On Campus news roundup from FACS Magazine

September 1st, 2015

The Bridge program

The FACS Student Success and Advising Center launched “The Bridge,” a four-part series designed to help new FACS students transition into the college, last fall.

The fourth and final installment of the semester was held on April 9 and featured a question-and-answer session with a five-person FACS alumni panel, followed by a time of networking.

“All the freshmen and transfer students I talked to and transfer students who participated in The Bridge got so much out of it and said they don’t know what they would’ve done if they didn’t have that program,” FACS senior Ivy Odom said.

The SSAC later received a $1,500 grant from the UGA Parents and Families Association Leadership Council in recognition of the program’s impact and success.

An additional $1,500 is being matched by FACS Seniors who have donated to the FACS Fund for Excellence through the University of Georgia Senior Signature giving campaign.

“The financial support will help our efforts to better prepare FACS first-year and transfer students to build their own bridge to success,” said Cara Simmons, SSAC director.

Mary Ann Johnson named to top post with American Society for Nutrition

Mary Ann Johnson, the Bill and June Flatt Professor in Foods and Nutrition, has been voted vice-president elect of the American Society for Nutrition.

Johnson’s four-year term includes serving as vice-president elect, vice-president, president (2017-18) and past-president. She began serving a two-year term as vice-president on June 1.

Among the American Society for Nutrition’s more than 5,000 members are some of the world’s top researchers, clinical nutritionists and industry scientists.

Johnson said her top priorities are to embrace the mission of ASN to support the development, dissemination and application of nutrition science research to improve public health, clinical practice and policy as well as to promote graduate education and training of physicians, dietitians and other health professionals.

“ASN’s strength lies with the diverse expertise among our membership in basic and applied sciences that we can apply to address complex domestic and international nutrition concerns,” Johnson said. “In this new role, I plan to help ASN members meet the changing needs of society and to generate and apply the best nutrition science available to improve health and well-being.”

In addition to her role as professor, Johnson also serves as an adjunct professor in kinesiology and as the interim director of the Institute of Gerontology within the UGA College of Public Health.

Recipe for antibacterial plastic: crack a few eggs

Bioplastics made from protein sources such as albumin and whey have shown significant antibacterial properties, findings that could eventually lead to their use in plastics used in medical applications such as wound healing dressings, sutures, catheter tubes and drug delivery, according to a FACS study.

Researchers tested three nontraditional bioplastic materials — albumin, whey and soy proteins — as alternatives to conventional petroleum-based plastics that pose risks of contamination.

In particular, albumin, a protein found in egg whites, demonstrated tremendous antibacterial properties when blended with a traditional plasticizer such as glycerol. 

“It was found that it had complete inhibition, as in no bacteria would grow on the plastic once applied,” said Alex Jones, a doctoral student in the department of textiles, merchandising and interiors. “The bacteria wouldn’t be able to live on it.”

The study appears in the online version of the Journal of Applied Polymer Science.

One of the researchers’ aims is to find ways to reduce the amount of petroleum used in traditional plastic production; another is to find a fully biodegradable bioplastic.

The albumin-glycerol blended bioplastic met both standards, Jones said.

“If you put it in a landfill, this being pure protein, it will break down,” he said. “If you put it in soil for a month — at most two months — these plastics
will disappear.”

The next step in the research involves a deeper analysis of the albumin-based bioplastic’s potential for use in the biomedical and food packaging fields. 

FACS financial planning program named best in country

The FACS financial planning program is the best in the country, according to Investopedia, an online resource that provides financial information and analysis.

The program has surged in popularity since it was launched 10 years ago, owing partly to the “unparalleled hands-on experience for future financial planners,” Investopedia noted.

The program also launched an online master’s degree in financial planning last fall to address the growing demand for financial planners.

“At the university’s own financial planning clinic, called ASPIRE, students have the opportunity to work under the supervision of faculty in providing financial advice to clients from the community,” Investopedia noted in its analysis. “Required community service hours, where students can practice their tax knowledge while preparing returns for low-income families, provide the kind of practical experience that financial institutions ultimately seek in new hires.”

“This number one ranking of the UGA financial planning program is a testament to the commitment of our faculty, especially in the area of experiential learning,” said Sheri Worthy, head of the FACS department of financial planning, housing and consumer economics. “Financial planning students get plenty of hands-on experience with income tax preparation in the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program, with financial therapy at the ASPIRE Clinic, through internships and with many other activities such as the Financial Planning Challenge.” 

Jung Sun Lee leads team seeking to improve nutrition among Georgians

A team of UGA researchers, led by FACS faculty member Dr. Jung Sun Lee, has received a $2.8 million grant from the USDA to improve nutrition for low-income Georgians.

The researchers’ goal is to help Georgians eligible for SNAP benefits — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — establish healthy eating habits and a physically active lifestyle through evidence-based, behaviorally focused and culturally appropriate nutrition education and obesity prevention interventions.

“We have a great need for this type of program in the state of Georgia, and we have a capacity to meet that need,” said Lee, an associate professor in the department of foods and nutrition who serves as principal investigator on the grant.

With so many Georgia residents facing persistent poverty and the associated health risks, Lee said she’s optimistic about the potential for the SNAP-Education program to affect real change.

“Food insecurity, people having problems getting the type and amount of food they need, exists in this nation, but it’s hidden and not many people think it’s actually happening,” Lee said. “In all indicators, Georgia always ranks poorly (in obesity and chronic disease statistics). We definitely need to think about what are the barriers that prevent Georgians from healthy eating. We hope we can change these issues.”

Faculty and students from four colleges and five departments within UGA will be involved in the grant, including FACS, the College of Education, the Grady College of Journalism and the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, as well as UGA Extension.

Georgia’s First Lady visits McPhaul students

Georgia’s First Lady, Sandra Deal, read to PreK students in the University of Georgia’s Child Development Lab at the McPhaul Center in March as part of the Read Across Georgia campaign.

Deal, a former sixth grade teacher and daughter of educators, went all out with facial expressions and sound effects to engage the group of 4 and 5-year-olds who gathered to hear her read “T.J.’s Discovery,” a new book written by teachers at the Rollins Center for Language and Literacy at the Atlanta Speech School.

To date, Deal has spoken to students in all 159 Georgia counties and more than 430 schools as part of the campaign to promote literacy. She spent more than an hour visiting and reading to the PreK students at the Child Development Lab.

“I feel like the key to (being successful) is getting a good education when you’re young,” Deal said. “That’s why I took the opportunity to read to young children rather than work with the older children since I’ve been First Lady. I feel like the foundation is just so very, very important. PreK is where we start.”

Money talk: FACS researchers studying couples’ communication

Disagreements about money use in the household is cited as one of the most common contributors to couple stress and conflict.

FACS researchers are seeking to learn more about couples’ financial communication through an innovating, interdisciplinary study based out of the FACS ASPIRE Clinic.

The study is designed to better understand how couples seeking financial counseling services experience and respond to questions, conflicts and shared goals about money and finances.

The research team is working to identify the complexities and precise moments of divergence by measuring stress responses in an exploratory study involving local couples that began this week.

Using equipment that measures physiological responses — skin temperature, heart rate and sweat response — researchers will be able to record individual responses during three moderated sessions to collect data that will provide both financial and therapy service providers new information on the complexities of couples’ relationship and communication dynamics.

“The end takeaway for the financial planning community is enormous,” said John Grable, an Athletic Association Endowed Professor in the college’s department of financial planning, housing and consumer economics. “If we can identify triggers or cues or even questions that prompt a different physiological response in a couple, that allows financial planners, educators and therapists to actually deliver information and treatments more effectively.”

FACS’ diversity of discipline on display at CURO symposium 

FACS undergraduates presented research displaying the college’s depth of study at the UGA Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities Symposium in March.

Foods and nutrition student Whitney Okie was one of several FACS undergrads who delivered oral presentations.

Okie, who was awarded a CURO Undergraduate Research Assistantship, presented her research, “Genetic determination of obesity induced inflammation and blood brain barrier alterations,” under the guidance of faculty mentor Dr. Rob Pazdro.

“After working for months on a project you are so passionate about, it feels good to be able to share your work and why it is important with others,” Okie said. “I am thankful for the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities for encouraging me to stay in research and for Dr. Pazdro for helping me find my passion.”

Textiles, merchandising and interiors student Molly Dodd delivered an oral presentation on her research project entitled “Hollywood’s risqué years: Female body exposure in pre-code film.” Her faculty mentor was TMI department head Patti Hunt-Hurst.

“I’d say the greatest benefit from participating in CURO over the last two years has definitely been learning directly from my research mentor, Dr. Hunt-Hurst,” Dodd said.

“Our project was a continuation of a project she has been working on for years, and being able to learn through specific research has given me a much more holistic perspective on the history of Western dress. Overall, I find that it has been so beneficial to me as a student that I plan to continue participating in CURO research next year.”

In addition to oral presentations, several FACS students displayed their research as part of the poster presentations, accompanied by their faculty mentors. 

Thomas Davis named NFL Man of the Year

Thomas Davis, a 2011 consumer economics graduate and former All-American linebacker for the Dawgs, was named the 2014 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in February.

The award recognizes a player’s community service efforts as well as his playing excellence.

“I am honored to be selected as the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year,” Davis said. “This award means a great deal to me, as it symbolizes the valued work that the NFL, its players and its 32 teams do in the community.”

Davis started all 15 games for the Panthers last season, finishing with 129 tackles and helping the team claim another NFC South title. He is now second on the Panthers’ all-time tackles list with 831.

Off the field, Davis and his wife Kelly have founded the Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation (http://www.defendingdreams.org), a non-profit dedicated to providing and promoting free programs that enhance the quality of life for more than 2,000 underprivileged children and their families each year. Since its founding, the foundation has distributed more than $500,000 in aid.

The cornerstone of the program is the Youth Leadership Academy, a 14-week after-school mentoring program for low-income middle school students.

Davis also provides two college scholarships for graduating seniors who complete the program each year.

Through TDDDF, Davis also hosts annual programs including a back-to-school supply giveaway, a Thanksgiving meal for members of a local women’s shelter and a Christmas gift giveaway for underprivileged children, in Charlotte, N.C., parts of South Carolina and in Davis’s hometown of Shellman, Ga.

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