Latest news from the UO

  • UO-Lane Transit District partnership brings brainstorms to reality

    First published in The Register-Guard on January 29th, 2020. University of Oregon students’ ideas for future of LTD are starting to take shape during the 10th year of Sustainable City Year Program. The University of Oregon’s Sustainable City Year Program in the fall partnered with Lane Transit District and set students to work on a variety of projects meant to make local transportation more efficient and sustainable. With the first two quarters of the school year now finished, many of those student projects are taking shape. “It’s been a really good experience. It provides a good opportunity for students to gain professional experience and work on real world issues and experiment and try new things,” said Rachel Cohen, a second-year UO business graduate student participating in the Sustainable City Year Program. The projects undertaken this year asked students to examine physical infrastructure, such as design ideas for the transit station at the former Santa Clara Elementary School site, and those that require some long-term imagination, such as re-imagining River Road for the residents who live there. There were 10 classes during the fall term and six classes are ongoing through the winter term, all centered around LTD projects, according to Sustainable City Year Program Manager Megan Banks. It’s not yet determined how many classes will focus on the LTD goals in the spring, she said. The Sustainable City Year Program, part of UO’s Sustainable Cities Initiative, is in its 10th year of pairing students from across college disciplines with community partners in need of fresh ideas. In past years, the program has paired with groups such as the city of La Pine and TriMet, the tri-county transit agency in Portland. The program has been so successful, Banks said, it’s being replicated in 35 universities nationwide. “Transit is evolving. It’s going to be different in the future than it is now, and universities are this resource for helping guide that,” Banks said. Transit in Eugene is about more than making sure the buses run on time, and many of the student projects identified by LTD are focused on the MovingAhead initiative, a citywide plan to update and expand services on and around some of the area’s most important transportation corridors: 30th Avenue to Lane Community College, Coburg Road, Highway 99, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and River Road. LTD already is getting a look at some of the student project ideas. Nine teams of landscape architecture students on Friday showcased their visions for the former Santa Clara Elementary School site to LTD managers. The eight acres of property is where the agency plans to put a new transit station, but only about half of the property is needed for the station’s operations. “After that construction is done, people want to know what we should do with this property. It’s one of the few large lot vacant properties in the community that could be something that both supports transit and becomes a community amenity,” said Jennifer Zankowski, LTD senior development planner and project manager for the Sustainable City Year Program. Zankowski said the students were asked to include housing, mixed-use commercial offices, a public plaza, a playground and a pavilion in their proposals for site development. She said members of the community told LTD while plans were being made that they lacked a local gathering place. “They see this site as an opportunity for that. They were happy to see the ideas students were coming up with,” she said about the community’s input. “From the LTD and city perspective, this idea of taking this opportunity to have land development that compliments transit and helps achieve some of the density the city is trying to achieve within our urban growth boundary. It’s fun to give students that challenge to work on.”

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  • Governor announces legislative push to fund Oregon ShakeAlert

    First published in Around the O on January 28th, 2020.With a vision for preparing the state for a large Cascadia earthquake, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced on Monday a resiliency agenda for the upcoming legislative session that would include $7.5 million in funding to the University of Oregon to build out the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system. In addition to building out Oregon’s earthquake early warning network, Senate Bill 1537 would direct of the Office of Emergency Management and other state agencies to develop and administer earthquake safety educational outreach programs to ensure Oregon is as prepared and resilient as possible in the wake of a natural disaster. “It is imperative that our state be resilient enough to face anything that comes our way, especially natural disasters,” Brown said at the event at the UO’s White Stag Block in Portland. “For our Oregon communities and economy to thrive, we have to be ready to recover from natural disasters, including a Cascadia event. One of my priorities is to improve the resilience of our people and our infrastructure.” The ShakeAlert system uses sensors to detect significant earthquakes when destructive shaking travels across the region. Depending on how far away someone is from the epicenter, seconds to many tens of seconds of warning would allow people to take cover and protect critical infrastructure. With even a short amount of warning, water utilities could switch valves to preserve drinking water, fire station doors could open before electricity goes out, and hospitals could power up generators to continue care for patients.

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  • Urbanism Next launches the NEXUS online clearinghouse

    First published in Around the O on January 14th, 2020. A new online database that examines emerging technologies and their effects on cities is now available through the University of Oregon’s Urbanism Next Center. NEXUS, an acronym for Navigating Emerging Technologies and Urban Spaces­, launched Jan. 14 in Washington, D.C. at an event associated with the Transportation Resource Board Conference, one of the largest transportation conferences in the world. Created by the UO’s Urbanism Next Center in partnership with NUMO Alliance, NEXUS is a comprehensive, vetted source of information that explores the potential effects of innovations such as new mobility, autonomous vehicles and the rise of e-commerce. Going beyond the technologies themselves, NEXUS sheds light on possible long-term and compounding influences of these technologies on cities and communities. The one-stop, online resource provides a toolkit to approach important topics and assists decision-makers and government leaders with information to create new policies to manage and regulate emerging trends.

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  • From the classroom to Congress: Oregon Law students in DC

    First published in Around the O on January 15th, 2020. “What is public policy, why does it matter, and how is it made?” Assistant Professor Greg Dotson posed this question to his law students enrolled in the Oregon Law Environmental Policy Practicum.The ten law students had the entire semester not only to answer those questions, but to present their own research and recommendations to the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis in the US House of Representatives in Washington, DC. The House created the committee in January of 2019 and charged it with submitting climate policy recommendations to Congress by March 31, 2020. In the class, Dotson tries to demystify the policymaking world. He talks about the theoretical underpinnings of policymaking as well as the real-world efforts that result in environmental protection or other desired policy outcomes. “Crafting public policy can be as much art as science and efforts to change policy often see as much failure as success,” said Dotson. “A well-crafted public policy can promote competition, innovation, efficiency, environmental protection or other desired policy outcomes. It can be transparent and responsive to constituents and can foster faith in the democratic process and our representative form of government.”

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  • New Knight Campus bioengineer advances bone repair research

    First published in Around the O on January 7 2020. Just as Marian Hettiaratchi begins her new job this month as a bioengineer at the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, a research project that lays the groundwork for her UO lab has landed in a major journal. Her paper in the Jan. 3 issue of Science Advances takes a big step toward improving the effectiveness of spinal fusion procedures and repairing broken or defective bones. In the preclinical study, done during her graduate work Georgia Tech, her team drastically reduced undesired bone growth outside of a targeted repair area by using a mixture of bone morphogenetic proteins, which promote tissue and bone development, and microparticles made of heparin, a drug widely used as a blood thinner. The accomplishment is a proof of concept that shows the natural bone protein, known as BMP, can be merged into a heparin-like biomaterial for safer delivery. Given alone in high doses, as has been the practice in human treatments, BMP leakage has led to soft tissue inflammation and abnormal bone growth. At her new UO lab, Hettiaratchi will try to synthesize a heparin-like substance that can deliver BMP while avoiding the potential side effects of heparin, none of which have been seen in the work with rats. Her approach also uses a nanofiber mesh tube unveiled in 2011 by Robert Guldberg, who left Georgia Tech in 2018 to become executive director of the Knight Campus. He is a co-author on the new paper. “I am planning on applying this approach more broadly to healing other injuries and diseases since proteins are important in every system in the body,” Hettiaratchi said. “My lab's objective is to create biomaterials that can locally deliver proteins to sites of injuries with high precision to accelerate tissue repair.” She began exploring the use of heparin microparticles to deliver BMP while a doctoral student at Georgia Tech under the mentorship of Guldberg and co-author Todd McDevitt. For the new study, Hettiaratchi and colleagues fed their earlier results from experiments done in rats and test tubes into computer simulations to guide how they could adjust their heparin-based approach in animal testing with levels of BMP comparable to dosages required in human bone-repair procedures. “We focused on using doses that were more clinically relevant,” Hettiaratchi said. “In humans, the typical treatment uses 0.1 to 0.2 milligrams of BMP per kilogram of body weight, so we used the same amount in the rats. Most research done in rats uses 10 times less BMP to repair bone, which isn’t comparable to what’s done in humans and doesn’t exhibit the side effects of a clinical BMP dose.” Two different strengths of the combination used in the study reduced unwanted bone growth by 40 to 50 percent.

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  • Grant could make UO concussion program a national model

    First published in Around the O on November 19, 2019. The University of Oregon’s Center on Brain Injury Research and Training has long been at the forefront nationwide in developing best practices to help students with brain injuries successfully transition back to school. It will soon be able to determine the effectiveness of one program that came out of its research. The center recently entered into a four-year, $2.2 million cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to evaluate the effectiveness of the brain injury center’s Return to School model of supporting students with traumatic brain injury.  

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  • FUTURE Act Passes Congress

    December 12, 2019 01:50 pm On December 10 the U.S. Senate passed the Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act (H.R.5363) after the House passed the bill by a vote of 319-96 earlier in the day. The entire Oregon delegation voted for passage of the bill. The bill now moves to the President for signature, who recently expressed support for the measure. The FUTURE Act would improve college student financial aid application and repayment processes. The final version of the bill contains amendments sought by the House Ways and Means Committee after it expressed concern about allowing the Internal Revenue Service to transfer vast amounts of confidential taxpayer information to the Department of Education and its third-party contractors. Proponents of the bill say it will help simplify and reduce the number of questions on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and help automate how borrowers enroll in and stay enrolled in income-based repayment programs, which currently require borrowers to manually provide their tax information each year. Among the legislation’s proponents is the American Council on Education (ACE), which sent a letter to the House with signatures from 42 associations expressing support of the FUTURE Act: “[T]he FUTURE Act would make significant improvements to the federal student aid system, by simplifying and streamlining the processes for applying for student aid and repaying student loans. This will dramatically simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and make it far easier for low- and middle-income families to apply for and receive federal student aid.” Along with changes to the data-sharing process for federal student loans, the bill would also permanently extend mandatory funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs).

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  • Grants will help boost the pool of special education teachers

    First published in Around the O on December 3, 2019. In the field of special education, an already acute shortage of teachers is worsening as demand for them continues to grow. A pair of recent grants to the University of Oregon’s College of Education should help stem that tide by providing funding to educate future faculty members who will prepare additional teachers to enter an important field. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs has awarded $3.5 million to the college’s Wendy Machalicek and $1.25 million to Lillian Durán to train doctorate-level researchers in their respective fields of study.

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  • OR Senate Confirms Sandoval as LC&D Commissioner

    On December 2, the Oregon Senate confirmed Professor Gerardo Sandoval as a commissioner on the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC). During his term, which began December 1, 2019, and ends November 30, 2023, Sandoval will represent the Willamette Valley region. “This is tremendous for [the State of] Oregon,” said Director Jim Rue in the committee’s press release. “Dr. Sandoval’s research, experience, and perspective will help ensure our work benefits all Oregonians.” The commission, assisting the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD), adopts state land-use goals and implements rules, assures local plan compliance with the 19 statewide planning goals, coordinates state and local planning, and manages the  coastal zone program. The commission is also tasked with implementing rules on issues as wide-ranging as wildfire planning and urban growth boundaries to re-zoning for “missing middle” housing and the push to allow breweries on hops farms. Sandoval is an associate professor in the School of Planning, Public Policy and Management (PPPM) at the University of Oregon. His work and research focus on the intersection of planning, immigration, and community change.   

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