Campus News

UK Joins Nation in Saluting Nursing Profession

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 17:50

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 6, 2015) – During National Nurses Week, May 6-12, 2015, the University of Kentucky and the nation will celebrate 3.2 million nurses who work as providers, leaders, researchers and policy leaders.


“Nurses are truly at the nexus of art and science,” said Janie Heath, Warwick Professor and Dean of the UK College of Nursing. "The art of managing the care of a multitude of individuals from a host of backgrounds and applying competent and compassionate care, which will enable so many to live longer, stronger and healthier lives." 


The impact a single nurse has throughout his or her career is significant. The JONAS Center for Nursing Excellence reports that a registered nurse working full time in a hospital touches the lives of more than 14,400 patients during the span of his or her career. The ethical complexity of working with such a vast number of patients is reflected in the theme of this year’s National Nurses Week, "Ethical Practice. Quality Care." 


"Nurses make ethical decisions every day and help patients do the same," said Pamela F. Cipriano, president of the American Nurses Association. "As nurses make decisions, they are practicing at the highest ethical standard, both for the work they do and how they actually support patients and families in the right to self-determination and the care they receive."


According to Heath, the ethical issues nurses face are growing in complexity. UK HealthCare and the UK College of Nursing are at the forefront of helping nurses tackle these issues through integrative models of education and health care delivery.


"Nurses are now being portrayed as caring, sophisticated, dedicated, intelligent and independent caregivers," Heath said. "Word is out that for well over a decade nurses are ranked by the Gallup Poll as having the highest level honesty and ethical standards of all professions.”


MEDIA CONTACT: Elizabeth Adams,

Live stream: Strategic Plan Town Hall

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 16:24





LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 6, 2015) — The University of Kentucky campus is encouraged to participate in a series of town halls focusing on the UK Strategic Plan.


The first will take place today, Wednesday, May 6, from 9-11 a.m., in the Lexmark Public Room (209 Main Building).


Individuals watching via live stream may email questions and comments to and tweet questions and comments to @UKYProvost.


UK Provost Tim Tracy announced in an email to campus Wednesday, April 29, that a draft of the strategic objectives, strategic initiatives and action steps for the plan — an 8-page document — is now available, for community feedback.


The draft is available here on the Strategic Plan website.


The Strategic Plan town halls will take place at the following dates, times and locations, (please note that the time for the May 7 event has changed; the time reflected below is correct):

  1. Wednesday, May 6: 9-11 a.m., Lexmark Public Room, 209 Main Building
  2. Thursday, May 7: 1-3 p.m., UK Athletic Association Auditorium, W.T. Young Library
  3. Wednesday, May 13: 10 a.m.-noon, Bio-Pharm Complex, Room 234-B

The leadership team will review campus feedback and make final edits to the plan before presenting it to the UK Board of Trustees for its consideration in June.


The Strategic Plan focuses on five main areas and builds upon work that faculty, staff and students completed over the past year. These areas include:

  1. Undergraduate student success
  2. Diversity and inclusivity
  3. Community engagement and impact
  4. Graduate education (we will address professional education initiatives separately once this process is completed)
  5. Research 

In the coming days, a situational analysis and introduction for the proposed plan will be circulated, as well. After the campus and Board of Trustees consider the plan, the UK community also will be involved in development of an implementation plan as well as specific ways to measure progress.


"Under the leadership of our Board of Trustees and President Capilouto, we have a compelling vision for the University of Kentucky: to be one of the handful of exceptional public, residential research institutions in the country, with an unwavering commitment to our Commonwealth," Tracy said. "To make this vision a reality, the UK Strategic Plan will guide our actions, and how we measure our progress, as we move forward together." 




MEDIA CONTACT: Sarah Geegan, (859) 257-5365;

A Celebration of the Life and Career of Historian Lance Banning

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 12:39

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 6, 2015) — The University of Kentucky Department of History, in partnership with University Press of Kentucky, will celebrate the life and career of late University of Kentucky Professor of History Lance Banning. The event scheduled for May 15 will feature a talk on Banning’s legacy by Oakland University Associate Professor of History Todd Estes, one of Banning's first doctoral students.


Editor of a posthumous collection of Banning’s essays, "Founding Visions: The Ideas, Individuals, and Intersections that Created America," Estes will share his thoughts on Banning. Also offering brief personal reminiscences are two of Banning’s former doctoral students, Leslee Gilbert, vice president at Van Scoyoc Associates, and David Nichols, associate professor at Indiana State University. The event will be held 5-7:30 p.m. Friday, May 15, at Hillary J. Boone Center. The talk will run from 5-6 p.m. with a reception to follow.


Banning was one of the most distinguished historians of his generation. His first book, "The Jeffersonian Persuasion: Evolution of a Party Ideology," was a groundbreaking study of the ideas and principles that influenced political conflicts in the early American Republic. His revisionist masterpiece, "The Sacred Fire of Liberty: James Madison and the Founding of the Federal Republic," received the Merle Curti Award in Intellectual History from the Organization of American Historians and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.


Banning was assembling a collection of his best and most representative writings on the Founding era when his untimely death stalled the project just short of its completion. Now, thanks to the efforts of Estes, this work is finally available. "Founding Visions" showcases the work of a historian who shaped the intellectual debates of his time. Featuring a foreword by Gordon S. Wood, the volume presents Banning’s most seminal and insightful essays to a new generation of students, scholars and general readers.


Lance Banning (1942–2006) taught at Brown University and UK and held a senior Fulbright appointment at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands in 1997. During his prolific career, he held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Humanities Center, and the Center for the History of Freedom.



MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Hale, 859-257-8716;


What’s Next: Student Research, Randall Lewis

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 11:54



Credit: Video by Vis Center media team


LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 6, 2015) — Randall Lewis, who completed his mechanical engineering master’s in 2014, conducted research projects on immersive environments for night vision training and unmanned aerial vehicles made from wood.


Lewis's work is featured in the above video, produced by UK's Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments (the Vis Center) as part of its "What's Next" series. It may also be viewed at "Reveal," the official website for UK Research Media, at  





MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Harder, 859-323-2396,

Grant Funds Continued Study of Aging and Alzheimer's Disease in Down Syndrome

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 11:17

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 6, 2015) -- Two researchers from the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging have received a multi-million dollar grant renewal to unlock the mysteries of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and brain aging with the help of people with Down syndrome (DS).


People with Down syndrome have a third copy of Chromosome 21, and that chromosome is the same one responsible for the production of a molecule called amyloid precursor protein. Since amyloid overproduction causes the brain plaques that are a cardinal feature of AD, virtually 100 percent of DS people have Alzheimer's pathology in their brain by the time they are 40, although many of them do not yet have the dementia that is the clinical manifestation of AD.


"People develop Alzheimer disease at different ages. It could be in their 30's or in their 20's, but typically it's in their 60s, 70's, or 80's," says Elizabeth Head, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Kentucky's Sanders-Brown Center on Aging and co-principal Investigator for the project. "It's a little easier to study Alzheimer's disease in Down syndrome because of the predictability of the age when the DS population develops signs of the disease."

In other words, according to Head, "We may get a clearer understanding of AD that allows us to explore how and why AD develops without following people for 40 plus years. The data we're collecting will undoubtedly ultimately help people with Down syndrome lead healthier lives, and is also likely to inform our understanding of AD in the non-DS population as well."


Dozens of people with DS have volunteered for the research, which involves annual visits for brain imaging, blood work, and neurocognitive testing. The NIH grant renewal, which totals $2.5 million over five years, will allow Head and her co-PI Frederick Schmitt, Ph.D., professor at Sanders-Brown and at UK's Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center, to continue following their initial cohort of 45 participants and add up to 50 more to the group.


Brooke Estep, 40, has been involved in the study for about three years. Brooke's father found out about the study online and presented the idea to Brooke, whose response was an enthusiastic "Yes!"


"Brooke has a friend with Alzheimer's and a grandmother with dementia, and she saw this as a way to be proactive," said Deborah Estep, Brooke's stepmother.


Brooke defies the negative stereotype of people with DS.  She is extremely independent -- has her own apartment, travels alone, reads and writes, balances her checkbook. She is cheerful with a wry sense of humor.  "I love doing this," she says on a recent visit to Lexington for her annual testing.  "I'm helping myself and I'm helping others too."


Test participants meet and get to know a phalanx of research team members who supervise everything from an MRI to assess the status and health of their brain to a comprehensive neurocognitive evaluation that assesses intellectual capacity, visual/spatial skill, executive functioning and a host of other data related to memory, language and learning.


One aspect of the study that is particularly exciting for the team -- and for Brooke -- is the gait analysis study.  Brooke thinks it's fun to walk across what appears to be an enormous yoga mat that records and analyzes every step she takes. But for Head, Schmitt and the team, the data they're collecting might prove their hunch that changes in gait could be a predictor of cognitive decline.


"We believe that gait is related to praxis, when the two sides of our brains share and process information to complete a complicated task such as making a meal," explains Head. "So if a person's gait changes -- perhaps their steps aren't fluid or even, or they have a wider stance, or they hesitate at barriers such as stairs or cracks in the sidewalk -- it's possible that the connections between the two sides of the brain are in decline and other cognitive deficits are not far behind."


The team also takes blood samples from each participant.  As of now, there is no so-called biomarker for AD that would allow diagnosis from a blood test like what is currently available for certain viruses or bacteria.  But a large database of blood samples from patients like Brooke might identify factors in the blood that allow for a diagnosis of AD before a person shows any symptoms.


"If we are able to use the data from this cohort to develop more predictors of AD, it might well be the so-called ‘canary in the coal mine’ that we could use to catch AD earlier, intervene earlier, and provide a better quality of life," said Schmitt.


In the meantime, Brooke looks forward to her annual visits with the team and relishes the thought that her participation in the study might help advance the cause. "We keep saying to ourselves, 'Isn't it awesome that of all our family members, Brooke might be the one to make a lasting mark on society?'" said Deborah Estep. 


Schmitt takes Deborah's thoughts a step farther. "About 5 million people in the U.S. alone have Alzheimer's disease, and the social and financial impact of that on patients and their families is immense. People like Brooke who selflessly volunteer their time for the greater good are essential to our efforts to find a cure for this dreadful disease, and we are profoundly grateful for their help."


For more information about participating in the Down Syndrome Study, contact Roberta Davis at or 859-218-3865.


For more information about participating in any research, including current studies at UK and the national ResearchMatch registry, please visit or call 859-257-7856. 



Top Scientific Minds Highlight UK College of Pharmacy Research Conference

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 21:17


LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 5, 2015) -- Graduate students from across the nation will descend upon Lexington and the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy June 11-13 for the 47th annual Pharmaceutics Graduate Student Research Meeting (PGSRM).


PGSRM is a graduate student-organized conference with more than 20 schools participating across the midwest to eastern regions. The main research areas covered in this conference are drug design and discovery, formulation development, drug delivery, biotechnology, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, biopharmaceutics, pharmaceutical materials science, and pharmaceutical analytical methods.


The College is hosting this event for the first time since 1985 and registration for the event – including poster and podia presentations – is now open for members across the UK graduate, postdoctoral and faculty scholar communities. More than 200 students in attendance are expected from schools throughout the region.


“We hope fellow graduate students from across the UK community come out and support PGSRM, it’s a great way to welcome the visiting students and scholars to UK and to showcase all the excellent research taking place here ” said Lin Ao, a UK College of Pharmacy graduate student and co-chair of PGSRM 2015. “Our guest speakers represent a wide array of scientific disciplines that we hope will be interesting to faculty, postdocs, and students across campus.”


Featured speakers include:


• Brad Anderson, Ph.D., the H.B. Kostenbauder Professor in Pharmaceutical Sciences and director of the Division of Drug Development at the UK College of Pharmacy, and co-program director/MPI for the UK Cancer Nanotechnology Training Center. His current research interest include controlled drug delivery to solid tumors using nanotechnology, chemical stability in amorphous solid-state formulations, and molecular dynamics simulations to explore the properties of drugs in amorphous formulations.


• Renier Brentjens, M.D., Ph.D., director of cellular therapeutics at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He is a medical oncologist specializing in the treatment of acute and chronic leukemias. His laboratory is focused on developing novel treatment approaches for certain leukemias and lymphomas utilizing the patient's own immune system.


• Kim Brouwer, Pharm.D., Ph.D., a UK College of Pharmacy alumna, is the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor and chair of the Division of Pharmacotherapy and Experimental Therapeutics of the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy and a professor in toxicology. Dr. Brouwer directs an NIH-funded research program focused on hepatobiliary drug disposition and development and refinement of in vitro model systems to predict in vivo hepatobiliary disposition, drug interactions and hepatotoxicity.


• Paul Hergenrother, Ph.D., the Kenneth Rinehart Jr. Endowed Chair in Natural Products Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois. The overarching goal of his research is to use organic compounds to identify novel cellular targets that can be exploited in the treatment of diseases including cancer, degenerative disorders, and drug-resistant bacteria.


• Hamid Ghandehari, Ph.D., professor in the Departments of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Bioengineering, director of Utah Center for Nanomedicine, and co-founder and co-director of the Nano Institute of Utah and director of the University of Utah Nanotechnology Training Program at the University of Utah. His research focuses on the design of new polymers for gene therapy of head and neck cancer, targeted delivery of polymer therapeutics to solid tumors, oral delivery of chemotherapeutics, and assessing the biocompatibility of silica and dendritic nano constructs.


Ao notes that there are many ways for attendees to engage in PGSRM 2015. From attending world-class lectures to presenting a poster or podia presentation or attending one of the many banquets and social events, the meeting is primed to be a hit for UK’s scientific community.


“PGSRM provides a great opportunity for graduate students to discuss their research with peers, alumni, and members from academia, government and industry,” said Ao. “And we look forward to seeing members from throughout the campus community also take part in this unique opportunity.”


The deadline for registration and abstract submission is May 15. Registration is $65 and is available through the official PGSRM 2015 website:

Students Partner With Kentucky Refugee Ministries to Give Family New Home

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 19:55

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 6, 2015)  Students enrolled in a College of Communication and Information course worked with the Kentucky Refugee Ministries (KRM) to provide a fully furnished apartment for a refugee family from the Congo as part of their class project this semester.


Students who worked on the project are junior geography major Lindsey Funke, freshman economics major Clay Thornton, freshman chemistry major Elizabeth Woodall, freshman nursing major Kaitlin Kilcourse and freshman biology and psychology major Hamza Ashfaq. They are in Allyson Beutke DeVito’s section of CIS 112, an accelerated composition and communication course that incorporates a service-learning component.


“All of our CIS 112 students complete at least 10 hours of community service around the Lexington community,” DeVito said.


Students collected donations of money, furniture and other items for the home through a Facebook group.  They used the donations to furnish the home and make it comfortable for the new family.  The students even helped the family settle into their new apartment on the night they arrived in Lexington.


“The joy on the sons’ faces as they saw that they each had their own beds was contagious and so humbling,” Kilcourse said.


After the family, KRM staff and the students arrived at the new home, there was a knock on the front door.  A fellow refugee family from the Congo brought dinner for the family.


“I was blown away by the generosity of those who have so little,” Kilcourse said.  “It was midnight by the time we arrived, and the woman who prepared the traditional meal had just given birth to a baby boy four days earlier, but she was so willing and happy to sacrifice her time to prepare this meal to welcome our family to the United States.”


Students learned more about refugees and their lives.  Kilcourse noted that The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees describes a refugee as a person who has left his or her home country because of a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality or membership of a particular social group or political opinion.


“However, I think the definition should include a description of refugees as people of great strength and courage who have overcome obstacles I would only face in my nightmares,” she said.  “The refugee community is one filled with stories of hope, hard work and perseverance.”


The refugee family inspired the students who helped them.


“They leave everything behind, which takes tremendous courage, strength, and resilience most of us could only dream about,” Thornton said.  “It is humbling and inspiring, to say the least.”


For Thornton, the idea of an American ‘melting pot’ became personified when he met the family. 


“As Americans, we always take pride in our heritage as a ‘melting pot’ representative of many peoples; yet, I cannot express how much more pride I experience in that sentiment after helping the refugee family resettle in Lexington,” Thorton said.


The project brought students, families and the UK community together for a common goal.


“Friends near and far contributed goods and donations to support the family,” Funke said.  “I was able to take a weekend and go home to collect apartment items with my grandmother, bringing my own family closer together through the project.”


The project brought people together, taught students a new perspective and helped a deserving family settle into a new home.


“The thoughtfulness and solidarity that the refugee community exudes should be an example for the rest of society on how to treat one another,” Kilcourse said.


Kentucky Refugee Ministries Inc. assists refugees who have been legally admitted to the United States as victims of warfare or other forms of persecution because of their religious or political beliefs. KRM, a nonprofit organization, is dedicated to providing resettlement services to refugees through faith- and agency-based co-sponsorship in order to promote self-sufficiency and successful integration into the community.  KRM is committed to offering access to community resources and opportunities and to promoting awareness of diversity for the benefit of the whole community.


For more information on Kentucky Refugee Ministries or to learn how to volunteer, visit



MEDIA CONTACT: Blair Hoover and Rebecca Stratton; 859-323-2395;,

VIDEO: On National Teacher Appreciation Day, Beyonce-approved Music Video Highlights STEM Teaching

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 16:48



LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 5, 2015) – STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) teachers received a boost to their “cool” factor with the “All the STEM Teachers” parody of Beyonce’s hit song “All the Single Ladies…Put A Ring On It” released today in honor of National Teacher Appreciation Day.


The musical dance video, which can be found at, features lyrics and choreography rewritten to focus on the importance of STEM teaching in the U.S., spotlighting the career choice as one that is fun, high-energy and innovative. The producers of the video hope it will “go viral” and generate more dialogue about one of the most critical and rewarding career paths open to today’s generation of young people. Currently, the nation is experiencing a shortage of science and mathematics teachers in our middle and high schools. The shortfall has been the subject of much attention from educators and lawmakers alike.


“Our number one goal with this video was to shine a bright and positive light on teaching careers,” said Ed Dickey, of the University of South Carolina Department of Instruction and Teacher Education and leader of the Teach Science and Mathematics effort. “Playing off the hit Beyonce song will help us connect with a younger generation. By communicating with our audience through this video, we hope to augment traditional communications about the value of STEM teaching as a career path. Plus it is a lot of fun.”


“Our efforts here mirror a national movement to recruit more and improved STEM teachers,” said Margaret Mohr-Schroeder, STEM PLUS program co-director in the University of Kentucky College of Education. “We are partnering with the national Mathematics Teacher Education Partnership and the 100Kin10 project to recruit, place, and retain 100,000 STEM teachers nationally by 2023 and to have a comparable impact in our own states.” 


Dickey and Mohr-Schroeder collaborate with teams at over 100 universities to improve STEM teacher recruitment.


Approved by Beyonce and her team, the parody is a collaboration between the University of South Carolina (UofSC) and UK. The video was filmed using students and faculty from the University of South Carolina’s schools of Education, Dance and Journalism and Mass Communications as well as students from C.A. Johnson High School.


Students who might have an interest in teaching science or mathematics are encouraged to visit for more information.


Along with UofSC, UK is especially equipped to train STEM teachers like never before with the College of Education's STEM PLUS (Producing Leaders for Urban/rUral Schools) program. The program, offering an undergraduate bachelor’s degree and teacher certification is the first STEM education major in the nation and represents a unique transdisciplinary approach to teacher education.


“We think teachers prepared this way will have a better understanding of STEM fields and career pathways and integrate that knowledge in their own classrooms,” said Mohr-Schroeder.


Housed within the College of Education’s Department of STEM Education, STEM PLUS is a double major in STEM Education and the student’s chosen area of focus (such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, earth science, and computer science). The program makes it possible to earn a bachelor’s degree and teacher certification in four years.


In 2011, UK STEM faculty joined a national campaign, known as 100Kin10, that endeavors to enrich America’s classrooms with 100,000 excellent STEM teachers by 2021. One of those teachers will be Jamie Kosel, who graduated from Jacobs High School in the northwest suburbs of Chicago in 2011, and is currently finishing her senior year in UK’s STEM PLUS program while student teaching at Henry Clay High School.


“Math is known to be a difficult subject for many students,” Kosel said. “This all roots directly from the way the material is presented to a student and their self-esteem towards math. Everybody is capable of being good at math. In the past, math was typically presented in a very dry manner- hand-written notes and excessive drill-and-practice homework assignments. The really cool thing about STEM and math in general is that we are trying to incorporate engineering and technology into our lessons to spice things up. I try to encourage collaboration, inquiry learning, and applications in my classes.”


The STEM PLUS program familiarizes students with all areas of STEM, while also building a depth of knowledge in the specific subject students wish to pursue in their teaching careers. Additionally, it is a clinically-based teacher preparation program, meaning students take education-focused coursework each semester and go into local schools for field experience starting their freshman year. They learn to teach STEM subjects in such a way as to engage learners and make STEM knowledge and skills relevant and useful for all students.


Katherine Poe graduated from Larry A. Ryle High School in Boone County in 2012 and is currently a junior in the STEM PLUS program.


“I chose math because so many students struggle and hate math, but I want to show them they can succeed and have fun while doing it,” Poe said. “It is important in education to be able to connect concepts to other subjects and real world problems. Having the STEM background makes this easier because you are learning how all of these subjects can be integrated.”


Through an agreement with the UK College of Engineering, all STEM PLUS students take an introductory engineering course, and can optionally take more advanced engineering and computer sciences courses.


“Ultimately, this program gives undergraduates more exposure to the unique learning opportunities being created in the STEM field,” Mohr-Schroeder said. “Teachers prepared in our program will be able to give their students the opportunity to spark an interest in STEM.”


For more information on STEM PLUS, visit


About the University of South Carolina

The University of South Carolina (UofSC) was established in 1801 and is a full-service, state-supported research university that includes the 358-acre Columbia campus and seven regional campuses with a total full-time student body population of more than 39,500 and 2,100 full-time faculty members. The University provides researchers with a full range of grant-related services through its Sponsored Awards Management, Research Compliance, and Contract and Grant Accounting offices. Located in the capital city of Columbia in the geographic center of the state, UofSC’s main campus is part of a thriving metropolitan community of more than 450,000 inhabitants. UofSC offers a broad spectrum of educational opportunities with 14 colleges and schools that encompass 324 undergraduate and graduate degree-granting programs.


About the University of Kentucky

Founded 150 years ago as a land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky is nestled in the scenic heart of the beautiful Bluegrass region of Kentucky. UK’s 918-acre campus adjacent to downtown Lexington is home to more than 30,000 diverse students representing 117 countries and every state in the nation, and approximately 14,500 employees. UK is one of eight universities in the U.S. that has well-established programs in agriculture, engineering, medicine and pharmacy on a single campus, leading to groundbreaking discoveries and unique interdisciplinary collaboration. Kentucky’s flagship university consists of 16 academic and professional colleges where students can choose from some 200 majors and degree programs.




MEDIA CONTACTS: Whitney Harder, 859-323-2396, or Jean Triskett, 803-361-3774, 

UK Receives Grant to Empower Urban, Homeless Youth

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 15:29

LEXINGTON, Ky., (May 5, 2015) — Imagine a person with no family, no schooling, no transportation and no home. Then, think about that person being only 15. This is a reality for some Kentucky young people who find themselves homeless or unstably housed.


A team of researchers led by experts with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment are reaching out to homeless or unstably housed young people in Louisville with the opportunity to develop essential life skills. Janet Kurzynske, Kerri Ashurst and Ken Jones received a five-year grant from the Children, Youth, and Families at Risk program in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.


According to the 2013 Kids Count statistics, Kentucky teenagers have high rates in several categories that increase their chances of being homeless or unstably housed. These include a later-than-expected or no high school graduation, unemployment, teen births and incarceration.


Due to a lack of consistent life skill programs available to this group, the Louisville YMCA’s Safe Place Services contacted the Jefferson County Extension office for help. They were able to connect them with UKAg researchers, and a partnership developed. Kentucky State University also joined the partnership to help these young people take a positive step forward.


“We have always wanted to work with the homeless, but in order to work with them you need infrastructure that Cooperative Extension doesn’t have,” said Janet Kurzynske, UK extension professor in dietetics and human nutrition and the project’s lead investigator. “When you are working with homeless youth, you have to provide shelter. That’s what the YMCA has. So it made for a really good collaboration.”


UK will collaborate with two YMCA centers in Louisville for the project. One is a shelter that offers housing, food, transportation to school, homework assistance and counseling to homeless or unstably housed young people under the age of 18. The other is a youth development center that offers young people between 18 and 22 bagged food, showers, washing machines, dryers, basic skills training and computer access.


“They are different groups and different ages, but when you look at the life skills they are missing, they very much are lacking the same things,” Kurzynske said.


For the program, UK hired Nick Brown as an extension associate housed at the YMCA centers in Louisville. Brown has extensive experience with homeless youth and the YMCA programs offered to them.


Brown will work with young teens at the shelter to identify their most critical life-skill needs and then help them strengthen those skills, as they are only allowed to stay at the shelter for 30 days. At the youth development center, he’ll offer educational programs and work with those youth on both a group and a one-on-one basis, as they are allowed to use those services for a longer period of time. Areas he will cover include communication, boundaries, healthy lifestyles, workforce preparation, personal safety, stress management, goal setting and financial management.


“The YMCA’s No. 1 goal is to reunite the youth with their family, but that’s not always as easy as it sounds,” Kurzynske said. “That’s why life skill education is so important, because they can’t always be reunited or sometimes they need some additional life skills to be reunited.”


UK and KSU extension personnel will also work with the group to build a community garden at the YMCA shelter that will be used as a food source and provide them with a hands-on opportunity to build a skill and learn about teamwork. Extension personnel are also providing a valuable link to other potential partners the youth may be able to access in the area.


Throughout the process, the researchers will collect pre- and post-test data from participants to evaluate the program’s effectiveness. Part of this data will go into CYFAR’s Common Measures for workforce preparation, a national program that measures the young people’s ability to effectively solve problems and make decisions and provides a perception of their competence.


“We are really looking at it from a positive standpoint. These youth have had enough negative in their lives; we’ve got to help them focus on the positive,” said Kerri Ashurst, senior extension specialist with Family and Consumer Sciences Extension.




MEDIA CONTACT: Katie Pratt, 859-257-8774.




UK Arts Administration Students Help At-Risk Kids Capture 'A Beautiful Life'

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 15:12


Video from Studio Walz website,  


LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 5, 2015) — As adults, many of us look back fondly on childhood and the world of wonder that surrounded us. Nothing seemed impossible until the daily routine of life dampened our sense of optimism with age and responsibility.


Unfortunately, bleak realities can come all too early for some children, who witness domestic violence or struggle with illness at an early age. In an attempt to help bring light to these sometimes dark times, a class of University of Kentucky arts administration students developed real life arts workshops for children working with two Lexington organizations. The resulting artwork is the focus of a book published by the class that will raise money for the organizations and future community art programs from the class.


The enterprising UK arts administration students presenting these art workshops are part of a spring course first presented in 2014 that created an initiative called Art in Unlikely Places. The class is led by Mark Rabideau, adjunct assistant professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Arts Administration Program. The goal of Art in Unlikely Places is driven by a belief that creativity is the seed of hope. The initiative connects inspiring artists to those most in need of the transformative powers of the arts.


The students' vision is that this organization will deliver the work of inspiring artists to the ailing, the impoverished and the distraught, sharing beauty with those whose life-circumstances might otherwise prevent them from discovering the hope that is found in the artistic moment. 


Students participating in Art in Unlikely Places, now in its second year, developed a project titled "A Beautiful Life: Through the Eyes of a Child." The project introduced children in need to the arts by providing them an opportunity to express themselves in creative ways. At the suggestion of some members of the class, the group partnered with Greenhouse 17, a refuge for children who have been witness to domestic violence, and The Kidz Club, where children with medical needs are provided special attention with academic and social interaction.


"As a child, the arts were so strongly encouraged to me at an early age. The same goes with my classmates. We wanted to share our love with these children, so that they could have an opportunity like we did to experience the power the arts have," said art studio senior Janie Kegley, of Louisa, Kentucky, who serves as director of marketing for the arts administration course.


Art in Unlikely Places held workshops with 30 local children from the organizations, prompting the kids to create artwork that expressed their inner feelings, hopes and dreams. All were asked to draw what made life beautiful to them.


In addition to using visual arts to help the children give voice to their feelings, the class also invited music therapists from Evolve to partner with them and lead the children in songs and games.


Lending his talents to "A Beautiful Life” is renowned fiber artist, UK Professor Arturo Alonzo Sandoval. The internationally celebrated artist was pleased to participate when approached by one of his students, noting that service is one of the three elements of being a UK professor.


The class was honored Sandoval took them up on their request. "Arturo is an artist who has touched the lives of myself and another student inside our class. When we were discussing artists there really wasn't any competition. His heart is so big and he achieved a product even better than we imagined. He did all of this for free and we are so grateful," Kegley said.


Sandoval, with the assistance of photographer Scott Walz, incorporated images of the artworks the children created into four quilts. Two of the art quilts will be donated to the respected organizations and the remaining two have been sold to benefit the program.


"The four art quilts are digital compositions of the original drawings the participating children accomplished," Sandoval said. "Scott Walz, my IT designer/expert, used his skills and our collaborative design sense to layer the children’s drawings into four lovely images with lots of energy, color and texture."


Sandoval and Walz believe helping bring the artwork from the coloring page to a book and art quilt form was a great fit for their talents. "The goal of art is to communicate beauty," Sandoval said.


For only $30, arts patrons can purchase the book of original artworks by children at Greenhouse 17 and The Kidz Club and receive an invitation to Art in Unlikely Places finale this week. All Art in Unlikely places supporters will be invited to the unveiling celebration of the final artworks Thursday, May 7, at Lexington Art League. Light refreshments will be served accompanied by a musical guest appearance from the popular UK a cappella group, the acoUstiKats.


Proceeds from the event will allow Art in Unlikely Places to continue to send art workshops back to Greenhouse 17 and The Kidz Club.


Additional funds will also insure that the Art in Unlikely Places will continue to thrive and benefit the future students of the program. "This class is groundbreaking in education. We want to make sure the students after us can have the same experience. It has truly been life changing," Kegley said.


In addition to the dedicated students in Art in Unlikely Places, who created and executed "A Beautiful Life," the project also was made possible with support of local organizations and businesses like the UK College of Fine Arts, WRFL, Red Mango, T.G.I. Fridays and Bourbon n' Toulouse, who helped the class and UK student organization achieve their fundraising and marketing goals for the semester.


For further information on this student project, visit Arts in Unlikely Places at their GoFundMe website: You can also find them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at:;; and



MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Hale, 859-257-8716;

Alumni Drive Reconstruction, Realignment Project Promises Safer, Better Transportation Artery

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 08:41

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 4, 2015) — Gov. Steve Beshear, University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray — joined by key state legislators — announced Monday the start of work on the realignment of Alumni Drive between Tates Creek and Nicholasville Roads.


The $5 million project is slated for completion by Sept. 1, in time for the start of the UK football season. Beshear, Gray and Capilouto were joined at the announcement and ceremonial groundbreaking Monday by Sen. Reginald Thomas and Rep. Kelly Flood, both instrumental in the project.


"Alumni Drive serves as one of the gateways to our campus,” Capilouto said. "We look forward to the project’s completion in September, at which point we will have a safer, more functional route for the UK family and the many who visit our campus and the Arboretum every day." 


The project, which is funded through the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and was approved during the 2014 legislative session, was a priority for Sen. Thomas and Rep. Flood as well as Gov. Beshear, who authorized the project.


“Once this project is complete, all travelers along Alumni Drive — whether on foot, on bicycles, or in vehicles — will enjoy a friendlier, safer trip,” said Gov. Beshear.  “Like many of our road improvements, this project will improve access and safety but will also encourage citizens to enjoy nearby recreational spaces.”


Key features of the realignment project include:

  • The reconstruction and realignment project is designed to help calm traffic on Alumni Drive, a major connector road that serves 18,000 to 20,000 vehicles per day. The realigned road also is expected to slow vehicular speeds, and the new design features will include enhanced bicycle and pedestrian facilities.
  • At the intersections of College Way and University Drive, roundabouts – also known as traffic circles – will replace existing stop signs.
  • The road changes will also include moving College Way to the west, along with creating new entrances to the Commonwealth Stadium Blue Lot and to athletics facilities.
  • The improvements to bicycle and pedestrian facilities along the corridor will provide safe connections to existing facilities, as well as opportunities for recreational use.
  • Additionally, the improvements will include an ADA-accessible route from main campus to the Arboretum.


"It was a great pleasure to work with Governor Beshear, Mayor Gray and the University of Kentucky on behalf of this project, which will improve traffic flow and the safety of our community,” said Sen. Reginald Thomas. "This project has been a high priority, and I look forward to seeing its completion in September in time for the start of the home football season.


"The Alumni Drive redirection and realignment project will provide enormous benefits for our community, most notably by increasing the safety of a major connector road. I'm proud to have worked with Governor Beshear, other members of the Fayette legislative delegation, Mayor Gray and UK in obtaining the funding for this important initiative,” said Rep. Flood, whose district includes Alumni Drive and the campus.


Alumni Drive will be closed beginning Sunday, May 10, with traffic being re-routed through the immediate area. Access to the Arboretum will be maintained at all times via Tates Creek Road. The Lexington Senior Center will be accessible from Nicholasville Road. Additionally, the other occupied buildings on Alumni Drive – a child care center and UK graduate housing – will be accessible throughout the project.


“Alumni Drive is a significant corridor for Lexington, connecting neighborhoods, businesses, the Arboretum and the UK campus,” Mayor Jim Gray said. “For many citizens, this project will require a major adjustment to travel routes for the next several months.”


Maps and more detailed information on the project can be found at and a fact sheet is available at: Those traveling in the area should plan accordingly and allow extra time.


For more information on the project visit:



MEDIA CONTACTS:  Blair Hoover,; Rebecca Stratton,, 859-323-2395; Kathy Johnson, 859-257-3155

Student Summer Parking Permits Now Available

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 08:12

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 4, 2015)  Student summer parking permits became available for purchase Friday, May 1, at the University of Kentucky.


These permits are $7 per week and may only be purchased in person at the Parking and Transportation Services office, located in the Press Avenue Garage (PS #6), at the corner of Press and Virginia Avenues. The office is open 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Summer permits may be purchased for any number of weeks between May 11 and August 7, 2015.


All University parking lots will be controlled for permits during the summer months.  For more information on summer parking policies, visit



MEDIA CONTACT: Rebecca Stratton and Blair Hoover, (859) 323-2395;,

Fowlkes Returns to UK to Lead Barnstable Brown Diabetes and Obesity Center

Sun, 05/03/2015 - 16:17

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 4, 2015) -- Dr. John Fowlkes took the helm as new director of the University of Kentucky's Barnstable Brown Diabetes and Obesity Center earlier this year with a vision to build upon the center's past work and develop a robust and comprehensive adult and pediatric center providing research, education and patient care for the thousands of Kentuckians diagnosed with diabetes. But the Texas native who has spent the last decade at the University of Arkansas Children's Hospital, has found himself in familiar territory.


Fowlkes, who succeeds Dr. Philip Kern who served as the Center's inaugural director and who had been performing a dual role as director of the UK's Center for Clinical and Translation Science, previously held the Barnstable Brown Gala Professorship in Diabetes Research at UK in 2000-2001 and was part of the UK Department of Pediatrics from 1996 until 2001.


"Having that prior life here and knowing the expertise that already exists at UK, provided the excitement and impetus for me to return to UK to develop a comprehensive diabetes center," said Fowlkes. "I think there is a potential to organize research, education and patient care in a way that we can see some real accomplishments and do some things that are very innovative."


However, Fowlkes, a nationally recognized clinician scientist funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) who is intimately involved in patient care, realizes some challenges lie ahead.

Fowlkes' primary goal is to begin the work of "rethinking the clinical care model" and developing a new way of delivering state-of-the-art patient care.


"Right now we are looking at how to get the team in a collaborative environment and to develop operational clinic space that is much more than just seeing patients and prescribing drugs," he said. "We want to be able to see a patient, educate them and most importantly, serve as a medical home that addresses all of their needs in a one-stop shop."


The team he refers to includes Dr. Kathryn M. Thrailkill, professor of  pediatrics and the newly named Barnstable Brown Chair in Pediatric Diabetes Research; Dr. Alba E. Morales Pozzo, an associate professor of pediatrics; and Clay Bunn, Ph.D., who will direct pediatric research laboratories. All three joined Fowlkes in coming to UK from the University of Arkansas.


In Kentucky and in the U.S., diabetes is one of the leading causes of death and disability. Besides leading to premature death, both types 1 and 2 Diabetes are associated with complications that threaten quality of life. It is also the leading cause of adult blindness, end-stage kidney disease and nontraumatic lower-extremity amputations.


Already UK has a sizable diabetes patient population in both pediatrics and adults, but Fowlkes wants to better coordinate care throughout the various ambulatory clinics where those patients are treated and wants to provide educational opportunities. Additionally, the clinical care will be complemented with intellectual questions looking at outcomes, quality and providing fertile material for research. Increasing the number of clinical trials available for both pediatric and adult patients is also a big focus for the future, he said.


"Diabetes is perhaps the greatest scourge assaulting Kentuckians. It kills indirectly through heart attack, strokes, kidney failure, nerve damage and blindness but there is an explosion of new therapeutic treatment modalities," said UK College of Medicine Dean Frederick de Beer "The Barnstable Brown Center under Dr. Fowlkes' leadership has the potential to be developed to lead and integrate our assault on diabetes."


Currently, the Center has approximately $24 million per year in research funding focusing on prevention and treatment of the disease and various complications of diabetes. Funding comes from the NIH, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and other funding agencies, as well as the Barnstable-Brown family.


Patricia "Tricia" Brown and Priscilla "Cyb" Barnstable, together with their mother Wilma Barnstable, have been hosting a Derby eve gala to raise money for diabetes research in Kentucky for nearly 25 years with celebrities coming from around the globe to attend the famous Barnstable Brown Gala in Louisville -- with the most recent event being held this past Derby weekend.


Tricia Brown's late husband, Dr. David Brown, was diagnosed and later died of diabetes was the inspiration for the establishment of the Barnstable Brown. Since 2008, all proceeds from the gala go to the center at UK. 


"The Barnstable-Brown family made not only the essential initial investment but provides continuous support and a consistent presence that is an incredible and immeasurable asset to our center," said Fowlkes. "Their enduring commitment is something that makes a true impact and we are very appreciative."


Media Contact:  Kristi Lopez, 859-806-0445

KIPRC Urges Construction Workers to Stand Down for Safety

Fri, 05/01/2015 - 17:24

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 4, 2015) — The Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center based at the University of Kentucky has joined the Occupational Health and Safety Administration's National Safety Stand-Down initiative from May 4 to 15.


The public safety campaign calls for all construction site managers to suspend work for a short period to review safety standards, including fall prevention, rescue plans, job-specific hazards and other protective measures. To participate, construction companies of all sizes can hold a Safety Stand-Down, or voluntary event for employers to speak directly with workers about safety. Employers are encouraged to focus on fall hazards and fall prevention during the Stand-Down. Falls from elevated heights continue to cause preventable deaths in the U.S. In 2013, 291 of 828 reported construction worker fatalities were caused by falls.


"In 2014, Kentucky saw 14 fatalities from falls from elevation — 14 deaths that could have been prevented," De Anna McIntosh, a safety specialist for the Kentucky Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation at KIPRC. "We are hoping that in raising awareness about falls and how to prevent them, we can eliminate this type of workplace fatality."


According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, employers should prohibit work when weather conditions are wet, windy or icy. Workers should be required to wear a personal protective fall system during all phases of a roofing job. Also, employers should have a fall protection plan in place and a written document outlining the fall protection plan before a job begins. 


The OSHA Safety Stand-Down initiative coincides with North American Occupational Safety and Health Week. Last year, more than one million construction workers participated in a Safety Stand-Down. Employers can obtain resources to conduct a Safety Stand-Down as well as a certificate of participation by clicking here.


MEDIA CONTACT: Elizabeth Adams,

Markey, LLS Host Fourth Annual 'Meet the Researchers Day'

Fri, 05/01/2015 - 15:32

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 4, 2014) — The University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society hosted their fourth annual "Meet the Researchers Day" last Thursday. Meet the Researchers Day is a field trip given as a prize to two schools in the region who successfully raise more than $1,000 for the LLS's Pennies for Patients campaign.


This year, students from Bondurant Middle School (BMS) in Frankfort, Ky., and Shelby County West Middle School (SCWMS) in Shelbyville, Ky., won the opportunity to visit the Biomedical/Biological Sciences Research Building (BBSRB) on UK's campus and learned more about how the money they raised for Pennies for Patients will help further cancer research.


After a formal introduction by UK researchers Tianyan Gao and Craig Vander Kooi, the students received a a tour of cancer research lab space in the BBSRB and learned how to use some basic lab equipment. The event also featured presentations by BMS student  and cancer survivor Tyler Calhoun, the LLS Honored Hero, and UK pediatric hematologist/oncologist Dr. John D'Orazio.


Pennies for Patients is the annual fundraiser for the School & Youth division of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. It encourages students to collect spare change during a set three-week time frame early in the year. Funds raised support leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma research; patient and community service; public health education; and professional education.


For this year's campaign, more than 340 schools across the region participated. Kentucky schools participating in Pennies for Patients had to raise a minimum of $1,000 to win the chance to attend Meet the Researchers Day. BMS and SCWMS were chosen in a random drawing, raising a combined $5,027.12 for LLS. 


To learn more about the Pennies for Patients program, visit

Wildcat Wheels Now Accepting Bicycle Donations

Fri, 05/01/2015 - 14:25

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 4, 2015) — Are you moving out of your residence hall and no longer have a need for you bicylce? Instead of leaving it behind, donate it! The University of Kentucky encourages students to donate their unwanted bicycles instead of leaving them at the bike racks on campus.


Bicycle donation helps expedite the abandoned bike process and frees up space on campus bike racks. Bikes donated through this process will go to a foster care program, become a part of the Wildcat Wheels program or go to UK Surplus, depending on their condition.


Simply fill out the Bicycle Donation Waiver and bring your bike to the Bike Donation Station at Wildcat Wheels Bicycle Library, in the basement of Blazer Hall, during the following windows:

·         Monday, May 4, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

·         Tuesday, May 5, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

·         Wednesday, May 6, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

·         Thursday, May 7, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.


If you choose not to participate in the Bike Donation Station and are leaving campus for the summer, remember to take your bicycle with you. Abandoned bicycles are subject to impoundment, even if they are parked in a legal bicycle space.


If a bicycle is impounded, the owner will have 90 days to claim it at UK Parking and Transportation Services (PTS) and pay all citation and impoundment fees. Bicycles unclaimed after 90 days will be disposed of in accordance with university regulations.


PTS identifies abondoned bicycles before impounding them, and will wait a minimum of five days before removing bicycles that have been tagged. If a student or employee who is on campus during the summer months discovers a tag on their bicycle, simply removing it will notify PTS staff that the bicycle is actively being used.



MEDIA CONTACT: Blair Hoover and Rebecca Stratton; (859) 323-2395;,

Earthquake Prompts UK Students From Nepal to Mobilize

Fri, 05/01/2015 - 11:13

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 4, 2015)  A group of University of Kentucky students from Nepal is helping to relieve the suffering in their home country caused by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that took place Saturday, April 25.


The students have started a fundraising initiative, “Nepal, I am with you,” to obtain food, medical supplies, and rebuild broken communities. To learn more about their initiative, visit their fundraising website.


“We are far from home and are suffering from not being there,” said Suraj Upadhaya. “We are not there in physical support, but we can send emotional support while we are in Kentucky.”


More than 7,000 people have died in the earthquake, injuries top 14,000 and according to the “Nepal, I am with you” website, more than 450,000 people were reportedly displaced from their homes. Many homes were destroyed, and people are living in tents without relief. 


“We must assure these families that they do not stand alone,” Upadhaya said.


The funds raised by this initiative will be used to help a small village of 20-40 families outside of Kathmandu to provide direct support at the community level.


“All foreign aid now is solely focused on the capital, Kathmandu. Small villages outside the capital are not getting enough aid and relief materials,” said Upadhaya. "Please, help us help our families and friends. Let us assure them by saying from around the world, 'Nepal, I am with you.'  Stand with us. Stand with Nepal.”

Artificial Sweeteners: Zero Doesn't Really Mean Zero

Fri, 05/01/2015 - 10:58

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 4, 2015) -- The next time you add Splenda (sucralose), Sweet and Low (saccharin) or Equal (aspartame) to your tea or coffee, beware  --  all three of these artificial sweeteners also contain dextrose, a simple sugar with about 3.6 calories per serving packet.


A violation of truth in advertising?  Not necessarily. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows a product to be labeled "zero calories" if the food contains “less than 5 calories per reference amount customarily consumed per labeled serving." Although these artificial sweeteners do provide fewer calories, they are not calorie free, and people trying to watch their waistlines should keep this in mind.


Although artificial sweeteners are generally considered safe but there is still debate about whether they help with weight loss. There is conflicting research about the role diet sodas play in weight loss, with some research demonstrating that consuming diet sodas without decreasing overall calorie intake doesn’t appear to promote weight loss, while other studies show some weight reduction when switching from regular soda to diet.


The bacteria in your intestines, known as the gut microbiome, may hold the key to these controversies. A study last year showed that mice fed artificial sweeteners actually developed higher blood glucose levels than mice fed the simple sugar glucose. When the gut microbiome in these animals was eliminated by antibiotics, the mice fed artificial sweetener did not develop higher blood glucose levels, implying that gut microorganisms play some role in regulating blood glucose levels resulting from artificial sweetener use.


Furthermore, a small study in humans showed that four out of seven lean individuals developed higher blood glucose levels after consuming artificial sweeteners for a week. These data suggest that we are not identical in our gut microbiome and artificial sweeteners may affect us differently.


Until further study more clearly defines how artificial sweeteners alter the gut microbiome and ultimately affect blood glucose levels, it's entirely possible that smaller amounts of table sugar is better for you, since higher blood glucose is a risk factor for obesity and diabetes. The American Heart Association recommends less than 9 teaspoons a day for men and less than 6 teaspoons of table sugar  per day for women.   


Geza Bruckner is professor Clinical Nutrition in the Department of Clinical Sciences at the UK College of Health Sciences


This column appeared in the May 3, 2015 edition of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

STEMCats End Spring Semester Strong with Research

Fri, 05/01/2015 - 09:48

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 4, 2015) — In the fall of 2014, a group of 235 incoming students became the first class of STEMCats at the University of Kentucky. This week, they are not only wrapping up their first year at UK, but also a semester of original research; an unusual experience for many college freshmen.


The STEMCats living learning program, sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and directed by UK Department of Biology Chair Vincent Cassone, was launched to increase retention of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors at UK.


A key component of the program is an authentic research experience for the freshmen, in addition to pre-fall "FastTrack" courses, a living learning community and STEM exploration courses.


With 16 departments and 62 faculty members involved in the program, a range of original research opportunities were available for STEMCats this semester. From "Analysis of Gene Expression During Salamander Tail Regeneration" to "Clean Water through Chemistry," the projects engaged faculty members and students across many departments and majors.


"This is fundamentally different from a traditional lab class; the students are doing something that has never been done before to address questions to which we don’t yet know the answers," said Douglas Harrison, associate professor in the Department of Biology who advised the "Sex, Flies, and Good Gene Hunting" project with Associate Professor Peter Mirabito.


Another project, "Drug Interactions in Breast Cancer," could help scientists understand why the drug tamoxifen may not work as a therapy for breast cancer in some patients. Hollie Swanson, professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences, and Ok-Kyong Park-Sarge, associate professor in the Department of Physiology, worked with 10 STEMCats students on the project. The group focused on the question, "If breast cancer patients taking tamoxifen are also taking drugs to treat epilepsy or heart failure, would those drugs interfere with tamoxifen and inhibit their breast cancer treatment?" 


In addition to addressing a real-world issue through research, it was also a learning experience for students on what goes into a research project and how a lab works.


"I think it is important for the students to understand how scientists ask questions and how scientists' work improves our ability to treat diseases like cancer," Swanson said.


In the "Sex, Flies, and Good Gene Hunting" project, STEMCats students searched for genes that contribute to reproductive lifespan, or how long an individual will be fertile. Because of its short lifespan, the fruit fly was used to conduct the research. Specifically, students performed crosses to determine the effects of bacterial infection and antibiotic treatments on the reproductive lifespan.


"The process of aging has many similarities across most animal species," Harrison said. "We anticipate that the findings from this research are likely to point to many genetic and environmental influences that will have similar effects on other animals, including humans."


The team is completing the last of their fly crosses and beginning to analyze the data. The data collected by students this semester will be added to a larger analysis of research by previous undergraduates, and the aggregate data will be used for a genome-wide association study that seeks to identify the genes affecting reproductive lifespan.


On Wednesday, April 29, STEMCats students presented these and other research projects at the UK Showcase of Undergraduate Scholars and the STEMCats Research Forum, held in conjunction with the showcase.


Shane D'Souza, a freshman biology major, and Alyssa Allen, a freshman medical laboratory science pre-major, helped present their group's project researching the regenerative abilities of axolotls (Mexican salamanders), led by Randal Voss, professor of biology.


"After coming to UK and studying in Dr. Voss' lab, I found myself very interested in research and genetics," D'Souza said. "I feel it really opened a new field of study to me."


Allen, who said she was at first very nervous to present at the showcase, enjoyed speaking to others one-on-one about the project.


"This interested me so much…I thought it was awesome," she said.  


Another key component of the STEMCats program, closely related to the success of the research component, is the STEM-focused professional development for faculty. On Saturday, April 25, the STEM Teaching Enhancement Workshop and Scholarly Forum was held on campus.


Lectures were given on implementing high-impact STEM teaching practices; using technology to engage students and enhance learning; web-based homework; diversity in STEM fields; research integration and interaction in class; and more.


Stephen Testa, associate professor of chemistry, presented his STEMCats research project at the forum as a "teaching tip" talk titled, "Using a Freshman Chemistry Laboratory Experiment as a Springboard for Original Research." And that's exactly what Testa did this semester.


The STEMCats research project, called the Student Centered Original Research Experience, or SCORE, tasked STEMCats students with improving a current lab project taught in CHE 111 (the general chemistry lab).


"The whole experience was really a win-win situation for everyone involved," Testa said. "It was amazing to see these students in action, and to see how their abilities and knowledge evolved over the semester."


For CHE 111, the project is presented as a murder mystery, where students have to solve a simulated crime involving simulated DNA samples.


STEMCats students found multiple strategies for reducing material consumption (which will save money for the CHE 111 lab); found how to increase the rate of the reaction (which saves time); and figured out how to broaden the reactivity of DNA nucleobases (which will allow for more discrimination between the murder mystery samples that students test).


"For faculty involved in the program, it’s the curiosity to find new answers that drove us and got us excited about science and research when we first started out," Harrison said. "We hope that the freshman STEMCats research experience will generate that same enthusiasm in these students. At the same time, they’re learning to think critically, a skill that can be applied to anything they do afterward."




MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Harder, 859-323-2396,

WUKY's 'UK Perspectives' Features UK's VP for Institutional Diversity

Thu, 04/30/2015 - 18:37

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 1, 2015) — WUKY's "UK Perspectives" focuses on the people and programs of the University of Kentucky and is hosted by WUKY General Manager Tom Godell.  Today's guest is J.J. Jackson, UK’s first vice president for institutional diversity. As she approaches retirement following the end of the semester, Jackson reflects on her tenure at the university and her efforts to increase diversity and inclusion on campus. 


To listen to the podcast interview from which "UK Perspectives" is produced, visit


"UK Perspectives" airs at 8:45 a.m. and 5:45 p.m. each Friday on WUKY 91.3, UK's NPR station.