Latest news from the UO

  • 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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  • State universities agree to more sharing of research facilities

    First published in Around the O on February 13th, 2020. A trio of new agreements between the University of Oregon and four of the state’s public universities are poised to advance research across Oregon, promote greater collaboration and help magnify state funding. The memorandums will help researchers at the UO, Oregon Health & Science University, Oregon State University, Portland State University and the Oregon Institute of Technology work more closely together by reducing hurdles for cooperation while also leveraging each other’s strengths. Researchers at each of the five universities will now have greater access to facilities at the partner institutions, and at a lower cost to them as well. The agreements also clarify ownership of intellectual property that emerges from research efforts across multiple institutions. It’s a significant step in the ongoing trend of improving collaboration within the state among the UO and its statewide peers (see Related Links). “When it comes to research and innovation, we all agree we are stronger when we collaborate and speak with one voice about the value of research universities to the state of Oregon,” said David Conover, the UO’s vice president for research and innovation. “These initiatives will allow us to build on our collective strengths and pave the way for new discoveries and innovations that will benefit Oregonians and help fuel our state’s economy.” Fred Sabb, assistant vice president for research facilities at the UO, said the agreements will build on activity already taking place. “There’s already quite a bit of cross-institution research core facility activity that this has kicked off, and more things are planned for near future to facilitate access and harmonize services,” he said. One of the most visible hurdles potentially slowing researchers across the state from working more closely together has been the limited access to specialized, expensive research equipment available at other in-state institutions and the cost to use it. Universities typically have one set of fees for their own students, staff and faculty members, and another set for those at other universities. Now the cost to use those facilities could decrease by as much as 25 percent in many cases for researchers at the five universities taking part.

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  • 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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