Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Curator of African American and African Diasporic Art
Shawnya Harris is the first curator to focus on African-American arts at the Georgia Museum of Art. She will highlight the museum’s collection of African-American artists that was donated by Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson, in addition to expanding the collection by looking for new and undiscovered art. Harris will dig into the work and lives of the artists in the collection to provide better understanding of who they were and what they were trying to create. That research will offer opportunities for collaboration across disciplines, and it will paint a more complete and colorful picture of what is known about American art.
“There aren’t a lot of African-American artists who show up in major survey texts. So we’ve got a role in documenting those artists, making it available—not just here—but for people who are interested beyond Georgia.”
Georgia Power Mickey A. Brown Professor of Engineering
WenZhan Song’s expertise and research interests reside in the realm of “big data”, also called informatics, where massive data sets are collected and analyzed. The engineering faculty member is developing “smart grid” energy systems that have the potential to increase the use of renewable energy sources to establish a more secure future for Georgians. He is also creating the first “subsurface camera” system for more efficient geo-energy exploration and production, and less environmental impact.
“Integrating renewable energy into our power grid has the potential to reduce our impact on the environment, and the use of smart technology has the potential to reduce the world’s overall energy consumption. The benefits are significant.”
Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Immunology and Translational Biomedicine
Karen Norris is a leading infectious disease researcher in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Infectious Diseases and the UGA Center for Vaccines and Immunology. Her research focuses on infectious and chronic diseases, including HIV, pulmonary diseases, inflammatory diseases and diabetes. She is developing models of a respiratory virus that infects the lungs. While most healthy people with this virus only experience mild cold-like symptoms, it can be serious for infants and older adults. Her disease model may be particularly useful for vaccine and therapeutic testing.
“This is an exciting time of growth for biomedical research at UGA, particularly in the areas of infectious diseases and vaccine development, and I look forward to working with colleagues at UGA, the Georgia Research Alliance and the greater Georgia research community on the development of novel vaccines and immunotherapeutics.”
Gordhan L. and Virginia B. “Jinx” Patel Distinguished Professor in Public Health, Department Head of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
José F. Cordero has dedicated his career to addressing health disparities and the health of mothers, children and minorities. He was already part of a research team conducting a study of pre-term births in Puerto Rico when the Zika outbreak began there. Now, that project is also focused on the care of would-be mothers and prevention of the disease.
“The endowment provided by the Patel Distinguished Professorship in Public Health will be instrumental in expanding research and service opportunities in maternal and child health and will lead to healthier babies and mothers in Georgia and throughout the world.”
The Biennial Institute for Georgia Legislators, coordinated by UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, is a bi-annual event that helps lawmakers prepare for the upcoming legislative cycle. New and veteran legislators count on the Biennial Institute to provide information and training that will help them make better-informed decisions for Georgia. A recognized event on the state’s political calendar since 1958, the Biennial provides legislators with valuable time for learning, networking, and exploring state issues prior to the upcoming session of the General Assembly.
“It’s a great honor for UGA to host and facilitate the Biennial Institute – the premiere event that brings new and returning legislators together to study some of the complex issues they will face over the course of a legislative cycle. It’s a very important way that the university helps address some of today’s important challenges and opportunities.”
Laura Meadows Director of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government
Karen Burg’s tissue engineering work has implications for improving the treatment of breast cancer and other diseases. Her work includes building arrangements of patients’ cells to assist in the identification of early stage diseases. Her research team is also finding ways to use normal, healthy cells to build replacement parts for cancer or bone trauma patients who have had unhealthy or damaged tissue removed.
“The College of Veterinary Medicine research initiatives are focused on both animal and human health; it will be exciting to find ways to connect engineering tools with these efforts.”
GEORGIA RESEARCH ALLIANCE EMINENT SCHOLAR OF VACCINES AND VIRAL IMMUNITY
Ted Ross is developing a universal flu vaccine that would protect against all forms of influenza. One or two shots would provide protection for many years or even a lifetime, much like vaccines we have for polio, smallpox or mumps.
“Vaccines are one of the most important developments in the history of humankind. We have eliminated or reduced the incidence of many of the most deadly infectious diseases. Now we’re trying to understand how vaccines work in different populations so that we can construct vaccines that work well in as many people as possible.”
UGA ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION PROFESSOR IN THE SOCIAL SCIENCES
Marshall Shepherd, director of UGA’s Atmospheric Sciences Program, is a leading scientist at the intersection of extreme weather, climate, and society. A former NASA scientist and president of the American Meteorological Society, Shepherd seeks to improve understanding and predictability of flood-producing storms, hurricanes, and other extreme weather.
In addition to his research and teaching, Shepherd has been a champion for increasing weather and climate literacy. He leverages his Award-Winning Weather Channel show and contributions to Forbes to reach the public.
“It is important to understand that climate change impacts more than sea level and polar bears. There are implications for national security, agricultural productivity, global water stress, diseases, and more.”
Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar of Forest Biotechnology
Researchers at the University of Georgia were the first to use a gene editing tool known as CRISPR/Cas to modify the genome of a tree species – a breakthrough with implications for food crops and animal feeds, as well as biofuel feedstocks.
“Compared to some other gene editing techniques, CRISPR is incredibly simple, cost-effective and highly efficient. It could serve as the foundation for a new era of discovery in plant genetics.”
Robert Ivarie has found potential low-cost treatments for a rare disease in humans through his research with chickens. His discoveries led to the creation of a new drug for an ultra-rare and often fatal disorder known as Wolman disease. Now, his small company has been acquired by a major pharmaceutical company that has made the drug available to the market.
“This is a great example of a small company that turned into a real job generator. We have exceptional talent base at the University of Georgia, and the technologies our faculty and staff are developing can create new business and jobs. It can be done, and more importantly it can be done right here in Georgia.”
UGA scientists are working to improve food security and reduce poverty in key countries as part of the international Feed the Future initiative. Their research helps farmers in developing nations grow better quality, calorie-rich peanuts, which may help break the vicious cycle of poverty and malnutrition.
When improperly managed or exposed to stress late in the season, peanuts become susceptible to molds that produce harmful toxins. But Peggy Ozias-Akins is helping to create peanut varieties that are resistant to fungal contamination and produce fewer allergens.
“Peanut genome sequencing provides us with gene-based information that can be used to breed an even healthier, more disease resistant, and higher yielding peanut.”
UGA ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR IN THE BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
Researchers at the University of Georgia are working on better ways to diagnose, prevent and treat Chagas disease, a parasitic disease that is the most common cause of heart failure and sudden death in the world.
Cellular biologist Rick Tarleton is working in collaboration with Anacor Pharmaceuticals to develop a new drug for the treatment of Chagas disease, which they hope will be ready to enter clinical trials soon.
“Chagas disease is incredibly understudied, because it is a disease of poverty, and the two drugs commonly used to treat Chagas disease require a long course of therapy and have a number of serious side effects. This, combined with the fact that many parasites are resistant to these existing drugs, emphasizes the tremendous need for new treatments.”
John Drake and colleagues in the Odum School of Ecology are leaders in a global effort to predict when new infectious disease threats, like Zika and Ebola, are likely to arise, and when they are likely to subside. The researchers use computer models to understand where diseases come from, how they spread and what we might do to control them.
“Despite huge advances in vaccines and therapeutics, the burden of infectious diseases continues to rise. Early detection and early response was how we eliminated smallpox. We can do better by predicting diseases before they occur.”
UGA environmental engineer Jenna Jambeck was the first to systematically calculate the amount of plastic waste that makes its way into the ocean from solid waste on land: eight million metric tons – the equivalent of five grocery bags full of plastic on every foot of coastline in 192 countries. Her study, published in Science, is a first step in designing solutions to stop the flow of plastic into oceans.
“By changing the way we think about waste, valuing the management of it, collecting, capturing and containing it, we can open up new jobs and opportunities for economic innovation, and in addition, improve the living conditions and health for millions of people around the world and protect our oceans.”
UGA horticulturists are developing affordable soil moisture sensors that save water, increase efficiency, and reduce the environmental impacts of plant production, while simultaneously maximizing production.
“We now have the ability to build new technology that can actually get the growers the information they need in real time to make much better decisions about irrigation. We hope in the long run that we can come up with a simplified version that can be used in developing countries where water is very limited.”
The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) provides tools, training and resources to help small businesses succeed. One of Georgia’s top small business assistance providers, the SBDC has 17 offices across the state to serve the needs of Georgia’s business community. Since 1976, the SBDC network built a statewide system to foster the spirit, support and success of hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs and innovators.
Boots to Business, a national program located near military bases, is now offered in Georgia through the SBDC. This two-day course introduces entrepreneurship to service-men and -women who are beginning post-military careers. More than 900 individuals have taken the course since it was first offered by the SBDC in late 2013.
The Carl Vinson Institute of Government helps communities revitalize their downtowns to attract more businesses and jobs.
The Vinson Institute’s Downtown Renaissance Partnership works with UGA College of Environment and Design, the Georgia Municipal Association and the Georgia Cities Foundation, to help communities develop strategies to reinvigorate economic development. CED students provide technical and design services and develop solutions to community challenges.
Since its inception in 2013, the Renaissance Partnership has worked in 30 downtowns across the state.