January Highlights

Football players at after Orange Bowl victoryThe University of Iowa football team capped off a stellar season by defeating the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the FedEx Orange Bowl in Miami. It was the team’s first Bowl Championship Series victory, and the first BCS-level win since the 1959 Rose Bowl. It was the sixth bowl victory for Coach Kirk Ferentz.

 

Maria Drout, a senior in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, won a 2010 Churchill Scholarship. She was the second-ever Churchill scholar from the UI. Only 14 Churchill scholarships are awarded nationally each year to outstanding math, science, and engineering students. The award, worth up to $50,000, sent Drout to study for one year at the University of Cambridge in England.

The University of Iowa College of Engineering hosted the FIRST Tech Challenge Iowa Championship at the Iowa Memorial Union. The program—new to affiliate partner UI, in cooperation with official national sponsor Rockwell Collins Inc. of Cedar Rapids—involved some 24 teams, each composed of five to 10 high school students. The program required teams to construct robots that competed on a 12-foot-square field in a ball-tossing game called "HotShot." The College of Engineering was selected by US FIRST to coordinate FIRST Tech Challenge activities for the State of Iowa.

Testing conducted by the State Hygienic Laboratory at The University of Iowa confirmed that a strain of salmonella was linked to an outbreak that sickened 187 people in 39 states (one case in Iowa) since July 1, 2009. The Iowa Department of Public Health and public health officials in Plymouth County, Iowa, investigated a case of Salmonella Montevideo in the state. They discovered leftover suspected sausage product frozen in the individual’s home and immediately sent the meat to the Hygienic Laboratory for testing. Using DNA fingerprinting, the laboratory confirmed that the meat product contained the same Salmonella Montevideo strain as the national outbreak, which also matched the salmonella isolate from the patient. The Hygienic Laboratory was the first lab in the nation to confirm this connection.

UI professor Gina Schatteman took on a key role in “Educate to Innovate,” a White House initiative designed to reinvigorate science, technology, engineering, and math education in schools and increase U.S. competitiveness in those fields. Schatteman, associate professor of integrative physiology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences,began a two-year fellowship through the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Working in the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Science Education in Washington, D.C., she helped recruit more than 200 scientific organizations to partner in providing middle and high school students with hands-on learning experiences.

A study involving The University of Iowa, Mayo Clinic, and two other institutions provided insight on weight control, suggesting that an ATP-sensitive potassium channel critical to survival and stress adaptation can contribute to fat deposition and obesity.

Gail Agrawal, professor and dean of the University of Kansas School of Law, was named the 17th dean of the University of Iowa College of Law. Agrawal had been dean at the University of Kansas since 2006. Before that, she was on the law faculty of the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill for nine years, where she also served as senior associate dean, associate dean for academic affairs, and interim dean

A new, five-year combined bachelor’s degree and master’s degree program is aimed at alleviating the nationwide shortage of science teachers through a collaborative effort between the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Education. Students interested in teaching secondary-school science may earn a bachelor’s degree in biology in chemistry, biology, or physics in four years, followed by a master’s degree in teaching earned in year five.

The University of Iowa men’s swimming and diving team received its first endowed athletic scholarship, thanks to a gift of $209,000 from UI alumni Terry J. and Susan Showers Mulligan of Bonita Springs, Fla. The gift, establishing the Terry and Susan Mulligan Swimming Scholarship, was made through the UI Foundation.

The University’s new Energy Control Center went operational in January, offering colorful, live displays of information, including schemata of boilers and water chillers with their current operating capacities and a satellite image of the United States showing a looped weather radar. The center provides the power to streamline energy usage and production across some 17 million square feet of the UI campus, the potential to save millions of dollars, and the promise of reducing the University’s carbon footprint.

Researchers announced free distribution of a UI-developed software product. Called PointAssist, it can help children and older adults use computers more easily. PointAssist originally was developed to help young children use pointing devices, such as a computer mouse, by modifying the location of the mouse cursor when children have difficulty pointing. In addition to young children, older adults and anyone who has similar difficulties using a computer mouse and other pointing devices can benefit from using the free program, according to Juan Pablo Hourcade, assistant professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Department of Computer Science. In addition, Hourcade noted that he and his colleagues are conducting research to adapt PointAssist to the needs of people with motor impairments.

Chris Buresh

Our People

CHRIS BURESH
Faculty member’s disaster response in Haiti is latest example of his efforts to address international medical needs.

Despite an earthquake that killed nearly 200,000 residents, left millions injured and homeless, and caused billions of dollars in damage, Chris Buresh is optimistic about Haiti.

Buresh, a clinical assistant professor in the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and associate director of the residency program in emergency medicine at UI Hospitals and Clinics, has volunteered with medical missions to Haiti at least annually since 2003, during his pediatrics residency in North Carolina.

“Ever since that first trip, I don’t think a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about Haiti,” he says. “It’s beautiful, it’s filthy, and it’s filled with immense suffering and joy, as well as incredible injustice.”

One particular visit to Haiti before the January earthquake came just days ahead of the disaster, on a routine medical mission trip through the nonprofit organization World Wide Village. Buresh and UI medical school classmate Josh White, an emergency medicine physician in the Twin Cities, launched World Wide Village’s Community Health Initiative in Haiti last year. They established a primary care clinic to serve villages around Leogane, about 20 miles west of Port-au-Prince, and planned to return every few months with volunteer medical personnel, including nurses and physicians from UI Hospitals and Clinics.

“In some remote villages, 10 years go by before they see another medical team, so there’s no way to treat chronic conditions like diabetes or hypertension,” Buresh says. Working with the UI College of Public Health, he was collecting data that showed the Community Health Initiative’s early and consistent efforts were effective.

Scrambling to return to Haiti a week after the earthquake, Buresh found an unrecognizable Leogane: 80 percent of the city was destroyed, and residents were living along roadsides in tents made of bed sheets and plastic tarp. The patients flooding the clinic—a simple shelter of tarps tied together with parachute cord because the permanent clinic was damaged—had open fractures, gaping scalp wounds, untreated and infected lacerations, and crushed limbs that required amputation. In a week, clinic volunteers treated 1,500 patients.

“I see a lot of pretty incredible things come through the ER, but never in that volume, not one right after the next, with every single patient,” Buresh says.

Their supplies were limited to what Buresh and his team carried with them to Haiti—bandages, antibiotics, minor surgical equipment, water chlorinators—or obtained from aid organizations. They quickly partnered with other disaster response teams, borrowing X-ray technology from a Japanese medical unit, for example. The international collaboration, as well as the Haitians’ resilience, fuels Buresh’s positive outlook.

“For the first time in a while, I’m pretty optimistic about Haiti,” he says. “As big as the problems are, we have the capacity, the resources, and finally the will to do something about it.”