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Key Media Mentions for February 2014

Saturday, Mar. 01, 2014

A few recent Media Highlights (February 2014):

USU’s Spider Silk Lab Spinning Webs of commercialization– Utah Pulse, February 2

Most of us see spider webs and look right past them, never paying a second thought to their strength and complexity. We never see the hidden potential such as the fact spider silk is 100 times stronger than natural ligaments, 10 times stronger than natural tendons, stronger than Kevlar and more elastic than nylon.

However, Utah State University (USU) Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) professor Randy Lewis knows just what is possible. He has been perfecting the development of synthetic spider silk protein for more than 20 years now.

The Spider Silk Lab, housed within the Synthetic Biomanufacturing Institute (SBI) on USU’s campus, is the epicenter for conducting research on these proteins, and for spinning and testing proteins to determine their strength and validity for various market applications. The SBI will be holding their annual Science and Technology Review Meeting on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at the USU Eccles Conference Center. Current and potential industry partners are invited to come learn more about the most recent research and intellectual property updates. The SBI annual review is a great way to interact with SBI researchers, and the many undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students working on spider silk projects.

Several rounds of research, testing and refining the processes involved in the production, harvesting and purification of multiple types of synthetic spider silk proteins have been conducted. As a result, USU’s spin out company, Araknitek, is now ready to partner with industry. Araknitek will sell spider silk proteins that will be used to develop products with the unique characteristics provided by the spider silk proteins.

Utah State University expects to have the new scale-up facility up and running to provide proteins to commercial partners by late Spring of 2014. “We feel enthusiastic about the commercial potential of synthetic spider silk,” said Robert Behunin, Vice President for Advancement and Commercialization. “It’s always exciting to see valuable research being conducted by faculty and students enter the marketplace and help revolutionize an industry.”

Tuition Waivers Help USU Offset Mormon Missionary Losses– The Salt Lake Tribune, February 3

When Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announced a significant drop in the age required to go on missions two years ago, James Morales knew he’d have a problem.

The vice president for student services at Utah State University estimated they’d lose close to 2,000 students, or about $19 million in revenue.

"We knew there was a significant challenge on the horizon we would be facing," Morales told Utah lawmakers at the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meeting Monday. USU officials predicted they’d lose women entering their sophomore year who saw age requirements drop from 21 to 19 and men who decided to leave on a mission directly after high school at 18 rather than enroll in college and leave at 19. One way they proposed to offset the loss: Bring in more students from out of state.

Wanted: Ideas to Teach Teenagers About Money– The Wall Street Journal, February 3

What's the best way to teach good financial habits to disadvantaged high-schoolers?

Well, what about holding a game night at which teens and their parents scramble to pay hypothetical bills with make-believe dollars?

Or maybe the students could stay on a college campus for two weeks where they would compete for financial security in a simulated economy.

These were two of 73 ideas submitted to a Fidelity Investments competition that challenged nonprofits, think tanks and individuals to come up with an effective means of teaching low-income teenagers the financial skills they need in today's economy. Fidelity says the winning idea will be tested in a pilot program that will receive as much as $100,000 in funding plus support from Fidelity volunteers.

According to the plan from Utah State University Extension 4-H, financial experts from Fidelity would train the volunteer teen recruits, each of whom would then commit to teaching the material to other youths for 15 hours over the course of a year. Those peer-to-peer lessons could take place in summer camps, after-school programs or 4-H clubs.

Fidelity's Mr. Blank says one thing he likes about this approach is that it can be scaled nationally.

The winning entry's author, Dave Francis, a youth-development specialist with Utah 4-H, says he hopes the program will teach teens to make smart financial decisions early.

Utah State Football: Aggies’ 2014 Recruiting Class Filled with Recruits from All Over the Country – Deseret News, February 4

 When former Utah State head coach Gary Andersen left for Wisconsin a year ago, many wondered if the pipeline of high-quality recruits heading to Logan would dry up or if new coach Matt Wells would be able to keep the momentum going.

As Wells prepares to announce his 2014 signing class on Wednesday afternoon, the early returns look promising for the Aggies.

To be sure, the state of Utah is still well-represented in Utah State's 2014 class, with at least eight players from the Beehive State expected to sign with USU. While previous coaching regimes at USU before Andersen never attempted to gain top-flight in-state recruits for fear of losing them to Utah or BYU, Andersen and now Wells have risen to the challenge. With less than 24 hours to go until signing day, Utah State was still battling for in-state recruits, most notably for East High tight end Joe Tukuafu, who changed his commitment from Utah to Utah State on Tuesday afternoon.

The Aggies will need all the help they can get from this class if they want to repeat last year’s appearance in the Mountain West title game. USU finished 9-5 with a win in the Poinsettia Bowl. According to college football guru Phil Steele, the Aggies will return the fewest amount of starters in the country, meaning there will be a big need for young talent to make an early impact.

Recruiting Battle – ABC 4 Utah, February 4

One of the top local recruits has de-committed from Utah and is headed to Utah State. East High tight end, Joe Tukuafu has had a change of heart and instead of becoming a Ute, he’s going up to Logan to become an Aggie.

 USU Study Examining Green Tea's Effect on Colon Cancer – Cache Valley Daily, February 5

With almost $500,000 of grant money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a Utah State University professor is beginning a study this month into the western type diet and its effects on colon cancer.

Abby Benninghoff, project director, is a faculty member in the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences. She said the study will address two key questions.

“The first question is whether this western diet increases cancer risk if you are exposed over multiple generations. There is a lot of evidence that an energy dense, nutrient poor diet (our typical western diet) has negative health effects, especially with cancer. But no one has ever looked at this over multiple generations.”

Benninghoff said the second question asks whether or not foods that act as cancer fighting agents, specifically green tea, will benefit those with colon cancer.

OWU Alumnus to Accompany U.S. Flag Bearer at Sochi Olympic Games – Ohio Wesleyan University, February 6

When six-time Olympian Todd Lodwick carries in the U.S. flag during opening ceremonies at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Ohio Wesleyan University alumnus Rich Gordin, Class of 1973, will accompany the Nordic combined skier.

Gordin, Ph.D., is a professor in Utah State University’s Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation and an adjunct professor in its Department of Psychology. He serves as a sports psychology consultant for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.

Hungry for Humans: What’s Behind Deadly Animal Attacks – Live Science, February 12

Dark reports began circulating in December, after the mutilated body of a 65-year-old man was found in northern India. Since then, nine additional human deaths have been blamed on "Mysterious Queen," the name given to a large Bengal tigress with a taste for human flesh.

When a carnivorous animal attacks a human, experts often point to a low population of the animal's usual prey. In a study detailed in 2013 in the journal Human-Wildlife Interactions, researchers at the Berryman Institute of Utah State University examined attacks by leopards in and around India's Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary.

The researchers found that leopards had been forced to kill livestock in the study area. "The high depredation rate [of livestock] was the result of the low density of wild prey species in the wildlife sanctuary," the study authors concluded.

Chillingly, the researchers also noted that hungry leopards in India had found another source of meat: "In the absence of wild prey species, leopards tend to become man-eaters," the study authors wrote. "The entire hilly region of Uttarakhand state has been historically known as an area where man-eating leopards exist, and they may exist all across the hill districts of Uttarakhand."

Center at USU Seeks to Boost Careers in Science, Technoloygy, Engineering, Math– The Herald Journal, February 13

Utah State University has created a STEM Center with the hopes of ultimately boosting the number of educators teaching science, technology, engineering’s and math and keeping respective students in STEM-related majors.

The center, located within the Edith Bowen Laboratory School on the USU campus, is being billed by officials as a “facilitator” of activity. The center will serve as a space for working on data compilation and analysis; evaluation, outreach and dissemination services; specialized workforce training; and as a lead unit for institutional STEM initiatives.

USU Student’s Essay Wins Ag Competition – The Herald Journal, February 15

A Utah State University student has won an agricultural essay competition and is now one of 30 from across the country who has been invited to a forum in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Skylar Christensen, a senior majoring in agricultural communications and journalism, will attend the USDA’s 2014 Agricultural Outlook Forum, titled “The Changing Face of Agriculture,” Feb. 20 and 21.

USU Researcher Helps Crack Evolutionary Cold Case of Ancient Ape – The Standard-Examiner, February 18

The mystery was whether Proconsul, an extinct genus of primates, had the physical and mental ability to survive in two distinctly different African environments -- one a savanna with a few trees, the other a moist, tropical region with a canopy that would have provided the ancient apes more food and protection from predators.

And being that the prehominids in question lived 23 million to 25 million years ago, it was a bit of a cold case.

Utah State University's Jim Lutz, a wildland resources assistant professor, was part of the team that cracked that case, documented in the issue of Nature Communications released today.

By studying their proximity to each other, and comparing his findings to forests around the world, Lutz was able to prove that the fossilized stumps in Kenya were comparable in diameter and proximity to tree trunks in multiple canopied forests that exist today.

USU Study Details How U.S. House Politicians Have Changed the Rules for Their Own Political Gain – Cache Valley Daily, February 27

A Utah State University professor says the committee system in Congress has evolved over the years, shaped by individual “political entrepreneurs” who realized they were going to have to change the rules to push their own pet projects and policy changes through the system.

Public Choice, a top academic journal, has recognized Dr. Diana Thomas, an assistant professor of economics at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, with a “best paper” award. Her study of the evolution of the House committee system found major rule or policy changes that impact all of Congress were sparked by individual politicians she calls “political entrepreneurs” who were seeking out their own best interests or those of their special interest constituents.

Professor Identified Signs that an Employee is About to Quit – KUTV 2 News, February 27

A Professor at Utah State University has identified some signs that an employee is about to quit. There are a number of reasons why people quit their jobs, for more money, or they don’t like their boss. But the question researchers are trying to determine is if you can predict whether someone is about to quit their job. Doctor Tim Gardner is an associate professor at Utah State University. He has looked at research and the so-called cues that would suggest that people were about to leave their jobs.

(Utah Pulse, 02/02/2014)
(The Salt Lake Tribune, , 02/03/2014)
(The Wall Street Journal , 02/03/2014)
(Deseret News, 02/04/2014)
(Cache Valley Daily , 02/05/2014)
(Ohio Wesleyan University, 02/06/2014)
(Live Science, 02/12/2014)
(The Herald Journal , 02/13/2014)
(The Herald Journal , 02/15/2014)
(The Standard-Examiner, 02/18/2014)
(Cache Valley Daily , 02/27/2014)

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