Dr. Gang Xu’s Research Continues after U.S. Dept. of Energy Grant

In summer 2019, Dr. Gang Xu received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy for his proposal, “Flagella-Driven Cellular Motility, Transport, & Biomixing: Computational Studies.”  The funding provided Dr. Xu and two of his former research assistants, Erin Drewke and Joseph Wagner, with full support to spend 10 weeks working at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in Berkeley, California.  There they worked with Drs. Ann Almgren and Johannes Blaschke in its Center for Computational Sciences and Engineering to develop a novel simulation capability based on combining state-of-the-art algorithms with empirical models for beating flagella and swimming cells. The new codes are ideally suitable for high-performance computing resources such as those at the Berkeley Lab and also UCO. The results will improve the understanding on the hydrodynamic impacts of flagellar beating and flagella-actuated cell swimming, and provide biophysical and mechanistic basis for development of novel microfluidic and biofuel devices. This experience paved the way for continued collaboration and expanded Dr. Xu’s research capacity.  Erin, a 2020 UCO biomedical engineering graduate, is pursuing her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at the University of Arkansas. Joseph, a prospective 2021 mechanical engineering graduate, is planning to pursue a Ph.D.

Research Group Investigates Gene Transfer in Bacteria

Biology professor Dr. Jim Bidlack and his research group are investigating gene transfer in bacteria. Better understanding of how bacteria become multidrug resistant can help researchers develop new techniques that can control bacterial infections and save human lives. Coincidently, a new gene locus encoding for bile salt sensitivity in bacteria appears to be the same gene locus responsible for antibiotic resistance. Dr. Bidlack’s students are currently isolating that gene locus so that it can be sequenced and determine what part of the DNA encodes for antibiotic resistance. If successful, it may be possible to use that information to develop new drugs that will be more effective in fighting bacterial infections.

UCO Professors Collaborate on U. of Kansas NSF EPSCoR Grant

Drs. Robert Brennan and Sean Laverty are part of a multi-institutional NSF EPSCoR grant to research tick-borne diseases including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. The four-year $3,921,229 grant, “Marshalling Diverse Big Data Streams to Understand Complexity of Tick-borne Diseases in the Southern Great Plains,”  is a collaboration among six universities in Kansas and Oklahoma, with the University of Kansas (KU) serving as the lead institution. Along with KU and UCO, the consortium includes Kansas State University, Pittsburgh State University, Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma. According to the project abstract, major components of the research include assembling detailed large-scale datasets on the occurrences of different tick species, genomes of the ticks and pathogens, and environmental variation across the region. Dr. Brennan, biology professor, director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Biomedical Education and Research (CIBER) and associate dean of the UCO College of Mathematics and Science, serves as a Co-Principal Investigator on the grant. Dr. Laverty, associate professor of mathematics and statistics and CIBER member, will provide data analysis.  

 

CMS Faculty Receive OK-INBRE Grants

Three CMS faculty have received OK-INBRE grants totaling $189,160 for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Dr. Mohammad Hossan, Associate Professor of Engineering & Physics, received a Research Principal Investigator grant for $189,160. His project “Flow Analysis of a Bioresorbable Pipeline Embolization Device for Treatment of Aneurysms,” involves the design and development of bioresorbable pipeline embolization devices (PEDs) that will control aneurysm-specific hemodynamic parameters and degrade after completely dissolving the aneurysm.

Dr. Hari Kotturi, Professor of Biology, received a $31,389 grant for his project, “Incorporation of Mycobacteriophages in Electrospun Nanofiber.” The goal of the study is to develop an antimicrobial dressing by incorporating bacteriophages that can kill Mycobacterium abscessus, a common causative agent of soft tissue infections in hospitals. Dr. Kotturi’s research team will be able to enhance the antimicrobial property of polycaprolactone/collagen I (PCL/Col I) nanofiber by integrating mycobacteriophages into the nanofiber used as a wound dressing.

Dr. Christina Hendrickson, Coordinator of the Human Physiology Lab in the Department of Biology, was funded $27,083 for her project, “Investigating Anti-carcinogenic Effects of Taraxacum officinale.” The specific aims of the research are to: determine cancer cell viability and apoptosis; determine whether cancer cell apoptosis is activated by intrinsic or extrinsic pathways, and whether leakage of pro-apoptotic factors from mitochondria or induction of oxidative stress on cancer cells are involved in induced cell death; and determine cancer cell migration and invasion.

From the Desk of the Dean

Gloria Caddell, Ph. D.

Dear CMS Alumni and Friends,

We have had some changes in the Dean’s Office this year.  Dr. Wei Chen resigned as Dean this past summer in order to accept an endowed chair position in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Oklahoma. I thank Dr. Chen for his many contributions during his five years as Dean of the College of Mathematics and Science.  We miss him, but we are happy that his energy can now be directed full time toward his passion to cure late-stage metastatic cancer.  I have accepted the Interim Dean position in the college while a search is conducted for a new dean, and Dr. Bob Brennan is the new Interim Associate Dean.  I am immensely thankful to him for taking on this new role.  I also thank Dr. Jesse Byrne and Dr. Evan Lemley for continuing in their roles as Assistant Deans.

As we began this fall semester, our outstanding faculty once again were recognized for their achievements and leadership.  At the Convocation in August, they received the following awards:

  • Sean Laverty from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics was a recipient of the Neely Excellence in Teaching Award.
  • The Vanderford Research Award went to Dr. Tracy Morris from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, and the Vanderford Initiative Award went to Nancy Gwin from the Department of Nursing.
  • Connie Harris from the Department of Nursing was a recipient, along with other members of the Grand Rounds: Experience in Interprofessional Practice group, of the Masonic Endowment for Transformative Learning Award.
  • UCO’s COVID-19 Task Force, which includes Dr. Pam Rollins from the Department of Nursing and Dr. Bob Brennan, Interim Associate Dean of CMS, was recognized by the Citizen’s Bank Leadership and Civic Engagement Award.
  • Two faculty received Merit Credit Awards in the area of Research: Dr. Sanjeewa Gamagedara from the Department of Chemistry and Dr. Jicheng Fu from the Department of Computer Science. Dr. Kristin Karber from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics received a Merit Credit Award in the area of Teaching.

At our CMS Back-to-School Meeting, Dr. Tierney Harvey from the Department of Engineering and Physics received the CMS Vanderford Teaching Award.

I hope all of you and your families are doing well during this challenging time. There have been many changes in the College of Math and Science for this semester, but we are trying our best to maintain a sense of normalcy as well as our values and our commitment to academic excellence, transformative learning, and student success.  We are offering face-to-face classes with reduced capacity, and most lecture sections have an extended section in which students attend classes virtually but synchronously.  To make this possible, the necessary technology was added to most of our classrooms this summer. I want to acknowledge the efforts of the deans, chairs, and the college staff to help us prepare for the semester, and particularly the efforts of the faculty to learn the technology and prepare for the challenges of delivering their classes in entirely new formats. Lab classes are face-to-face, research labs are open, and students have been able to continue their field research.  Our students have been incredibly understanding of, and compliant with, our mask, disinfection, and physical distancing policies.

In early February, I went to the Big Island of Hawaii just before we realized that the coronavirus was beginning to spread in the U.S.  As I reflect on that trip, I often think about the lava flows I hiked across and the volcanic craters I hiked through.  I’m sure many of you have been to Hawaii and have seen the vast miles of a’a lava from volcanoes that erupted many decades ago, or have hiked across the floor of a crater.  A’a lava is particularly treacherous; it is rough, sharp, and very jagged.  It is hard to get your footing, and if you fall, your skin can literally be shredded.  I admit that as difficult as it is to hike over a’a lava, I have said more than a few times since then that I would rather hike barefoot for miles across a’a lava than be dealing with what we are encountering during this pandemic!  But as you hike across the barren a’a lava landscape, the life that was destroyed is being replaced within and around stunningly beautiful pools of water filled with golden algae and surrounded by plants adapted to the harsh conditions. Likewise, if you hike into a volcanic crater, you see plants such as the ohi’a tree becoming established on the lava, and beautiful miniature gardens of ferns and other plants nestled in cracks.  You see tiny blueberry plants in flower, whose fruits support the endangered nene or Hawaiian goose. These plants are surviving and producing flowers and fruits.

Given time, the a’a lava will be covered with plants, and a forest will grow up in this crater.  However, at this point, life is hard on the a’a lava and on the floor of this crater, just as our lives are hard because of the pandemic.  Life as we knew it at UCO in February has drastically changed. But I think of our faculty and staff like the plants taking hold and thriving on the harsh landscapes of the Big Island of Hawaii. I know we will adapt, grow, succeed, and thrive in this new pandemic landscape if we all work together.  With all we have learned during this time I suspect our landscape might not look like it did before, but I am certain that we will continue to engage and transform our students and prepare them well for their careers and for professional and graduate schools. In the meantime, we have plans and dreams for the college that we will keep alive and move forward – new programs and degrees to propose, labs to remodel, and other initiatives to explore.

On behalf of the faculty, staff, and students, I thank you for your continued confidence in and support of our college.

Gloria Caddell, Ph.D.

Interim Dean, College of Mathematics and Science

 

Biology’s New Ichthyologist: Dr. Andrew Taylor

Dr. Andrew Taylor

Dr. Taylor with a native Neosho Smallmouth Bass from the Baron Fork near Tahlequah, OK. This subspecies of Smallmouth Bass is only found in the Ozarks ecoregion.

Dr. Andrew Taylor is in his second year as an Assistant Professor within the Biology Department. With a background in fisheries biology and management, Dr. Taylor’s research focuses on the conservation of native fish biodiversity within riverscapes, the effects of non-native and invasive fishes, and the management and conservation of native black bass (Micropterus spp.) diversity. Since arriving at UCO, Dr. Taylor has been busy teaching Diversity for Majors, General Biology, Vertebrate Zoology, and developing the first comprehensive Ichthyology course offered at UCO. Dr. Taylor is also curating the UCO Museum of Natural History’s Ichthyology Collection and developing plans to integrate these collections into research efforts on campus and abroad.

“The Taylor Fish Lab” has started several local research projects that allow students opportunities to gain valuable field experience, including monitoring stream fish community change in Chisholm Creek and revisiting the taxonomic descriptions of Smallmouth Bass in Oklahoma’s Ozark and Ouachita mountains ecoregions. The lab anticipates beginning a large-scale survey for a state-listed minnow species in summer 2021 with the support of an external grant with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s State Wildlife Grant program, in partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Dr. Andrew Taylor and Group

Dr. Taylor discussing fish identification while seining a local pond with his Ichthyology students.

Dr. Taylor is always looking for motivated students with an interest in fish or aquatic habitats to join the lab! You can follow along with his lab’s adventures on Twitter (@TaylorFishLab1) or at his lab’s website www.andrewtaylor.fish.