in their fields.

Kuka joined SMU in 2015. She received an undergraduate degree from Wellesley College, Mass., and her Ph.D. in economics from the University of California at Davis. Her research focuses on understanding how government policy affects individual behavior and wellbeing, the extent to which it provides social insurance during times of need, and its effectiveness in alleviation of poverty and inequality.

Her current research topics include the potential benefits of the federal Unemployment Insurance program, the protective power of the U.S. safety net during recessions and various issues in academic achievement.

Kuka’s appointment was effective May 1, 2017.

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Relentless gene hunter, NIH Director Francis Collins, to speak at SMU Commencement May 20

Collins is best known for leading the Human Genome Project, the world’s largest collaborative biological project and one of the most significant scientific undertakings in modern history.

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., the director of the National Institutes of Health, who may be best known for leading the Human Genome Project, will be the featured speaker during SMU’s 102nd all-University Commencement ceremony at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 20, in Moody Coliseum.

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

“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 Human Genome Project, 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.

As an innovative evolutionary geneticist and a devout Christian, Collins also has gained fame for his writings on the integration of logic and belief. His first book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, became a New York Times bestseller in 2006. Since then, he has written The Language of Life: DNA and the Revolution in Personalized Medicine (2011) and edited a selection of writings, Belief: Readings on the Reason for Faith (2010).

Born in Staunton, Va., and raised on a small family farm in the Shenandoah Valley, Collins was home schooled until the sixth grade and attended Robert E. Lee High School in his hometown. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from the University of Virginia in 1970.

In 1974, Collins received his Ph.D. degree in physical chemistry from Yale University, where a course in molecular biology triggered a major change in career direction. He enrolled in medical school at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where he earned his M.D. degree in 1977. From 1978 to 1981, Collins completed a residency and chief residency in internal medicine at North Carolina Memorial Hospital. He then returned to Yale as a Fellow in Human Genetics at the university’s medical school from 1981 to 1984.

Dr. Collins joined the University of Michigan in 1984 as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, a position that would eventually lead to a Professorship of Internal Medicine and Human Genetics. Collins heightened his reputation as a relentless gene hunter with an approach he named “positional cloning,” which has developed into a powerful component of modern molecular genetics.

In contrast to previous methods for finding genes, positional cloning enabled scientists to identify disease genes without knowing the functional abnormality underlying the disease in advance. Collins’ team, together with collaborators, applied the new approach in 1989 in their successful quest for the long-sought gene responsible for cystic fibrosis. Other major discoveries soon followed, including isolation of the genes for Huntington’s disease, neurofibromatosis, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1, the M4 type of adult acute leukemia, and Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome.

In 1993, Collins joined NIH to become director of the National Center for Human Genome Research, which became NHGRI in 1997. As director, he oversaw the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium and many other aspects of what he has called “an adventure that beats going to the moon or splitting the atom.”

An elected member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Collins was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2007 from President George W. Bush. He received the National Medal of Science in 2009.

Events Feature Researcher news Student researchers Videos

SMU Research Day 2017 visitors query SMU students on the details of their research

The best in SMU undergraduate and graduate research work was on full display at Research Day in the Hughes Trigg Student Center.

More than 150 graduate and undergraduate students at SMU presented posters at SMU Research Day 2017 in the Promenade Ballroom of Hughes-Trigg Student Center Ballroom on March 28.

Student researchers discussed their ongoing and completed SMU research and their results with faculty, staff and students who attended the one-day event.

Explaining their research to others is a learning experience for students, said Peter Weyand, Glenn Simmons Professor of Applied Physiology and professor of biomechanics in the Department of Applied Physiology and Wellness in SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.

“Research Day is an opportunity for SMU students to show off what they’ve been doing at the grad level and at the undergrad level,” Weyand said, “and that’s really an invaluable experience for them.”

Posters and presentations spanned more than 20 different fields from the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education & Human Development, the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and SMU Guildhall.

“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.

The annual event is sponsored by the SMU Office of Research and Graduate Studies.

View highlights of the presentations on Facebook.

Some highlights of the research:

  • Adel Alharbi, a student of Dr. Mitchell Thornton in Lyle School’s Computer Science and Engineering presented research on a novel demographic group prediction mechanism for smart device users based upon the recognition of user gestures.
  • Ashwini Subramanian and Prasanna Rangarajan, students of Dr. Dinesh Rajan, in Lyle School’s Electrical Engineering Department, presented research about accurately measuring the physical dimensions of an object for manufacturing and logistics with an inexpensive software-based Volume Measurement System using the Texas Instruments OPT8241 3D Time-of-Flight camera, which illuminates the scene with a modulated light source, observing the reflected light and translating it to distance.
  • Gang Chen, a student of Dr. Pia Vogel in the Department of Chemistry of Dedman College, presented research on multidrug resistance in cancers associated with proteins including P-glycoprotein and looking for inhibitors of P-gp.
  • Tetiana Hutchison, a student of Dr. Rob Harrod in the Chemistry Department of Dedman College, presented research on inhibitors of mitochondrial damage and oxidative stress related to human T-cell leukemia virus type-1, an aggressive hematological cancer for which there are no effective treatments.
  • Margarita Sala, a student of Dr. David Rosenfield and Dr. Austin Baldwin in the Psychology Department of Dedman College, presented research on how specific post-exercise affective states differ between regular and infrequent exercisers, thereby elucidating the “feeling better” phenomenon.
  • Bernard Kauffman, a Level Design student of Dr. Corey Clark in SMU Guildhall, presented research on building a user interface that allows video game players to analyze vast swaths of scientific data to help researchers find potentially useful compounds for treating cancer.

Browse the Research Day 2017 directory of presentations by department.

See the SMU Graduate Studies Facebook page for images of 2017 Research Day.

See the SMU Anthropology Department photo album of Research Day 2017 poster presentations.

According to the Fall 2016 report on Undergraduate Research, SMU provides opportunities for student research in a full variety of disciplines from the natural sciences and engineering, to social sciences, humanities and the arts. These opportunities permit students to bring their classroom knowledge to practical problems or a professional level in their chosen field of study.
Opportunities offered include both funded and curricular programs
that can be tailored according to student needs:

  • Students may pursue funded research with the assistance of a
    variety of campus research programs. Projects can be supported
    during the academic year or in the summer break, when students
    have the opportunity to focus full-time on research.
  • Students may also enroll in research courses that are offered in
    many departments that permit them to design a unique project,
    or participate in a broader project.
  • Students can take advantage of research opportunities outside
    of their major, or design interdisciplinary projects with their faculty
    mentors. The Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute supports
    such research via the Mayer Scholars.
  • View videos of previous SMU Research Day events:

    See Research Day winners from 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014.

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    SMU Research Day 2016: Students present their research to the SMU and Dallas community

    Day of presenting in Hughes-Trigg Student Center allows students to discuss their research, identify potential collaborators, discover other perspectives.

    SMU graduate and undergraduate students presented their research to the SMU community at the University’s Research Day 2016 on Feb. 10.

    Sponsored by the SMU Office of Research and Graduate Studies, the research spanned more than 20 different fields from schools across campus.

    The annual Research Day event fosters communication between students in different disciplines, gives students the opportunity to present their work in a professional setting, and allows students to share with their peers and industry professionals from the greater Dallas community the outstanding research conducted at SMU.

    A cash prize of $250 was awarded to the best poster from each department or judging group.

    View the list of student winners whose research was awarded a cash prize.

    View highlights of the presentations.

    Some highlights of the research:

    • Faris Altamimi, a student of Dr. Sevinc Sengor in Lyle School‘s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, presented a study investigating experimental and modeling approaches for enhanced methane generation from municipal solid waste, while providing science-based solutions for cleaner, renewable sources of energy for the future.
    • Yongqiang Li and Xiaogai Li, students of Dr. Xin-Lin Gao in Lyle School’s Mechanical Engineering Department, are addressing the serious blunt trauma injury that soldiers on the battlefield suffer from ballistics impact to their helmets. The study simulated the ballistic performance of the Advanced Combat Helmet.
    • Audrey Reeves, Sara Merrikhihaghi and Kevin Bruemmer, students of Dr. Alexander Lippert, in the Chemistry Department of Dedman College, presented research on cell-permeable fluorescent probes in the imaging of enzymatic pathways in living cells, specifically the gaseous signaling molecule nitroxyl. Their research better understands nitroxyl’s role as an inhibitor of an enzyme that is key in the conversion of acetaldehyde to acetic acid.
    • Rose Ashraf, a student of Dr. George Holden in the Psychology Department of Dedman College, presented her research on harsh verbal discipline in the home and its prediction of child compliance. It was found permissive parents are least likely to elicit prolonged compliance.
    • Nicole Vu and Caitlin Rancher, students of Dr. Ernest N. Jouriles and Dr. Renee McDonald in the Psychology Department of Dedman College, presented research on children’s threat appraisals of interparental conflict and it’s relationship to child anxiety.

    See the full catalog of participants and their abstracts.

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    SMU 2015 research efforts broadly noted in a variety of ways for world-changing impact

    SMU scientists and their research have a global reach that is frequently noted, beyond peer publications and media mentions.

    By Margaret Allen
    SMU News & Communications

    It was a good year for SMU faculty and student research efforts. Here is a small sampling of public and published acknowledgements during 2015:

    Simmons, Diego Roman, SMU, education

    Hot topic merits open access
    Taylor & Francis, publisher of the online journal Environmental Education Research, lifted its subscription-only requirement to meet demand for an article on how climate change is taught to middle-schoolers in California.

    Co-author of the research was Diego Román, assistant professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.

    Román’s research revealed that California textbooks are teaching sixth graders that climate change is a controversial debate stemming from differing opinions, rather than a scientific conclusion based on rigorous scientific evidence.

    The article, “Textbooks of doubt: Using systemic functional analysis to explore the framing of climate change in middle-school science textbooks,” published in September. The finding generated such strong interest that Taylor & Francis opened access to the article.


    Research makes the cover of Biochemistry
    Drugs important in the battle against cancer were tested in a virtual lab by SMU biology professors to see how they would behave in the human cell.

    A computer-generated composite image of the simulation made the Dec. 15 cover of the journal Biochemistry.

    Scientific articles about discoveries from the simulation were also published in the peer review journals Biochemistry and in Pharmacology Research & Perspectives.

    The researchers tested the drugs by simulating their interaction in a computer-generated model of one of the cell’s key molecular pumps — the protein P-glycoprotein, or P-gp. Outcomes of interest were then tested in the Wise-Vogel wet lab.

    The ongoing research is the work of biochemists John Wise, associate professor, and Pia Vogel, professor and director of the SMU Center for Drug Discovery, Design and Delivery in Dedman College. Assisting them were a team of SMU graduate and undergraduate students.

    The researchers developed the model to overcome the problem of relying on traditional static images for the structure of P-gp. The simulation makes it possible for researchers to dock nearly any drug in the protein and see how it behaves, then test those of interest in an actual lab.

    To date, the researchers have run millions of compounds through the pump and have discovered some that are promising for development into pharmaceutical drugs to battle cancer.

    Click here to read more about the research.

    SMU, Simpson Rowe, sexual assault, video

    Strong interest in research on sexual victimization
    Teen girls were less likely to report being sexually victimized after learning to assertively resist unwanted sexual overtures and after practicing resistance in a realistic virtual environment, according to three professors from the SMU Department of Psychology.

    The finding was reported in Behavior Therapy. The article was one of the psychology journal’s most heavily shared and mentioned articles across social media, blogs and news outlets during 2015, the publisher announced.

    The study was the work of Dedman College faculty Lorelei Simpson Rowe, associate professor and Psychology Department graduate program co-director; Ernest Jouriles, professor; and Renee McDonald, SMU associate dean for research and academic affairs.

    The journal’s publisher, Elsevier, temporarily has lifted its subscription requirement on the article, “Reducing Sexual Victimization Among Adolescent Girls: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial of My Voice, My Choice,” and has opened it to free access for three months.

    Click here to read more about the research.

    Consumers assume bigger price equals better quality
    Even when competing firms can credibly disclose the positive attributes of their products to buyers, they may not do so.

    Instead, they find it more lucrative to “signal” quality through the prices they charge, typically working on the assumption that shoppers think a high price indicates high quality. The resulting high prices hurt buyers, and may create a case for mandatory disclosure of quality through public policy.

    That was a finding of the research of Dedman College’s Santanu Roy, professor, Department of Economics. Roy’s article about the research was published in February in one of the blue-ribbon journals, and the oldest, in the field, The Economic Journal.

    Published by the U.K.’s Royal Economic Society, The Economic Journal is one of the founding journals of modern economics. The journal issued a media briefing about the paper, “Competition, Disclosure and Signaling,” typically reserved for academic papers of broad public interest.

    The Journal of Physical Chemistry A

    Chemistry research group edits special issue
    Chemistry professors Dieter Cremer and Elfi Kraka, who lead SMU’s Computational and Theoretical Chemistry Group, were guest editors of a special issue of the prestigious Journal of Physical Chemistry. The issue published in March.

    The Computational and Theoretical research group, called CATCO for short, is a union of computational and theoretical chemistry scientists at SMU. Their focus is research in computational chemistry, educating and training graduate and undergraduate students, disseminating and explaining results of their research to the broader public, and programming computers for the calculation of molecules and molecular aggregates.

    The special issue of Physical Chemistry included 40 contributions from participants of a four-day conference in Dallas in March 2014 that was hosted by CATCO. The 25th Austin Symposium drew 108 participants from 22 different countries who, combined, presented eight plenary talks, 60 lectures and about 40 posters.

    CATCO presented its research with contributions from Cremer and Kraka, as well as Marek Freindorf, research assistant professor; Wenli Zou, visiting professor; Robert Kalescky, post-doctoral fellow; and graduate students Alan Humason, Thomas Sexton, Dani Setlawan and Vytor Oliveira.

    There have been more than 75 graduate students and research associates working in the CATCO group, which originally was formed at the University of Cologne, Germany, before moving to SMU in 2009.


    Vertebrate paleontology recognized with proclamation
    Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings proclaimed Oct. 11-17, 2015 Vertebrate Paleontology week in Dallas on behalf of the Dallas City Council.

    The proclamation honored the 75th Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, which was jointly hosted by SMU’s Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences in Dedman College and the Perot Museum of Science and Nature. The conference drew to Dallas some 1,200 scientists from around the world.

    Making research presentations or presenting research posters were: faculty members Bonnie Jacobs, Louis Jacobs, Michael Polcyn, Neil Tabor and Dale Winkler; adjunct research assistant professor Alisa Winkler; research staff member Kurt Ferguson; post-doctoral researchers T. Scott Myers and Lauren Michael; and graduate students Matthew Clemens, John Graf, Gary Johnson and Kate Andrzejewski.

    The host committee co-chairs were Anthony Fiorillo, adjunct research professor; and Louis Jacobs, professor. Committee members included Polcyn; Christopher Strganac, graduate student; Diana Vineyard, research associate; and research professor Dale Winkler.

    KERA radio reporter Kat Chow filed a report from the conference, explaining to listeners the science of vertebrate paleontology, which exposes the past, present and future of life on earth by studying fossils of animals that had backbones.

    SMU earthquake scientists rock scientific journal

    Modelled pressure changes caused by injection and production. (Nature Communications/SMU)
    Modelled pressure changes caused by injection and production. (Nature Communications/SMU)

    Findings by the SMU earthquake team reverberated across the nation with publication of their scientific article in the prestigious British interdisciplinary journal Nature, ranked as one of the world’s most cited scientific journals.

    The article reported that the SMU-led seismology team found that high volumes of wastewater injection combined with saltwater extraction from natural gas wells is the most likely cause of unusually frequent earthquakes occurring in the Dallas-Fort Worth area near the small community of Azle.

    The research was the work of Dedman College faculty Matthew Hornbach, associate professor of geophysics; Heather DeShon, associate professor of geophysics; Brian Stump, SMU Albritton Chair in Earth Sciences; Chris Hayward, research staff and director geophysics research program; and Beatrice Magnani, associate professor of geophysics.

    The article, “Causal factors for seismicity near Azle, Texas,” published online in late April. Already the article has been downloaded nearly 6,000 times, and heavily shared on both social and conventional media. The article has achieved a ranking of 270, which puts it in the 99th percentile of 144,972 tracked articles of a similar age in all journals, and 98th percentile of 626 tracked articles of a similar age in Nature.

    It has a very high impact factor for an article of its age,” said Robert Gregory, professor and chair, SMU Earth Sciences Department.

    The scientific article also was entered into the record for public hearings both at the Texas Railroad Commission and the Texas House Subcommittee on Seismic Activity.

    Researchers settle long-debated heritage question of “The Ancient One”

    The skull of Kennewick Man and a sculpted bust by StudioEIS based on forensic facial reconstruction by sculptor Amanda Danning. (Credit: Brittany Tatchell)
    The skull of Kennewick Man and a sculpted bust by StudioEIS based on forensic facial reconstruction by sculptor Amanda Danning. (Credit: Brittany Tatchell)

    The research of Dedman College anthropologist and Henderson-Morrison Professor of Prehistory David Meltzer played a role in settling the long-debated and highly controversial heritage of “Kennewick Man.”

    Also known as “The Ancient One,” the 8,400-year-old male skeleton discovered in Washington state has been the subject of debate for nearly two decades. Argument over his ancestry has gained him notoriety in high-profile newspaper and magazine articles, as well as making him the subject of intense scholarly study.

    Officially the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kennewick Man was discovered in 1996 and radiocarbon dated to 8500 years ago.

    Because of his cranial shape and size he was declared not Native American but instead ‘Caucasoid,’ implying a very different population had once been in the Americas, one that was unrelated to contemporary Native Americans.

    But Native Americans long have claimed Kennewick Man as theirs and had asked for repatriation of his remains for burial according to their customs.

    Meltzer, collaborating with his geneticist colleague Eske Willerslev and his team at the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen, in June reported the results of their analysis of the DNA of Kennewick in the prestigious British journal Nature in the scientific paper “The ancestry and affiliations of Kennewick Man.”

    The results were announced at a news conference, settling the question based on first-ever DNA evidence: Kennewick Man is Native American.

    The announcement garnered national and international media attention, and propelled a new push to return the skeleton to a coalition of Columbia Basin tribes. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the Bring the Ancient One Home Act of 2015 and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has offered state assistance for returning the remains to Native Tribes.

    Science named the Kennewick work one of its nine runners-up in the highly esteemed magazine’s annual “Breakthrough of the Year” competition.

    The research article has been viewed more than 60,000 times. It has achieved a ranking of 665, which puts it in the 99th percentile of 169,466 tracked articles of a similar age in all journals, and in the 94th percentile of 958 tracked articles of a similar age in Nature.

    In “Kennewick Man: coming to closure,” an article in the December issue of Antiquity, a journal of Cambridge University Press, Meltzer noted that the DNA merely confirmed what the tribes had known all along: “We are him, he is us,” said one tribal spokesman. Meltzer concludes: “We presented the DNA evidence. The tribal members gave it meaning.”

    Click here to read more about the research.

    Prehistoric vacuum cleaner captures singular award

    Paleontologists Louis L. Jacobs, SMU, and Anthony Fiorillo, Perot Museum, have identified a new species of marine mammal from bones recovered from Unalaska, an Aleutian island in the North Pacific. (Hillsman Jackson, SMU)
    Paleontologists Louis L. Jacobs, SMU, and Anthony Fiorillo, Perot Museum, have identified a new species of marine mammal from bones recovered from Unalaska, an Aleutian island in the North Pacific. (Hillsman Jackson, SMU)

    Science writer Laura Geggel with Live Science named a new species of extinct marine mammal identified by two SMU paleontologists among “The 10 Strangest Animal Discoveries of 2015.”

    The new species, dubbed a prehistoric hoover by London’s Daily Mail online news site, was identified by SMU paleontologist Louis L. Jacobs, a professor in the Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, and paleontologist and SMU adjunct research professor Anthony Fiorillo, vice president of research and collections and chief curator at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.

    Jacobs and Fiorillo co-authored a study about the identification of new fossils from the oddball creature Desmostylia, discovered in the same waters where the popular “Deadliest Catch” TV show is filmed. The hippo-like creature ate like a vacuum cleaner and is a new genus and species of the only order of marine mammals ever to go extinct — surviving a mere 23 million years.

    Desmostylians, every single species combined, lived in an interval between 33 million and 10 million years ago. Their strange columnar teeth and odd style of eating don’t occur in any other animal, Jacobs said.

    SMU campus hosted the world’s premier physicists

    The SMU Department of Physics hosted the “23rd International Workshop on Deep Inelastic Scattering and Related Subjects” from April 27-May 1, 2015. Deep Inelastic Scattering is the process of probing the quantum particles that make up our universe.

    As noted by the CERN Courier — the news magazine of the CERN Laboratory in Geneva, which hosts the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest science experiment — more than 250 scientists from 30 countries presented more than 200 talks on a multitude of subjects relevant to experimental and theoretical research. SMU physicists presented at the conference.

    The SMU organizing committee was led by Fred Olness, professor and chair of the SMU Department of Physics in Dedman College, who also gave opening and closing remarks at the conference. The committee consisted of other SMU faculty, including Jodi Cooley, associate professor; Simon Dalley, senior lecturer; Robert Kehoe, professor; Pavel Nadolsky, associate professor, who also presented progress on experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider; Randy Scalise, senior lecturer; and Stephen Sekula, associate professor.

    Sekula also organized a series of short talks for the public about physics and the big questions that face us as we try to understand our universe.

    Click here to read more about the research.

    Energy & Matter Events Researcher news Slideshows

    1st proton collisions at the world’s largest science experiment expected to start the first or second week of June

    “No significant signs of new physics with the present data yet but it takes only one significant deviation in the data to change everything.” — Albert De Roeck, CERN

    First collisions of protons at the world’s largest science experiment are expected to start the first or second week of June, according to a senior research scientist with CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Geneva.

    “It will be about another six weeks to commission the machine, and many things can still happen on the way,” said physicist Albert De Roeck, a staff member at CERN and a professor at the University of Antwerp, Belgium and UC Davis, California. De Roeck is a leading scientist on CMS, one of the Large Hadron Collider’s key experiments.

    The LHC in early April was restarted for its second three-year run after a two-year pause to upgrade the machine to operate at higher energies. At higher energy, physicists worldwide expect to see new discoveries about the laws that govern our natural universe.

    17 million-year-old whale fossil provides 1st exact date for East Africa’s puzzling uplift
    SMU analysis of recent North Texas earthquake sequence reveals geologic fault, epicenters in Irving and West Dallas
    Bitcoin scams steal at least $11 million in virtual deposits from unsuspecting customers
    Teen girls report less sexual victimization after virtual reality assertiveness training
    SMU, Meltzer, women, body image
    supervolcano, fossil, Italy, James Quick, Sesia Valley

    De Roeck made the comments Monday while speaking during an international meeting of more than 250 physicists from 30 countries on the campus of Southern Methodist University, Dallas.

    “There are no significant signs of new physics yet,” De Roeck said of the data from the first run, adding however that especially SUSY diehards — physicists who predict the existence of a unique new theory of space and time called SuperSymmetry — maintain hopes of seeing evidence soon of that theory.

    De Roeck in fact has high expectations for the possibility of new discoveries that could change the current accepted theory of physical reality, the Standard Model.

    “It will take only one significant deviation in the data to change everything,” De Roeck said. “The upgraded machine works. Now we have to get to the real operation for physics.”

    “Unidentified Lying Object” not a problem — remains stable
    But work remains to be done. One issue the accelerator physicists remain cautiously aware of, he said, is an “Unidentified Lying Object” in the beam pipe of the LHC’s 17-mile underground tunnel, a vacuum tube where proton beams collide and scatter particles that scientists then analyze for keys to unlock the mysteries of the Big Bang and the cosmos.

    Because the proton beam is sensitive to the geometry of the environment and can be easily blocked, the beam pipe must be free of even the tiniest amount of debris. Even something as large as a nitrogen particle could disrupt the beam. Because the beam pipe is a sealed vacuum it’s impossible to know what the “object” is.

    “The unidentified lying object turns out not to be a problem for the operation, it’s just something to keep an eye on,” De Roeck said. “It’s in the vacuum tube and it’s not a problem if it doesn’t move and remains stable.”

    The world’s largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider made headlines when its global collaboration of thousands of scientists in 2012 observed a new fundamental particle, the Higgs boson. After that, the collider was paused for the extensive upgrade. Much more powerful than before, as part of Run 2 physicists on the Large Hadron Collider’s experiments are analyzing new proton collision data to unravel the structure of the Higgs.

    The Large Hadron Collider straddles the border between France and Switzerland. Its first run began in 2009, led by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in Geneva, through an international consortium of thousands of scientists.

    Particle discoveries unlock mysteries of cosmos, pave way for new technology
    The workshop in Dallas, the “2015 International Workshop on Deep-Inelastic Scattering,” draws the world’s leading scientists each year to an international city for nuts and bolts talks that drive the world’s leading-edge physics experiments, such as the Large Hadron Collider.

    Going into the second run, De Roeck said physicists will continue to look for anomalies, unexpected decay modes or couplings, multi-Higgs production, or larger decay rates than expected, among other things.

    Particle discoveries by physicists resolve mysteries, such as questions surrounding Dark Matter and Dark Energy, and the earliest moments of the Big Bang. But particle discoveries also are ultimately applied to other fields to improve everyday life, such as medical technologies like MRIs and PET scans, which diagnose and treat cancer.

    For example, proton therapy is the newest non-invasive, precision scalpel in the fight against cancer, with new centers opening all over the world.

    Hosted by the SMU Department of Physics in Dedman College, the Dallas meeting of physicists began Monday, April 27, 2015, and runs through Friday, May 1, 2015.

    The workshop is sponsored by SMU, U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, CERN, National Science Foundation, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, DESY national research center and Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. — Margaret Allen

    Follow on twitter at @smuresearch.

    SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see

    SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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    SMU Geothermal Lab students are finalists in U.S. Department of Energy’s National Geothermal Student Competition

    Energy Department Announces Finalists for National University Geothermal Energy Competition

    A group of SMU graduate students has been selected as one of three finalist teams in a prestigious national geothermal energy competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. The DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy competition challenges student teams to conduct research aimed at breakthroughs in geothermal energy development.

    The SMU Geothermal Laboratory student team members — Zach Frone, Joe Batir, Ryan Dingwall and Mitchell Williams — are presenting their project at the 36th Geothermal Resources Council Annual Meeting in Reno, Nev., Sept. 30-Oct. 3. The other two student teams presenting their work in this last stage of the competition are from Idaho State University and Boise State University.

    SMU’s Geothermal Laboratory is a renowned national resource for the development of clean, green energy from the Earth’s heat. Sophisticated mapping of geothermal resources produced by David Blackwell, SMU’s Hamilton professor of Geothermal Studies, and Maria Richards, director of SMU’s Geothermal Laboratory, makes it clear that vast geothermal resources reachable through current technology could replace and multiply the levels of energy currently produced in the United States by mostly coal-fired power plants.

    MIT study identified Snake River as potential area for geothermal development
    The student teams involved in the DOE competition have been analyzing the economic feasibility of developing geothermal energy in Snake River Plain, Idaho.

    In announcing the competition, the Department of Energy noted that a 2006 study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Blackwell and Richards were part of the study team) identified Snake River Valley as one of six potential areas in the United States for near-term geothermal development.

    The region has geothermal resources with temperatures higher than 200°C at a depth of less than three miles, which is considered optimal for energy development.

    Dingwall explained that the SMU team developed and ran fluid flow models for the competition, using temperatures measured in wells in the West Snake River Plain, published geologic information and other data.

    The results indicate the area is viable for direct use geothermal applications (naturally occurring hot water drawn from below the earth’s surface) or enhanced geothermal systems, which require artificially circulating liquid through rock formations to heat it to temperatures high enough to produce energy.

    U.S. install geothermal capacity exceeds that of rest of world
    The United States currently has 3,177 megawatts of installed geothermal energy capacity, according to the Geothermal Energy Association, which far outpaces production in the rest of the world.

    California and Nevada are the U.S. production leaders. However, Blackwell and Richards’ research through the SMU Geothermal Lab, available at’s EGS Home Page, has confirmed and refined locations across North America with resources capable of supporting large-scale commercial geothermal energy production under a wide range of geologic conditions. — Kimberly Cobb

    Follow SMU Research on Twitter, @smuresearch.

    For more SMU research see

    SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information,

    SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

    Culture, Society & Family Events Fossils & Ruins Learning & Education Researcher news

    Major NEH grant allows teachers from community colleges, universities to examine Etruscan culture

    The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded the Community College Humanities Association a grant of $201,415, which will allow the association to sponsor the 2012 NEH Summer Institute “The Legacy of Ancient Italy: The Etruscan and Early Roman City.”

    P. Gregory Warden, University Distinguished Professor of Art History and associate dean for academic affairs in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, is the major professor and co-director of the Institute, which will be held June 5-25, 2012, in Italy.

    The NEH grant makes it possible for 24 college and university teachers to participate in the three-week project in Italy exploring the legacy of Etruscan and early Roman culture. The goals of the institute are to help participants examine the current state of research in the study of these ancient cultures and develop strategies for taking that knowledge to contemporary classrooms.

    Grant provides community college teachers with rare research opportunity
    According to Warden, the grant also facilitates the dissemination of opportunities in the humanities to teachers in community colleges.

    “People who teach in community colleges work so hard and get very little in return. And because they work so hard they get few research opportunities. This is a chance for them to engage in high-level research in a part of the world where they can get a lot out of it,” said Warden. He is co-director of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project, an SMU-sponsored archaeological excavation at Poggio Colla, the site of an Etruscan settlement in Italy’s picturesque Mugello Valley.

    The settlement on Poggio Colla, about 20 miles northeast of Florence, offers glimpses of Etruscan civilization, which flourished for hundreds of years during the first millennium B.C., before being assimilated by the Romans.

    Summer Institute participants, whose selection in a nationally competitive process follows guidelines set by the NEH, will analyze how art, architecture and material culture can illuminate the social terrain of early Italy. Their research will be based on four major Institute themes: archaeology and urban identity in early Italy; Etruscan and Roman urbanization; economy, trade and cultural formation in the early Mediterranean; and the consequences of assimilation, appropriation and conquest of the Etruscans by the Romans.

    Three-week program opens window to Etruscan dig, area’s culture
    The choice of housing locations is designed to complement research and study. Participants will stay at locations in Florence; Rome; and Orvieto, a famous hill town in Italy known for the Crocifisso del Tufo Necropolis, an Etruscan archaeological site featuring burial chambers arranged along street-like grids.

    Participants will also have access to local museums and archives, and excavated Etruscan sites, many of which are generally not open to the public. The three-week program will begin with an informal walking tour of Orvieto with Warden, and include seminars, visits to archaeological sites and the expertise of visiting scholars involved in cutting-edge research in the study of Etruscan civilization and ancient Italy.

    Warden will be assisted by Institute co-director Carole Lester, professor of history and humanities at Richland College of the Dallas County Community College District; Institute associate Marsha Anderson, adjunct professor of arts and humanities at DCCCD; and Institute project manager David Berry, executive director of the Community College Humanities Association. — Victoria WInkelman

    SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see

    SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

    Culture, Society & Family Events Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Researcher news

    SMU Experts Discuss Anxiety Disorders April 12 & 19 as part of Godbey Lecture Series

    Stress and anxiety are the norm for an estimated one in three adults suffering from a serious anxiety disorder. But a number of effective treatments are available, according to researchers in the SMU Department of Psychology.

    SMU Anxiety Research & Treatment Program researchers Jasper Smits and Mark Powers will explain how new science is affecting the treatment of such common disorders as post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and social phobia, at the Godbey Lecture Series “lunch-and-learn” sessions April 12 and April 19 at 11 a.m. at Maggiano’s, NorthPark Center.

    Tickets are $45 per event for Godbey Lecture Series members; $65 for non-members. Advanced registration is required; contact 214/768-2532 or

    For more details on the Anxiety Research & Treatment Program, click here. And for more information about the Godbey Lecture Series, click here.

    Events Researcher news

    SMU rises in Carnegie Foundation research classification to ‘high research activity’

    The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has raised SMU’s classification among institutions of higher education, reflecting dramatic growth in the University’s research activity since it was last measured in 2005.

    SMU is now categorized as a research university with “high research activity,” a significant step up from its last assessment in 2005 as a doctoral/research university. The Carnegie Foundation assigns doctorate-granting institutions to categories based on a measure of research activity occurring at a particular period in time, basing these latest classifications on data from 2008-2009.

    “SMU’s rise in the Carnegie classification system is further evidence of the growing quality and research productivity of our faculty. We are building a community of scholars asking and answering important research questions and making an impact on societal issues with their findings,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “In addition to our dedication to outstanding teaching, SMU is becoming increasingly recognized as a vital resource for research in a variety of fields.”

    Increased research activity in step with other SMU advances
    “The designation of SMU as a ‘high research activity’ university by the Carnegie Foundation is an important step in SMU’s evolution as a strong national university,” said Paul Ludden, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “The faculty, staff, and students at SMU can be proud of this, particularly when paired with our rise in national rankings. The Carnegie Classification recognizes the tremendous efforts by the entire faculty at SMU to expand our research portfolio and address the many questions facing North Texas and the world. Recognition should go to Associate Vice President for Research James Quick and his office for their efforts to support the research activities of our faculty and staff.”

    The foundation’s assessment of SMU’s increased research activity occurs as the University is making dramatic advances in other measures of academic progress: U.S. News and World Report magazine gave SMU its highest ranking ever for 2011, placing SMU 56th among 260 “best national universities” — up from 68th in 2010.

    Additionally, SMU’s Cox School of Business is one of only a few schools in the nation to have all three of its MBA programs ranked among the top 15, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Applications to SMU continue to rise, as have average SAT scores for admitted students.

    Carnegie finds SMU research activity recorded an increase
    The Carnegie Foundation analyzed SMU’s research activity in a category of universities that awarded at least 20 research doctorates in 2008-2009, excluding professional degrees such as those leading to the practice of medicine and law. The analysis examined research and development expenditures in science and engineering as well as in non-science and non-engineering fields; science and engineering research staff (postdoctoral appointees and other non-faculty research staff with doctorates); doctoral conferrals in the humanities, in the social sciences, in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, and in other areas such as, business, education, public policy and social work.

    The Carnegie Foundation classification of U.S. accredited colleges and universities uses nationally available data from the U.S. Office of Postsecondary Education, the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), the National Science Foundation, and the College Board.

    “SMU’s rise in academic rankings and research productivity is a strong return on the investment of our alumni and other donors who provide support for research, endowed chairs, and graduate programs and fellowships,” said SMU Board of Trustees Chair Caren Prothro. “SMU students at all levels are the beneficiaries of this distinction as their faculty enliven the classroom with their research and engage students in the tradition of academic inquiry.”

    About the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
    Founded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1905 and chartered the following year by an Act of Congress, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is an independent policy and research center. Its current mission is to support needed transformations in American education. — Kim Cobb

    Culture, Society & Family Events Fossils & Ruins Researcher news SMU In The News

    The Taos News: Ft. Burgwin founder, SMU’s Fred Wendorf, leads off lecture series

    The work of SMU archaeologist Fred Wendorf was featured in the Sept. 8, 2010, edition of The Taos News. Fred Wendorf is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at SMU and the author of Desert Days: My Life as a Field Archaeologist, as well as more than 30 other books.

    In 1987, Wendorf became the first SMU faculty member elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

    The article Dr. Fred Wendorf leads off UNM-Taos/SMU lecture series retells Wendorf’s contribution to preserving the history of Ft. Burgwin as one of the founders and then director of what eventually became SMU-in-Taos.

    By Tempo staff
    History is beneath our feet all over the Taos area, but progress is a constant threat to maintaining this legacy. If it wasn’t for the scientific mind of people like Dr. Fred Wendorf, who knows what the Pot Creek area might look like today? Wendorf is planning to deliver a free lecture titled “Discovering Fort Burgwin” Wednesday (Sept. 8), 7 p.m., at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.

    Wendorf’s lecture kicks off the second annual Fall Lecture Series, a 10-week succession of events focusing on the art, history and culture of the Taos area. The lecture series is brought to you through a partnership between Southern Methodist University-in-Taos and University of New Mexico-Taos, the town of Taos and Taos Center for the Arts. All lectures are free and open to the public.

    In the lecture, Wendorf “unlocks the history embedded in the artifacts found at Cantonment Burgwin,” a former pre-Civil War-era U.S. Army post south of Ranchos de Taos on State Road 518. Central to fort’s contemporary birth and development is Wendorf, whose book (with James E. Brooks) titled “The Ft. Burgwin Research Center” (2007 Southern Methodist University) tells the story.

    Read the full story.

    SMU is a private university in Dallas where nearly 11,000 students benefit from the national opportunities and international reach of SMU’s seven degree-granting schools. For more information see

    SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

    Energy & Matter Events Researcher news

    Neutrino data to flow in 2010; SMU hosts NOvA scientists

    Physicists may see data as soon as late summer from the prototype for a $278 million science experiment in northern Minnesota that is being designed to find clues to some fundamental mysteries of the universe, including dark matter.

    But it could take years before the nation’s largest “neutrino” detector answers the profound questions that matter to scientists.

    Construction is underway now on a 220-ton detector that is the “integration prototype” for a much larger 14,000-ton detector. Both are part of NOvA, a cooperative project of the Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago and the University of Minnesota‘s school of physics and astronomy. The project may ultimately aid understanding of matter and dark matter, how the universe formed and evolved, and current astrophysical events.

    A 65-foot by 370-foot hole in the ground outlines the future NOvA detector in Minnesota. Photo: Fermilab

    DOE gave “full construction start” approval Oct. 29, 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. There are 180 scientists and engineers from 28 institutions around the world collaborating on NOvA.

    About 40 scientists from the international collaboration will meet Jan. 8-10 at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The meeting is the first for the collaboration since DOE’s approval, said John Cooper, NOvA project manager at Fermilab.

    Collaboration scientists will hear technical presentations from one another during the three-day SMU meeting, which will refine NOvA’s design, including the technical details of software, hardware and calibration, said Thomas Coan, associate professor in SMU’s Department of Physics and a scientist on the collaboration team.

    The integration prototype, known as the Near Detector because it’s at Fermilab, and the larger detector, known as the Far Detector because it’s farther from Fermilab — are essentially hundreds of thousands of plastic tubes enclosing a massive amount of highly purified mineral oil. The purpose is to detect the highly significant fundamental subatomic particle called the “neutrino” and better understand its nature. NOvA, when construction is completed, will be the largest neutrino experiment in the United States.

    NOvA detectors showing planes of alternating vertical and horizontal PVC modules. Photo: Fermilab

    “The ‘detector prototype’ has two purposes,” said Cooper. “First it serves as an ‘integration prototype’ forcing us to find all the problems on a real device, and second it will become the ‘Near Detector’ at Fermilab.”

    The integration prototype will operate on the surface at Fermilab for about a year starting in late summer 2010, Cooper said. Then in 2012 it will move 300 feet underground to become the Near Detector, he said. Construction on the Far Detector project began in June near Ash River, Minn. The detector should be fully operational by September 2013, according to Fermilab.

    A hard-to-observe fundamental particle that travels alone, the neutrino has little or no mass, so rarely interacts with other particles.

    Neutrinos are ubiquitous throughout our universe. They were produced during the Big Bang, and many of those are still around. New ones are constantly being created too, through natural occurrences like solar fusion in the sun’s core, or radioactive elements decaying in the Earth’s mantle, as well as when the particle accelerator at Fermilab purposely smashes protons into carbon foils.

    Our sun produces so many that hundreds of billions are zinging through our bodies every second at the speed of light, Coan said. It’s hoped the new detector can resolve questions surrounding the three different kinds of neutrinos — electron, tau and muon — and their “oscillation” from one type to another as they travel, he said.

    Scientists at the new detectors will analyze data from Fermilab’s neutrino beam to observe evidence of neutrinos when the speedy, lightweight particles occasionally smash into the carbon nuclei in the scintillating oil of the detector, causing a burst of light flashes, Coan said.

    NOvA is looking for the most elusive oscillation of the muon type of neutrino to the electron type, Cooper said. — Margaret Allen

    Related links:
    Star Tribune: Stimulus funding a shot in the dark
    Symmetry Magazine: NOvA construction a boon for Minnesota
    NOvA for nonscientists
    Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
    Thomas Coan
    SMU Department of Physics
    SMU Dedman College
    University of Minnesota

    Events Fossils & Ruins Researcher news

    Uncovering Angola’s ancient giants: Louis Jacobs’ presentation

    Fossil finds in the rock outcrops of the coast of Angola in Africa are a “museum in the ground,” according to SMU vertebrate paleontologist Louis L. Jacobs.

    Internationally recognized for his fossil discoveries, Jacobs and a team of researchers have unearthed fossils in the outcrops from Namibe, at the southern end of Angola’s coast, to Cabinda, at the northern end.

    Jacobs’ work in Angola is jointly funded by the Petroleum Research Fund and National Geographic Society. He’ll present details July 9 at the monthly meeting of the Angola Field Group in Luanda.

    A professor in Dedman College‘s Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Jacobs joined SMU’s faculty in 1983. Currently he has projects in Mongolia, Angola and Antarctica. His book, “Lone Star Dinosaurs” (1999, Texas A&M University Press) was the basis of an exhibit at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History that traveled the state. He is consulting on a new exhibit, Mysteries of the Texas Dinosaurs, which is set to open in the fall of 2009.

    From the Angola Field Group’s blog:

    The Angola Field Group invites you to: Uncovering the Hidden Remains of Angola’s Ancient Giants, a presentation this Thursday, July 9, at 8:00 p.m. at the Viking Club with dinosaur hunter Dr. Louis Jacobs who calls the fossils of Angola a “museum in the ground.”

    Dr. Jacobs and his team first came to Angola in 2005 and again in 2007 to hunt for fossils of giant marine lizards first reported in the 1960’s, but they unearthed much more than that. He will present a review of their finds from the rock outcrops of the coast of Namibe province all the way up to the coast of Cabinda, conducted in cooperation with Agostinho Neto University and ISPRA University in Lubango.

    Dr. Jacobs teaches geology and paleontology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and has conducted fieldwork worldwide. He’s internationally recognized as a dinosaur expert and six fossil species have been named after him.

    Read the full entry.

    Related links:
    Louis L. Jacobs
    Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences
    Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences
    Petroleum Research Fund

    Earth & Climate Energy & Matter Events Technology

    SMU conference: Geothermal energy from oil, gas wells

    Enhancing existing oil and gas wells for the purpose of producing electricity from the Earth’s heat will be the focus of an annual international geothermal conference at SMU in November. The conference is coordinated by the SMU Geothermal Laboratory and SMU’s Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences.

    Geothermal Energy Utilization Associated with Oil and Gas Development” will connect landowners with technical, operational and financial players interested in embarking on a geothermal energy project. The two-day conference is set for Nov. 3-4.

    Geothermal energy can be extracted from well fluids using compact turbines with binary fluids, according to Maria Richards, program coordinator for the SMU Geothermal Laboratory. The systems are now sized to fit a single well or multiple wells with approximately 120 degrees Fahrenheit temperature differential between produced and cooling temperatures.

    This is a good year to start a project, Richards says. In addition to federal passage of the Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit, there’s also federal stimulus money available for renewable energy projects. Texas and other oil-producing states with thousands of existing oil and gas wells are uniquely positioned for economical geothermal development, says David Blackwell, one of the country’s foremost authorities on geothermal energy and a professor at SMU who has advised the geothermal industry for the past 40 years. Projects are being submitted now for Texas demonstration sites in response to a request for proposals from the Department of Energy. Proposals are due in July.

    “Geothermal energy produces clean, renewable electrical power that is considered a base load source since it produces 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Richards says. “This capability to generate power gives a new revenue stream to low-yield producers with high-water volume and a reason to keep them producing.”

    The conference is sponsored by Pratt & Whitney, SMU Cox Executive Education, the Texas State Energy Conservation Office, Perma Works LLC, Telios, the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America, Gulf Coast Green Energy, Hilcorp Energy Co., and Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.

    SMU Geothermal Laboratory researchers recently completed an assessment of geothermal resources for the Texas State Energy Conservation Office. It found that the volume of geothermal heat in the ground beneath Texas could supply the state with clean, renewable, affordable electricity for hundreds of years. Some of the state’s largest urban areas sit atop the vast regional geothermal zone, which extends east from Interstate 35 beneath Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, Corpus Christi and Kilgore.

    Over the past 12 months, SMU’s Geothermal Laboratory has received a record number of requests from private entities asking for help in developing commercial projects, Blackwell says.

    Pioneers in assessing the nation’s geothermal resources, Blackwell and Richards revealed the potential for widespread geothermal development with their Geothermal Map of North America, published in 2004 by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. The two also helped author a 2007 study led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology that found geothermal energy could supply a substantial amount of the energy the United States will need in the future, likely at competitive prices and with minimal environmental impact.

    Geothermal projects and research, while cutting-edge, are not new for SMU, Richards says.

    “When I talk about the SMU Geothermal Laboratory at a professional meeting, I mention the fact that it’s been around for 40 years,” she says. “It’s not just a start-up because of a trend. We’ve been doing this for a long time — and we’re still at the leading edge.”

    Related links:
    What, how, where: Geothermal energy from oil wells
    Geothermal heat: Will Earth’s ‘hot rocks’ become new Texas tea?
    SMU Geothermal Laboratory
    Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences
    Pratt & Whitney
    SMU Cox Executive Education
    Texas State Energy Conservation Office
    Perma Works LLC
    Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America
    Gulf Coast Green Energy
    Hilcorp Energy Co.
    Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.