News Article | October 30, 2015
Thanks to the meth wars, cold medicine's effective ingredient isn't When the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 passed, pharmacies moved all cold-medicine with the actually-works ingredient pseudoephedrine, only available on request and with a copy of your ID. In its place, the pharmacy shelves were restocked with phenylephrine, which was alleged to work just as well. It doesn't work at all. Researchers have long been suspicious of the efficacy of phenylephrine, but studies were mixed. Now, thanks to a University of Florida study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, whe know that phenylephrine is useless at the doses allowed over the counter; and may not work even at higher doses. The study of 539 adults lasted one week and failed to find a dose of phenylephrine within the 10 mg to 40 mg range that was more effective than a placebo in relieving nasal congestion. The approved Food and Drug Administration (FDA) dose is 10 mg every four hours for “temporary relief of nasal congestion.” Consequently, the UF researchers are asking the FDA to remove oral phenylephrine from the market. “We think the evidence supports that phenylephrine’s status as a safe and effective over-the-counter product should be changed,” said Randy Hatton, Pharm.D., a clinical professor of pharmacotherapy and translational research. “We are looking out for the consumer, and he or she needs to know that science says that oral phenylephrine does not work for the majority of people.” The Popular Over-The-Counter Cold Medicine That Science Says Doesn't Work [David DiSalvo/Forbes]
News Article | December 15, 2016
Tom Wheeler, the former telecom industry lobbyist who became an unlikely internet hero by spearheading the Federal Communications Commission's landmark net neutrality policy, announced plans on Thursday to step down from the agency in January. During the FCC's monthly meeting, the 70-year-old Wheeler said that serving at the agency has been "the greatest honor of my professional life." Wheeler said he plans to step down on Jan. 20, the day that President-elect Donald Trump is set to be inaugurated. "It has been a privilege to work with my fellow Commissioners to help protect consumers, strengthen public safety and cybersecurity, and ensure fast, fair and open networks for all Americans," Wheeler said. He thanked his staff, his wife, Carol, and President Obama, who appointed him to become the nation's top telecommunications regulator in 2013. By stepping down, Wheeler is likely to leave the FCC with a 2-1 Republican majority, following the GOP-controlled Senate's refusal to reconfirm his Democratic colleague, Jessica Rosenworcel. That sets the stage for a rollback of many of Wheeler's pro-consumer reforms under the Trump administration, including the FCC's policy safeguarding net neutrality, the principle that all internet content should be equally accessible. Trump's FCC transition team has already signaled its intention to take a much more industry-friendly stance toward telecom regulation. One of Trump's FCC advisors has even suggested dismantling most of the agency's pro-competition and consumer-protection functions, leaving the agency to act merely as an overseer of the nation's radio spectrum licenses. When Wheeler was tapped by President Obama to lead the FCC in 2013, many public interest advocates were skeptical, if not downright hostile, toward his appointment, because of his lengthy background as a top lobbyist for the cable industry, from 1979 to 1984, and the wireless industry, from 1992 to 2004. More than two dozen public interest groups wrote a letter to Obama expressing alarm about a candidate "who was the head of not one but two major industry lobbying groups." The fact that Wheeler had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Obama's two presidential campaigns also raised the hackles of many public interest advocates. But over the next three years, Wheeler won over the public interest community, and infuriated his former clients in the cable and wireless industries, by successfully spearheading the most pro-consumer telecom policy reforms in a generation, including the agency's landmark policy protecting net neutrality, and agency rules protecting consumers from broadband industry privacy abuses. "Tom Wheeler has been—by far—the best FCC Chairman in the 45 years I have practiced communications law," said Andrew Schwartzman, Benton Senior Counselor at the Public Interest Communications Law Project at Georgetown University Law Center's Institute for Public Representation. "He has been willing to take risks and expend political capital to advance his agenda," Schwartzman added. "And, unlike some predecessors, he hasn't been afraid to confront Congress and powerful business interests when they stood in the way." Indeed, Wheeler became a bête noire for industry-friendly Republican members of Congress, who repeatedly branded him as an "unelected bureaucrat" who overstepped his regulatory authority. At one point during a heated 2015 Capitol Hill hearing, Louie Gohmert, the outspoken Texas Republican, accused Wheeler of "playing God with the internet." During his three years as FCC Chairman, Wheeler made promoting competition in the cable and wireless industries his top priority, as he frequently reminded audiences around the with country with his signature mantra: "Competition, competition, competition." The centerpiece of Wheeler's agenda was his successful push to protect net neutrality by reclassifying internet service providers as "common carriers" under Title II of the Communications Act, requiring them to treat all internet content equally, and barring them from favoring certain internet services over others or discriminating against rivals. For more than a decade, open internet advocates had fought for such a policy shift, which they argued was necessary to ensure that the internet remains an open and level playing field for innovation, economic growth, and free speech. After more than a year of vigorous debate, including some 4 million public comments, the agency successfully passed its net neutrality policy in February 2015, despite ferocious opposition from the telecom industry, which argued that the rules amounted to an egregious regulatory overreach. "Wheeler didn't come into this job as a net neutrality champion, but he will be remembered first and foremost for his leadership on that crucial issue and for the standing ovations he earned on the day of the FCC's historic vote," Craig Aaron, president and CEO of DC-based public interest group Free Press, said in a statement. Wheeler's commitment to industry competition was also evident in the FCC's April 2015 decision to block Comcast's proposed $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable, a tie-up that was fiercely opposed by public interest advocates. In a statement at the time, Wheeler said the deal would have "posed an unacceptable risk to competition and innovation." The agency's rejection of the merger was widely viewed as a strong rebuke of Wheeler's former lobbying clients in the cable industry. "When President Obama appointed Tom Wheeler Chairman, many people voiced open suspicion of a man who had led two major industry trade associations," Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at DC-based digital rights group Public Knowledge, said in a statement. "But rather than be the lapdog of industry some feared, or hoped for, Tom Wheeler proved himself to be the most ferocious watchdog for consumers and competition in nearly two decades." Wheeler also earned praise from public interest groups by pushing through an ambitious plan to expand the FCC's Lifeline program to help millions of low-income people afford broadband internet access. Consumer groups praised the move as a key step toward closing the nation's persistent "digital divide." Anti-FCC Republicans in Congress, however, opposed the move, and repeatedly tried to undermine the expansion. With Trump preparing to nominate a new FCC chairman, the Lifeline reform, along with the agency's policies protecting net neutrality and safeguarding consumer privacy, are now in serious jeopardy. Trump's FCC advisors are staunch opponents of net neutrality, and the agency's two Republican commissioners, who will now assume a 2-1 majority at the agency, have made no secret of their desire to dismantle the legal basis underpinning the FCC's open internet protections. Under a Trump administration, the GOP-controlled FCC is likely to dramatically scale back the agency's ambitions, consistent with the anti-regulatory, "small-government" philosophy often espoused by Republicans. One of Trump's FCC advisors, Mark Jamison, a University of Florida professor and Visiting Fellow at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, has even gone so far as to propose essentially abolishing the FCC except for its most basic radio spectrum licensing function. "Under a Republican-led Presidency/Congress, ISPs are likely to see the biggest benefits, assuming an easing of regulations," according to Angelo Zino, a Wall Street telecom analyst at S&P Capital IQ. "This group includes wireless companies like Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint, as well as cable companies such as Comcast; and other broadband providers." Public interest groups are already preparing to mount a vigorous campaign to defend Wheeler's legacy. "Unfortunately, the next administration has promised to undermine and overturn the major accomplishments of the Wheeler FCC," said Craig Aaron of Free Press. "We thank Tom Wheeler for his public service. And we promise to fight any attempts to attack the best policies advanced during his tenure." During a press conference following Thursday's meeting, Wheeler took a not-so-subtle shot at Trump's FCC transition team, as well as future Republican FCC officials who might seek to strip away pro-consumer regulations in the service of a supposedly "free-market" ideology. "Those who chant that government is the problem are wrong, and their chant is dangerous," Wheeler said. "Government isn't some faceless 'them,' it is us. It is 'We The People,' who govern ourselves. Government is where we come together to collectively address common challenges."
News Article | March 21, 2016
A new species of butterfly could provide clues about Alaska's geological history and its changing climate, according to a University of Florida researcher. Research by lepidopterist Andrew Warren suggests that the newly discovered Tanana Arctic butterfly evolved from the offspring of two related butterfly species, the Chryxus Arctic and the White-veined Arctic. He thinks all three species lived in the Beringia region before the last ice age, reported The Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/1pyeusq ). Scientists have been seeing the Tanana Arctic butterfly for more than 60 years, but its similarity to the Chryxus Arctic led them to believe it was the same species. Warren noticed its distinct characteristics as senior collections manager at the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. The Tanana Arctic has white specks on the underside of its penny-colored wings, giving it a "frosted" appearance, and it is larger and darker than the other species. It also has a unique DNA sequence that is very similar to that in nearby populations of White-veined Arctics, said Warren, leading to the hypothesis that the new species is a hybrid. More field research is needed to find out whether the Tanana Arctic also exists further east into the Yukon. Arctic butterflies live in environments that are too cold and extreme for most other butterflies and can survive in part thanks to a natural antifreeze their bodies produce. "Once we sequence the genome, we'll be able to say whether any special traits helped the butterfly survive in harsh environments," said Warren. He plans to return to Alaska and look for the butterfly next year. Warren wants to collect new specimens in order to fully sequence the genome, which could reveal the species' history and show whether it's truly a hybrid. The Tanana Arctic lives in spruce and aspen forests in the Tanana-Yukon River Basin. Because butterflies react quickly to climate change, the new species could serve as an early warning indicator for the remote region. "This butterfly has apparently lived in the Tanana River valley for so long that if it ever moves out, we'll be able to say 'Wow, there are some changes happening,'" Warren said. "This is a region where the permafrost is already melting and the climate is changing."
News Article | March 20, 2016
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — A new species of butterfly could provide clues about Alaska's geological history and its changing climate, according to a University of Florida researcher. Research by lepidopterist Andrew Warren suggests that the newly discovered Tanana Arctic butterfly evolved from the offspring of two related butterfly species, the Chryxus Arctic and the White-veined Arctic. He thinks all three species lived in the Beringia region before the last ice age, reported The Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/1pyeusq ). Scientists have been seeing the Tanana Arctic butterfly for more than 60 years, but its similarity to the Chryxus Arctic led them to believe it was the same species. Warren noticed its distinct characteristics as senior collections manager at the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. The Tanana Arctic has white specks on the underside of its penny-colored wings, giving it a "frosted" appearance, and it is larger and darker than the other species. It also has a unique DNA sequence that is very similar to that in nearby populations of White-veined Arctics, said Warren, leading to the hypothesis that the new species is a hybrid. More field research is needed to find out whether the Tanana Arctic also exists further east into the Yukon. Arctic butterflies live in environments that are too cold and extreme for most other butterflies and can survive in part thanks to a natural antifreeze their bodies produce. "Once we sequence the genome, we'll be able to say whether any special traits helped the butterfly survive in harsh environments," said Warren. He plans to return to Alaska and look for the butterfly next year. Warren wants to collect new specimens in order to fully sequence the genome, which could reveal the species' history and show whether it's truly a hybrid. The Tanana Arctic lives in spruce and aspen forests in the Tanana-Yukon River Basin. Because butterflies react quickly to climate change, the new species could serve as an early warning indicator for the remote region. "This butterfly has apparently lived in the Tanana River valley for so long that if it ever moves out, we'll be able to say 'Wow, there are some changes happening,'" Warren said. "This is a region where the permafrost is already melting and the climate is changing."
News Article | October 23, 2015
From wet chemistry to computer simulations, this year's Materials Processing Center-Center for Materials Science and Engineering Summer Scholars are engaged in MIT research projects targeting stronger materials, more efficient drug delivery, and catalysts for biofuel production. "I'm really interested in putting the molecular pieces together to make a functional drug delivery mechanism," says Hope College chemistry major Lisa Savagian, who is working this summer in the lab of Paula T. Hammond, the David H. Koch Professor in Engineering and head of the Department of Chemical Engineering. Her project involves synthesizing layer-by-layer films with gold nanorods that release a drug when exposed to near infrared light. Alexander Constable, a Pennsylvania State University junior majoring in materials science and engineering, is studying aligned-carbon nanotube carbon matrix nanocomposites in associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics Brian L. Wardle's lab. Constable will use X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy to characterize chemical bonds. "We are hoping to get a better understanding of the cross-linking behavior and microstructure of carbon nanotubes in pyrolytic carbon," Constable says. "Specifically, we want to understand these properties as we increase the volume fraction of carbon nanotubes, hopefully yielding a significantly harder and tougher carbon-based composite material for aerospace applications." Katharine Greco is working under chemical engineering Assistant Professor Willliam A. Tisdale on hybrid semiconductor nanocrystals. She will be growing quantum dots with a cadmium selenide core, a cadmium sulfide inner shell, and a zinc sulfide outer shell, then characterizing them using X-ray diffraction and transmission electron microscopy. "My goal for the summer is to accurately model the structure of these dots based on the characterization data. This is important because the interactions between the core and shell change the photoluminescence and thermal conductivity properties of the nanocrystals," says Greco, who just completed her junior year at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The long-term goal of the project is develop synthesis techniques to tune the properties of quantum dots so the same nanocrystals can be used for applications such as LEDs and solar cells. Rowan University chemistry and physics major Olivia Fiebig is working in assistant professor of chemical engineering Bradley Olsen's lab on how the microscopic structure of elastin-like polypeptide sequences in block copolymers affects the macroscopic properties of thermoresponsive protein hydrogels. Her project will determine the effect of amino acid substitution on macroscopic behavior. She is learning how to grow E. coli cells and extract proteins to make the hydrogels. "It's definitely new for me and a good experience," Fiebig says. Stephen Gibbs is working in chemical engineering Professor Michael S. Strano's lab to understand chemically driven, nanotube-guided thermopower waves. Gibbs, a University of Florida chemical engineering major, explains that applying fuel along a carbon nanotube fiber and initiating a reaction on one end, creates a reaction front, or "thermopower wave," which results in a voltage along the fiber that exceeds values predicted by thermoelectric models. This technology might provide strong pulse energy signals from nanoscale devices. Nathan Zhao, who studies physics and mathematics at Columbia University, is investigating inherent stability of nanocrystalline composites in associate professor of materials science and engineering Michael J. Demkowicz's group. Copper-niobium multilayered metals are of particular interest because of their high strength and resistance to radiation damage. Zhao will simulate properties at metal-to-metal interfaces using phase-field and Cahn-Hilliard equation methods. Rutgers University materials science and engineering major Zhenni Lin is working in David H. Koch Professor of Engineering Michael J. Cima's lab on synthesizing and characterizing solid-state magnetic resonance imaging contrast agents. These biocompatible solid-state contrast agents can be used to measure pH internally. Lin's work will include characterizing the contrast agent through time-domain nuclear magnetic resonance, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. Other Summer Scholars and their lab affiliations are: Bartholomeus Machielse in the lab of Juejun (JJ) Hu in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering; Jonah Sengupta in the lab of Karl Berggren in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Jahzeel Rosado Vega in the lab of Markus J. Buehler in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Mariely Caraballo Santa in the lab of Ronald G. Ballinger in the departments of Nuclear Science and Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering; and Lena Barrett in the lab of Yuriy Román in the Department of Chemical Engineering. The 12 college interns were selected from among 156 applicants for the program run jointly by the Materials Processing Center and the Center for Materials Science and Engineering. Students chose their projects from among 21 faculty presentations after three days of presentations and lab tours June 8-10. The program runs through Aug. 8. Machielse, a University of Pennsylvania physics student, will be contributing to Hu's mid-infrared spectrometer work. Sengupta, who studies electrical engineering at the University of Maryland, will work with postdoc Amir Tavakkoli on using mechanical vibration to control self-assembly of block copolymer thin films. This work will require both thermal annealing and solvent annealing while at the same time using controlled vibration. A mechanical engineering major at the University of Turabo, Rosado Vega will study wave propagation in spider webs using simulation of proteins. Caraballo Santa, who also studies mechanical engineering at the University of Turabo, will learn how to model naval submarine shafts. Her work is part of a project to double the time between inspections for submarine rotor shafts. Barrett, a Lehigh University chemical engineering and business information systems double major, will be running one-pot batch reactions with beta-structured Lewis acid catalysts and altering various parameters to determine optimal reaction conditions for the production of neopentyl glycol, an industrially important intermediate. "Ultimately, we would like to uncover a more economical method to run this reaction," Barrett says. The Materials Processing Center and the Center for Materials Science and Engineering sponsor the nine-week summer research internships through the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates, which is supported under the NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers program (grant number DMR-1419807). Summer Scholars will present their research results at a poster session on Wednesday, Aug. 5.