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Professors win Sloan fellowships

Two faculty members were selected for Sloan Research Fellowships this year and will receive $50,000 to continue their work in chemistry and computer science, according to a University press release.

One of the recipients, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Wesley Bernskoetter, is examining inexpensive and renewable carbon-derived catalysts. These could replace petroleum in certain commodity chemicals, according to the press release.

Her research also includes studies of compounds found in many plastics and how they are produced from carbon dioxide’s interactions with other small molecules.

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Paul Valiant was awarded a Sloan Fellowship for his application of computer science to biological and physical data. He used computational techniques to model the movement of fluids and the folding of proteins from an inactive to a functional state, according to the release.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which awarded the fellowship, funds various grants with the mission to improve society through systematic research into natural and societal forces, according to the organization’s website.


Aquatics Center achieves LEED Certification

The U.S. Green Building Council recently awarded LEED Gold Certification to the University’s Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatics Center, which opened in April 2012.

To become LEED-certified, buildings must earn points for their friendliness to the environment, according to the USGBC website. The center achieved gold level, the second-highest of four possible certifications.

The center is topped with the largest hybrid solar panel array in the country, according to a February 2012 University press release.

The roof’s 168 rectangular solar panels power the building’s electricity and heat. They generate a total of 160,944 watts, which is enough to heat the entire center — including its million-gallon swimming pool.

“This system is a great demonstration project of how renewable energy can be utilized in a city environment and provides a living lab for students,” said Chris Powell, director of sustainable energy and environmental initiatives, in the release.

The system consists of 21 rows of solar panels that are tilted to lighten their weight on the roof. From under the panels, a photovoltaic strip uses the heat generated by sunlight hitting the strips to heat an underlying layer of glycol. The glycol is responsible for heating the pool.


Gay-straight alliances linked with decreased drug abuse

The absence of gay-straight alliance programs in high schools may be correlated to an increase in prescription and illicit drug abuse among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adolescents, according to a recent study published last month in the journal Addictive Behaviors.

The researchers, led by post-doctoral scholar Nicholas Heck, found that students at schools without gay-straight alliances may be about three times more likely to use cocaine and about two times more likely to misuse ADHD or pain medication compared to their peers at schools with alliances.

The researchers administered online surveys to a sample of 475 high school students who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, and used 12 statistical analyses to determine the likelihood of them using different drugs.

The study builds on previous research that suggests the presence of high school gay-straight alliances reduces the numbers of LGBT students who have alcohol, cigarette and drug problems.

“These findings extend the research base related to GSAs and further demonstrate the importance of providing LGBT youth with opportunities for socialization and support within the school setting,” the researchers wrote in the study.



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