29 September 2008

World class

Our university president, Bambi Cardenas, wrote a memo today describing a dinner conversation she had with Dr. Arden Bement, the National Science Foundation director. He said about HESTEC:
Imagine, 50,000 people coming to celebrate science. Bambi, it’s the best in the nation, and by extension, the best in the world.

27 September 2008

NSF director visits UTPA

Dr. Bement at HESTEC 2008
Left to right: Amery Yang, Ashley Longoria, Ammie Ortiz, NSF director Dr. Arden Bement, Jr., Jess Valdez, Stephanie Jimenez.

Dr. Bement and several other NSF staffers visited UTPA today, and met with students in our REU program. Here mainly for HESTEC, they had a chance to view student research posters presented at the HESTEC science symposium, and chat with several students in some detail about their research.

23 September 2008

HESTEC science symposium 2008

François Therrien
The HESTEC science symposium yesterday was held yesterday, and the REU program was proud to welcome visiting mentor Dr. François Therrien.

Despite being the first talk of the morning, Dr. Therrien addressed a large audience in the Engineering auditorium, and delighted listeners with a lively and engaging story about dinosaur diversity and climate change, and how lessons learned in paleontology can inform our understanding of the current climate change crisis.

Dr. Therrien with T. rex slide
On Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, Dr. Therrien, joined by fellow paleontologist Darla Zelenitski, visited the student posters and met with the REU students and their mentors individually. They also took a few minutes with REU students in the Sue exhibit to talk a little about the skeleton. As it happened, one part of the exhibit contained a panel proclaiming that T. rex was a "super sniffer," and that the part of the T. rex brain involved with smell was almost the same size as the rest of its brain. Drs. Therrien and Zelenitski had published a paper disputing that claim earlier this year. They argued that the olfactory part of the brain was not as large as had been thought (grapefruit size) -- although it was still large relative to other meat-eating dinosaurs (strawberry sized, maybe).

It's fun to have an expert on hand...

Therrien and REU students
Front row: Amery Yang. Middle row (L to R): Jess Valdez, Stephanie Jimenez, Darla Zelenitski, François Therrien, Ashley Longoria, Ammie Ortiz, Stephanie Castellanos. Back row: Sue.

HESTEC poster winner

HESTEC poster winners
REU student Ashley Longoria (pictured at right) won the student poster competition for the Department of Biology for her work on how salinity stresses impact parasitic infections. Congratulations!

At left: Poster co-author Perla Aguirre. This work was supervised by REU mentor Brian Fredensborg.