Monday, April 23, 2012

AREVA Commits $2 Million to EPIC

AREVA Inc. announced on Apr. 20 more than $2 million in financial support for the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC) at UNC Charlotte. EPIC is a partnership between UNC Charlotte, state and local governments and corporations, including several energy companies with major footprints in the Charlotte area. AREVA has nearly 600 employees working in the Charlotte area on a variety of clean-energy projects; it hired twice as many new engineers from UNC Charlotte in 2009-10 than from any other North Carolina university “We are pleased to work with UNC Charlotte in advancing the critical need of continuing to invest in the next generation of engineering talent and to aid in advancing engineering research,” said Michael Rencheck, chief executive officer of AREVA. “AREVA’s commitment to Charlotte and connection to the University runs deep, and we look forward to a continued partnership.” Chancellor Philip L. Dubois said commitments from companies such as AREVA are vital to the future success of EPIC. The commitment follows other multimillion-dollar pledges from regional energy companies, including Duke Energy, Siemens Energy and Westinghouse. “With these investments in engineering education and research, UNC Charlotte is staking its claim to the future of energy production,” he said. “That’s great news for our energy production sector, the regional economy, and the community.” The announcement came at a news conference in Uptown Charlotte attended by top University and company officials. The commitment from AREVA includes various types of support, including funding for scholarships, programs and equipment. # # #

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Countdown Continues for Light Rail on Campus

(The map shows how the CATS Blue Line Extension will move up N. Tryon St. and enter the UNC Charlotte campus near the Bioinformatics building. It will have its terminus near a hub of residence halls, the Campus Police building and the Student Union.)

The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS), UNC Charlotte and state and local leaders will gather on campus at 1 p.m., Thursday, April 19, for a ceremony to “stake their claim” to the State Full Funding Grant Agreement for the LYNX Blue Line Light Rail Extension Project.

The agreement will provide 25 percent of the funding for the LYNX Blue Line Extension (BLE) from Center City to the UNC Charlotte campus.

“The continued support from our state leaders allows us to advance with the vision set forth for transit in the Charlotte region,” said Carolyn Flowers, CATS CEO. “I am especially excited about the perseverance and resourceful approach CATS took to make the BLE a viable and attractive project, even with the drop in sales tax revenue we experienced over the last few years.”

The support also prepares the system to receive a full funding grant agreement of 50 percent of the project costs from the Federal Transit Administration later this year.

Chancellor Philip L. Dubois stated, “The Blue Line Extension to the UNC Charlotte campus is another critical milestone in enhancing the University’s connectivity to Center City Charlotte. It will provide the community with greater access to the University’s many arts, cultural and athletic events, including 49ers football. The extension also will contribute tremendously to economic development by linking the state’s urban research University and two of the region’s largest centers of economic activity - Center City and University City.”

In addition to Dubois, City of Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, the governor’s Piedmont Regional Office Director Budd Berro, N.C. Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary for Transit Paul Morris, CATS CEO Flowers, Charlotte Chamber of Commerce President Bob Morgan and Mecklenburg County Commission and Metropolitan Transit Commission Chair Harold Cogdell, will attend the ceremony at the University’s Bioinformatics Building.

The 9.4-mile BLE extension would run from Uptown Charlotte to the UNC Charlotte campus and include 11 light rail stations and four parking facilities. Construction of the $1.16 billion project is scheduled to begin fall 2013 with operational service expected in 2017.

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Super-Scholar bound for med school, then Oxford or Cambridge

UNC Charlotte student – wait, “student” doesn’t do justice to what Casey Rimland is. Start over. UNC Charlotte super-scholar Casey Rimland already had gained notoriety last year as the University first-ever Goldwater Scholar. The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program honors the late senator who served 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate. That program aims to help produce a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in those fields.

That was then; this is now. Now, Rimland has snared an even grander prize – a National Institutes of Health Oxford Cambridge scholarship in pursuit of an MD/PhD degree.

The NIH Oxford Cambridge Scholars program allows students pursuing a combined MD/PhD degree to complete their PhD research in partnership with the NIH and either Oxford or Cambridge University.

The program selects only four students a year who have not yet enrolled in medical school (designated track 1). As a track 1 student, Rimland applied to both the NIH OxCam program and Medical Scientist Training Programs (MSTP, i.e. MD/PhD programs funded by the NIH) at the same time. In order to participate in the NIH OxCam program, she had to have been accepted to an MSTP program.

Rimland said she has chosen to attend UNC-Chapel Hill's MSTP program in the fall. “Ultimately, I will not pursue my PhD research at UNC, but I am still considered part of the MSTP program at UNC,” she said.

The program is fully funded for all eight years of her training – eight years at Chapel Hill and Oxford or Cambridge, for an MD and PhD degrees! The award includes her medical school tuition at UNC, her PhD tuition to either Oxford or Cambridge, health insurance, fees, a stipend of approximately $25,000/year, and a travel allowance of $3,000/year.

(Do you wish you had studied a little harder in algebra back in eighth grade?)

“For the first two years, I will attend UNC for medical school. Then I will move to the NIH and Oxford or Cambridge to complete my PhD research,” Rimland explained. “My PhD thesis will be completed under the direction of two mentors, one at the NIH and one at either Oxford or Cambridge. I will spend two years at the NIH and two years at Oxford or Cambridge completing a collaborative, interdisciplinary, and international project. “

After she defends her thesis, she’ll return to UNC to complete the last two years of medical school clinical rotations. She will graduate with a MD degree from UNC and a PhD degree awarded by either Oxford or Cambridge.

“This summer I will actually be visiting the NIH and the UK institutions to choose my mentors. I’ll work to develop a project with both mentors during my first two years of medical school. Also during the summer between my first and second years of medical school I’ll have the chance to work in one of the labs.”

Nice work, if you can get it, huh?

Goldwater scholar. NIH scholar. UNC med school. Oxford or Cambridge PhD. Must be a 49er.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Charlotte 49ers’ football hopefuls give it their best shot | & The Charlotte Observer Newspaper

Charlotte 49ers’ football hopefuls give it their best shot | & The Charlotte Observer Newspaper

57 UNC Charlotte students who took to the school’s new recreation field Wednesday for 49ers football walk-on tryouts. These would-be 49ers hope to be on the roster Aug. 31, 2013, when Charlotte plays its first game against Campbell in their new stadium that is being built just a few hundred yards away.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Violins of Hope Brings Inspiration, Lessons to Charlotte

Violins of Hope brings inspiration, lessons to Charlotte: Holocaust-era instruments on display at UNC Charlotte's Center City Gallery

The “Violins of Hope” have arrived in Charlotte for a series of premiere exhibitions and performances about the instruments recovered from the Holocaust.
In North America for the first time, “Violins of Hope” is a collection of 18 violins restored by Israeli master violinmaker Amnon Weinstein. The instruments are in Charlotte in part through financial support from Wells Fargo Private Bank, the exclusive corporate partner.
UNC Charlotte’s David Russell, the Anne R. Belk Distinguished Professor of Music, is a close family friend of Weinstein. According to Ken Lambla, dean of the College of Arts + Architecture, “The trust and affection between these two men is the seed from which a remarkable project has grown, allowing UNC Charlotte to bring to this hemisphere instruments that offer rare insight into how music offers inspiration to the human spirit and substance to our relationships with others. Each violin appears fragile, almost lonely, and yet each one carries with it the strength of memory.”
In 1996, Weinstein began to collect and carefully restore violins that had extraordinary histories. Each violin is an artifact from the Holocaust. Some were played by Jewish prisoners in Nazi concentration camps; others belonged to the Jewish Klezmer musical culture, which was all but destroyed in the Holocaust.
First played publicly in 2008 in Jerusalem and then exhibited and played in 2010 in Sion, Switzerland, the 18 “Violins of Hope” have never before been exhibited or played together in North America. Their American debut in Charlotte, and the rich programming inspired by their arrival, is expected to garner national attention for the University and the Charlotte region.
In collaboration with numerous arts and educational partners, the UNC Charlotte College of Arts + Architecture will present a series of performances, exhibitions, film screenings and educational programs that explore the history of music and the arts in the face of oppression.
“The College of Arts + Architecture is delighted to be working with so many cultural and academic partners,” said Dean Lambla. “The ‘Violins of Hope’ project demonstrates our commitment to engage with a broad array of institutions in Charlotte that educate and collaborate to make this community a better place to live.”
Madelyn Caple, regional managing director for corporate sponsor Wells Fargo Private Bank, stated, “Wells Fargo Private Bank is dedicated to serving the community we’re in. Through our sponsorship of ‘Violins of Hope,’ we are pleased to support both local education and art.”
“Violins of Hope” will be displayed in the College of Arts + Architecture Gallery at  UNC Charlotte Center City  from April 16-24, 2012. Performances featuring the violins begin April 12 with a concert celebrating the people of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, who saved some 5,000 Jews during the Holocaust.
The project’s final concert will take place in Belk Theater of the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center April 21. The Charlotte Symphony, conducted by music director Christopher Warren-Green, will perform, along with violinist Shlomo Mintz and other special guests.
The Levine Museum of the New South opened the exhibit “Courage and Compassion: The Legacy of the Bielski Brothers” on Saturday, Feb. 25. The display is part of the College of Arts + Architecture’s “Violins of Hope” programming.
“Courage and Compassion” documents the efforts of the Bielski brothers, Jewish resistance fighters who saved more than 1,200 Jews in the forests of Byelorussia. Assaela Weinstein, the wife of violinmaker Amnon Weinstein, is the daughter of partisan Assael Bielski. Assaela Weinstein and her cousin Ruth, daughter of Tuvia Bielski, will lead a panel discussion about their family’s history at the museum on April 18.
Visit violinsofhopecharlotte for all exhibit and performance information.
Follow this link, Buy Here, to purchase tickets for the final concert to be held, 8 p.m., Saturday, April 21, or call  the Box Office at 704-372-1000.
Watch Violins of Hope on YouTube.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Amazing! NC Science Festival Apr.13- 29

UNC Charlotte stakes its claim to fun with science on April 29, with an outdoor science fair followed by “An Afternoon with Adam and Jamie,” hosts of Discovery Channel’s MythBusters.

The North Carolina Science Festival wraps up two weeks of activities in Charlotte with the UNC Charlotte Science and Technology Expo on Sunday, April 29 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. This free, public event will be located in the lower campus mall between Halton Arena and the Student Union.

“The North Carolina Science Festival was created to inspire children and adults to pursue education and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” said Joan Lorden, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at UNC Charlotte. “Our city, state and nation need more people trained and working in these STEM disciplines in order to keep us competitive in today’s worldwide knowledge economy; providing these science-based events is part of our outreach toward that goal.”

The expo will feature more than 20 interactive displays for the science-curious of all ages. The William States Lee College of Engineering, the College of Computing and Informatics, the College of Health and Human Services, the College of Education, the Department of Chemistry, the Department of Physics and Optical Science, the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, the Department of Biology, the Botanical Gardens, will all be hosting exhibits, demonstrations and displays.

Festival sponsors include: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Computing and Informatics, and College of Education.

And to wrap up the activities for the day make sure to purchase your tickets for “An Afternoon with Adam and Jamie.” Adam & Jamie, hosts of Discovery Channel’s MythBusters, will be performing at 2:30 p.m. in Halton Arena. They will share stories from behind the scenes of their popular show. They will also feature special video presentations of spectacular explosions and other “for fans only” outtakes. For more information and to order tickets go to

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Legislation Debated as Protecting, Diminishing State Workers' Rights

From the News & Observer newspaper in Raleigh:
The sponsor of state legislation that would transfer thousands of UNC system workers to a new UNC-led personnel system says the bill would include guidelines protecting workers’ rights and benefits ...  Opponents of the bill say including eight principles in the legislation isn’t enough. .. The bill would replace laws with words, which isn’t good enough in a state that bans public unions and has reneged on workers’ rights before, said David Zonderman, a history professor at N.C. State University. “The lesson of history in this state is when workers’ rights are withdrawn, they are very rarely given back,” he said.

“If anything, employees’ benefits rights would be enhanced under an arrangement from the university system, rather than a big amorphous state government system,”  Sen. Richard Stevens, a Wake County Republican who introduced Senate Bill 575, said.
said. “I think they may be concerned about something that doesn’t exist.”

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Lawmaker says legislation will include protections for UNC workers - Education -

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mechanism Found Connecting Metastatic Breast Cancer and Arthritis

New research shows it may be no accident when doctors observe how patients suffering from both breast cancer and arthritis seem to have more aggressive cancer. However, the new-found interaction between the two diseases may also suggest a possible treatment.

A potential relationship between metastatic breast cancer and autoimmune arthritis, as suggested by past epidemiological studies, has led researchers from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to perform a series of mouse model experiments that appear to confirm the connection.

“Epidemiological studies have implied that breast cancer survival is significantly lower in patients who also had autoimmune arthritis,” noted Pinku Mukherjee, Irwin Belk Distinguished Scholar of Cancer Research at UNC Charlotte, whose lab conducted the experiments. “As there is no obvious reason this should be so, we were interested in exploring possible cancer mechanisms that might explain why.”

The experiments point to an intimate relationship between mast cells – immune system cells that are located in various tissues and that can cause inflammation – and metastatic tumors.

In previously published studies, UNC Charlotte cancer researcher Lopamudra Das Roy and her mentor Mukherjee established that breast cancer associated metastases were significantly higher in arthritic mice, with a three-fold increase in lung metastases and a two-fold increase in bone metastases.

In their most recent work, the researchers found that mast cells and their associated inflammation are present in larger numbers in the bones and lungs of arthritic mice than they are in non-arthritic mice. Their findings point to a relationship between the cKit receptor found on mast cells and the transmembrane stem cell factor (SCF) ligand found on metastatic breast cancer cells. The interaction between SCF and cKit appears to play a critical role in facilitating metastasis.

“We confirmed the relationship we suspected between autoimmune disease and metastastic breast cancer cells,” Mukherjee said. “This is an exciting result for us because it confirms an interesting interdependence between cancer metastasis and a specific component of the immune system.”

The study results will be presented by Lopamudra Das Roy, Research Assistant Professor at UNC Charlotte, and Mukherjee at the 2012 American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting in Chicago at a press conference on April 1.

The researchers worked with two strains of mice. The first group had spontaneous arthritis (SKG mice) and the second group of mice had spontaneous breast cancer (MMTV-PyV MT mice). Each of the mouse strains were artificially induced to develop the other disease and then tested for differences.

Among the findings of the analysis was that the population of mast cells within bone and lung microenvironment was significantly higher in those mice with arthritis and breast cancer versus those without arthritis and breast cancer. The differentiation of mast cells from bone marrow derived stem cells was also significantly higher in the arthritic versus the non-arthritic tumor-bearing mice.

Mast cells are the only “terminally differentiated” (mature) cells in the body that develop, like blood cells, from stem cells in the bone marrow and that also have a c-Kit receptor. Suspecting a relationship between the c-Kit receptor on the mast cells and the SCF ligand expressed by the metastatic cancer cells, the researchers tested the effect of blocking receptor by treating the mice with an anti-c-Kit receptor antibody and celecoxib, an anti-inflammatory medication.

“When the mice were treated with a therapy to target the c-Kit mast cell receptor in combination with celecoxib -- a drug used to treat autoimmune arthritis -- the incidence of breast cancer metastasis to the bone and lung was greatly reduced,” Das Roy noted.

The researchers conclude that in an arthritic condition, SCF expression in metastatic breast cancer cells induces the differentiation of mast cells from bone marrow through SCF/CKit signaling. Mast cells, in turn, facilitate the efficient metastasis of the breast cancer cells in bone and lung tissue. Autoimmune arthritis disease increases the intensity of metastatic breast cancer because bone marrow stem cells in autoimmune arthritis victims have greater potential to develop into mast cells.

In future studies, the researchers plan to examine the presence of mast cells in human tumor samples.

This research was funded by Das Roy’s postdoctoral grant from the 2008 Department of Defense Breast cancer research program.