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News Article | May 4, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

A University of Texas at Arlington team has won the 2017 Brain Bowl organized by University of Texas Health Science Center - San Antonio Center for Biomedical Neuroscience, beating out teams from Trinity University and the defending champions University of Texas at Dallas. The Brain Bowl is modeled after the 1960's quiz show University Challenge and includes three rounds of short answer questions that increase in difficulty with each round. The final round is comprised of a single complex challenge question, where teams wager points they have accumulated in the previous rounds. "All five members of our team are active members of my behavioral neuroscience laboratory," said Linda Perrotti, UTA associate professor of psychology and team mentor. "We made a victorious comeback to reclaim the title of Brain Bowl Champions after having lost it to UT Dallas in 2015. We also get to house the Brain Bowl Trophy on our campus for another year." The questions asked during Brain Bowl cover many fields of neuroscience research, including neurophysiology, neuroanatomy, neurochemistry, neuropharmacology and behavioral neuroscience. The Brain Bowl is sponsored annually by the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio and is a premier event within Brain Awareness Week for the neuroscience community. The first Brain Bowl was held in 1998. To date, nine Texas universities have competed; Texas Lutheran, Saint Mary's, University of Texas San Antonio, Trinity, Southwestern, University of Texas at Austin, UTA, Baylor, and Texas A&M. In 2013, UTA won their first Brain Bowl against the then defending champs, Trinity University, and the University of Texas at San Antonio. The following year our team went on to successfully defend their championship in 2014. UTA psychology chair Perry Fuchs was one of those congratulating the team on this important success: "UTA's team took on this challenge of cross-disciplinary quiz knowledge about neuroscience and beat out great teams from across Texas," Perry said. "It also clearly reflects on the leadership of UTA in the growing field of neuroscience." Anthropology and biology 2016 graduate. Research technician in Dr. Perrotti's lab group. Intends to apply to graduate school for neuroscience doctorate to further research in neuronal cell signaling. Enjoys reading, music, walking, and Japanese culture. Psychology major, minoring in biology. Intends to complete a medical degree and doctorate to improve psychiatric health care. Enjoys reading, meditating and 80s music. Psychology major, will begin pursuing her doctorate in neuroscience at UTA starting in the Fall 2017 semester. Enjoys reading, cooking and hiking. Biology and psychology major. Intends to complete a doctorate in clinical psychology to help people struggling with mental health issues. Enjoys trying new foods, reading, learning random facts and reading comics. The University of Texas at Arlington is a Carnegie Research-1 "highest research activity" institution. With a projected global enrollment of close to 57,000, UTA is one of the largest institutions in the state of Texas. Guided by its Strategic Plan 2020 Bold Solutions|Global Impact, UTA fosters interdisciplinary research and education within four broad themes: health and the human condition, sustainable urban communities, global environmental impact, and data-driven discovery. UTA was recently cited by U.S. News & World Report as having the second lowest average student debt among U.S. universities. U.S. News & World Report lists UTA as having the fifth highest undergraduate diversity index among national universities. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times' 2017 Best for Vets list.


News Article | April 19, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Managers of U.S. companies facing market pressures to meet earnings expectations may risk damaging the health and safety of workers to please investors, according to recent research from the Naveen Jindal School of Management at UT Dallas. Companies may create incentives for employees to increase productivity or reduce discretionary expenditures, but often these actions come at the cost of managers and workers paying insufficient attention to safety. Dr. Naim Bugra Ozel, assistant professor of accounting in the Jindal School, and his co-author Dr. Judson Caskey of UCLA, recently studied firms that meet or just beat analyst expectations. The study, published in the February issue of the Journal of Accounting and Economics, found that these firms have a roughly 12 percent higher injury rate for employees than other firms do. "We know that firms try to meet earnings benchmarks because the benchmarks have implications for the firms," Ozel said. "If firms do not meet these benchmarks, then investors punish them, and stock prices go down significantly after a miss of earnings expectations. That gives managers incentive to use the tools they have to ensure they are going to perform at least to the expectations." Using injury data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and companies' financial data, the researchers examined company spending and worker output. They found that discretionary expenditures are associated with high injuries in firms that meet or just beat expectations, which is consistent with the conclusion that companies reduce safety-related expenditures such as oversight and employee training. The study also found that higher employee output is associated with higher rates of injuries in these firms. "Our research suggests that there is also an increase in the workload of the employees, so it's not just cutting expenditures, but asking employees to work a little harder," Ozel said. "That might be in the form of overtime, or that might be in the form of putting in more work in a shorter time period. If employees are forced to work harder, they might inadvertently ignore the safety procedures themselves." The researchers identified three factors that affect the relationship between injuries and meeting or just beating expectations. Ozel said the study shows one way that companies deal with the pressure to meet earnings expectations. Missing expectations not only means lower stock prices, but also can affect CEO career outcomes. "When we think about firms, we always think, 'These are rational players, so performance is important, but they will not sacrifice people's health for this purpose,'" Ozel said. "You may be able to think of some anecdotes where companies might be willing to sacrifice employees' safety, but we looked at a large sample. And in this sample, we find quite a significant result -- a 10 to 15 percent increase in employee injuries. "There's clearly an economic trade-off. Managers are there to think about the best interest of their investors, and they have to make a decision of what would be in the best interest of the investors, and sometimes they might decide to risk injuries."


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

A University of Texas at Dallas team is exploring whether teaching real-world science through a popular computer game may offer a more engaging and effective educational approach than traditional concepts of instruction. In an article recently published in Nature Chemistry, a UT Dallas team -- including a materials scientist, two chemists and a game design expert -- describes how a group of 39 college students from diverse majors played an enhanced version of the popular video game "Minecraft" and learned chemistry in the process, despite being given no in-class science instruction. Dr. Walter Voit led the team that created "Polycraft World," an adaptation or "mod" for "Minecraft" that allows players to incorporate the properties of chemical elements and compounds into game activities. Using the mod and instructions provided on a Wiki website, players can, for example, harvest and process natural rubber to make pogo sticks, or convert crude oil into a jetpack using distillation, chemical synthesis and manufacturing processes. "Our goal was to demonstrate the various advantages of presenting educational content in a gaming format," said Voit, a materials science and engineering professor in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. "An immersive, cooperative experience like that of 'Polycraft World' may represent the future of education." Dr. Ron Smaldone, an assistant professor of chemistry, joined the project to give the mod its accuracy as a chemistry teaching tool. Dr. Christina Thompson, a chemistry lecturer, supervised the course in which the research was conducted, and joined Smaldone in mapping out assembly instructions for increasingly complex compounds. Voit spearheaded a team of programmers that spent a full year on development of the platform. "Eventually, we got to the point where we said, 'Hey, we can do something really neat with this,'" Voit said. "We could build a comprehensive world teaching people materials science." For Smaldone and Voit, much of the work was finding in-game objectives that provided a proportional difficulty-reward ratio -- worth the trouble to build, but not too easy. "If the game is too difficult, people will get frustrated. If it's too easy, they lose interest," Voit said. "If it's just right? It's addicting, it's engaging, it's compelling." Thompson and Smaldone produced more than 2,000 methods for building more than 100 different polymers from thousands of available chemicals. "We're taking skills 'Minecraft' gamers already have -- building and assembling things -- and applying them to scientific principles we've programmed," Smaldone said. Some of the "Polycraft World" gamers became surprisingly proficient in processes for which they had no prior instruction, Voit said. "We've had complete non-chemists build factories to build polyether ether ketones, which are crazy hard to synthesize," he said. "The demands of the one-hour-a-week class were limited, yet some students went all-out, consuming all this content we put in." Dr. Monica Evans, an associate dean for graduate programs and associate professor in the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication, is a co-author of the paper and leads the University's game design program, which is ranked as one of the top programs in the country by The Princeton Review. "It's quite difficult to make a good video game, much less the rare good game that is also educational," Evans said. "The ingenuity of the 'Polycraft' team is that they've harnessed the global popularity of an existing game, 'Minecraft,' and transformed it into something that is explicitly educational with a university-level subject." Voit and Smaldone see "Polycraft World" as an early step on the road to a new format for learning without classroom instruction. "The games that already exist mostly serve only as a companion to classroom learning," Smaldone said. "The goal here is to make something that stands alone." A significant advantage of using such a tool comes in the volume of data it returns on student performance. "We can measure what each player is doing at every time, how long it takes them to mix chemicals, if they're tabbing back and forth to our Wiki, and so on," Voit said. "It gives us all this extra information about how people learn. We can use that to improve teaching." Smaldone agrees: "With traditional teaching methods, I'd walk into a room of several hundred people, and walk out with the same knowledge of their learning methods," he said. "With our method, it's not just the students learning -- it's the teachers as well, monitoring these player interactions. Even in chemistry, this is a big innovation. Watching how they fail to solve a problem can guide you in how to teach better." Smaldone admits the concept must overcome doubts held by some that gaming cannot serve useful purposes. "There's a preconception among some that video games are an inherent evil," he said. "Yet in a rudimentary form, we've made a group of non-chemistry students mildly proficient in understanding polymer chemistry. I have no doubt that if you scaled that up to more students, it would still work." Voit's plans for the next version of "Polycraft World" will take it beyond teaching chemistry. Perhaps the most ambitious objectives revolve around economics. "We've worked with several economists, and are developing a monetary system," Voit said. "There will be governments and companies you can form. A government can mint and distribute currency, then accumulate goods to prop up that currency. We'll see teams of people learning how to start companies or countries, how to control supply and demand, and how to sustain an economy. "Learning about micro- and macroeconomics by actually doing it can impart a much richer understanding of what monetary policy looks like and why." "It's a pleasure to be part of such a unique, transformative project, particularly as it moves forward into the next few stages of development," she said. For Smaldone, the appeal of the project comes from both its uniqueness and potential to yield change. "No one else is doing this to this level. That's why I think we've gotten traction," he said. "I think we have a chance to make an impact, even if only demonstrating how powerful it is to infiltrate a game with real, serious content. That's a proof of concept that so far, at least in chemistry, no one has done."


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas have created an atomic force microscope on a chip, dramatically shrinking the size -- and, hopefully, the price tag -- of a high-tech device commonly used to characterize material properties. "A standard atomic force microscope is a large, bulky instrument, with multiple control loops, electronics and amplifiers," said Dr. Reza Moheimani, professor of mechanical engineering at UT Dallas. "We have managed to miniaturize all of the electromechanical components down onto a single small chip." Moheimani and his colleagues describe their prototype device in this month's issue of the IEEE Journal of Microelectromechanical Systems. An atomic force microscope (AFM) is a scientific tool that is used to create detailed three-dimensional images of the surfaces of materials, down to the nanometer scale -- that's roughly on the scale of individual molecules. The basic AFM design consists of a tiny cantilever, or arm, that has a sharp tip attached to one end. As the apparatus scans back and forth across the surface of a sample, or the sample moves under it, the interactive forces between the sample and the tip cause the cantilever to move up and down as the tip follows the contours of the surface. Those movements are then translated into an image. "An AFM is a microscope that 'sees' a surface kind of the way a visually impaired person might, by touching. You can get a resolution that is well beyond what an optical microscope can achieve," said Moheimani, who holds the James Von Ehr Distinguished Chair in Science and Technology in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. "It can capture features that are very, very small." The UT Dallas team created its prototype on-chip AFM using a microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) approach. "A classic example of MEMS technology are the accelerometers and gyroscopes found in smartphones," said Dr. Anthony Fowler, a research scientist in Moheimani's Laboratory for Dynamics and Control of Nanosystems and one of the article's co-authors. "These used to be big, expensive, mechanical devices, but using MEMS technology, accelerometers have shrunk down onto a single chip, which can be manufactured for just a few dollars apiece." The MEMS-based AFM is about 1 square centimeter in size, or a little smaller than a dime. It is attached to a small printed circuit board, about half the size of a credit card, which contains circuitry, sensors and other miniaturized components that control the movement and other aspects of the device. Conventional AFMs operate in various modes. Some map out a sample's features by maintaining a constant force as the probe tip drags across the surface, while others do so by maintaining a constant distance between the two. "The problem with using a constant height approach is that the tip is applying varying forces on a sample all the time, which can damage a sample that is very soft," Fowler said. "Or, if you are scanning a very hard surface, you could wear down the tip," The MEMS-based AFM operates in "tapping mode," which means the cantilever and tip oscillate up and down perpendicular to the sample, and the tip alternately contacts then lifts off from the surface. As the probe moves back and forth across a sample material, a feedback loop maintains the height of that oscillation, ultimately creating an image. "In tapping mode, as the oscillating cantilever moves across the surface topography, the amplitude of the oscillation wants to change as it interacts with sample," said Dr. Mohammad Maroufi, a research associate in mechanical engineering and co-author of the paper. "This device creates an image by maintaining the amplitude of oscillation." Because conventional AFMs require lasers and other large components to operate, their use can be limited. They're also expensive. "An educational version can cost about $30,000 or $40,000, and a laboratory-level AFM can run $500,000 or more," Moheimani said. "Our MEMS approach to AFM design has the potential to significantly reduce the complexity and cost of the instrument. "One of the attractive aspects about MEMS is that you can mass produce them, building hundreds or thousands of them in one shot, so the price of each chip would only be a few dollars. As a result, you might be able to offer the whole miniature AFM system for a few thousand dollars." A reduced size and price tag also could expand the AFMs' utility beyond current scientific applications. "For example, the semiconductor industry might benefit from these small devices, in particular companies that manufacture the silicon wafers from which computer chips are made," Moheimani said. "With our technology, you might have an array of AFMs to characterize the wafer's surface to find micro-faults before the product is shipped out." The lab prototype is a first-generation device, Moheimani said, and the group is already working on ways to improve and streamline the fabrication of the device. "This is one of those technologies where, as they say, 'If you build it, they will come.' We anticipate finding many applications as the technology matures," Moheimani said. In addition to the UT Dallas researchers, Michael Ruppert, a visiting graduate student from the University of Newcastle in Australia, was a co-author of the journal article. Moheimani was Ruppert's doctoral advisor. Moheimani's research has been funded by UT Dallas startup funds, the Von Ehr Distinguished Chair and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: phys.org

"A standard atomic force microscope is a large, bulky instrument, with multiple control loops, electronics and amplifiers," said Dr. Reza Moheimani, professor of mechanical engineering at UT Dallas. "We have managed to miniaturize all of the electromechanical components down onto a single small chip." Moheimani and his colleagues describe their prototype device in this month's issue of the IEEE Journal of Microelectromechanical Systems. An atomic force microscope (AFM) is a scientific tool that is used to create detailed three-dimensional images of the surfaces of materials, down to the nanometer scale—that's roughly on the scale of individual molecules. The basic AFM design consists of a tiny cantilever, or arm, that has a sharp tip attached to one end. As the apparatus scans back and forth across the surface of a sample, or the sample moves under it, the interactive forces between the sample and the tip cause the cantilever to move up and down as the tip follows the contours of the surface. Those movements are then translated into an image. "An AFM is a microscope that 'sees' a surface kind of the way a visually impaired person might, by touching. You can get a resolution that is well beyond what an optical microscope can achieve," said Moheimani, who holds the James Von Ehr Distinguished Chair in Science and Technology in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. "It can capture features that are very, very small." The UT Dallas team created its prototype on-chip AFM using a microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) approach. "A classic example of MEMS technology are the accelerometers and gyroscopes found in smartphones," said Dr. Anthony Fowler, a research scientist in Moheimani's Laboratory for Dynamics and Control of Nanosystems and one of the article's co-authors. "These used to be big, expensive, mechanical devices, but using MEMS technology, accelerometers have shrunk down onto a single chip, which can be manufactured for just a few dollars apiece." The MEMS-based AFM is about 1 square centimeter in size, or a little smaller than a dime. It is attached to a small printed circuit board, about half the size of a credit card, which contains circuitry, sensors and other miniaturized components that control the movement and other aspects of the device. Conventional AFMs operate in various modes. Some map out a sample's features by maintaining a constant force as the probe tip drags across the surface, while others do so by maintaining a constant distance between the two. "The problem with using a constant height approach is that the tip is applying varying forces on a sample all the time, which can damage a sample that is very soft," Fowler said. "Or, if you are scanning a very hard surface, you could wear down the tip," The MEMS-based AFM operates in "tapping mode," which means the cantilever and tip oscillate up and down perpendicular to the sample, and the tip alternately contacts then lifts off from the surface. As the probe moves back and forth across a sample material, a feedback loop maintains the height of that oscillation, ultimately creating an image. "In tapping mode, as the oscillating cantilever moves across the surface topography, the amplitude of the oscillation wants to change as it interacts with sample," said Dr. Mohammad Maroufi, a research associate in mechanical engineering and co-author of the paper. "This device creates an image by maintaining the amplitude of oscillation." Because conventional AFMs require lasers and other large components to operate, their use can be limited. They're also expensive. "An educational version can cost about $30,000 or $40,000, and a laboratory-level AFM can run $500,000 or more," Moheimani said. "Our MEMS approach to AFM design has the potential to significantly reduce the complexity and cost of the instrument. "One of the attractive aspects about MEMS is that you can mass produce them, building hundreds or thousands of them in one shot, so the price of each chip would only be a few dollars. As a result, you might be able to offer the whole miniature AFM system for a few thousand dollars." A reduced size and price tag also could expand the AFMs' utility beyond current scientific applications. "For example, the semiconductor industry might benefit from these small devices, in particular companies that manufacture the silicon wafers from which computer chips are made," Moheimani said. "With our technology, you might have an array of AFMs to characterize the wafer's surface to find micro-faults before the product is shipped out." The lab prototype is a first-generation device, Moheimani said, and the group is already working on ways to improve and streamline the fabrication of the device. "This is one of those technologies where, as they say, 'If you build it, they will come.' We anticipate finding many applications as the technology matures," Moheimani said. More information: Michael G. Ruppert et al, On-Chip Dynamic Mode Atomic Force Microscopy: A Silicon-on-Insulator MEMS Approach, Journal of Microelectromechanical Systems (2017). DOI: 10.1109/JMEMS.2016.2628890


DALLAS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions, a leading developer and operator of infrastructure projects for the college and university market, along with Dallas-based developer Wynne/Jackson and lead equity partner Star America, announced today they have reached financial close on the second phase of a mixed-use project for The University of Texas at Dallas. In this phase, the development team will expand on the Northside Phase 1 development, delivering an additional 275 housing units and more than 6,600 square feet of retail space valued at $67M as part of a Public-Private Partnership. Located on more than 12 acres adjacent to Northside Phase 1, which opened in 2016, the Phase 2 project will include mid-rise apartments and townhomes that will add 900 beds, as well as additional shops, restaurants and entertainment venues to serve the nearly 27,000 students, faculty, staff and young professionals of the University and the greater Richardson, Texas area. The community will also include spaces for small gatherings, as well as a fitness facility, programmed courtyard amenity with a resort-style pool and generous patio areas located in a park-like environment. The project is being developed in partnership with Dallas-based residential and commercial developer Wynne/Jackson and New York-based infrastructure developer Star America. Andres Construction, also Dallas-based, will lead the overall design/build team, featuring Architecture Demarest as the lead design firm. "Northside 2 is the next phase of what we envision to be a transit-oriented development that encourages a live, work, study and play environment for students, faculty, staff and the community," said Dr. Calvin D. Jamison, vice president for administration at UT Dallas. "When this project is completed, we will have more than 7,000 students living on or near campus, and this phase will offer enhanced housing and retail opportunities to support our growing campus and community." Construction of the project has commenced and will be delivered in August 2018 in preparation for the 2018-2019 academic year. Upon completion, the housing will be operated by Balfour Beatty Communities. The development team has secured a 61-year ground lease with the University to develop the project which will be 100 percent financed through developer equity and conventional construction financing provided through First United Bank. “We are quite pleased to continue our relationship with The University of Texas at Dallas and support their growth with new and expanded infrastructure,” said Bob Shepko, president of Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions. “The first phase of the Northside project has been very well-received by the students, faculty, administration and community, and we look forward to building on this success with Phase 2.” Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions, LLC provides development, asset/property management, and other real estate services to colleges, universities, and their affiliated entities with a special focus on projects utilizing a Public-Private Partnership model. The company offers an alternative solution for higher education institutions to finance and execute their necessary capital plans, including academic facilities for faculty, classrooms and labs, athletic spaces, wellness centers and student housing. Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions is part of Balfour Beatty Investments, Inc. a global company focused on financing and operating the vital assets that enable societies and economies to grow: roads and railways, health and education facilities, power and water systems, places to live and places to work—the infrastructure that underpins progress. Balfour Beatty Investments is a division of Balfour Beatty plc, a UK-based international infrastructure group operating in construction services, support services and infrastructure investments. Star America Infrastructure Partners is an independent US headquartered developer and manager of greenfield infrastructure assets in North America, backed by US pension funds and insurance companies. Star America focuses on partnering with states and public agencies in delivering infrastructure projects across the transportation, social and environmental sectors. Over the past 15 years, Star America’s team members have had experience financing, underwriting and managing over 45 infrastructure projects valued at over $60 bn. Wynne/Jackson is a real estate development firm with a diverse background and a proven track record of successful developments and engagements over its near 35 year history. The principals have developed properties worth in excess of $1 billion and have provided asset and property management, leasing, marketing, and consulting services on over $1.5 billion of real estate developments and projects and over 10,000 residential lots. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Wynne/Jackson has operated on a regional basis throughout Texas and adjoining states.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

Researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas have created an atomic force microscope on a chip, dramatically shrinking the size -- and, hopefully, the price tag -- of a high-tech device commonly used to characterize material properties. "A standard atomic force microscope is a large, bulky instrument, with multiple control loops, electronics and amplifiers," said Reza Moheimani, professor of mechanical engineering at UT Dallas. "We have managed to miniaturize all of the electromechanical components down onto a single small chip." Moheimani and his colleagues describe their prototype device in this month's issue of the IEEE Journal of Microelectromechanical Systems. An atomic force microscope (AFM) is a scientific tool that is used to create detailed three-dimensional images of the surfaces of materials, down to the nanometer scale -- that's roughly on the scale of individual molecules. The basic AFM design consists of a tiny cantilever, or arm, that has a sharp tip attached to one end. As the apparatus scans back and forth across the surface of a sample, or the sample moves under it, the interactive forces between the sample and the tip cause the cantilever to move up and down as the tip follows the contours of the surface. Those movements are then translated into an image. "An AFM is a microscope that 'sees' a surface kind of the way a visually impaired person might, by touching. You can get a resolution that is well beyond what an optical microscope can achieve," said Moheimani, who holds the James Von Ehr Distinguished Chair in Science and Technology in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. "It can capture features that are very, very small." The UT Dallas team created its prototype on-chip AFM using a microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) approach. "A classic example of MEMS technology are the accelerometers and gyroscopes found in smartphones," said Dr. Anthony Fowler, a research scientist in Moheimani's Laboratory for Dynamics and Control of Nanosystems and one of the article's co-authors. "These used to be big, expensive, mechanical devices, but using MEMS technology, accelerometers have shrunk down onto a single chip, which can be manufactured for just a few dollars apiece." The MEMS-based AFM is about 1 square centimeter in size, or a little smaller than a dime. It is attached to a small printed circuit board, about half the size of a credit card, which contains circuitry, sensors and other miniaturized components that control the movement and other aspects of the device. Conventional AFMs operate in various modes. Some map out a sample's features by maintaining a constant force as the probe tip drags across the surface, while others do so by maintaining a constant distance between the two. "The problem with using a constant height approach is that the tip is applying varying forces on a sample all the time, which can damage a sample that is very soft," Fowler said. "Or, if you are scanning a very hard surface, you could wear down the tip," The MEMS-based AFM operates in "tapping mode," which means the cantilever and tip oscillate up and down perpendicular to the sample, and the tip alternately contacts then lifts off from the surface. As the probe moves back and forth across a sample material, a feedback loop maintains the height of that oscillation, ultimately creating an image. "In tapping mode, as the oscillating cantilever moves across the surface topography, the amplitude of the oscillation wants to change as it interacts with sample," said Dr. Mohammad Maroufi, a research associate in mechanical engineering and co-author of the paper. "This device creates an image by maintaining the amplitude of oscillation." Because conventional AFMs require lasers and other large components to operate, their use can be limited. They're also expensive. "An educational version can cost about $30,000 or $40,000, and a laboratory-level AFM can run $500,000 or more," Moheimani said. "Our MEMS approach to AFM design has the potential to significantly reduce the complexity and cost of the instrument. "One of the attractive aspects about MEMS is that you can mass produce them, building hundreds or thousands of them in one shot, so the price of each chip would only be a few dollars. As a result, you might be able to offer the whole miniature AFM system for a few thousand dollars." A reduced size and price tag also could expand the AFMs' utility beyond current scientific applications. "For example, the semiconductor industry might benefit from these small devices, in particular companies that manufacture the silicon wafers from which computer chips are made," Moheimani said. "With our technology, you might have an array of AFMs to characterize the wafer's surface to find micro-faults before the product is shipped out." The lab prototype is a first-generation device, Moheimani said, and the group is already working on ways to improve and streamline the fabrication of the device. "This is one of those technologies where, as they say, 'If you build it, they will come.' We anticipate finding many applications as the technology matures," Moheimani said.


News Article | February 24, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Adjusting a firm's capacity can be expensive and difficult for a production manager. A new UT Dallas study derived optimal policies and data-driven, problem-solving techniques for firms to learn about demand so that they can decide when and by how much they should adjust their capacity level. "The structure of the optimal policy tells you, based on current information, whether or not you should change your capacity," said Dr. Anyan Qi, assistant professor of operations management in the Naveen Jindal School of Management and one of the paper's authors. "It's a mapping from what you know and what you have to what your decision should be -- whether you should continue to observe the demand, increase the capacity or decrease the capacity." The study was published in the January-February issue of Operations Research. Qi said it's important for researchers to investigate capacity -- an indicator of a firm's capability to satisfy the demand and, therefore, to earn revenue. Increasing the capacity can be costly because it requires an investment, such as buying additional equipment or hiring more workers. Downsizing capacity, which may require layoffs or equipment disinvestment, also can be expensive. "If you do not have enough capacity, and you have a lot of demand, you are losing potential revenue," Qi said. "If you have a lot of capacity, but not enough demand, you suffer from the redundant capacity you have. We would like to see the demand match the supply." To demonstrate that their method can be implemented with actual demand data, the researchers developed a numerical study using production and financial data related to the Ford Focus. Using the data from the first two generations of the Focus in the North American market, the numerical study illustrates how one could use the paper's approach in deciding how to adjust capacity for the third generation. Qi said it's difficult for firms to make decisions about capacity investment because of demand uncertainties. Production managers typically need to observe the demand for a while and then adjust the capacity level based on what they learn about it. Capacity adjustment can be costly and often is subject to managerial hurdles, which can make it difficult to adjust the capacity level multiple times. The study's main finding is that when this is the case, the production manager will need to maintain a careful balance between observing the demand and changing the capacity. The manager should take time to gather more information, especially if the demand can grow higher, Qi said. Because of the limited opportunity to change the capacity, the manager wants to learn more information about the demand so he or she can make the best decision. Qi said the study -- one of the first papers that combines capacity with demand learning -- also speaks to today's focus on machine learning. "It's important to know how to learn about your demand," Qi said. "How do you analyze big data to learn about the demand and support your operational decision?" Dr. Hyun-Soo Ahn and Dr. Amitabh Sinha, both of the University of Michigan, are co-authors on the paper. In 2015, the same trio of researchers published a study on investing in a shared supplier in a competitive market.


News Article | February 17, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Many who have a chronic traumatic brain injury (TBI) report struggling to solve problems, understand complex information and maintain friendships, despite scoring normally on cognitive tests. New research from the Center for BrainHealth at UT Dallas finds that a gist reasoning test, developed by clinicians and cognitive neuroscientists at the Center, is more sensitive than other traditional tests at identifying certain cognitive deficits. The study, published in Journal of Applied Biobehavioral Research, suggests the gist reasoning test may be sensitive enough to help doctors and clinicians identify previously undiagnosed cognitive changes that could explain the daily life difficulties experienced by TBI patients and subsequently guide appropriate therapies. The gist reasoning measure, called the Test of Strategic Learning, accurately identified 84.7 percent of chronic TBI cases, a much higher rate than more traditional tests that accurately identified TBI between 42.3 percent and 67.5 percent of the time. "Being able to 'get the gist' is essential for many day-to-day activities such as engaging in conversation, understanding meanings that are implied but not explicitly stated, creating shopping lists and resolving conflicts with others," said study lead author Dr. Asha Vas of Texas Woman's University who was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for BrainHealth at the time of the study. "The gist test requires multiple cognitive functions to work together." The study featured 70 participants ages 18 to 55, including 30 who had experienced a moderate to severe chronic traumatic brain injury at least one year ago. All the participants had similar socioeconomic status, educational backgrounds and IQ. Researchers were blinded to the participant's TBI status while administering four different tests that measure abstract thinking -- the ability to understand the big picture, not just recount the details of a story or other complex information. Researchers used the results to predict which participants were in the TBI group and which were healthy controls. During the cognitive tests, the majority of the TBI group easily recognized abstract or concrete information when given prompts in a yes-no format. But the TBI group performed much worse than controls on tests, including gist reasoning, that required deeper level processing of information with fewer or no prompts. The gist reasoning test consists of three texts that vary in length (from 291 to 575 words) and complexity. The test requires the participant to provide a synopsis of each of the three texts. Vas provided an example of what "getting the gist" means using Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. "There are no right or wrong answers. The test relies on your ability to derive meaning from important story details and arrive at a high-level summary: Two young lovers from rival families scheme to build a life together and it ends tragically. You integrate existing knowledge, such as the concept of love and sacrifice, to create a meaning from your perspective. Perhaps, in this case, 'true love does not conquer all,'" she said. Past studies have shown that higher scores on the gist reasoning test in individuals in chronic phases of TBI correlate to better ability to perform daily life functions. "Perhaps, in the future, the gist reasoning test could be used as a tool to identify other cognitive impairments," said Dr. Jeffrey Spence, study co-author and director of biostatistics at the Center for BrainHealth. "It may also have the potential to be used as a marker of cognitive changes in aging." The research was supported by the Dee Wyly Distinguished Chair fund and Friends of BrainHealth.


News Article | February 20, 2017
Site: phys.org

Much like flipping your light switch at home—-only on a scale 1,000 times smaller than a human hair—-an ASU-led team has now developed the first controllable DNA switch to regulate the flow of electricity within a single, atomic-sized molecule. The new study, led by ASU Biodesign Institute researcher Nongjian Tao, was published in the advanced online journal Nature Communications. "It has been established that charge transport is possible in DNA, but for a useful device, one wants to be able to turn the charge transport on and off. We achieved this goal by chemically modifying DNA," said Tao, who directs the Biodesign Center for Bioelectronics and Biosensors and is a professor in the Fulton Schools of Engineering. "Not only that, but we can also adapt the modified DNA as a probe to measure reactions at the single-molecule level. This provides a unique way for studying important reactions implicated in disease, or photosynthesis reactions for novel renewable energy applications." Engineers often think of electricity like water, and the research team's new DNA switch acts to control the flow of electrons on and off, just like water coming out of a faucet. Previously, Tao's research group had made several discoveries to understand and manipulate DNA to more finely tune the flow of electricity through it. They found they could make DNA behave in different ways—and could cajole electrons to flow like waves according to quantum mechanics, or "hop" like rabbits in the way electricity in a copper wire works —creating an exciting new avenue for DNA-based, nano-electronic applications. Tao assembled a multidisciplinary team for the project, including ASU postdoctoral student Limin Xiang and Li Yueqi performing bench experiments, Julio Palma working on the theoretical framework, with further help and oversight from collaborators Vladimiro Mujica (ASU) and Mark Ratner (Northwestern University). To accomplish their engineering feat, Tao's group, modified just one of DNA's iconic double helix chemical letters, abbreviated as A, C, T or G, with another chemical group, called anthraquinone (Aq). Anthraquinone is a three-ringed carbon structure that can be inserted in between DNA base pairs but contains what chemists call a redox group (short for reduction, or gaining electrons or oxidation, losing electrons). These chemical groups are also the foundation for how our bodies' convert chemical energy through switches that send all of the electrical pulses in our brains, our hearts and communicate signals within every cell that may be implicated in the most prevalent diseases. The modified Aq-DNA helix could now help it perform the switch, slipping comfortably in between the rungs that make up the ladder of the DNA helix, and bestowing it with a new found ability to reversibly gain or lose electrons. Through their studies, when they sandwiched the DNA between a pair of electrodes, they careful controlled their electrical field and measured the ability of the modified DNA to conduct electricity. This was performed using a staple of nano-electronics, a scanning tunneling microscope, which acts like the tip of an electrode to complete a connection, being repeatedly pulled in and out of contact with the DNA molecules in the solution like a finger touching a water droplet. "We found the electron transport mechanism in the present anthraquinone-DNA system favors electron "hopping" via anthraquinone and stacked DNA bases," said Tao. In addition, they found they could reversibly control the conductance states to make the DNA switch on (high-conductance) or switch-off (low conductance). When anthraquinone has gained the most electrons (its most-reduced state), it is far more conductive, and the team finely mapped out a 3-D picture to account for how anthraquinone controlled the electrical state of the DNA. For their next project, they hope to extend their studies to get one step closer toward making DNA nano-devices a reality. "We are particularly excited that the engineered DNA provides a nice tool to examine redox reaction kinetics, and thermodynamics the single molecule level," said Tao.

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