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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.

    Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins Researcher news SMU In The News

    Nat’l Geographic: One of Earth’s most dangerous supervolcanoes is rumbling

    Italy’s Campi Flegrei may be awakening from a long slumber, scientists warn.

    Vulcanologist James E. Quick, SMU’s associate vice president for research and dean of Graduate Studies, is quoted for his expertise in the magazine National Geographic.

    Quick, a geologist in the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, is quoted in “One of Earth’s most dangerous supervolcanoes is rumbling.” The article was published Dec. 23, 2016.

    An expert in volcano hazards, Quick is an expert in geologic science and volcano risk assessment, particularly the study of magmatic systems. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    In 2009 Quick led the international scientific team that discovered a 280-million-year-old fossil supervolcano in the Italian Alps. The supervolcano’s magmatic plumbing system is exposed to an unprecedented depth of 25 kilometers, giving scientists new understanding into the phenomenon of explosive supervolcanos.

    Italian geologists in 2010 awarded Quick the Capellini Medal to recognize the discovery. In 2013 an area encompassing the supervolcano won designation as the Sesia-Val Grande Geopark by the UNESCO Global Network of National Geoparks.

    Prior to SMU, Quick served a distinguished 25-year scientific career with the USGS, including as program coordinator for the Volcano Hazards Program.

    Read the full story.


    By Brian Clark Howard
    National Geographic

    A long-quiet yet huge supervolcano that lies under 500,000 people in Italy may be waking up and approaching a “critical state,” scientists report this week in the journal Nature Communications.

    Based on physical measurements and computer modeling, “we propose that magma could be approaching the CDP [critical degassing pressure] at Campi Flegrei, a volcano in the metropolitan area of Naples, one of the most densely inhabited areas in the world, and where accelerating deformation and heating are currently being observed,” wrote the scientists—who are led by Giovanni Chiodini of the Italian National Institute of Geophysics in Rome.

    A sudden release of hot magmatic gasses is possible in the near future, which could trigger a large eruption, the scientists warn. Yet the timing of any possible eruption is unknown and is currently not possible to predict….

    The scars of another supervolcano were recently found in the Sesia Valley in the Italian Alps. That eight-mile-wide caldera likely last erupted 280 million years ago, when it blasted out a thousand times more material than Mount St. Helens spewed during its infamous 1980 eruption. The result was the blocking out of the sun, which led to global cooling.

    “There will be another supervolcano explosion,” scientist James Quick, a geologist at Southern Methodist University in Texas, said in a statement when that volcano was found.
    “We don’t know where, [but] Sesia Valley could help us to predict the next event.”

    Read the full story.

    Culture, Society & Family Earth & Climate Economics & Statistics Energy & Matter Events Fossils & Ruins Health & Medicine Learning & Education Mind & Brain Plants & Animals Researcher news Student researchers Videos

    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.

    Culture, Society & Family Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins Researcher news Videos

    Fossil supervolcano in Italian Alps may answer deep mysteries around active supervolcanoes

    Scientists will study unique exposure of “plumbing,” which can reveal critical understanding of how today’s volcanoes erupt

    There’s nothing subtle about the story told by the rocks in northern Italy’s Sesia Valley. Evidence of ancient volcanic activity is all around, says geologist and volcanologist James Quick, Southern Methodist University, Dallas.

    But the full story is much less obvious, Quick notes.

    Quick led an international team that in 2009 announced they had discovered a 282-million-year-old fossil supervolcano in Sesia Valley. The find was the result of nearly two decades of geological research in the valley and its surrounding mountains.

    The discovery has attracted scientific attention worldwide for its unprecedented view of a supervolcano’s internal plumbing to a depth of 15.5 miles.

    But that’s not the end of the story — rather the beginning, says Quick, a professor in SMU’s Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

    The supervolcano holds clues — and ultimately answers — to critical scientific questions about the processes by which volcanoes erupt.

    “I am certain that continued study of this unique geologic exposure will reveal significant insight into the operation of active supervolcanoes,” he says.

    There are six active supervolcanoes in the world, including Yellowstone, Long Valley and Valles in the United States.

    Volcanic plumbing, normally hidden from examination deep within the earth, is the internal geological structure through which lava migrates from the earth’s mantle, up through the crust, to ultimately explode. Volcanic plumbing and the processes within it remain matters of speculation, as volcanologists explore how lava forms and traverses through the earth.

    News of a supervolcano initially sparked alarm
    Supervolcanoes are one of the most potentially violent events in the world.

    Sesia Valley's fossil supervolcano could answer the question, "How does magma build up in the crust in the run up to a super eruption?” The fossil supervolcano was discovered by a team led by volcanologist James Quick, a professor of geology at Southern Methodist University. (Photo: SMU)
    Sesia Valley’s fossil supervolcano could answer the question, “How does magma build up in the crust in the run up to a super eruption?” The fossil supervolcano was discovered by a team led by volcanologist James Quick, a professor of geology at Southern Methodist University. (Photo: SMU)

    They erupt hundreds of cubic miles of lava and ash, and have caused catastrophic changes in global climate.

    Sesia Valley’s supervolcano last erupted 282 million years ago, when it erupted more than 186 cubic miles of molten rock, ash and gas.

    The discovery by Quick and scientists from the University of Trieste made headlines worldwide in 2009. Sesia Valley residents were alarmed.

    “They held a big town meeting in the largest of the communities, Borgosesia, and more than 500 people came from all over the valley,” Quick says. “People were extremely worried the volcano would erupt again.”

    The scientists reassured residents they had nothing to fear. A fossil, the supervolcano no longer poses a danger.

    Supervolcano is a super attraction for its scientifically unique features
    Now its rocks are a popular destination for scientists, college students, villagers, tourists and school groups. Proud residents enthusiastically brand many of the valley’s events and activities with their supervolcano identity.

    Even acclaimed Italian winemaker Cantalupo in 2013 honored the unique volcanic origins of its Sesia Valley grapes by labeling its Christmas wine with a painting of the exploding supervolcano.

    The supervolcano also is a central feature of the new Sesia-Val Grande Geopark, recently designated by the U.N.’s UNESCO agency.

    Residents of the Piedmont region’s Sesia Valley, with diverse history and cultures, joined forces after the discovery was announced to pursue the coveted UNESCO geopark status. One of only 100 geoparks in the world, Sesia-Val Grande Geopark spans tens of thousands of acres and more than 80 Alpine communities.

    Chaotic riverbed blocks are key to solving volcanic rock puzzle
    Rock strata of the Sesia Valley supervolcano are exposed along the banks of the Sesia River for 22 miles, sitting sideways like a tipped-over layer cake. In some places, the rocks protrude haphazardly from the sides of mountains; in other places they are obscured beneath dense forest, roads, bustling villages, fields and pastures, outdoor sports locales and tourist destinations.

    Some of the supervolcano’s deepest sections serve as a backdrop for Varallo, one of many communities in the Alpine valley.

    Granite boulders littering the bed of the Sesia River were formed in the supervolcano’s magma chamber.

    Atop a hill overlooking Varallo, more than 40 chapels of the 15th century world-famous monumental religious complex Sacro Monte di Varallo were built on the furnace that powered the volcanic system.

    So how did an entire valley not see an ancient fossil supervolcano until now?
    Like an ant looking at an elephant, it’s difficult to see something so gigantic for what it really is. In the United States, for example, it’s only in about the last 30 years that geologists deciphered that Yellowstone is a supervolcano.

    Scientists have known for more than a century, however, about the presence of volcanic rocks in Sesia Valley.

    That’s what drew Quick to the area in 1989. He sought insight into the processes in the deep crust that influence eruptions. What Quick found kept him coming back every summer for 16 years, including as head of the Volcano Hazards Program for the U.S. Geological Survey.

    Quick’s quest made him the first scientist in more than 50 years — building on the work of Italian geologist Mario Bertolani before World War II — to methodically tramp every mile of the steep mountainsides, sometimes with colleagues, often alone, to extensively identify and map the valley’s rocks.

    Years of intrepid geological work yield a supervolcano hiding in plain sight
    Quick endured pounding rain, fierce lightning, poisonous snakes, mosquitos, treacherous topography, slippery waterfalls and unexpected sheer drop-offs. More than once he feared for his life.

    “Working in the mountains there I was frequently terrified,” Quick said recently, during one of his frequent treks to the valley. “I’d wonder, is this the next traverse that claims my life? I had many frightening experiences. The vegetation looks thick, but underneath the canopy it’s easy to walk, except there are lots of cliffs hidden by the trees. Another problem — locating your position; because you can’t look out and see the topography. We started this before GPS, doing it old school, by triangulation, reading the map, carefully locating where we were, and using altimeters.”

    Summer 2005 brought an unexpected breakthrough.

    Quick was invited by his Italian colleague to see some puzzling rocks in the riverbed of the Sesia River in hopes he could identify them. Upon seeing the chaotic assemblage, Quick recognized the rocks were gigantic blocks torn from the rim of the volcano and mixed with volcanic ash during the eruption — an assemblage geologists call a megabreccia.

    In 2009, following additional work to confirm the discovery, Quick and his team announced their discovery in the scientific journal “Geology.” They estimated the mouth of the volcano when it was active would have been at least eight miles in diameter, although its true size will never be known because much of it is covered by younger sedimentary deposits of the Po Plain.

    Fossil supervolcano sits against ancient boundary separating Africa, Europe
    In its youth, Sesia Valley’s supervolcano was inland on the supercontinent of Pangea. When Pangea began to break up into smaller continents more than 200 million years ago, the supervolcano was stranded on the coast of what we now call Africa.

    About 20 million years ago, another tectonic shift sent Africa colliding into southern Europe. The coastal edges of both continents were heaved upward, creating a massive uplift – the Alps.

    The Sesia Valley supervolcano, in the process, was tilted sideways and shoved upward, exposing its plumbing.

    Today the supervolcano is a mecca for geologists not only for its volcanic story, but as one of the best samples of the earth’s mantle exposed at the surface.

    Calling it the “Rosetta Stone” of supervolcanoes, Quick says the Sesia Valley fossil supervolcano ultimately could solve the mystery, “How does magma build up in the crust in the run up to a supereruption?”

    Quick honored for scientific achievements
    In 2010 the Italian Geological Society awarded Quick the Capellini Medal, presented to foreign geoscientists for a significant contribution to Italian geology.

    In 2013, Quick was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Along with his Italian colleague, Silvano Sinigoi, Quick also was awarded honorary citizenship of Borgosesia, the highest award given to civilians by the largest city in the Sesia Valley.

    “The discoveries in the Sesia Valley demonstrate the value of supporting basic research,” says Quick, who came to SMU in 2007 after a 25-year scientific career with USGS. Quick serves also as associate vice president for research and dean of graduate studies at SMU.

    Earth & Climate Energy & Matter Researcher news

    SMU seismologist Brian Stump named AAAS Fellow for distinguished scientific contributions

    Stump’s work in underground nuclear explosion monitoring is significant in support of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

    SMU seismologist Brian Stump has been named an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow for distinguished contributions to his field, particularly in the area of seismic monitoring in support of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

    AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science. Stump, Albritton Chair of Geological Sciences in the Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences in SMU’s Dedman College, is the fifth professor at Southern Methodist University to be recognized as an AAAS Fellow.

    “Dr. Stump is a scientist of the first rank and brings the results of his outstanding research into the classroom, where his students benefit from his example and insights as a scholar,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “He richly deserves the AAAS recognition by his peers and we are proud that he calls SMU home.”

    Stump is well known regionally for his continued work researching the increase of small earthquakes that have been occurring in North Texas since 2008.

    But his work in detecting ground motion from explosions has for more than 20 years proved invaluable to the United States government in ensuring that the world’s nuclear powers abide by their agreements related to underground nuclear testing.

    “Brian’s work has been seminal in scientists’ ability to rapidly and accurately discern the difference between an earthquake, a conventional explosion — such as might occur in a mining accident — and a nuclear test,” said James E. Quick, SMU vice president for research and dean of graduate studies. “His research is tremendously important to all of us, and yet he is equally committed to teaching and serving as a mentor to young faculty.”

    Stump served as scientific adviser to the U.S. delegation to the Conference on Disarmament from 1994 through 1996 and continues to be called upon frequently to assist the U.S. government in the interpretation of seismic and acoustic data.

    “I’m humbled by the recognition by the AAAS that science impacts the society in which we live,” Stump said. “I really believe that. And the work we’ve done at SMU on inducted seismicity in North Texas has that same blend of real science and societal impact.”

    For the last five years Stump has chaired the Air Force Technical Applications Center Seismic Review Panel, which provides a review of federally funded efforts in nuclear monitoring. He served as a committee member on the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Seismology and Continental Dynamics from 2007 through 2012, and recently completed a term as board chair for Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS), a consortium of more than 100 universities funded by the National Science Foundation.

    Stump joined SMU in 1983 from the Seismology Section of the Air Force Weapons Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. He graduated summa cum laude from Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore. with a bachelor of arts in physics in 1974, received a master of arts from the University of California at Berkeley in 1975 and received his Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1979 after completing a thesis titled Investigation of Seismic Sources by the Linear Inversion of Seismograms.

    SMU faculty previously named as AAAS Fellows are James Quick, volcanologist and research dean, who was named a Fellow in 2013; environmental biochemistry scholar Paul W. Ludden, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs and a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, who was named a Fellow in 2003; anthropologist David J. Meltzer, Henderson-Morrison Professor of Prehistory in the Department of Anthropology who was named a Fellow in 1998; and James E. Brooks, provost emeritus and professor emeritus in the Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, who was named a Fellow in 1966.

    The AAAS Fellows program began in 1874. AAAS members may be considered for the rank of fellow if nominated by the steering group of their respective sections, by three fellows, or by the association’s chief executive officer. Each steering group then reviews the nominations of individuals within its respective section and forwards a final list to the AAAS Council, which votes on the final list of fellows.

    The Council is the policy making body of the AAAS, chaired by the president, and consisting of the members of the board of directors, the retiring section chairs, delegates from each electorate and each regional division, and two delegates from the National Association of Academies of Science. — Kimberly Cobb