April Highlights

Two people viewing a diorama at University of Iowa Museum of Natural History  Just a few years after celebrating its sesquicentennial, the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History celebrated another important milestone, marking the 25th anniversary of the opening of Iowa Hall. The gallery has become a vital educational resource for the University and the surrounding community.


The University of Iowa Dance Marathon made a $1 million, two-year gift commitment to University of Iowa Children's Hospital to support research into pediatric cancer and blood disorders. The gift, made through the UI Foundation, designates $750,000 for renovation of laboratory space for this purpose in the state's only comprehensive academic medical center, and $250,000 to create a special research fund. In recognition of the gift, the renovated lab area will be named the UI Dance Marathon Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Research Laboratories.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences awarded the University of Iowa Superfund Research Program a five-year, $16 million grant to study the health effects of environmental pollutants, especially polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) found in water, former industrial sites, and the atmosphere. The program's investigators—22 scientists representing the UI Colleges of Public Health, Medicine, Engineering, and Pharmacy—measure sources, transport, and environmental exposure of PCBs, their impact on animals and humans, and novel methods of clean-up, including the use of plants to remove PCBs from soil, groundwater, and air.

U.S. News & World Report ranked 22 University of Iowa graduate programs and colleges among the 10 best in the country when compared to other public universities, with five UI programs continuing to rank in first place. "America's Best Graduate Schools 2011" ranked as No. 1 the speech-language pathology and audiology graduate programs, the physician assistant program, and the nursing specialties of nursing service administration and gerontological/geriatric.

Three students in the UI Honors Program and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences won Goldwater Scholarships. Jeffrey Nirschl, Colorado Reed, and Renugan Raidoo were awarded scholarships that cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, room, and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year for one or two years. Scholars are selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of mathematics, science, and engineering students who are nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities.

Jim and Darlene McCord of Iowa City made a $1 million gift commitment through the University of Iowa Foundation to support the Hawkeye football program. The contribution will be used toward the funding of a renovation of the UI's football facilities. It will include expansion and improvements to the Jacobson Athletics Building and improvements to the University's current indoor practice facility known as "the bubble."

Paul Harding, an alumnus of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, was named the 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction. Harding was honored for his debut novel, Tinkers. Harding graduated from the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 2000 and was a visiting faculty member for the spring semester. Read more about Harding

The University of Iowa American Indian Student Association celebrated American Indian culture through song and dance at the UI Powwow in the UI Recreation Building. For this 17th annual event, American Indian culture was shared through music, food, arts, and crafts. A grand entry, a vibrant processional involving all competitors, was held each day during the two-day celebration.

Using CT scans to measure blood flow in the lungs of people who smoke may offer a way to identify which smokers are most at risk of emphysema before the disease damages and eventually destroys areas of the lungs, according to a University of Iowa study. The study found that smokers who have very subtle signs of emphysema, but still have normal lung function, have very different blood flow patterns in their lungs compared to nonsmokers and smokers without signs of emphysema. This difference could be used to identify smokers at increased risk of emphysema and allow for early intervention.

Four University of Iowa faculty members—Iowa Writers' Workshop faculty members Ethan Canin and Paul Harding, Paula Michaels of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Lea VanderVelde of the College of Law—won 2010 fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation. They were among 180 winners selected from among more than 3,000 applicants.

Lady Pink working on mural.Noted graffiti artist Lady Pink collaborated with UI faculty member Deb Whaley and UI art students to create an 8-foot by 20-foot spray painted mural in homage to Jackson Pollock's Mural, which is currently on view at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport. The students' mural was hung in the Black Box Theater for the duration of the UI Museum of Art exhibition Two Turntables and a Microphone, which featured hip-hop journalist Harry Allen’s photography.

Philip Kaaret, professor of physics and astronomy in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and his colleagues discovered good evidence for the existence of two medium-sized black holes close to the center of a nearby starburst galaxy, M82, located 12 million light years from Earth. Because they avoided falling into the galactic center, the black holes may help scientists understand the seeds that give rise to supermassive black holes in other galaxies, including our own Milky Way galaxy.

Two UI faculty members—Garrett Stewart, James O. Freedman Professor of Letters in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of English, and Marilynne Robinson of the Iowa Writers' Workshop faculty—were among 229 leaders in the sciences, the humanities and the arts, business, public affairs, and the nonprofit sector elected members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. A center for independent policy research, the academy undertakes studies of complex and emerging problems. Its membership of scholars and practitioners from many disciplines and professions gives it a unique capacity to conduct a wide range of interdisciplinary, long-term policy research.

Officials broke ground for the new addition to the College of Dentistry. The planned $60 million building addition and clinic transformation will provide a setting that matches the world-class programs offered by the UI College of Dentistry. The projected completion date for the project is summer 2015.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences held its first college investiture ceremony for two named chairs as part of its annual Faculty Honors Celebration. Wenfang Tang, professor of political science, was named C. Maxwell and Elizabeth M. Stanley and Hua Hsia Chair of Chinese Culture and Institutions. A scholar with wide-ranging interests in Chinese society, economics, and politics, Tang has published groundbreaking studies that demonstrate the substantial role of public opinion in China. Sonia Ryang, associate professor of anthropology, was appointed the C. Maxwell and Elizabeth M. Stanley Family and Korea Foundation Chair in Korean Studies. Her interests include vulnerable populations, politics and ideology, diaspora, identity, love, and forms of life across Asian cultures.

IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering, a part of the University of Iowa College of Engineering, received a five-year, $15 million contract from Public Utility District No. 2 of Grant County in the state of Washington. Over the next five years, IIHR will provide hydraulic modeling and analysis to improve the design of fish passage structures at hydroelectric dams, including Priest Rapids and Wanapum Dams on the Columbia River. IIHR’s fish passage research dates back to the 1930s when the institute conducted tests of fish ladders for rivers and streams in the Midwest.

Terry Wahls

Our People

Clinical professor developed nutrient-rich diet, which in part helped her overcome debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis.

Terry Wahls chuckles when she describes people’s reactions to her remarkable recovery.

A nurse overlooked Wahls in the waiting room because she was searching for someone in a wheelchair. The dean of the medical college was shocked when Wahls said her scooter had died on the way to a meeting, and that she had pushed it up the hill.

But who wouldn’t be amazed? In 2004, the clinical professor of internal medicine in the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and the Iowa City VA Medical Center relied on a wheelchair because of multiple sclerosis. Now she bikes five miles a day.

Wahls attributes her progress to two treatments: the nutrient-rich diet she developed, and neuromuscular electrical stimulation, which uses an electrical current to promote muscle growth. Today she’s educating others about “food as medicine” and planning a study to see if her treatment could work for others with MS or Parkinson’s disease.

Wahls’s symptoms started in 1987. The tell-tale moment occurred years later during a leisurely three-mile walk for ice cream with her family. In 2000, she was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, which eventually transitioned to secondary progressive MS. Over the next three years, Wahls gradually became weaker. Even sitting in a standard chair was exhausting because her back muscles could no longer support her.

Fortunately Wahls’s disease didn’t affect her mind. She started to read about illnesses that cause the brain to shrink, and she noticed a common denominator: in each case, cell subunits called mitochondria were sending a “time-to-die” signal to cells too soon.

In 2007, Wahls began eating greater amounts of foods known to support mitochondria. Her energy increased, and the progression of the disease slowed. At the same time, she read 212 research papers about electrical stimulation, which was being used to help athletes’ muscles heal and to improve quality of life for people with paralysis. She convinced her physical therapist to give it a shot.

Wahls continued e-stim using a portable device at home and work, and began to exercise in small time increments. She also revamped her diet to see that every calorie would contribute to maximizing the brain’s building blocks. The “Wahls Diet” calls for nine cups of fruits and veggies per day: three of green leaves, three of sulfur-containing food, and three of bright colors.

Within a few months, she was walking between exam rooms at the hospital. She stopped taking her medications and continued to improve.

Now Wahls and a team of colleagues plan to see if they can replicate the results. With approval from the University’s human subjects office, they plan to enroll 40 patients in a study. In the meantime, she is sharing information about food as medicine. Wahls published two health cookbooks, the first and second edition of Minding My Mitochondria, and through periodic surveys, she’s tracking whether 150 followers of her diet notice changes in their health.