Latest news from the UO

  • The City is the House

    First published in Around the O on November 9, 2020. A year ago, Menna Agha would peer out her downtown Eugene apartment window and watch the scene below. In rain or shine, unhoused and disenfranchised citizens of Eugene would gather in the parking lot below, looking for food, shelter, and community. According to 2018 data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Eugene has the highest per capita rate of homelessness of any U.S. city. “For this community, which is disenfranchised, they don’t have the right to have an experience of housing in the city they live in,” said Agha, an architect and Design for Spatial Justice Fellow teaching architecture in the School of Architecture & Environment. “Isn’t it justice that this city would be everybody’s house?” The parking lot belongs to The Dining Room, a restaurant run by Food for Lane County, a nonprofit food bank. Before COVID-19, community members would wait in the parking lot for a seat to open up in the restaurant with a capacity of 30. Now, because of COVID-19 restrictions on indoor gatherings, people must wait in line to pick up meals to go in the parking lot. During the past year, through architecture studios, the “City is a House” design-build project, and much volunteer work by students, The Dining Room parking lot is now home to three “hoppers,” or movable shelter structures on wheels, upcycled adaptable seating, a freshly painted mural, greenery, and a newly planted tree. An outdoor sink and sanitation station will be completed in the coming months. The three wood 'hoppers' that provide shelter “This project has been a gift from heaven,” said Josie McCarthy, the program manager for The Dining Room who partnered with the design build team. “The parking lot was always a problem, but I didn’t have the money.” In fall 2019, Agha taught a studio exploring alternative housing prototypes and the psychology around the idea of the house. Two of her students (now alumni), Hayley Stacy, MIArch, ’20, and Alex Balog, MArch, ’20, wanted to look at the city as a house, examining how it provides options for eating, sleeping, and hygiene, especially among the most vulnerable populations. “How do you design a house outside of the normative structure of society, and outside centers of power and economics?” Agha posed to her students. Agha wondered how her studio could produce a cultural installation that also transforms into a shelter—an installation of compassion. During winter term, Stacy and Balog began researching the habits of the unhoused and transient communities in Eugene. “We were investigating squatting in our group,” Stacy explained. With a team of graduate and undergraduate students in the School of Architecture & Environment, they looked at how the city of Eugene activated the resources available to the unhoused population; where and when unhoused folks are sleeping; shelter capacity; and food banks. Interior architecture graduate student Amicia Nametka became the project manager, and undergraduate architecture student Joshua Fox, who was a certified welder for several years, became site manager. The group developed design interventions for The Dining Room site, and the project was slated to be completed in July 2020. When COVID-19 caused shutdowns in March, the project slowed, but never stopped. In the spring, Agha had to return to Belgium and Stacy and Balog graduated in June and passed the project forward. Design for Spatial Justice Fellow Menna Agha (center) led the design-build team, including now alumna Hayley Stacy (left) and current interior architecture graduate student Amicia Nametka (right) “We developed a strategy where even though we have to stay home [due to COVID-19], we’re still able to pass these drawings along to the younger students,” Balog said. With continued guidance from Agha from afar, as well as another Design for Spatial Justice Fellow Cory Parker, Nametka and Fox moved the project forward with the help of a handful of student volunteers, working out a budget, specs, site limitations, safety protocols and labor laws, all under the Center for Disease Control’s new rules for interaction during a pandemic. They received a grant from Holden Center and partnered with Freedom by Design, a nonprofit design-build program within the American Institute of Architecture Students, which brought in undergraduate architecture student Adam Abusukheila, who is co-director of Freedom of Design with Fox. Nametka coordinated volunteers and communication with Food for Lane County, and Abusukheila helped with logistics and picking up and delivering materials. 'It’s the goodness in the hearts of all these architecture students of what they can do during COVID, and everyone wanted to pitch in.'—Menna Agha “After a few days of being out there on site, it was one of the first times I felt this way, like I needed to contribute something to the city,” said Abusukheila. “It was a rare opportunity to be that close to the unhoused community and feel safe. You have the pleasure of hearing their stories and witnessing their lives." He added, "The exposure was a reality check as a design student. It made me consider a whole new group of people to design for.” Fox oversaw fabrication and construction, which was mostly done at Brooklyn Street Studios, a Springfield business that donated the space. Pasquarelli Construction, a local contracting company Fox works for, provided power tools and insight. Due to time limitations, the group contracted Unique Metal Products in Eugene to fabricate the sink frame and enclosure. The design build included the creation of the three fully mobile hoppers, which are 10 feet tall, nine feet wide, and eight feet deep, and can be set up by two people. Attaching an extra sheet of canvas between the hoppers creates an even larger shelter area, especially useful when there are long lines of people waiting to pick up meals. The group upcycled a long bench that had been attached to an exterior wall of The Dining Room to create more seating attached to two new planters, as well as creating benches designed to set within the longstanding large concrete planters with wooden seats. They also cleaned and painted the exterior of the building, including a mural of a city skyline with flowers. “With the social unrest and the pandemic, we had to find the willpower in a way to continue such a large project through this adversity,” said Fox of working through the summer. Fox says they were driven by the question: What can we do to provide a nice, dignified place for members of the community? At first, the community that uses the site were skeptical of the project says Fox. Modular seating and greenery created by the design-build team “As the project developed, the acceptance and the thankfulness that the people showed us just fueled us on.” McCarthy said the students showed incredible devotion and tenacity, and earned the respect of the diners, as well as The Dining Room’s neighbors, who also benefited from the beautification of the space. “The diners didn’t think they were good enough, but they are,” McCarthy said. Agha wanted her students to learn that the unhoused population has the right to have an experience of dignity in the city they live in. And that to make a difference as a designer and an architect, one doesn’t need to confine themselves to large buildings or traditional single-family housing. Small design interventions—respite from the rain, beautiful greenery, a dry place to sit—can have instant and lasting impacts. “It’s the goodness in the hearts of all these architecture students of what they can do during COVID, and everyone wanted to pitch in,” Agha said. “These students are jewels.” Agha is currently building a “The City is a House” website slated to go live in November.

    Read More
  • Two UO students named as finalists for Rhodes scholarships

    First published in Around the O on November 17, 2020. One current University of Oregon student and another recently graduated Duck have been selected as finalists for the prestigious Rhodes scholarship. Sumit Kapur, a senior majoring in political science and philosophy, and Sravya Tadepalli, a member of the Class of 2019 with a degree in political science and journalism, are among the candidates for the 2021 awards. Both are students of the Robert D. Clark Honors College. “Jumping up and down with joy,” said the 20-year-old Kapur, describing his reaction to hearing the news late on a recent weekend. “Insanely lucky and thankful,” said Tadepalli, who is 24 and works as a principal employment adviser at Community Services Consortium in Albany. Kapur said he was at home with his parents in Tigard when he heard and woke them up. Tadepalli, who is from Corvallis, opted to first email the faculty members who wrote her recommendations and then broke the news to her family. The Rhodes Trust awarded its first scholarships in 1902. Based at Oxford University in the United Kingdom, the organization sends 32 students from the U.S., and dozens more from around the world, to the historic university with full tuition paid. Finalists are asked to explain why they want to attend Oxford and what difference they aim to make in the world afterward. The UO has had 19 Rhodes scholars in the institution’s history, the last one in 2007. The last finalist was Caitlyn Wong in 2017. Kapur has his sights set on the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford, a preeminent forum for the study of applying political theory to social change, which he says is one of his passions. “What I want to spend my life doing is dismantling systems of oppression on the basis of class, race, gender and ability,” Kapur said. He wants to examine the roots of inequality in America, both in individual states and as an imperial power. Kapur is inspired by leaders like Representative-elect Cori Bush of Missouri, someone he feels can relate to constituents based on lived experiences of oppression and who calls out systemic oppression at the highest levels. “In the arena of civil rights and liberties, I think that’s where all of the systemic inequalities become clear,” said Kapur, who wants to become a civil rights attorney. “We can figure out who these rights and liberties apply to. I want them to apply to everyone, and the institutions in our society don’t necessarily facilitate that.” Tadepalli said she’s drawn to the international environment of the U.K. education system and, in particular, the culture of intellectual debate. She is applying for the public policy and global and imperial history programs, with the goal of studying foreign policy from a human rights and democratization perspective. Her family legacy has put her on that path, she said. “My great grandfather was a freedom fighter in India during the Quit India Movement,” she said. “He was a writer and activist and did a lot of direct action against British rule. He was sent to jail for four years for his actions.” She remembers hearing about the war in Iraq in first grade. To her, it seemed no one was doing anything, so, following the example of the American Girl character Kit Kittredge, Tadepalli wrote a letter to the editor of her local paper. It was published and she realized she could have an impact on human rights. “These issues that I thought were resolved are not resolved,” she realized. “History is now.” Tadepalli said she would use the Oxford scholarship to prepare for work in foreign policy advocacy through nonprofit or published work. She is also driven to broaden international studies education beyond the Eurocentric perspective to a more global one. “The students’ extraordinary academic research, civic engagement and advocacy work have already realized deeply meaningful impacts locally, nationally and internationally, and we are privileged to have them represent the UO,” said Kevin Hatfield, assistant vice provost for undergraduate research and distinguished scholarships. “To earn an invitation to interview is a truly singular accomplishment.” The students spent a week in mock interviews with UO faculty members, which prepares them for a final Rhodes interview later this term. Even if they don’t win the scholarship, both said they value the opportunity to articulate their interests and goals. “That little bit of validation is something so many people need,” Kapur said, “and it’s so helpful to know that this work that I’m doing, it’s work that’s worth doing.” —By Anna Glavash Miller, University Communications

    Read More
  • Knight Campus sets virtual grand opening celebration for Dec. 2

    First published in Around the O on November 18, 2020. The University of Oregon will celebrate a major milestone in the history of the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact next month with the official opening of its first state-of-the-art building. The virtual grand opening celebration will be streamed at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 2. The event is open to the public. “This marks a transformational moment in our university’s 144-year history,” said Michael H. Schill, UO president and professor of law. “The Knight Campus builds upon our proud history of exceptional basic science and immediately broadens and deepens our impact to encompass applied science and engineering. The generosity and inspiration of the Knights allows the University of Oregon to leverage the brilliance, creativity and accomplishments of our researchers and faculty in ways that previous generations of Oregonians could only have dreamt of. The Knight Campus puts the world on notice: The University of Oregon is once again changing the game in terms of the way that research and science can serve students and society.” The virtual grand opening celebration will showcase the new building and highlight Knight Campus faculty members, staff and students, as well as UO senior leaders and partners from around the country. They will illustrate how the collaborative effort is tackling some of society’s toughest challenges while also shaping the scientists of tomorrow and transforming the local and regional economy. Work to date includes a focus on spinal injuries, strokes, macular degeneration, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. As part of the celebration, six simultaneous breakout discussions will illustrate how the research, training, culture and entrepreneurship happening within the Knight Campus is working to transform the institution, community and state. Launched in 2016 with a $500 million lead gift from the Knights — the largest ever to a public flagship university — and augmented with $70 million in state bonds and additional philanthropy, the mission of the Knight Campus is to accelerate the cycle of translating scientific discoveries into innovations that improve quality of life for those in Oregon and beyond. The 160,000-square-foot first building connects to existing UO science facilities with a sky bridge over Franklin Boulevard. The bridge also symbolizes the partnerships between the Knight Campus and strengths from around the UO in areas such as business, communications and the sciences. “The Knight Campus serves as a hub for new partnerships, inspiring discovery and innovation across campus, the region and the country,” said Robert Guldberg, vice president and Robert and Leona DeArmond Executive Director. “We’re creating an ecosystem of collaboration, supporting diverse perspectives dedicated to the pursuit of breakthroughs that improve people’s lives.” The best-in-class facility is specifically designed to encourage a team-based, interactive approach to research. The building itself is designed to dramatically reduce the time it takes for discoveries to enter the market, where they can improve lives as new procedures, medical devices or treatments. It combines under one roof labs, classrooms, an innovation center and cutting-edge core facilities. The high-octane collaborative approach is already fueling success. Faculty members recruited from around the world have launched three start-up companies, moving new technologies into the marketplace. The campus is moving into graduate programming in bioengineering. The Knight Campus Graduate Internship Program, which offers an accelerated master’s degree, places 90 percent of its graduates into careers within three months of graduation. Such a nimble approach to research, education and commercialization transforms the pursuit of knowledge and discovery, Guldberg said. “The catalytic potential of this ambitious effort is inspiring,” he said. “The Knight Campus powers us to new heights while creating opportunities for students and faculty that will leave an indelible imprint on the community, state and, ultimately, the world.” —By Jim Murez, University Communications

    Read More
  • Chem Major Lights the Way for Women with Laser Work

    First published in Around the O on October 7, 2020. When Madi Scott chose to double major in chemistry and physics at the University of Oregon, she thought she was breaking new ground in her family. Quickly, she discovered that the pull to the sciences might have been based in her DNA. “Right after I started college, I learned that my grandma graduated from Wellesley College in Massachusetts with a degree in chemistry,” says Scott, a 2020 graduate. “She dug up this analytical chemistry paper that she’d published back in the 1950s or ’60s when she worked for Oregon Health and Science University doing primate research.” That heritage is alive and well in Scott—an emerging scientist who is headed to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and also champions efforts to help all groups excel in science. Scott was a researcher for Cathy Wong, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry. One of her lab’s research areas is laser spectroscopy—examination of the interactions between light and matter. Scott studied the effect of factors such as temperature on the composition of organic semiconducting films, used in electronic devices such as solar cells and LEDs. She sought to quantify the impact of such factors on the formation of crystals on the surface of the film. Creating highly crystalline organic semiconductor films is vital to achieving high performance in electronic devices. To conduct her research, Scott built a specialized microscope to image the surfaces of a sample. To interpret the data, she also learned to write code in the computer-programming language called Python. “It’s not like the tabletop microscope you think of for high school biology. It’s actually a couple of lenses and a sample holder on a rail,” Scott says. “We have a camera hooked up to a computer. I move the sample around and take images by clicking my mouse.” Scott’s creation of her own microscope stood out to Wong, who says the student cultivated expertise that distinguished her from her peers.  Scott, Wong notes, learned to use a femtosecond laser, which can perform precise measurements by emitting pulses of light that last no longer than 50 millionths of a trillionth of a second. “Madi is one of only a handful of undergraduates across the country who is well-trained in this difficult measurement technique,” says Wong. As Scott’s confidence grew, so did her successes—and the recognition for them. The Clark Honors College student was a Goldwater Scholarship recipient; awarded to approximately 200 US sophomores and juniors each year, Scott received one of three presented to the university in 2019. She also received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship—as an undergraduate. This fall, she begins her PhD in physical chemistry at MIT.  The accolades and opportunities are important to her. But it was her work in another capacity that helped ensure students of all backgrounds also get opportunities in STEM research. As president of the local chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, Scott organized professional development and social events for undergraduate STEM students, ranging from resume-building and science-poster workshops to STEM-themed trivia nights. Inspired by both her grandmother and Wong, Scott has served as an example to underrepresented groups in science and research. She is mindful of the responsibility.  “It’s nice to know that because I’m here,” she says, “maybe that gives more women the opportunity to be here in the future.” –By Laurie Galbraith, MS ’20 (journalism), a staff writer for the Clark Honors College.

    Read More
  • How to Study Abroad When You Can’t Leave Home

    This article first appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Nov. 8, 2020. Yulissa Garcia-Serrato and her classmates were supposed to meet the former Croatian president during their study abroad trip to the Balkan country this summer. But after the Covid-19 pandemic caused the program to switch from in-person to an online learning environment, the University of Oregon senior feared her virtual travels wouldn’t amount to much of a trip.

    Read More
  • Klamath Hall’s 4-year renovation project is complete

    First published in the Oregon Daily Emerald on Nov. 10, 2020. UO's Klamath Hall renovation was funded by $12.5 million in state XI-G and IX-Q bonds and $6.3 million in philanthropic funds.  

    Read More
  • UO, PeaceHealth partner on national mental health initiative

    First published in Around the O on November 6, 2020. Researchers at the University of Oregon and mental health specialists at PeaceHealth are collaborating to help develop targeted treatments for high-risk adolescents and young adults with schizophrenia. Part of an ambitious $52 million grant from the National Institutes of Health led by the Yale University Department of Psychiatry, the UO-PeaceHealth collaboration is one of 27 teams across the country and the only one from the Northwest in the new consortium, the Psychosis Risk Outcomes Network, or ProNET. “Being able to be a part of a consortium this large to harmonize measures and collaborate with researchers around the world represents a unique opportunity to study this at a scale that has not been done before,” said Fred Sabb, the principal investigator for the Oregon site and a research associate professor in the Prevention Science Institute as well as assistant vice president for research facilities. “Our hope is that this study could lead to more directed, more personalized treatment of schizophrenia.” The UO’s partnership with PeaceHealth will allow the university to take schizophrenia research to a new level, Sabb said. By connecting university researchers with PeaceHealth’s front-line medical personnel who are delivering services, investigators will better understand the diagnosis and the causes of the disease with an eye toward improving treatment. The UO will try to understand how the brain changes for at-risk adolescents to better develop diagnostic and treatment strategies using magnetic resonance imaging at the UO’s Lewis Center for NeuroImaging and an electroencephalogram in the UO’s Department of Human Physiology. PeaceHealth’s primary role in the research will be identifying and recruiting patients and administering psychological, cognitive and medical assessments. “PeaceHealth is thrilled to be a part of the groundbreaking research of the ProNET study,” said Carla Gerber, PeaceHealth behavioral health services manager and agency site principal investigator for the study. “The goal of identifying new treatments that target patients’ individual problem areas is especially exciting.” The patients involved in the study will receive both MRI and EEG scans. The MRI provides localized images of the parts of the brain that are active and the EEG offers information about rapid changes in brain activity. “They really complement each other well and together they can provide us with a more complete picture,” said Nicki Swann, an assistant professor in the Department of Human Physiology overseeing the EEG recordings conducted during the study. “This project has the potential to do some real good and I’m excited to be a part of it.” The partnership between the UO and PeaceHealth builds on the respective strengths of the two entities. The UO’s Lewis Center for NeuroImaging is a core research facility supporting a range of interdisciplinary, multifaceted research in neuroscience and biological imaging. The recent acquisition of a Siemens Prisma scanner, the industry-standard tool for top-tier research institutions engaged in brain imaging, has paved the way for the UO to engage in more studies involving MRI technology and more large-scale, multi-institution projects like the NIH-funded ProNET study. The new collaboration leveraging expertise in clinical cognitive neuroscience between investigators Sabb and Swann and PeaceHealth builds upon UO’s longstanding area of excellence in neuroscience. PeaceHealth Behavioral Health Services has been a regional leader in early diagnosis and treatment for schizophrenia. Since 2010, the PeaceHealth team has been involved in multiple clinical research trials aimed at better understanding, detecting and treating the disease, including: PeaceHealth was a treatment site for RAISE, or Recovery After Initial Schizophrenia Episode, which provided coordinated specialty care within community mental health settings. The study was able to significantly cut the time between positive research outcomes and large-scale implementation, paving the way for federal funding for first-episode psychosis treatment across the country. In 2018, PeaceHealth was awarded a four-year federal grant through the Oregon Health Authority to establish a treatment program for young people with the goal of providing interventions that help prevent the onset of schizophrenia or minimize its negative impact on the lives of young people and their families. According to the NIH, schizophrenia is one of the 15 leading causes of disability worldwide. It is characterized by alterations to a person’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors, which can include a loss of contact with reality known as psychosis. These symptoms typically emerge in adolescence or early adulthood and, if untreated, can be persistent and disabling; individuals with the disorder are at increased risk of premature death relative to the general population. —By Lewis Taylor, University Communications

    Read More
  • A new neuroscience major will delve into the brain and behavior

    First published in Around the O on November 4, 2020. A new interdisciplinary major made its debut at the UO this fall, when the College of Arts and Sciences rolled out a neuroscience major that will offer students an opportunity to dive deep into the study of the brain and behavior. The new major primarily draws from biology, psychology and human physiology to help students explore how the nervous system functions. The new major builds on the UO’s strength in neuroscience as it complements the university’s Institute of Neuroscience, which is the research home for an interdisciplinary group of faculty members working together to explore cutting-edge neuroscience questions. Students will be introduced to faculty expertise and coursework from that trio of departments to help them study the field of neuroscience, which seeks to understand how the brain impacts behavior, emotion and cognitive functions. Neuroscience also investigates what is happening in the brain that contributes to various health issues and neurological and psychological disorders like strokes, depression and addiction. Students majoring in neuroscience will be required to hone advanced skills in programming or computational techniques or pursue research experience in one of the UO’s many neuroscience labs to equip them to apply what they learn in class to neuroscience research. “The neuroscience major was developed in response to student and faculty interest in a major that is dedicated to studying the complex relationship between brain and behavior,” said Nicole Dudukovic, a senior instructor in the Department of Psychology and the new program director of the neuroscience major. “Given the existing faculty excellence in neuroscience at the UO, it seemed like a no-brainer — pun intended — to create a neuroscience major.”  Students also will take upper-division courses to better understand the three main branches of the field, which include molecular and cellular neuroscience, systems neuroscience, and cognitive neuroscience. Their combined coursework and skills development will help students foster critical thinking and analytical reasoning through the major. The field of neuroscience offers a number of pathways to graduates looking to use their academic career as a springboard into a professional one. Neuroscience majors can pursue a range of positions in scientific research, medicine, government, nonprofit and industry jobs. Neuroscience majors can also elect to continue their studies at competitive graduate programs around the world. “We are part of a larger trend — neuroscience majors are popping up at many institutions across the U.S. — and are excited to be the first public university in Oregon to offer a neuroscience major,” Dudukovic said. “In creating this major, we thought about the kinds of qualities and level of preparation that faculty look for in prospective graduate students, and we designed the major so that it provides this kind of rigorous training.” Students can pursue either a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in the new major. Undergraduates or prospective students interested in the major can explore the degree requirements, sample academic plans and research opportunities through the major’s new website. —By Emily Halnon, University Communications

    Read More
  • UO receives Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award

    First published in Around the O on November 2, 2020. The University of Oregon has been named a recipient of the 2020 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from the national journal Insight Into Diversity. Lenore Pearlstein, co-publisher of the journal, noted that each year more institutions were applying for the award, prompting the journal to raise the standards for recognition. The University of Oregon was one of 90 colleges and universities across the U.S. to receive the award. Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Yvette Alex-Assensoh viewed the award as an honor and an opportunity.   “We appreciate the national recognition for the award-winning work to which many on our campus contributed as part of IDEAL,” she said. “In light of these unprecedented times, the HEED award is catalyst for deeper and more transformation work that lies ahead.” The journal noted the UO’s centralized diversity plan based on the IDEAL framework — inclusion, diversity, evaluation, achievement and leadership — led by the Division of Equity and Inclusion and implemented through individual diversity action plans in 35 schools, colleges and administrative units across campus. Student and faculty programs highlighted diversity work across campus and communities. Student highlights included the university’s Oregon Young Scholars Program, a high school bridge program that prepares historically underserved students to be prepared to attend college and to be active members of their communities. Also included were diversity scholarships such as the Diversity Excellence Scholarship program in the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence, which recognizes the academic achievement and potential of students who, through sharing their varied cultural perspectives, enhance the education of all students. Another is PathwayOregon, which ensures that academically qualified, federal Pell Grant–eligible Oregonians have their tuition and fees paid through a combination of federal, state and university funds and provides comprehensive academic support and career guidance. The journal credited the UO Multicultural Center as important to student growth. The center promotes student leadership development, cultural pluralism and positive social change and serves more than 25 UO student unions and groups Successful pilot programs for faculty members and staff retention also were highlighted, including the Center on Diversity and Community’s Search Advocate Pilot Program. The program has trained more than 200 faculty members and staff to serve as consultants and participants in search committees. The advocates advance inclusive excellence by asking search committee members to identify and promote practices that advance diversity and social justice, and minimize the impacts of cognitive and structural biases. The November issue of Insights, devoted to honoring all the award recipients, also took note of the university strategies groups. UO strategies groups are alliances that include faculty members, staff, students and community members from traditionally underrepresented groups and allies who advocate for academic and professional inclusion.

    Read More