Arkansas Honors College “Honors Passport” Courses Combine Foreign Study, Student Presentations

Editor’s Note: The following information is from the University of Arkansas Honors College. The college dean has designed the Honors Passport experiences, a capstone course abroad. “Honors Passport courses send honors students and top faculty scholars to historically and culturally significant sites around the globe. During these two-week intersession courses, each student much research and present on a historic site, monument or notable individual, taking an active role in teaching the course.”

Sixteen Honors College students recently spent a full semester preparing for study abroad in Peru, and landed in Lima well-versed on the Incan Empire, the Andean Hybrid Baroque and indigenismo.

Arkansas Honors Dean Lynda Coon and Prof. Kim Sexton, Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design

“The idea is to create an international capstone experience where students and professors together explore the interaction of contemporary and historical sites, texts, and artifacts,” said Honors College Dean Lynda Coon.

Honors College Dean Lynda Coon has launched a series of innovative honors courses since joining the history faculty in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences in 1990. She helped to create the Honors Humanities Project (H2P) and as dean she has developed Signature Seminars, Forums, Retro Readings courses and this Honors Passport study abroad experience. Coon’s research focuses on the history of Christianity from circa 300-900.

Kim Sexton, an associate professor of architecture at Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, specializes in the architecture of late medieval and Renaissance Italy. Since joining the Fay Jones School’s faculty in 1999, Sexton has taught survey courses in the history of world architecture, specialized courses on medieval and Renaissance architecture, and space and gender theory. Sexton is currently completing a book manuscript entitled Loggia Culture: Spatial Practices in Medieval Italy that positions the loggia or portico in cultural history.

Arkansas psych major Linh Luu giving a presentation at Santa Catalina, a Dominican convent in Arequipa, Peru.

Dean Coon and Professor Sexton have taught the second semester of H2P since 1999. They also developed Medieval Bodies/Medieval Spaces, an interdisciplinary honors colloquium that traces the evolution of western medieval history through text, ritual and built environments.


1235

Advertisements

Univ of Arkansas Chancellor to Teach Honors College Course

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Few undergraduate students get to sit down and discuss big issues with campus leaders. Next spring, 14 students at the University of Arkansas will get an unparalleled opportunity to do just that, thanks to a new Honors College course, Flagship U!, to be led by Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz.

Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz brings a great deal of leadership expertise to the table. Care to join him?

Photo of Chancellor Steinmetz, by Russell Cothren

“I’ve missed teaching and I look forward to working with these top students,” Steinmetz said. “I’d like to share what I’ve learned so far, and I’m interested in getting their perspective on issues that I deal with on a day-to-day basis.”

Steinmetz also will lead a public forum on “The Fate of theFlagship U,” at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, April 5, 2017, in Gearhart Hall Auditorium (GEAR 26).

It is rare for a university chancellor or president to teach any type of course, given the demands of their position. This course is especially unique.

“I don’t know of any other chancellors who have invited undergraduate students into their home to discuss pressing, and in some cases, controversial campus issues,” said Lynda Coon, dean of the Honors College. “What a fantastic opportunity for our students – we are very grateful to Chancellor Steinmetz for sharing his valuable time and expertise.”

Flagship U! is second in the Honors College Forum series, which brings top faculty and honors students together to discuss trending issues, from the 2016 presidential election to diversity in design.

Each student in Flagship U! will research and present on topics that shape academe, such as inclusion and access, Title IX, substance abuse, and enrollment growth. Leaders in Steinmetz’ administration will partner with the students; for example, Jeff Long, vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics, will advise the student presenting on athletics. Each student also will track developments at another flagship university, selecting from a list of schools that includes the University of Texas, the University of Michigan and Penn State.

Honors students interested in leadership – whether in academe, a Fortune 500 company, public service, or another endeavor – are encouraged to apply. For more information, visit the Forum: Flagship U! page on the Honors College website.

“We hope to draw exceptional students from every college on campus,” Dean Coon said.

About the Honors College: The University of Arkansas Honors College was established in 2002 and unites the university’s top undergraduate students and professors in a learning environment characterized by discovery, creativity and service. Each year the Honors College awards up to 90 freshman fellowships that provide $70,000 over four years, and more than $1 million in undergraduate research and study abroad grants. The Honors College is nationally recognized for the high caliber of students it admits and graduates. Honors students enjoy small, in-depth classes, and programs are offered in all disciplines, tailored to students’ academic interests, with interdisciplinary collaborations encouraged. Fifty percent of Honors College graduates have studied abroad – three times the national average – and one hundred percent of Honors College graduates have engaged in mentored research.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.

Univ of Arkansas Honors Student and Prof Publish Paper on Proteins Related to Alzheimer’s

Editor’s Note: The post below comes to us from Kendall Curlee, director of communications at the University of Arkansas Honors College.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — A University of Arkansas research team has published a paper in ChemBioChem, a top European journal of chemical biology, based on groundbreaking experiments led by undergraduate honors student Armin Mortazavi. The paper contributes to the understanding of the molecular properties of membrane proteins, which play critical roles in cell signaling, both for diseased states and basic biological functions.

“It could be useful in understanding how proteins aggregate, which is characteristic of some neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s – but that’s long down the line at this point,” Mortazavi said.

Armin Mortazavi and faculty mentor Roger Koeppe examine deuterium magnetic resonance (NMR) results. Photo: Matt Reynolds.

Armin Mortazavi and faculty mentor Roger Koeppe examine deuterium magnetic resonance (NMR) results. Photo: Matt Reynolds.

“Our main purpose is to understand how they interact in the body.”

Mortazavi, from Hot Springs, is an honors chemistry and physics double major, a Bodenhamer Fellow, and the recipient of the Goldwater Scholarship. He is listed as first author on the article, giving him primary credit for performing the experiments that led to the discoveries. Roger Koeppe, Distinguished Professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, is Mortazavi’s faculty mentor and director of the study.

The paper is titled “Juxta-Terminal Helix Unwinding as a Stabilizing Factor to Modulate the Dynamics of Transmembrane Helices.” The U of A team used nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to alter the amino acid sequences of model peptides and incorporated deuterium labels to study how the peptides move within a model for the outer membrane of a cell.

Mortazavi’s research builds on earlier work by honors student Kelsey Sparks, who studied the role aromatic rings play in the movement of the same family of peptides. Sparks was the first author on a paper published in 2014 in Biochemistry and is a coauthor on this paper.

Previous work in Koeppe’s lab found that a similar peptide helix might be unwound or “frayed” at the end. Mortazavi has confirmed that there are multiple peptides that fray at the end, limiting their extent of motion and helping to anchor them within a lipid membrane.

“What Armin has found suggests that there may be more importance to the loops within membrane signaling proteins, which have largely been ignored up to now,” Koeppe said. “His work may point us in a new direction.”

Mortazavi presented his work at the 2015 meeting of the Biophysical Society and will present his latest results at the February 2016 meeting in Los Angeles.

Koeppe has mentored more than 25 honors students, with six of them publishing their research.

“To this point, I’ve not had a student publish before they graduate,” he said. “Armin started research early, in his freshman year. ­He’s well organized, dedicated, hardworking, and he’s produced a lot of results.”

Mortazavi’s work has been supported by a State Undergraduate Research Fellowship and Honors College research and travel grants. Other members of the research team who are coauthors on the article are graduate student Venkatesan Rajagopalan and research associate professor Denise V. Greathouse.

About the Honors College: The University of Arkansas Honors College was established in 2002 and unites the university’s top undergraduate students and professors in a learning environment characterized by discovery, creativity and service. Each year the Honors College awards up to 90 freshman fellowships that provide $70,000 over four years, and more than $1 million in undergraduate research and study abroad grants. The Honors College is nationally recognized for the high caliber of students it admits and graduates. Honors students enjoy small, in-depth classes, and programs are offered in all disciplines, tailored to students’ academic interests, with interdisciplinary collaborations encouraged. Fifty percent of Honors College graduates have studied abroad – three times the national average – and one hundred percent of Honors College graduates have engaged in mentored research.

Arkansas Honors College Students Publish in Peer-Reviewed Journals

Editor’s note: The following article is from the University of Arkansas. My thanks to Kendall Curless of the Honors College for sending it along.

Researchers at the University of Arkansas have established that pits and scratches on the teeth of mammal fossils give important clues to the diet of creatures that lived millions of years ago. Two new studies, both involving undergraduate Honors College students, analyze the effect of environmental change on the teeth of existing species, and may shed light on the evolutionary fossil record.

Peter Ungar, Distinguished Professor and chair of the anthropology department, mentored the students and is a coauthor on both papers.

Both studies compare dental wear of species in environments that are relatively undisturbed to those in environments that have been disturbed by human development.

“Human disturbance, from an ecological perspective, is not a great thing, but for folks like me, they’re really cool natural experiments,” Peter Ungar said. “If we can understand the reaction of living animals, including primates, to environmental change, then we can apply that to the past, to understand evolution. Conversely, we can use our understanding of how things change on evolutionary time scales to get a better appreciation for our effects on the environment today.”

Tracking Lemurs in Madagascar

The paper “Mechanical food properties and dental topography differentiate three populations of Lemur catta in southwest Madagascar” was recently accepted by the Journal of Human Evolution, the premier journal in the field.

Emily Fitzgerald (B.A. in anthropology, magna cum laude, ’12) and Andrea Riemenschneider (B.A. in anthropology, cum laude, ’13), who were undergraduate honors students at the time, used data collected in Madagascar by Frank Cuozzo and Michelle Sauther. Since 2003 Cuozzo and Sauther have caught and made molds of the teeth of ring-tailed lemurs across a variety of habitats.

Building on research by first author Nayuta Yamashita, Fitzgerald and Riemenschneider made high-resolution casts of the molds, then used a laser scanner to make 3-D models of the teeth, which they analyzed using global-information system software. Their findings confirmed different patterns of wear in different settings.

Lemurs in disturbed areas were most heavily impacted, wearing their teeth “down to nubbins – we’re not entirely sure why,” Ungar said. This finding could help scientists interpret wear-related tooth shape changes more generally.

ComparinG Capuchin and Howler Monkeys in the Brazilian Amazon

In “Environmental Perturbations Can be Detected Through Microwear Texture Analysis in Two Platyrrhine Species From Brazilian Amazonia,” recently published in the American Journal of Primatology, Almudena Estalrrich, a doctoral exchange student from Spain, and Mariel Williams Young (B.A. in anthropology and Spanish, magna cum laude, with a minor in psychology, ’13), then an undergraduate Honors College student, analyzed the effects of habitat variation on capuchin and howler monkeys.

Each species was sampled from environments ranging from minimally disturbed to an area that had been deforested with the construction of a hydroelectric dam.

Young used a confocal microscope to zoom in on a very small part of the tooth – the wear area where the upper and lower teeth come into contact. The team predicted that capuchins, which eat nuts and berries, would be more impacted by environmental disturbance than howler monkeys, which eat leaves.

Their findings confirmed this prediction, and established that dental microwear texture analysis is an effective tool to detect subtle differences in diets among living primates. Studies like this one, which use well-documented specimens with differences in habitats, suggest that subtle changes in microwear may shed light on habitat-forced diet changes in the fossil record.

Peter Ungar has worked with dozens of Honors College students in the past 20 years, and several have published their undergraduate research in peer-reviewed journals.

“Honors students are bread and butter for me,” Ungar said. “I couldn’t get done what I get done, research-wise, without their help.”

“It feels great to have a publication early in my career,” said Mariel Young, who completed a master’s degree in human evolutionary studies at Cambridge and is now pursuing a doctoral degree in human evolutionary biology at Harvard. Young was awarded the Gates Cambridge Scholarship and NSF Graduate Fellowship, and credits her success to research with Ungar: “These two awards have had a huge impact on my career, and my initial research at U of A in Dr. Ungar’s lab is definitely what set me on the path toward achieving them.”

“We’re very proud of these three alumni, and pleased that, yet again, undergraduate thesis research conducted by our Honors College students has been published in top journals,” said Lynda Coon, dean of the Honors College.

About the Honors College: The University of Arkansas Honors College was established in 2002 and unites the university’s top undergraduate students and professors in a learning environment characterized by discovery, creativity and service. Each year the Honors College awards up to 90 freshman fellowships that provide $70,000 over four years, and more than $1 million in undergraduate research and study abroad grants. The Honors College is nationally recognized for the high caliber of students it admits and graduates. Honors students enjoy small, in-depth classes, and programs are offered in all disciplines, tailored to students’ academic interests, with interdisciplinary collaborations encouraged. One hundred percent of Honors College graduates have engaged in mentored research.

 

Arkansas Honors College Alum Wins Marshall Scholarship

Michael Norton, an alumnus of the honors college at the University of Arkansas, has won a Marshall Scholarship to study political science at Oxford University.  Norton also earned a Truman Scholarship in 2012, and he is going to interview for a Rhodes Scholarship in the near future.  New rules allow winners of the Marshall to go forward with other interviews.

Already in an elite group for having won a Marshall and a Truman scholarship, Norton would be in super-elite company if he were to add a Rhodes Scholarship.

UA senior Rachael Pelligrino will also interview for a Rhodes Scholarship.  In addition, she is a finalist for a Truman Scholarship.

Norton will become the 7th UA winner of a Marshall Scholarship.  The scholarships provide full funding for academic and living expenses for two years of study at any university in the United Kingdom.  Most winners choose Oxford, Cambridge, University College London, King’s College of London, the London School of Economics, or Imperial College of London.

Norton told the Arkansas Traveler that the UofA Office of Nationally Competitive Awards was central to the development of his successful application.

“The office is a great treasure of the university when it comes to these awards,” he said.  Suzanne McCray of that office is known for her mock “interviews.”

The Marshall Scholarship was established in 1953. It awards up to 40 American students each year.  For the 2013 year, 943 students applied for the scholarship and 34 were selected.