Latest news from the UO

  • Highly regarded scientist, eye surgeon joins UO Knight Campus

    First published in Around the O on April 8th, 2020. An eye surgeon who co-founded a start-up to develop a drop for corneal strengthening and an implant for drop-free cataract surgery will join the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact as a research professor on July 13. Balamurali K. Ambati accepted his offer from the UO on Jan. 3. He will bring his research team and a strong portfolio of externally funded research to the Knight Campus. Ambati is currently an eye surgeon at Pacific Clear Vision Institute in Eugene and maintains a research lab at Loma Linda University in Southern California. He is widely recognized for work in drug delivery and ocular angiogenesis, the formation of blood vessels in the eyes. Ambati serves as the principal investigator on an effort to develop a novel therapeutic based on stabilizing blood vessels to treat vision complications associated with diabetes. He will bring that project, funded by National Eye Institute, part of National Institutes of Health, to the Knight Campus. Another example of his recent work includes an NIH-funded effort to study how development of blood vessels — healthy and unhealthy — can affect diseases such as age-related macular degeneration.   “Dr. Ambati exemplifies the mission of the Knight Campus,” said Robert Guldberg, vice president and Robert and Leona DeArmond Executive Director of the Knight Campus. “He is a visionary researcher and highly regarded clinician with an entrepreneurial drive. Those elements combine to make him a very rare talent who will be an asset to the Knight Campus, the UO and all of Oregon.”

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  • Oregon receives $450,000 from feds for quake research

    First published in KTVZ.com on April 8th, 2020. WASHINGTON (KTVZ) -- Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., announced Wednesday over $450,000 in earthquake research grant funding for Oregon.The grants will be administered by the U.S. Geological Survey, and will be allotted to Oregon State University, Portland State University and the University of Oregon. The schools will receive $84,964, $87,243 and $282,262, respectively.“The best way to handle a crisis—from a pandemic to a national disaster—is to be prepared,” Merkley said. “As Oregonians continue to prepare for the inevitable Big One, these grants will contribute to the research we need to help keep Oregonians safe in the event of a major earthquake.” “Forecasts for the potential of a serious earthquake in our state make research into monitoring and preparing for that possibility a must to protect Oregonians as well as their homes and businesses,” Wyden said. “I’m gratified that this funding will help OSU, PSU and the U of O continue to play a key role in this essential research.”As the only member of Congress from the state of Oregon to serve on an Appropriations Committee, Senator Merkley has long advocated for the resources Oregon needs to research and prepare for earthquakes—including increased funding for ShakeAlert, the West Coast earthquake early warning system.“The recent funding from the USGS to the University of Oregon continues our decades-long involvement in seismic monitoring of earthquake and volcanic activity in the Pacific Northwest,” said Douglas Toomey, Professor of Earth Sciences at University of Oregon. “The continued operation of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network by the University of Washington and the University of Oregon provides data that is fundamental to much of the seismological research conducted in the region and the results of that research benefit public safety.”

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  • Data science to debut as the UO’s newest major this fall

    First published in Around the O on April 7th, 2020.It’s official: The University of Oregon is preparing the next generation of leaders in data science. With all reviews completed and final approvals in hand, the data science degree program will begin this fall. Developed by the Presidential Initiative in Data Science, the new undergraduate degree was granted final approval by the UO’s accrediting body, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, in February. “I am thrilled that the UO is launching a degree in data science,” said UO President Michael H. Schill. “This approval reflects awareness of the increasingly central role of data science in higher education and society, its impact for our state and national economies and its vital usefulness in helping to solve some of the greatest challenges now facing our world. Especially given the role date science is playing globally in tracking and responding to the COVID-19 health emergency, I am proud to note that the UO’s program will place a strong emphasis on building ethical frameworks for working with and learning from big data.” Data scientists are essential players in many industries, and data science is one of the fastest-growing segments of the economy. A January 2019 report from a top employment website showed open data science jobs in nearly every sector of the economy, with a 344 percent increase since 2013. The demand for data scientists is projected to continue growing at a rate of 29 percent per year. Starting salaries in the field average $115,000. In keeping with the UO’s foundations in science and the liberal arts, the data science degree program will focus on teaching not only quantitative and computational skills but also data science ethics and communication.

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  • UO campaign supports surge of students in financial crisis

    First published in Around the O on March 26th, 2020.The number of University of Oregon students in financial crisis is surging due to COVID-19 (coronavirus), as jobs on and off campus disappear in the wake of business closures and other restrictions meant to halt the spread of the disease. Starting this week, the UO is reaching out to alumni and friends with an easy way to help by making a contribution to the Students in Crisis Fund, which assists students facing unusual hardship due to circumstances beyond their control. Donations to the fund can be made through DuckFunder, a UO crowdfunding website. Requests from students in need to the Crisis Intervention and Sexual Violence Prevention Team typically number five or six per month. In March, there were 29 through March 23 — 26 of them related to COVID-19, many from self-supporting students who have lost jobs, are unable to pay rent and have already considered loans and other alternatives. As students transition to remote learning for spring term, needs continue to grow, according to the Office of the Dean of Students. “We know many of our students are facing serious challenges during this unprecedented crisis,” President Michael Schill said. “We also know that our UO family wants to help. We are doing everything in our power to protect our students’ health and well-being. At the same time, we are deeply committed to ensuring they can continue to pursue their education. This fund will help us support our students and respond to some of their urgent individual needs.” The fund, comprised entirely of private donations, was started two years ago by the Parents Leadership Council, a passionate group of Duck parents who serve as leaders, mentors and advisers while addressing challenges and opportunities related to student life. Through the fund, students have traveled home to grieve the loss of a loved one, relocated from unsafe housing and paid unexpected medical bills, among other concerns.

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  • 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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  • Student group continues census education amid COVID-19 pandemic

    First published in the Daily Emerald on March 30th, 2020.Eugene Counts, which works to promote the 2020 Census in Eugene, continues to encourage University of Oregon students to reply to the Census even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.  Eugene Counts is a group of five public relations students from the UO School of Journalism and Communication who are chosen each year to design a full public relations campaign for the Public Relations Student Society of America’s national Bateman Case Study Competition, said Carrissa Pahl, a senior at UO and a member of Eugene Counts.  For the 2020 Bateman Competition, PRSSA partnered with the U.S. Census Bureau to help encourage under-counted communities and on-and-off campus students to participate in the 2020 Census, said Chase Ford, another UO senior who is a member of Eugene Counts.  “We hope that [the students] understand the importance of the role they play in government and government activities,” Ford said. “Like with the Census, it’s really important that they respond and they respond in the right place: their college address.”  Ford said that the Census helps inform the distribution of billions in federal funding that support community services like public works projects and programs such as the Pell Grant.  “The most important thing is that students understand they matter, that this is more than just a population count,” Ford said. “Even if they don’t see Eugene as their long-term home, the Census is only taken every 10 years. So the students that are here are going to count for the next students to come and the funding for the community over the next ten years.”  Eugene Counts has taken to promoting its campaign on social media after the university announced that spring term classes would be taught remotely.

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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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