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Key to Improving Students’ Math Skills Is In Teacher Education

A change in the way teachers learn math may improve their students’ math skills, according to Professor of Mathematics Roger Howe, a Faculty Fellow at the Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study (TIAS).

Chinese students consistently outperform American students in math. Mathematician Roger Howe says one reason is that teachers are much more highly valued in China, and given opportunities to collaborate and improve their teaching skills over time.

Chinese students consistently outperform American students in math. Mathematician Roger Howe says one reason is that teachers are much more highly valued in China, and given opportunities to collaborate and improve their teaching skills over time.

Howe is a mathematics professor at Yale University and an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association of Arts and Sciences. He is an eminent scholar-in-residence and a visiting professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture in the College of Education and Human and Development (CEHD) through TIAS, a program that attracts eminent scholars from around the world for extended stays to study, teach and conduct research alongside Texas A&M students and faculty. Howe says Texas A&M is a perfect home-away-from-home as its CEHD is one of the nation’s leaders with regards to its math expectations for teacher candidates.

Howe says at good programs, such as Texas A&M’s, aspiring elementary school teachers are required to take two semesters of math classes to learn the abstract principles they’ll be teaching to students. A one-semester methods course follows, in which they learn how to teach those principles.

He suggests a change in curriculum whereby the methods are incorporated into the math classes, rather than taught separately. “This change has been made possible by the recent creation of curriculum standards documents, such as the TEKS, that describe what math students should master, grade-by- grade,” Howe explains. “So a course can follow the standards and focus on the question: at each level, what should students learn to prepare for the next level?”.

Many teachers are not very enthusiastic about math because they don’t understand it, Howe finds. “When they’re taught math fundamentals, there is a very low absorption rate,” he notes. “And when it’s not connected to the classroom, they have trouble turning what they’ve learned into effective lessons. The more I’ve studied curriculum, the more I’ve realized that teaching shouldn’t be separated from subject matter.”

Howe says schoolchildren in a number of Asian nations consistently outperform U.S. students in math and he finds several reasons why.

He says in Asian countries such as China, teachers are much more highly valued in society than they are in the U.S. “In China, being a teacher is a much more respected profession than it is here. And the teaching profession is structured so teachers keep learning and getting better.”

Each new Chinese teacher is mentored by a senior teacher; the two visit each other’s classes. “Groups of Chinese teachers collaborate and help each other improve their lessons on a day-to-day basis,” says Howe, adding that teachers in China can rise through six ranks to eventually become “super teachers.”

“But in the U.S. there is one level for a teacher and if you move up, it’s to administration,” he notes. “So there’s a lot of structure in the Chinese teaching profession that leads to improvement from their initial state.”

Roger Howe

Roger Howe

Teachers in the U.S. are stuck in a classroom for six to seven hours a day and are not given incentives to improve themselves, Howe asserts. “We need to structure teachers’ lives differently so they can work on improving what they do and give them incentives to do so.”

Howe says it’s unfortunate he is one of a few university mathematicians to focus on elementary math education. “There are few because the incentives are not there,” he notes. “University mathematicians are rewarded for research and don’t think much about teaching.

“There are more effective ways of teaching math and less effective ways,” he continues. “It seems in the U.S., we have found the less effective ways.”

Howe also addresses “math anxiety,” a common problem among American students. He says he often hears complaints from people who say “I’m just not good at math.”

Howe balks at the notion, saying that anyone can be good at math with the right instruction and attitude. “You were taught not to like math − that’s part of the American psychology,” he notes. “But with the proper instruction and the belief that ‘if I try harder, I will learn this,’ you can be successful.”

You can support the Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study (TIAS) with a gift of an endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation.

Contact:

Don Birkelback
Senior Regional Director of Major Gifts
Houston
(979) 845-7560

Ferdinand Finds Laws Restricting Texting While Driving Save Lives

With the busy Independence Day holiday weekend just around the corner, several states are spotlighting the dangers of texting while driving. Although not all states have laws restricting texting while driving, a recent study by Alva Ferdinand, Dr.P.H., J.D., assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, indicates if they did, it would save lives.

A new study proves that laws preventing texting while driving does save lives.

A new study proves that laws preventing texting while driving does save lives.

Ferdinand, who is in the Department of Health Policy and Management, used a panel study design that examined the effects of different types of texting bans on motor vehicular fatalities. She and her co-researchers used the Fatality Analysis Reporting System—a nationwide census providing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Congress, and the public with data regarding fatal injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes. A difference-in-differences empirical approach was used to examine the incidence of fatal crashes between 2000 through 2010 in 48 U.S. states with and without texting bans. Age cohorts were constructed to examine the impact of these bans on age-specific traffic fatalities.

Results indicated that primarily enforced texting bans (i.e., a police officer can stop a driver for texting while driving without having another reason) were significantly associated with a 3 percent reduction in traffic fatalities among all age groups. This equates to an average of 19 deaths prevented per year in states with such bans. Further, primarily enforced texting laws that banned only young drivers were the most effective at reducing deaths among the 15-21 year old cohort. Secondarily enforced texting restrictions (i.e., a police officer can only cite a driver for texting after stopping them for some other violation, such as speeding, driving while intoxicated, etc.) were not associated with traffic fatality reductions in any of their analyses.

“Our results indicate that states that have not enacted any primarily enforced texting bans are missing out on opportunities to prevent avoidable roadway deaths,” said Ferdinand.

“Impact of Texting Laws on Motor Vehicular Fatalities in the United States,” was published online in June in the American Journal of Public Health.

Additional authors include Nir Menachemi, Ph.D., M.P.H.; Bisakha Sen, Ph.D., Justin Blackburn, Ph.D., Michael Morrisey, Ph.D., and Leonard Nelson III, J.D., LLM.

This article was originally published by the Texas A&M Health Science Center.

You can support faculty research at Texas A&M University’s Health Science Center with a gift of an endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation.

Contact:

Andrew Robison ’04
Director of Development
Texas A&M Health Science Center
(979) 862-6423

Researchers Discover Trojan Horse Method of Penetrating Cellular Walls Without Harm

COLLEGE STATION – Scientists with Texas A&M AgriLife Research have found a “Trojan horse” way to deliver proteins into live human cells without damaging them.

The finding, published in this month’s Nature Methods, is expected to be easily adopted for use in medical research to find cures and treatments for a wide range of diseases, according to the team’s lead scientist, Dr. Jean-Philippe Pellois, an associate professor of biochemistry at Texas A&M University.

“This is something that for many years people have tried to do, because proteins are basic components of the cell. They are the molecules that are doing all kinds of jobs inside the cell,” Pellois said. “Being able to deliver a protein to change or study what the cell is doing is extremely useful.”

Scientists with Texas A&M AgriLife Research have found a “Trojan horse” way to deliver proteins into live human cells without damaging them. Part of the team, shown here from the left, were graduate students Alfredo Erazo-Oliveras of Puerto Rico, Kristina Najjar of Lebanon and Dr. Jean-Philippe Pellois, Texas A&M University biochemist. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo by Kathleen Phillips)

Scientists with Texas A&M AgriLife Research have found a “Trojan horse” way to deliver proteins into live human cells without damaging them. Part of the team, shown here from the left, were graduate students Alfredo Erazo-Oliveras of Puerto Rico, Kristina Najjar of Lebanon and Dr. Jean-Philippe Pellois, Texas A&M University biochemist. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo by Kathleen Phillips)

Currently, scientists use different methods to try to figure out how molecules work inside a cell. In general, a scientist can deliver the DNA that codes for the protein into a cell, but that requires crossing the cell membrane, which damages or kills the cell, he explained. Also, the amount of protein produced by DNA expression is hard to control, and the DNA introduced can also alter the genome of cells in an uncontrollable and unpredictable manner.

“We bypass this and deliver the protein directly,” Pellois said. “And the method we found delivers the protein very efficiently. A lot of the protein gets inside the cell, and we don’t damage the membrane or alter the physiology of the cell.

“That’s really powerful. It has an impact for cell biology, whether the question is how does the cell work and what do proteins do, or when a protein does not function properly, how does this lead to disease?”

He said the field of regenerative medicine could be one of the first practical applications because research there aims at reprogramming cells – for example, using a patient’s skin cells  reprogrammed as heart or liver cells to help that person recover from an illness.

“You can use those cells as therapeutic tools themselves that can repair damaged organs and tissues,” Pellois said. “Our finding will allow these therapeutic challenges to be met by helping medical researchers get the reprogramming proteins inside cells safely.”

Similarly, the method could be used in the battle against cancer, he added.

“A way to kill a cancer cell is to deliver a protein that is known to be a tumor suppressor,” he said. “Sometime cancer arises when a certain set of key proteins called tumor suppressors stop functioning. When they function normally, they make sure that healthy cells don’t start proliferating. But when there is a mutation in DNA that leads to a loss of function of those tumor suppressor proteins, that is when a cell can start going completely crazy and growing without limits.

“The idea is that if this protein can be reintroduced into the cancer cell – without damaging the cell — this protein might cause the death of the cancer cells. That would be a therapeutic tool using our method.”

Drug development to treat specific ailments where a medicinal compound could be delivered into a cell is another potential use, he said.

His team derived the method from decades old knowledge of research on the HIV virus, which found a toxic protein that was able to go from one infected cell to an uninfected cell. Peptides derived from that protein have been studied for their ability to penetrate cells.

“Our contribution has been to take those compounds that work at very low efficiency and all of a sudden increase their efficiency dramatically. It took a clever guess and also luck to find the compounds that worked really, really well,” he said of his team at Texas A&M which included Alfredo Erazo-Oliveras, Kristina Najjar, Laila Dayani, Ting-Yi Wang and Gregory Johnson.

He likened the discovery to “creating a Trojan horse for the cell.”

“We are able to hijack the cell, and then use the cell chemistry to get those reagents to come out of what would be the equivalent of a Trojan horse,” he said. “It is a little bit like kicking through the door. Usually, in kicking to get inside the cell the door is damaged.

“Because of that, it’s a gamble. A lot of people were hesitant to make those reagents more effective because of the danger of what can happen to the cell. In other words, yes, you may get in the cell, but if you destroy the membrane and kill the cell, what good is that?

“The surprise in our work is that despite being extremely efficient, despite presumably ‘kicking through the door’ and getting inside, the cell is okay,” he said. “We don’t quite know why, but what we suspect is that the cell is basically repairing the door as soon as it is broken. Perhaps the cell has a mechanism to repair itself, and we were lucky to stumble upon that to develop a technology that is both efficient and safe.”

His team used “a library of cells” from  people, chicken, monkeys and mice. There are slight differences, but more among different types of cells than by species. Some types — such as brain cells — are a bit more resistant, but the method still worked, he said.

“Now it is a question of fine tuning,” Pellois said. “This delivery technology provides us a way to turn the cell into a test tube where we can add components, control how much we add and then look at what happens. That will allow us to study functions in mechanisms and in ways that have not been possible before.”

This article was originally published by Texas A&M AgriLife Today.

You can support faculty research at Texas A&M University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences with a gift of an endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation.

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Steve Blomstedt ’83
Director of Development
(979) 847-8655

Bees and Peanuts More Deadly Than Sharks

It’s that time of year when people head to the beach, and when headlines sometimes scream of a shark attack somewhere along the U.S. coastline.  But the chances of being bitten by a shark are so remote they are hardly worth worrying about, says a Texas A&M University at Galveston marine expert.

David Wells, assistant professor of marine biology who has studied sharks for years, says you should deep-six those shark fears.  Bottom line: the odds are in your favor.

You will likely never see a sign like this on a Texas beach.

You will likely never see a sign like this on a Texas beach.

“There are very few shark attacks worldwide, and Texas’ beaches appear to be some of the safest anywhere,” Wells explains.

The International Shark Attack File, run by the Florida Museum of Natural History, is the world’s leading source on shark attacks.  Its records show that from 1959 to 2010, there were 1,970 people killed by lightning strikes in the U.S., compared to 26 shark fatalities.

In Texas during that time, 213 people were killed by lightning while only one shark attack death occurred (there have been two deaths in Texas since 1911 – one in Galveston county and one in Cameron county).

Florida appears to be ground zero for both sharks and lightning.  Since 1959, it is by far the leader in lightning deaths (459) and shark attack deaths (9).

No doubt, your chances of a shark attack are incredibly small. The Shark Attack File has done the math and the odds of getting killed by a shark are about 1 in 264 million.

Along the Gulf Coast, your chance of getting attacked by an alligator is three to four times higher than a shark attack, statistics show.

Sun seekers should be more concerned about their drive to the beach than shark attacks, Wells says.  For that matter, they should be more concerned about dying from a bee sting (50 to 100 people die worldwide, and bee stings kill more people each year than all venomous animals combined).

Even killer sharks are no match for killer peanuts: About 100 people worldwide die annually from an allergic reaction to eating peanuts, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation.

While there are numerous kinds of sharks, only four are frequently cited in shark attacks – the bull shark, the tiger shark, the great white shark and the oceanic white tip shark.

“Bull sharks tend to be very aggressive,” Wells says, “and they are commonly seen along the Texas coast.”

Bull sharks have been known to swim many hundreds of miles upstream, such as deep into the Mississippi River, while great white sharks and oceanic white tip sharks are almost never seen off Texas beaches.

“If you want to play it very safe, it’s a good idea not to swim alone,” Wells says.

“And always swim near a lifeguard station. Lifeguards get daily information about possible shark sightings, and they are trained to look for them.  And don’t swim too far out – if there are sharks, they are usually found in chest-deep water, and that’s also about where dangerous rip currents can occur.

“At any given moment, there are tens of millions of people in the world who are at the beach and in the water,” he adds.  “The odds of not getting bitten by a shark are very much in your favor.”

This article was originally published by the TAMU Times.

You can support Texas A&M University at Galveston with a gift to the Texas A&M Foundation.

Contact:

Steve Blomstedt
Director of Development
(979) 847-8655

Gulf Dead Zone This Year Is Smaller

The “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico this year is much smaller than usual, measuring about 2,600 square miles, or a little larger than the size of the state of Delaware, says a Texas A&M University researcher just back from studying the region.

Texas A&M researcher Steve DiMarco (left) helps place an ocean glider into the gulf to measure this year’s dead zone.

Texas A&M researcher Steve DiMarco (left) helps place an ocean glider into the gulf to measure this year’s dead zone.

Steve DiMarco, professor of oceanography and one of the world’s leading experts on the dead zone, recently returned from surveying the area, from the central Texas coast to the Mississippi River delta of Louisiana. He and his research team found only several patches of hypoxia – oxygen-depleted water – in the Gulf.

“The largest concentrations appear to be near Grand Isle, La., and then a little farther east to where the Mississippi flows directly into the Gulf of Mexico,” DiMarco reports.

“We were not expecting a large dead zone area this year, and the results appear to bear out those predictions. This is our fifth June cruise to estimate the size of the dead zone. We have seen a lot of variability in size and this year is our second smallest.”

During the past five summers, the dead zone has averaged about 5,000 square miles based on the annual survey by a group at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON). The June survey by DiMarco is done to provide an estimate of the dead zone’s variability over the course of the summer.

Hypoxia occurs when oxygen levels in seawater drop to dangerously low levels, and persistent hypoxia can potentially result in fish kills and harm marine life, thereby creating a “dead zone” in that particular area.

Such low levels of oxygen are believed to be caused by nutrient pollution from farm fertilizers and other land-based sources as they empty into rivers such as the Mississippi and eventually make their way into the Gulf. In summer, the size of the zone has been shown to be influenced by the nutrient runoff, volume of freshwater discharged and prevailing winds, which control the freshwater river plume’s movement.

The Mississippi is the largest river in the United States, draining 40 percent of the land area of the country. It also accounts for almost 90 percent of the freshwater runoff into the Gulf of Mexico.

DiMarco’s research on the dead zone is supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research, as part of its long-term commitment to advancing the science to inform management practices aimed at mitigating the hypoxic zone.

“Why it is a bit smaller could be a combination of several things – including lower nutrient loading and lower freshwater volumes from the Mississippi River or prevailing southerly winds across the continental shelf in June,” he explains.

This year, DiMarco used new research tools called ocean gliders. The torpedo-shaped cylinders were placed in the Gulf and they transmit key information back to shore about ocean temperature and salinity, and most importantly, dissolved oxygen concentration of the seawater. Two of the gliders are now operating in the Gulf’s deadzone and furnishing key info by satellite about every six hours, DiMarco says.

The gliders are planned to be in the water until early September 2014. The glider data are made available to the public by the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS) and the NOAA Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS). Both GCOOS and IOOS are providing funding for the glider aspects of this experiment.

Media contact: Keith Randall, News & Information Services, at (979) 845-4644 or Steve DiMarco at (979) 862-4168 or (979) 324-5336

This article was originally published by the TAMU Times.

You can support faculty research in the College of Geosciences with a gift of an endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation.

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Jack Falks
Director of Development
College of Geosciences

(979) 862-4944

Low-cost TB Test Means Quicker, More Reliable Diagnosis for Patients

A new test for tuberculosis (TB) could dramatically improve the speed and accuracy of diagnosis for one of the world’s deadliest diseases, enabling health care providers to report results to patients within minutes, according to a study published this week in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

TB REaD™ improves the speed and accuracy of a TB diagnosis, allowing health providers to deliver results in 10 minutes and begin treatment in the same patient session.

TB REaD™ improves the speed and accuracy of a TB diagnosis, allowing health providers to deliver results in 10 minutes and begin treatment in the same patient session.

Jeffrey Cirillo, Ph.D., professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, in collaboration with GBDbio, a Texas A&M spinoff company, and investigators at Stanford University, have identified a new chemical compound to spot the bacteria that cause TB with a level of sensitivity that currently takes months to produce; and results of the first human clinical trial data are promising. Findings show the test can determine that a patient has tuberculosis with 86 percent sensitivity and 73 percent specificity. Smear microscopy, the most widely used test in the world, has a significantly lower ability to detect TB, ranging between 50 to 60 percent sensitivity.

Although preventable, TB claims three lives every minute, making it the second leading cause of mortality from an infectious disease in the world. Spread through the air when an individual with active TB infection coughs or sneezes, reports show that if left untreated, a person with active TB infects an average of 10 to 15 people each year, leaving a great need for faster, more reliable testing.

Cirillo’s latest breakthrough perfects the technology behind the test. Using a fluorescent substrate, the device targets BlaC – an enzyme produced by the bacteria that cause TB – as an indicator of the bacteria’s presence. Until now, it has not been possible to target a specific TB enzyme for diagnosis.

Once sputum samples are combined with the reactive substance, a battery-powered, portable tabletop device, the TB REaD™, is then used to detect any fluorescence and deliver the diagnosis in as little as 10 minutes.

“It’s simple. Take a sputum sample, treat it with the solution and put it inside the reader,” Cirillo said. “A camera inside looks for a reaction between the sample and solution that produces light. No light, no infection.”

Currently, there is no diagnostic tool comparable to this and while others exist, they take several months to produce the same level of sensitivity; and come with a high price tag. The latest FDA-approved model cost upwards of $20,000. The target price tag on Cirillo’s test is less than $1000 for the reader and less than $5 per test. Additionally, the one-step test will require little technical expertise or resources, should take less than 30 minutes to carry out, and is easily transportable, making it an ideal candidate for field diagnosis in developing countries.

The device significantly undercuts current diagnostic methods, important, given the staggering statistic that if left untreated – a common scenario in countries lacking infrastructure or resources to efficiently screen and follow up with infected patients – a person with active TB has only a 50 percent chance of survival, Cirillo notes.
“Interrupting disease transmission will require early and accurate detection paired with appropriate treatment,” Cirillo said. “Our new, rapid point-of-care TB test dramatically reduces the current delays in diagnosis with incredible accuracy, accelerating appropriate treatment and reducing the death rate of the highly infectious disease. We’re looking at a low-cost, easy-to-use test that has the potential to eradicate TB.”

The test is currently in the later stages of clinical trials with plans to go to market in the next 18 months. Although the first applications will be in TB, Cirillo’s detection platform – Reporter Enzyme Fluorescence – could be applied to many other respiratory diseases and infectious agents.

The research project, previously published in Nature: Chemistry, has garnered support from the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, the Clinton Health Access Initiative and is supported by the Wellcome Trust.

This article was originally published by the Health Science Center

You can support faculty research at Texas A&M University’s Health Science Center with a gift of an endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation.

Contact

Andrew Robison ’04
Director of Development
Texas A&M Health Science Center

(979) 862-6423

Researchers Working To Stem Water-Borne Parasites

Especially in the summer, people (and pets) literally cannot live without water. We drink it, bathe in it, cook with it, and use it to cool off on hot afternoons. Water is such a major part of our daily lives that the thought of a water-borne parasite is enough to make anyone worry. These tiny organisms have found ways to invade us that are at least as varied as the ways we use water. However, researchers at Texas A&M University are working to understand parasite infection and discover possible preventions and treatments.

Rodriguez performing a parasitological fecal sedimentation test to detect the Heterobilharzia eggs

Rodriguez performing a parasitological fecal sedimentation test to detect the Heterobilharzia eggs

Dr. Karen Snowden, a professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology (VTPB) at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, and her graduate student, Dr. Jessica Rodriguez, are studying Heterobilharzia americana, a waterborne flatworm trematode parasite, commonly thought to affect wildlife, that can also infect both dogs and horses. Reported cases of canine infection are on the rise, but whether this is due to increasing incidence or just increasing diagnosis, researchers are unsure.

“We examined medical records from 238 dogs diagnosed with Heterobilharzia americana in Texas over the past 22 years,” Rodriguez said. “Dogs can show nonspecific symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, and decreased appetite. In many cases, dogs were diagnosed only after undergoing surgery and biopsy. We hope to increase veterinarians’ awareness of this parasite so that more dogs are diagnosed with non-invasive tests and before they become very ill.”

The eggs of this parasite hatch when they come into contact with fresh water and quickly penetrate a specific type of aquatic snail, where they then multiply before leaving to search for a warm-blooded host. The larvae, as they are called at this point, stay in the water until an appropriate host comes along, at which point they latch onto that animal and burrow through the skin, infecting the body systemically as they travel to the lungs, the liver (where they mature), and eventually the veins of the abdominal organs. There, the male and female flatworms mate and produce eggs. Most eggs are carried to the intestinal wall, where they erode their way into the intestines to be passed in the feces and begin the cycle again. Some eggs are carried to the liver where they cause inflammation and disease in dogs.

Although this particular parasite is not considered a human pathogen, it is closely related to several other parasites that do affect humans. In an innovative, One Health approach, Rodriguez is using what is known about treatment of the human disease to suggest a better diagnostic test, and potentially, a treatment for dogs with the similar parasite. Any treatments or preventions found work well for dogs, moreover, could then go the other direction and be applied to human medicine.

“We can easily apply a One Health concept spanning human and veterinary medicine while studying the parasite, H. americana,” Snowden said. “We are proving that a test designed to detect the closely related human parasite, Schistosoma, will also diagnose this local animal parasite. In turn, the Heterobilharzia parasite can be developed as a animal model to study the globally important human Schistosoma parasite, testing new drugs and understanding disease processes with less human risk in a research setting.”

Another example of this diversity of parasites is Cryptosporidium, a type of protozoan that can cause gastrointestinal problems, such as severe watery diarrhea, in humans and other vertebrate animals. Crypto, as the parasite is often called, is spread in the fecal-oral fashion, most commonly through drinking contaminated water.

Humans often become infected when they accidently swallow a little bit of contaminated water as they are swimming. As crypto is resistant to many powerful disinfectants, including chlorine, even treated swimming pools and water parks can be dangerous. Furthermore, when crypto gets into the sources drinking water sources (such as rivers, lakes, or wells), it can be difficult to destroy all of the parasites. The biggest officially recorded crypto outbreak was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1993 when it infected 403,000 people after one of the city’s two water purification plants was contaminated, probably with runoff from cattle pastures.

Cryptosporidiosis, the disease caused by this parasite, is found worldwide and is one of the top four diarrheal pathogens in infants and toddlers in developing countries. It can be a life-threatening condition for immune compromised individuals, and there is no approved treatment for them, and crypto is thought to have killed about 100,000 people in 2010. However, Dr. Guan Zhu, another professor in VTPB, studies parasite metabolism in order to find possible drug targets. He and his team recently discovered a treatment that reduced the parasite load by up to 90%, offering hope that a drug might soon be developed to treat human and animal cases.

“Cryptosporidium is a classic example of One Health pathogen as it infects both humans and animals and affects environments by contaminating drinking and recreational waters,” Zhu said. “Our research focuses on understanding what happens inside this tiny parasite at molecular and biochemical levels. Our ultimate goal is to develop effective therapeutics by targeting the essential molecules in the parasite.”

This article was originally published by the TAMU Times.

You can support faculty research at Texas A&M University’s  College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Science with a gift of an endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation.

Contact:

O.J. Bubba Woytek
Assistant Vice President of Development
College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Science
(979) 845-9043

Being Perceived As “Cool” Means Breaking The Rules, But Only So Much

It’s elusive, ever-changing and means different things to different people, yet if it can be achieved, a product or trend can take off. It is “coolness” and according to researchers, including a Texas A&M University marketing professor, what makes something or someone cool is the breaking of certain kinds of rules.

Caleb Warren

Caleb Warren

In their study “What Makes Things Cool? How Autonomy Influences Perceived Coolness,” published in the Journal of Consumer Research, Caleb Warren of Mays Business School at Texas A&M and co-author Margaret C. Campbell, Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado-Boulder, find a link between autonomy, in this case freedom from social norms, and what people consider to be cool. But if social norms are violated too much, then it becomes weird or otherwise undesirable.

The researchers define “autonomous” as the extent to which the person or brand follows its own character or motivations irrespective of the norms, beliefs, and expectations of others, i.e. “doing one’s own thing.”

“The way people and things are cool is if they seem autonomous − they do what they want to do to regardless of what other people think,” Warren explains. “But in a way that is appropriate, seen as valued or efficient; it’s different, without being harmful or worse.”

The researchers examined several brands they determined to have capitalized on coolness including Pabst Blue Ribbon and Apple.

“With technology companies like Apple, cool comes in part from functionality,” Warren explains. “So there’s a connection between coolness and quality of brand. Even so, Apple came through with advertising campaigns that were about being different than the mainstream, contrasting itself from Microsoft, the mainstream competitor. The ‘Mac guy’ wore sneakers and casual clothes, he likes his job and has fun, as opposed to the ‘PC guy’ who wears a suit and cares more about what other people think.”

Apple’s slogan “think different” portrayed this autonomous image, Warren adds.

He also points to the beer brand Pabst Blue Ribbon as having hit the coolness jackpot after decades of sagging sales. “This is a beer that taste-wise is not that different from others, but for the longest time was losing sales as it was mostly consumed by a small minority of older, rural customers,” explains Warren.

Then he says in the early 2000s, clever marketing campaigns and sponsorships that delineated from typical beer marketing attracted a whole new customer base of 20-something “hipsters.”

“Distinguishing itself from mainstream beer marketing allowed the brand to connect to these young consumers who perceived themselves as departing from the mainstream,” Warren notes, adding the brand has seen declines recently as what is cool changes so often. “It’s hard to stay cool and it’s interesting to see how it changes over time.”

To read the study in full, click here

This article was originally published by the TAMU TIMES

You can support the Mays Business School with a gift of endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation.

Contact:
Brian Bishop ’91
Senior Director of Development

(979) 862-3615

Regenerating bone to anchor dental implants

For patients who need dental implants, the process can seem especially daunting if they also need additional bone to support them. Previously this meant a separate surgery to acquire this bone through a graft from the patient’s jaw or hip and reposition it at the implant site.

Dr. Marianela Gonzalez is using bone regeneration techniques to anchor dental implants.

Dr. Marianela Gonzalez is using bone regeneration techniques to anchor dental implants.

Thanks to a clinical inspiration by Dr. Marianela Gonzalez, assistant professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry, patients now have an alternative.

The award-winning treatment idea was sparked through caring for a patient who had lower teeth so loose that extraction was required. Localized bone loss was to blame, and Gonzalez knew that to prepare the patient to receive dental implants, she would need to recreate ample bone to provide a firm anchor.

“For an outcome that works with implants, you need plenty of three-dimensional volume with the new bone,” Gonzalez says. “The problem with the previous bone graft method is that it tends to add only width but not height to the bone and fails more than half the time.”

Gonzalez conceived a new use for a product called Sonic Weld membrane as a potential solution. This resorbable material originally was used by surgeons to repair cranial fractures in children who, because of future bone growth, needed something less permanent than titanium plates for fracture repair. Sonic Weld also had manufacturer-suggested uses inside the mouth, but none leading to the results Gonzalez desired. She had another idea.

Gonzalez attaches the membrane over the top of the gums to create a pocket of space over the area where bone is needed. She then fills the space with Infuse Bone Graft, a protein that binds with existing bone cells and attracts the cells to create bone. Because it can be reabsorbed into the tissue, Sonic Weld is an enticing alternative to methods that use titanium mesh, which require bone grafts and secondary surgeries to remove.

“By using SonicWeld membrane with the Infuse Bone Graft to create bone growth, we got excellent results, and we ultimately placed implants and crowns,” Gonzalez says.

Gonzalez has repeated the technique on several patients, now at varying stages of the implant process. In all cases, she found that within four to six months, the adaptable membrane filled with the protein formed bone with the desired height and width to create an environment suitable for implants.

“Not only does this technique give the patient new teeth, we have a better cosmetic result because it produces extra soft tissue,” says Gonzalez. “This enhances the appearance of the crown attached to the implant because it is surrounded by natural gum tissue.”

Gonzalez and several department faculty members submitted their findings to the Academy of Osseointegration Case Study Poster Competition in March, which occurs during the annual meeting of this international association for dental implant professionals. They won first place among 225 submitted posters.

The team followed up with a presentation in April to the American College of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, and a manuscript will be submitted for publication. Gonzalez reports the new procedure has been met with much interest from professional colleagues.

“It’s exciting because patients can finally have an alternative,” Gonzalez says. “Instead of going to the operating room and taking bone from the jaw or hip, we can recreate bone and be able to place implants, and patients can look natural and have complete function.

“We have a four-year follow up on the first patient treated with this procedure, and he is doing great in terms of bone, implants and crown stability.”

This article was originally published by the Health Science Center

You can support faculty research at Texas A&M University’s Health Science Center with a gift of an endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation.

Contact:

Andrew Robison ’04
Director of Development
Texas A&M Health Science Center

(979) 862-6423

Camp LIFE Celebrates 10th Anniversary and New Milestones

The College of Education and Human Development offers numerous opportunities and volunteer activities for pre-service teachers to explore related to their major. Camp LIFE, an inclusive camping opportunity for children with disabilities, is one opportunity where students can gain field experience in a unique setting, serving as a camp counselor or volunteer.

Camp LIFE is providing a fun and inclusive camp experience for children with disabilities.

Camp LIFE is providing a fun and inclusive camp experience for children with disabilities.

When volunteers arrive at camp, they probably aren’t aware that Camp LIFE started as an independent study assignment and dream of former student Sterling Leija ‘03. Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, the camp has served more than 600 children with disabilities throughout Texas.

Dr. Amy Sharp serves as the Associate Director of the Center on Disability and Development and organizes Camp LIFE as a part of her role. She said that for the past ten years she has seen students gain an incredible amount of comfort with disability by volunteering for Camp LIFE. Sharp added, “This community experience provides young professionals a new perspective and comfort level to take with them as they move through life.”

Camp LIFE provides an inclusive recreational environment for children with disabilities and their siblings in a barrier free camp setting. LIFE is an acronym for Leadership, Independence and Friends through Experiences, and identifies the foundation of the campers’ experiences.

New Milestones
In conjunction with the celebration of their 10th anniversary, the camp is celebrating two more milestones: hosting their first annual Family Day Camp and bringing Jessicah Holloway on board as the new camp director.

Family Day Camp offers a different type of camping experience. Parents, who are not quite ready to let their children attend camp alone, may participate in the camp experience together as a family. The day camp offers workshops and provides networking opportunities for campers and parents.

The first Family Day Camp also renewed a partnership with another on-campus student organization. The MBA Students Helping Our Community (SHOC) in the Mays Business School has been a primary camp sponsor for more than six years. This year, the organization took a more hands-on approach, logging in 150 volunteer hours during the camp, which attracted 51 campers. The 15 SHOC volunteers paired up with families and campers to offer support and encouragement to campers participating in activities such as horseback riding, fishing, canoeing and arts and crafts. Chad Riley, president of MBA SHOC added, “This was one way for us to sacrifice a day off to serve our community and be there for families with special needs children. Each of us learned what it means to hold to these values.”

Sharp said the day camp allowed families who may have had some hesitations about camping to experience first-hand the bonding, support and the fun. Many of the families are planning to enroll their kids in the Camp LIFE weekend camp this fall, without their parents. “That’s a big step for many families,” she said.

“Family Day Camp was a great extension to our program, because it welcomed new participants and continued to focus on what the campers can do and encouraged each camper along the way,” Sharp added. “Campers are allowed to experience any activity they choose to participate in and are provided full support to help them achieve their goals.”

After ten years of serving as director, Sterling Leija and other camp associates are happy to welcome Jessicah Holloway. Holloway worked with Leija at CAMP LIFE for more than four years and works full time at Camp For All in Burton, TX. Sterling and Holloway are close friends and both have enjoyed watching the camp thrive.

“As the new director, I would really like to continue establishing personal relationships with campers and their families, like Sterling did,” said Holloway. “For most children, attending camp can be a routine childhood experience, but with Camp LIFE it is a vital experience for children with disabilities to have accessible fun.”

The next day camp experience is scheduled for September 25-27, 2014. To register or learn more, visit Camp LIFE online at www.camplife.tamu.edu.

You can support Camp LIFE with a gift of an endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation.

Contact

Jody Ford ’99
Director of Development
(979) 847-8655