College of Education, Department of Government advisers win national award
Sue Holzaepfel, a senior academic counselor in the College of Education, and Jo Anne Huber, academic advising coordinator in the Department of Government, have been honored with the 2010 Service to the National Academic Advising Association Award for outstanding contributions to the organization’s efforts to promote exceptional academic advising. The award is bestowed on academic advisers nationally who have made significant contributions to the improvement of academic advising and who strive to improve student satisfaction and retention. Award recipients will be honored at a special awards ceremony held Oct. 3 in Florida.
LBJ School professor receives $55,000 National Academy of Education fellowship
The National Academy of Education has announced that Jane Lincove, assistant professor in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, is a recipient of the 2010 National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship, which includes $55,000 for a period of up to two years to pursue critical research projects in education. Lincove’s project examines teacher incentive pay structures, specifically looking at whether characteristics of teacher pay contracts had any influence on student achievement or teacher retention.
School of Social Work associate dean honored
Dr. Mary M. Velasquez, associate dean for research and professor in the School of Social Work, has been honored by the Texas Office for Prevention of Developmental Disabilities for her service as chair of its Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Task Force since 2005. Velasquez has more than 18 years of experience in clinical research. Her research has targeted pregnancy and prenatal health, sexually transmitted infection prevention in adolescents, alcohol and cocaine abuse, prenatal smoking, and HIV prevention and safer sexual practices.
Forbes: Kagan’s early influences demanding, activist
Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s basic bio looks like this: raised in a middle-class Jewish family in Manhattan. Two brothers. Mother taught school. Dad was a lawyer. Look closer, and you’ll find a family tree richly populated with individuals of great determination, intelligence and activism. There’s even a bona fide tree-hugger and a leftist dissident in the lot.
In the summer of 1980, Elena Kagan worked for Liz Holtzman, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate in New York. A few months later, Elena turned in her Princeton senior thesis, on the history of socialism.
University of Texas at Austin Law School Professor Lucas Powe sees no evidence Elena Kagan is left-wing, and thinks her Princeton thesis may be “too low on the radar screen” to merit a question at the Senate hearings on her nomination.
The New York Times: New evidence on Mars formations
There are two striking features on the Northern ice caps of Mars: a series of troughs that spiral outward from the center of the ice cap, creating the image of a pinwheel, and a canyon larger than the Grand Canyon. Since they were discovered in 1972, they have intrigued scientists.
The prevailing theory was that both features were formed through a process of erosion, after the ice caps were formed. But scientists have new evidence that both the canyon and the troughs were formed while the ice caps themselves were forming, not afterward.
This is one step in understanding an ancient mystery — whether there is life on Mars.
“If we’re going to look for life on Mars, then we need to understand where the water is, where it was, and what the temperatures have been,” said Jack Holt, a research scientist at The University of Texas at Austin, and an author on both papers.
The New York Times: Documents show early worries about safety of rig
Internal documents from BP show that there were serious problems and safety concerns with the Deepwater Horizon rig far earlier than those the company described to Congress last week.
The documents show that in March, after problems on the rig that included drilling mud falling into the formation, sudden gas releases known as “kicks” and a pipe falling into the well, BP officials informed federal regulators that they were struggling with a loss of “well control.”
On at least three occasions, BP records indicate, the blowout preventer was leaking fluid, which the manufacturer of the device has said limits its ability to operate properly.
“The most important thing at a time like this is to stop everything and get the operation under control,” said Greg McCormack, director of the Petroleum Extension Service at The University of Texas at Austin, offering his assessment about the documents.
BusinessWeek: BP persists on ‘top kill,’ prepares backup plan to stop spill
BP Plc planned to continue working through the weekend to plug a leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico that has produced the largest spill in U.S. history.
Since Wednesday, BP has been starting and stopping high-horsepower pumps that ram mixtures of mud-like drilling fluid and rubber scrap into the oil and gas that’s been gushing from the well for more than five weeks.
“It’s not going well,” Tad Patzek, chairman of the Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering Department at The University of Texas at Austin, said yesterday after reviewing a live video of the leak.
“You have more or less the equivalent of six fire hoses blasting oil and gas upwards and two fire hoses blasting mud down,” Patzek said. “They are losing the competition.”
The Christian Science Monitor: Wild planetary orbits could affect habitability
The ability of life to thrive on alien worlds may be impacted by the wild and weird orbits of giant neighboring planets, new studies suggest.
New findings from computer modeling indicate that the habitability of some exoplanets could vary, based on the orbits of giant planetary neighbors.
The discovery of these so-called weird orbits will have important implications for existing theories of how multi-planet systems evolve. The findings also show that some violent events can happen to disrupt planets’ orbits after a planetary system forms.
“The findings mean that future studies of exoplanetary systems will be more complicated,” said Barbara McArthur of The University of Texas at Austin, who was the lead researcher for one of the studies. “Astronomers can no longer assume all planets orbit their parent star in a single plane.”
Read last week’s In the Know.