UO Federal Affairs News

  • The UO's Tim Duy talks coronavirus and the economy

    First published in Around the O on April 7th, 2020.National policymakers and journalists seek out the UO’s Tim Duy, a professor of practice in economics, on a daily basis for his expertise on monetary policy. He sat down for a quick — and virtual — Q&A on how COVID-19 is affecting the economy and what people can do to help. What is the most important thing to know about this crisis? This is a unique event, unprecedented. Until we can understand, control and minimize the virus, we are not going to be able to return to some of our normal activities very easily. What is the best thing people can do to help restore normalcy? We need everyone who can stay home to do so, because this helps protect essential workers who cannot do their jobs from home. It is everyone’s responsibility to help minimize the spread of this virus. Why have toilet paper, disinfectants, hand sanitizer, wet wipes and yeast gone missing? In the early phase of a panic like this, you get a scarcity of goods that people perceive as being in short supply, which actually creates the shortage. But we are not using that much more of these items than we would normally, so the surge in demand should be temporary. Give it a month, and stores should be restocking these products. Our real problem is how we restart the economy after the stay-at-home restrictions start to loosen. What about the lack of personal protective equipment for those on the front lines? Supply chains are designed for normal times, and the chains for things like N95 masks might be sufficient in normal times but suddenly appear thin and dispersed in a crisis. It would be challenging and expensive to set up a supply chain that could react instantly to a change of this magnitude. Instead, we need to prepare for this kind of event by having sufficient stockpiles to bridge the gap before supply chains can be brought up to speed. Apparently, we did not. What signs of recovery should we watch for? It will be like a dimmer switch, where you slowly raise the lights again. At some point, we will be told the crisis is past. but there will still be some restrictions until we, hopefully, get a vaccine. Trailheads will be reopened. Maybe restaurants can reopen, but they will have to space their tables farther apart. You’ll probably see situations where it is easier to maintain some kind of social distancing allowed to open first, but gyms may not be able to reopen as quickly and large public events will not be possible until we are confident we have the virus controlled.

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  • COVID-19 emergency spending bill provides funds for higher ed.

    On Friday, March 27, the House of Representatives passed and President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, an approximately $2 trillion emergency spending bill in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Senate first passed the legislation on Thursday, March 26. The third COVID-19 package includes $13.9 billion that will be available in a Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund for students and institutions of higher education. The nearly $14 billion for higher education is part of the $30.75 billion Education Stabilization Fund, which also has designated funding for local education agencies ($13.2 billion) and discretionary state governor spending to be used for higher education and/or K-12 ($2.95 billion). Of the $13.9 available in the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, 90 percent (just over $12.5 billion) will be available to all institutions of higher education based on the proportion of Pell and non-Pell full-time-equivalent students who were not enrolled exclusively in distance education prior to the coronavirus emergency. The emergency assistance is to be split between direct assistance to students and institutions. Students will be eligible for emergency grants that may be available through their institutions or traditional financial aid channels to meet unexpected and urgent needs related to the coronavirus, such as expenses related to food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care. Students who are currently participating in the Federal Work Study program can continue to receive work-study payments from their institution if they are unable to work due to workplace closures. Relief also exists for students who must drop out of school due to COVID-19. Students will have the portion of their student loan taken out for the semester (or equivalent) canceled. Further, students who received a Pell Grant or subsidized student loan for spring term will not have those types of financial aid counted toward their lifetime limits.

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  • Merkley leads request for COVID-19-related emergency relief funding for students and universities

    On Friday, March 20, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) quickly took a lead role in authoring a letter to Senate leaders urging support for college students and the universities and colleges they attend be included the third version of the coronavirus emergency relief bill. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) joined Senator Merkley in making the request. The letter, co-signed by an additional 23 senators and addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and ranking members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, summarizes the unprecedented and rapid steps colleges and universities across the country are taking to respond to the pandemic, including modifying instruction methods and restricting access to facilities to protect the health and safety of students and employees. Merkley and colleagues opined in the letter “as a result, colleges and universities face significant losses in revenue and face new, unexpected costs. These institutions rely on tuition, and anticipated declines in international and domestic enrollment would be devastating. It is highly doubtful that our higher education systems can continue operations, employment, and teaching without timely stop-gap funding from Congress.” Merkley and his colleagues asked Congress to 1) prioritize protecting students from student aid disruptions and 2) provide emergency stop-gap funding for colleges and universities. As of 8 am on March 25, the bill is pending passage by the full Senate, is expected to move to the House for approval and be signed by the President.

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  • GI Bill benefits will continue during remote instruction period

    March 24, 2020 03:33 pm Within a week of introduction, the Emergency GI Fix for Coronavirus School Closures was passed by Congress and then signed into law by President Trump on Saturday, March 21. The law gives states temporary authority to continue GI Bill education benefit payments, including housing stipends, at normal levels, uninterrupted, in the event of national emergencies.  The legislation includes the provision that payments continue even when an approved and accredited education program, such as the University of Oregon, switches from in-person to remote instruction. It also addresses monthly housing stipends and applies through December 21, 2020. The Oregon delegation tracked this issue closely as both the US House and US Senate moved to consider bills to enact a fix. Ultimately, Senate Bill 3503 became law. The University of Oregon joined a coalition of universities to support the bills including signing onto a  letter of support as it was pending before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

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  • The Year of Water opens the spigot on university research

    First published in Around the O on March 11th, 2020. Editor's note: Events mentioned in this story have been canceled. Please check the Year of Water website for rescheduled and future events.  This month marks the official kickoff of a yearlong initiative to draw attention to one of Oregon’s most important resources: water. The Year of Water is a joint effort by the University of Oregon, Oregon State University and Portland State University to highlight the role Oregon’s research universities play as leaders and partners trying to address water-related challenges in Oregon, the region and the world. The initiative, which runs through February 2021, provides the public a chance to learn more about research that takes place across Oregon and for UO researchers and scholars to discover what their colleagues at other universities are up to. Organizers say it could inspire new interdisciplinary collaborations that cut across institutional lines. “So many of us are doing important work around water without being fully aware of what our colleagues in other departments and at other Oregon universities are up to,” said Alaí Reyes-Santos, a professor in the Department of Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies and an organizer of the event. “The Year of Water opens the door for all Oregonians to see the critical research and scholarship that goes on throughout the state in labs, libraries and in the field.” While some UO faculty members have clear ties to water — earth scientists who study glaciers, for example or biologists who study fish — other connections are less obvious. In Reyes-Santos’ case, the study of water is more cultural than literal. Her manuscript-in-progress, “Oceanic Whispers, Secrets She Never Told,” examines restorative justice and community healing through a black Caribbean lens. Reyes-Santos points to the UO’s depth of environmental humanities researchers who are exploring water-related subjects, including those at the UO’s Center for Environmental Futures, not to mention researchers and scholars in English, theater, art and design, earth sciences, chemistry, biology, and more. A few of the UO faculty members involved in the initiative include:

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  • Students will be an important part of the decennial census

    First published in Around the O on March 2, 2020. Census Day is fast approaching and accurate student counts are critical to the future and prosperity of the UO and the greater community. Beginning in mid-March, households and off-campus residences across Oregon will receive a mailing from the U.S. Census Bureau asking them to take the census online or by phone. Each household will be asked to provide basic information about the people who reside in that household “most of the time” as of April 1, the official Census Day. Students should fill out the form based on where they are living on April 1. For most, that means entering their residence as Eugene. For college students, census data affects funding for things like safety, the federal Pell Grant program, student wellness programs, community mental health services and medical assistance programs. The census form asks 12 questions, which should be completed by each household. The list of questions is available on the United State Census 2020 website. In 2016 alone, Oregon received more than $13.4 billion in federal assistance, based on data collected during the 2010 census. The census also determines Oregon’s political representation through the number of representatives the state has in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as the number of electoral votes.

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  • Duck flies to Capitol Hill as one of top undergrad researchers in U.S.

    First published in Around the O on March 2, 2020.  Research matters, and scientists can do more to make their important work accessible to the public. Those are the messages UO biology major Rennie Kendrick takes to Congress this April.The Stamps Scholar from Portland was chosen among 60 of the nation’s top undergraduate researchers to participate in Posters on the Hill, a Washington, D.C. event showcasing innovative student work and demonstrating the value of federal investments in undergraduate research. “It’s exciting,” said the Clark Honors College senior. “It will be great for members of Congress to see what’s happening at the undergraduate level. It’s important to fund and encourage this research, because discoveries have been made by undergraduates — important discoveries.”Sponsored by the Council on Undergraduate Research, the annual event highlights student research for members of Congress, congressional staffers and federal government officials. A national panel of experts in their respective fields selects the finalists, and Kendrick is the second UO student to attend since the university joined the council in 2014.The Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program and Vice President for Research and Innovation are helping fund her trip.Kendrick will be presenting a poster on memory and innovative thinking, the subject of her honors thesis. Her plans include meeting with members of Oregon’s congressional delegation. Assistant professor Dasa Zeithamova-Demircan is helping Kendrick with the project, part of their work in the UO’s Brain and Memory Lab.The research is novel and complex. But Kendrick is planning a straightforward presentation.“There seems to be a growing misunderstanding about science — for the general public, as well as the politicians who make decisions and allocate resources,” she said. “As scientists, we need to be able to communicate.”Kendrick’s fascination with science started early. After learning about birds in the third grade, she wanted to be an ornithologist. For Christmas, she’d ask for research-related gifts, such as her treasured weather measurement kit.Kendrick first learned about neuroscience while preparing for the eighth-grade science fair. She started her project on memory the summer before school had even started, submitting her idea to the Institutional Review Board so she could conduct experiments with people. “When you’re an eighth-grader, you can’t do much with human subjects,” she recalled. “But I got my approval. And I checked out every neuroscience book they had at the library. I just could not get enough of it. I knew about psychology and biology, then they fused together in my mind. I realized there was an entire biology to how we memorize things and have memories. That blew my mind. From then on, I have wanted to be a neuroscientist.”Kendrick excelled at Portland’s Grant High School, where she ran track and cross country, participated in the state championship cross country team, was part of the 2016 state girl’s 6A champion 4x400 meter relay squad and qualified for state in the 1,500- and 3,000-meter events. She also served as managing editor of Grant Magazine, participated in Grant’s award-winning Constitution Team — which has competed in the We the People national finals — sang in the Royal Blues chamber choir, and volunteered in a behavioral neuroscience lab at Oregon Health and Science University-Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where she was a 2017 Portland Veterans Affairs research fellow.She chose the UO because she was offered a Stamps Scholarship, the university’s most prestigious and generous scholarship. Granted by the UO and the Strive Foundation, it is awarded to just 10 incoming freshmen each year, five residents and five nonresidents.Kendrick joined the UO’s track and cross-country teams as a walk-on during her first year and continued until injuries — ongoing stress fractures that sporadically kept her from competing — forced her to step down this year.“Those were tough lessons,” she said. “You put so much time into something and tomorrow you could be on crutches. That’s a good analogy for research, because you can put years into a project and find that it’s a null result. You have to be OK with saddling up again and putting effort into something, even if you know it could all go wrong at the drop of a hat. It’s a nonlinear progression sometimes, but you have to keep in mind you are still making progress.”Over the years, Kendrick has been able to participate in research opportunities and make the most of her undergraduate experience thanks to support from UO organizations such as the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation, the Center for Undergraduate Research and Engagement and the Office of Distinguished Scholarships.Kendrick and another student are collaborating with Professor Alice Barkan on a genetics research project and Kendrick was a 2019 Peter O’Day Research Fellow. She currently works in the UO’s Brain and Memory Lab, as well as the McCormick Lab at the Institute of Neuroscience. She also teaches a supplemental instruction course for business calculus and tutors students in biology, math and chemistry.After graduating this spring, Kendrick heads to the University of British Columbia, where she’ll be working in a lab studying mechanisms of fear memory formation. She hopes to someday join the faculty at a college or university, combining her top three interests: research, teaching and writing.—By Ed Dorsch, University Communications

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  • The perfect cup of coffee, with a little help from science

    First published in the Conversation and republished in Around the O on January 22nd, 2020. Editor’s note: This article is republished as it appears in The Conversation, an independent news publisher that works with academics worldwide to disseminate research-based articles and commentary. The University of Oregon partners with The Conversation to bring the expertise and views of its faculty members to a wide audience. For more information, see the note accompanying this story. Have you ever wondered why the coffee you make at home tastes different from the drinks you buy in cafes? Or why coffee from the same place can taste different throughout the week? You may be quick to blame the barista for changing the recipe, but our recent study, published in Matter, suggests that this variation is down to an inherent inconsistency of common brewing methods. Luckily, we believe to have discovered a path to making a great espresso, to your taste, every time. The quality of a cup of coffee depends on the coffee’s variety and origin, its roast and the water chemistry. The brewing method also plays a critical role in determining the overall flavor. Espresso is certainly the most complicated brewing method because it requires precise measurements. However, espresso also happens to underpin all coffee menus, as it is the basis for lattes and cappuccinos. To make espresso, hot water is forced through a finely-ground bed of coffee. The barista makes decisions about how much coffee and water to use, and how finely the coffee is ground. The machine’s water pressure, temperature and brew volume are also crucial when it comes to taste. Together, these parameters control the relative proportion of around 2,000 different chemicals, a delicate balancing act. Yet, even if the barista does everything perfectly, there remain large variations between espresso shots made following the same recipe. One shot may taste like raspberries and dark chocolate, and the next like motor oil. And while everyone has different flavour preferences, we believe we have derived a procedure to help the barista out, and achieve the flavour profile they intended, every single time. Our research team — which involved a team of mathematicians, chemists, materials scientists and baristas — formulated a mathematical model to simulate the brewing of an espresso in realistic cafe conditions. We used this to make predictions of how much of the solid coffee ultimately ends up dissolved in the cup. This percentage, known as the extraction yield, is the key metric used by the coffee industry to assess different coffee recipes. Solving a series of equations, we found that our model accurately predicts extraction yields that we see in real life, except when the coffee is ground very finely. This is because water flow through the espresso bed is quite unpredictable, resulting in sections of the bed becoming clogged. In other words, parts of the coffee are under-extracted (low extraction yield), while others are over-extracted (high extraction yield). But the objective of a barista isn’t just to produce shots that taste great, they also have to be reproducible. Consistency can be monitored by examining the extraction yields of different shots. Contrary to our expectation, we discovered that to make consistently tasty brews, the barista should use less coffee and grind the coffee marginally coarser. By doing so, they are able to achieve very reproducible, high-yielding shots. The mathematical theory tells us that this is because reducing coffee mass means that the water flows faster through the shallower coffee bed. The coarse grind results in a relatively permeable bed, such that water flow and extraction are uniform and predictable. This method leads to fast, bright, sweet and acidic shots that taste the same each time. Of course, not everyone will enjoy the same flavour profile, and we account for this by presenting a series of procedures that barista can use to help navigate the various flavours available within their coffee. Complex flavours, a result of tasting a mixture of both over and under-extracted coffee, can still be emulated by running and then mixing two shots with different extractions. More importantly, consumers could also simply select a different roast, that features flavour profiles more suited to their palate. One of our key findings, however, is that baristas are able to reduce their coffee waste by up to 25 percent per espresso shot, dramatically increasing their annual profits with no sacrifice in quality. Using our protocol we estimate that, in the U.S. coffee market alone, the total savings would amount to $1.1 billion in America’s cafes per year. What’s more, it has been estimated that 60 percent of wild coffee species are under threat of extinction due to climate change. So ultimately, using less coffee is not only better for making a consistently tasty espresso, it is also better for the environment. —By Jamie Foster, University of Portsmouth and Christopher H. Hendon, University of Oregon The Conversation This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article or sign up for The Conversation’s daily newsletter. The Conversation works with academics to prepare 700-1,000 word research-based pieces (not op-eds) on timely topics. Stories from The Conversation are then picked up by major media outlets, such as PBS NewsHour, the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Salon and the Associated Press. Learn more about The Conversation. If you are a UO faculty member interested in writing for The Conversation, email Molly Blancett.

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  • Knight Campus to host diversity luncheon and panel discussion

    First published in Around the O on February 6th, 2020. The Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact is putting diversity efforts into action with a free luncheon and panel discussion. “Establishing a Culture that Values and Promotes Diversity in STEM,” slated for noon on Friday, Feb. 21, is open to the university community. It will feature academic leaders who are making strides to foster inclusion across the engineering field. Guests are asked to RSVP online by Monday, Feb. 17. Lunch will be provided. Joining Knight Campus Vice President and Robert and Leona DeArmond Executive Director Robert Guldberg will be panelists Nancy Allbritton, Frank and Julie Jungers Dean of Engineering at the University of Washington, and Scott Ashford, Kearney Dean of Engineering at Oregon State University. University of Oregon Provost Patrick Phillips will moderate the discussion. The candid conversation will examine the implementation of diversity plans and programs. The panelists will share some of the positive outcomes and challenges they have faced in recruiting and hiring.

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  • Employee food drive helps students via pantry, Produce Drops

    First published in Around the O on February 13th, 2020. Operating out of a single-car garage on East 19th Avenue, the Student Food Pantry is open two days a week and serves hundreds of students. And the food it distributes comes from FOOD for Lane County. FOOD for Lane County is the primary recipient of donations made during this month’s Governor’s State Employee Food Drive. Donations of cash and food will help keep the shelves stocked and meals on the table. Approximately 200 students each week visit the pantry during its two hours of operation on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Students visiting the pantry receive a total of approximately 1,500 pounds of food each week, according to pantry coordinator Ryan Baker-Fones. The pantry isn’t the only FOOD for Lane County program feeding UO students. Produce Drops are held the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at the Erb Memorial Union amphitheater and distribute around 900 pounds of fresh produce to about 150 students per week. Produce Drops are like a pop-up farmer’s stand, but everything is free to eligible students and their families. Satellite locations have opened recently at Moss Street Children’s Center and the UO Veterans Center, meeting the needs of diverse student populations. Produce Drops and the Student Food Pantry are key to feeding UO students and their families when resources run low. Graduate employee Kris Wright is with Graduate Families in the UO Graduate School and a doctoral candidate in media studies. Part of her job is to direct graduate students experiencing hunger to resources available.

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