A summary of University of Utah news, updates, recognitions and achievements
July - Sept. 2019
Mysterious vaping illness markers identified
Scott Aberegg and other U doctors identified previously unrecognized characteristics of the vaping-related respiratory illness that has been emerging in clusters across the U.S. in recent months. Within the lungs of these patients are large immune cells containing numerous oily droplets, called lipid-laden macrophages. The findings may allow doctors to definitively diagnose the nascent syndrome more quickly and provide the right treatment sooner. It could also provide clues into the causes of the new and mysterious condition.
217 stories published in 12 countries
Reach: 226 million
Utah's red rock metronome
U geologist Jeff Moore and graduate students Riley Finnegan and Paul Geimer published research in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America that detailed the natural vibration of Utah’s rock formation called Castleton Tower. At 400 feet tall, it is one of the largest freestanding rock towers, and it is a widely renowned destination after being highlighted in the 1979 book “Fifty Classic Climbs of North America.” With the help of two skilled rock climbers, the researchers used seismometers to measure vibration frequencies for three hours. Understanding how this and other natural rock forms vibrate helps keep an eye (or ear) on their structural health and helps us understand how human-made vibrations affect seemingly unmovable rocks.
78 stories published in 17 countries
Reach: 216 million
Safe gun storage in military homes
Because suicide risk decreases if a firearm is safely stored locked and unloaded, researchers, led by Craig Bryan of the National Center for Veterans Studies at the U, surveyed military personnel to learn more about the relationship between safe firearm storage and thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Only a third of those surveyed kept a firearm in or around their home, and only a third of those kept it stored locked up and unloaded. People who had thoughts of suicide or self-harm were less likely to keep a firearm at home, but those who did keep a firearm were less likely to store it safely. The study suggested that emphasizing safe gun storage practices could aid the ongoing effort to stem military suicides.
17 stories published in 4 countries
Reach: 22.3 million
HUMANS OF THE U
“When I got to the U, I volunteered with an organization helping underserved communities find resources. Lots of parents wanted to sign their kids up for camps but couldn’t get them to the location or couldn’t afford it. I thought Science in the Parks would be awesome here. I became a Bennion Center Scholar and started the program as my capstone project. This summer we attended the Partners in the Parks events through University Neighborhood Partners. Next year will be even bigger.”
ANAHY SALCEDO, junior studying kinesiology
“Sitting in the audience was a dramaturg from the Salt Lake Acting Company and he asked me to write a play about cancer that included the sort of gallows humor he’d heard in my reading. When I said I thought I could do it, he commissioned me on the spot and that, as they say, become history.”
JEFF METCALF, professor of English and director of Humanities in Focus
“My grandmother died when I was 27. She had been diagnosed with diabetes and within three months she was dead—not from diabetes itself but from the depression, the lack of access to quality medicine and health education and the trauma that came from this diagnosis. This affirmed my career path working in health education and prevention.”
BRITTANY KIYOKO BADGER, director of the Center for Student Wellness and co-chair of the SafeU Month working group
America's Best Employer for Women
10 years in a row, University of Utah Health
Vizient Quality Leadership Award, 2019
U.S. News & World Report
since the U’s Huntsman Center opened
of 801 institutions
Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education, 2020
In July, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry JOEL HARRIS was the fifth U faculty member to become a fellow of the American Chemical Society.
In July, SARA YEO, assistant professor in communication, was awarded a $750,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to examine how humor in science communication affects people’s attitudes.
ZHIGANG (ZAK) FANG, professor in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering, received the Distinguished Service to Powder Metallurgy award from the Metal Powder Industries Federation for his outstanding career achievements in July.
In July, doctoral candidate in neurobiology PAULA FLOREZ SALCEDO was awarded a 2019-2020 American Association of University Women International Fellowship.
The U’s GENETIC SCIENCE LEARNING CENTER was awarded $1.7 million in August for the first year of a partnership award with the All of Us Research Program, part of the National Institutes of Health, to create educational materials on genetics and precision medicine for the public, patients and healthcare providers.
Athletics Director MARK HARLAN was appointed to the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee and will serve through June 20, 2023.
In August, inaugural Vice President for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion MARY ANN VILLARREAL was selected to serve on the Executive Committee of the Association of Public Land-grant Universities’ Commission on Access, Diversity and Excellence.
MICHAEL DEININGER was awarded the International Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Foundation’s prestigious Rowley Prize in France in September.
HAPPENING ON CAMPUS
- In August, the U announced its membership with COMMON APP, a nonprofit organization that aids prospective students and their supporters in the college selection process.
- The U launched the first issue of The Journal of Dark Sky Studies in August—the only academic publication in the world dedicated to understanding and protecting the night skies.
- The U kicked off Homecoming Week with the annual Legacy of Lowell Service Project and concluded with a win against Washington State.
- The Department of Philosophy established a new interdisciplinary philosophy of science major in fall 2019 to provide students studying a scientific discipline with knowledge in ethical, analytical and logical reasoning.
- The U Farmers Market, managed by the Sustainability Office, celebrated its 12th season this fall.
- The U’s newest housing project will be the largest building project in campus history, providing housing for nearly 1,000 residents. Thanks to generous support from three women philanthropists, the complex will be named Kahlert Village and will be home to the Gail Miller Community Engagement Tower, the Patricia W. Child Health and Wellness Tower and the Heather Kahlert STEM Tower.
- On Sept. 5, the U celebrated the grand opening of its new Black Cultural Center, a transformative space for research, community building and support services for black members of the U community.
U professor in film and media arts, gender studies and communication SARAH PROJANSKY accepted an offer to serve as associate vice president for faculty effective in August.
Professor MIKE KIRBY, who holds multiple appointments at the U, was named the inaugural executive director of the Utah Informatics Initiative in September.
JASON RAMIREZ began his role as dean of students on Sept. 23.
COREY ROACH, who has served as interim chief information security officer since July, was named permanent CISO in September.
In September, BRYAN HUBAIN was named associate vice president for student development and inclusion.
GETTING THE WORD OUT
SHOUT OUT FROM MARK HAMILL
After the U developed a way for the “LUKE arm” (named after the robotic hand that Luke Skywalker got in “The Empire Strikes Back”) to mimic the way a human hand feels objects by sending the appropriate signals to the brain, actor Mark Hamill (who played Luke Skywalker) gave the development a shout-out on Twitter.
The U’s “Star Wars”-inspired prosthetic arm story resulted in 403 news stories in 16 countries with a potential reach of more than 1 billion people
University of Utah Communications Office