Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs

October 1, 2012



 Dr. Alan F. J. Artibise - Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Dr. Alan F. J. Artibise

The Academy on Violence & Abuse Scholars Program

Nora Montalvo-Liendo, PhD, RN was recently selected as one of two Academy on Violence & Abuse (AVA's) 2012 Scholars.  The Academy on Violence and Abuse (AVA) Scholars Program is a mentorship program designed to improve the ability of junior researchers to conduct high quality research and to enter into productive careers focused on understanding and minimizing the effects of violence and abuse on people’s health.  As part of the AVA Scholars program she will be connected with 1-2 mentors who will be available for project-specific and career mentorship.  The AVA scholar program will provide funding to attend the April, 2013 conference in Minneapolis.  During this conference, the AVA Scholars will be recognized.  Over the ensuing two years, AVA will work with each scholar to develop and implement their respective research project. AVA will fund scholars' attendance at the AVA 2015 conference to present their results.   

UT System Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Conference

Students from the Health Disparities Scholars Program  participated at last weekend’s UT System Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Conference in El Paso. Samantha Gomez brought home the top honor of 1st Place, Aliya Sharif took home 2nd place, and Gerry Rosas also represented UTB with a poster at the conference.

South Texas

Chamber Players

On Tuesday, September 18th in Corpus Christi, Director of the UTB Symphony Orchestra and Violinist, Martha Placeres, performed with the South Texas Chamber Players in the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Center for the Arts Auditorium.

UTB Mariachi

On the 16th of September, the UTB Mariachi, under the direction of Associate Professor of Music, Antonio Briseno, performed for the celebration at the Rio Grande Premium Outlet Mall in Mercedes. The students were well received by a large audience of people from the Rio Grande Valley and Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico.

New Human Computer Interactions

This semester the Computer & Information Sciences department is offering Mobile-Application Programming for Phones and Tablets using the Android Operating system/framework for the first time as part of its newly revamped course of Human Computer Interactions (COSC-5332/COSC 5332). The course is taught by Dr. Mahmoud K. Quweider, and as part of the course's requirement, with funding from the PPOHA grant that Dr. Liyu Zhang leads, graduate students will have access to state-of-the art tables to test their developed applications. By the end of the course, each student will present his/her app to  a panel of judges for their final grade. The final apps will be UTB-centric in their nature.

Monday Nights Physics

The Department of Physics and Astronomy has held its first “Monday Nights Physics” presentation for the new year on September 24th in the SETB 3rd floor conference room.  Dr. Matthew Benacquista, Professor of the Department of Physics and Astronomy presented “Giant throbbing stars! Searching for RR Lyrae stars in globular clusters.”  RR Lyrae are stars of just the right mass and age so that they show variations in brightness as they expand and contract with periods of a day or less. These stars can be found in globular clusters, which are very old collections of stars associated with the Milky Way. Astronomers are searching for these stars within globular clusters in order to better understand the history and nature of globular clusters. I will describe the properties of RR Lyrae and how they are detected in globular clusters."

Kaplan’s Free Practice Test Event is back!

Kaplan is making the event more convenient than ever.  Students will have the opportunity to attend a practice GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, DAT, OAT, or PCAT test from anywhere they have internet access in our live, online classroom, which we call Classroom Anywhere.  Kaplan has several different dates and times available for students to test in our Classroom Anywhere environment, giving them the ultimate test-like experience and helping them build comfort, speed, and technique in an environment similar to what most students will face on Test  Day.  Space is limited for Classroom Anywhere events.  However, we have reserved spots specifically for UTB students.  Students can view the time/date options and reserve their seat in a free event . Please help inform your students by posting this information  to the appropriate listserv(s) or distribution lists.


UTB has many exciting projects and events taking place around campus in every division. To communicate the work taking place in the Academic Affairs Division, the Office of the Provost/VPAA will be sending out a bi-weekly newsletter. I hope you find the information useful in your work.




Nora Montalvo-Liendo, PhD, RN was invited to conduct seven workshops on her research work (4 English and 3 Spanish) at the Domestic and Sexual Violence and Stalking Partnership Conference in Oklahoma City. Dr. Montalvo presented insights into the cultural perspectives needed to understand the experience of women of Mexican origin living with violence.   Additionally, she presented themes relevant to gendered roles and traditional female social roles and how these roles have been subverted in women of Mexican origin.


Dr. Ava Miller, Professor of Nursing, recently published an article entitled, “How Teaching and Learning Influence and are Influenced by the Online Educational Landscape” in the Journal of Online Higher Education, 3(8), 2012.



Department of Biomedicine

Health Disparities Scholars Program was recently recognized for their initiation ceremony in the Inside UTB newsletter where several HDSP students were highlighted:

HDSP Sophomore Ravi Thakker (Garrido Lab): Ravi’s summer research with the World Health Organization was recently highlighted in the Brownsville Herald. The article can be found at:

HDSP Sophomore Miriam De Leon (Colom Lab) recently made the cover (and internet cover) of UTB’s Orange and White Magazine. She was featured  as the first BMED student accepted to the program – her story can be found at: under the section “Student Success.”

2 posters entitled “Systematic Analysis of the Effects of Anti-Diabetic Herbal Extracts on Adipogenesis and Adipokine Secretion in 3T3-L1 Cells” (M. Ortiz, D. Elizondo, C. Duazo, A.E. Schwarzbach, S. Nair) and “Neuroendocrine Changes in the Hippocampus and their Effects on Systemic or Peripheral Metabolism” (N.M. Ruiz, L. Pacheco, C.G. Ramirez, A.D. Fragoso, B. Farrell, T. Munoz, E.R. Garrido-Sanabria, S. Nair) were presented at the annual scientific meeting of the Obesity Society of N. America in San Antonio September 20-24, 2012. Students who attended the meeting included Manti Ortiz (supported by the Dept. of Biomedicine) and Diana Elizondo and Adelaeda Barrera (supported by MBRS-RISE program).


MBRS/RISE Program:

Congratulations to students Samantha Gomez (Health Disparities Scholar RIMI) and Aliya Sharif (MBRS RISE Scholar and Health Disparities Scholar RIMI) for their outstanding performance winning the First and Second Prizes respectively in the Poster Section of the 2012 Student Research Conference for the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) on September 21-22, 2012 in El Paso, TX. In addition, Gerardo Rosas (MBRS RISE Scholar) also represented our University presenting a poster.

Dr. Jonathan Berrout was the invited guest speaker for The Translational Research Seminar Series where he presented his research work titled “TRP Channels: Important Mechano-Transducers” on Friday, September 14, 2012. Dr. Berrout is the first UTB MBRS RISE Scholar to complete his Doctoral Program at the University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston.



Department of Health & Human Performance

Dr. Christopher Ledingham, Assistant Professor in Health and Human Performance, recently published on the topic of “Substance Use, Abuse, and Chemical Dependency,” in Y. Malamud Ozer (Ed.), A student guide to health: Understanding the facts, trends, and challenges. Volume four: alcohol, tobacco and other drugs (pp. 39-83). Santa Barbara, CA, ABC-CLIO.

Dr. Eric James, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance, recently published “Fixed-Point Drift and Hysteresis in Frequency-Scaled Unimanual Coordination” in the Journal of Motor Behavior, volume 44, issue 4, pp. 281-288.  This article extended research on modeling of symmetry breaking in the coordination dynamics of human movement. 



Department of Music

On Saturday, September28, 2012, the University of Texas at Brownsville Department of Music hosted the Eighth Annual Region 28 High School and Middle School String Orchestra Audition Music Clinic.  Over 180 students and 10 area orchestra directors were in attendance.  High Schools in attendance included:  Harlingen HS, Harlingen South High HS, Mercedes HS, Weslaco HS, and Weslaco East H S. Middle Schools in attendance included Mercedes MS, Harlingen’s Coakley, Vela, Memorial, Gutierrez and Vernon  Middle Schools and Weslaco’s Mary Hoge and Cuellar Middle Schools.  The clinicians performed the audition pieces and presented strategies on how to practice and perform them, and they invited all of the students attending the master class session to performances by the university ensembles and guest performances in the coming academic year.  The clinic was organized by adjunct music professor, Kay Clark, and the following music faculty teaching the master classes included Martha Placeres, violin, and Dr. Katherine Geeseman, cello and graduate students Joaquin Ruiz, viola and Nancy Torres, double bass.  The faculty members were also assisted by UTB string students from their respective studios.

Dr. Sue Zanne Williamson Urbis, Chair of the Department of Music and Laurie Howell, Executive Director for University Relations have obtained a $12,000 grant from the Hermes Music Foundation to fund a new radio show on KMBH, the  NPR radio station based in Harlingen, Texas.  The Hermes Music Foundation agreed to sponsor a year's worth of 30 minute productions.  These educational programs will focus on Latin American and Iberian musical traditions. The programs will include music faculty activities and interests as a stepping stone to music and culture in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond.  The radio show is in affiliation with the newly proposed University of Texas Brownsville Center of Excellence for Latin American and Iberian Music. The title of the show is Excursiones Musicales. Assistant Professor of Music in Ethnomusicology, Dr. Susan Hurley-Glowa, will serve as the host of Excursiones Musicales, as well as director of the new Center of Excellence for Latin American and Iberian Music.




Paul-Hermann Zieschang, Professor of Mathematics, participated at the 2012 Shanghai Conference on Algebraic Combinatorics which took place at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, China, from August 17-22. He presented a talk titled ``Recent results and open questions in scheme theory."


The Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy in the Department of Physics and Astronomy has been awarded $5M from the National Science Foundation.  This project, entitled "The CGWA in the Era of Multimessenger Astronomy," is under the direction of Mario C. Diaz, Joseph D. Romano, Fredrick A. Jenet, Volker M. Quetschke, Matthew J. Benacquista.  This award is effective November 1 , 2012 and expires October 31, 2017.  This is a continuing grant which has been approved on scientific / technical merit.  Out of 38 major institutions in the USA who submitted proposals to this program this year only 5 have been approve for the award!                             


SanJuana Zavala, biology major and member of CSMT student advisory council, was honored as a Champion Of Change on September 20-21st at the White House.  All across the country, ordinary Americans are doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.  These Champions of Change are invited to the White House to share their ideas to win the future.  As a first generation college student at the University of Texas at Brownsville, SanJuana holds back $50 from every paycheck and $200 from every scholarship-all to protect and save the lives of mothers and babies she will never meet. It’s her way of supporting The Eliminate Project, a partnership between Kiwanis International and UNICEF to eliminate maternal and  neonatal tetanus from the face of the earth.  When it comes to service, SanJuana gets creative in order to get others involved with the help of local city efforts like Keep Brownsville Beautiful. As a member of Circle K International (CKI), a Kiwanis service program for university students, she led a crayon-recycling effort, inspiring Brownsville’s elementary schools to donate used or unwanted crayons, which were sorted, peeled , melted  and molded into new crayons for children in need.  At the young age of twenty-one she is known by her peers and anyone who has the time of getting to meet her as inspirational. Her passion for service has long been in her heart before joining the Kiwanis organization as a CKI member, less than two years ago. Serving over four hundred community service hours alone, SanJuana has made a huge impact in Kiwanis, her community, her family, and the children of the world.  Her hard work in the Brownsville community has paid off with a magnificent reward. SanJuana will be graduating next year with a Bachelor’s in Biology aspiring to become a science teacher after she completes her Master’s at UTB as well.

On Sep 12, 2012, Mr. Esteban Rangel from Northwestern University gave a presentation entitled “Clustering Massive Datasets: Applying Classical Problems in Probability Theory to the K-Medoids Problem” to computer science students and faculty at University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB). Mr. Rangel received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UTB, both in computer science. Largely due to his superior academic record at UTB and his outstanding research achievements as a master student in the area of data mining, Mr. Rangel was awarded a Northwestern University Fellowship to pursue his Ph.D. in computer science. Mr. Rangel is now doing research in the more general field of high-performance analytics as part of the requirements for his Ph.D. degree and his research is funded by NSF. As a successful Hispanic student, Mr. Rangel first introduced his current research to the audience and why it is interesting and contributing to the computer science discipline. Then he moved on to discuss and answer questions about his own experience how and why he became interested in computer science and is now pursuing a Ph.D.  The presentation is part of the ongoing Invited Speaker Series of the PPOHA project (Promoting Postbaccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans) funded by US Department of Education since 2009. The presentations are targeted primarily at graduate-level math and computer science students but are open to all students and faculty.  These presentations are designed to support the PPOHA project’s mission by giving UTB students the opportunity to hear and interact one-on-one with Hispanic professionals who are successful in STEM fields.  Because Hispanics are underrepresented in STEM fields and face unique challenges, the speaker selection gives preference to Hispanic STEM professionals who have “been there, done that” and so have particularly valuable insights and advice to convey to UTB students regarding higher education and career choices.  For more information on the Invited Speaker Series and other activities of the PPOHA project including online course development, faculty-mentored research, high-school outreach and summer internship programs, please contact the project director Dr. Liyu Zhang at (956) 882-6631 or

Two visiting scholars joined Dr. Hansheng Lei's research group at the Computer & Information Sciences department.  Motivated by common interests and invited by the Chair of the CIS department, Drs. Mande Shen and Xiaoqin Du joined Dr. Hansheng Lei's research group recently. Dr. Shen's research interests lie in 3D vision and reconstruction. He is collaborating with Dr. Lei on the project of "Integrated 3D scanning and Printing.”  Dr. Du's expertise is in machine learning. He is working with Dr. Lei on the research of "Deep Learning,” one of the frontier topics in machine learning.  Both scholars obtained full financial support from China for their living expenses at UTB. Dr. Shen is supported by his home university Wuhan Textile University (WTU) and the State Government, Hubei Province, China. Dr. Du, also from WTH, is supported by the China Scholarship Council. They will stay at UTB for 6 months.  The goal of the visiting scholars is to deepen research collaborations. It will also pave a potential way for collaboration in graduate studies.

Dr. Soma Mukherjee, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy,  presented a poster on her recent research titled "Time domain classification of broad band noise in gravitational wave data" at the AstroInformatics conference held at the Microsoft campus at Redmond, WA, 09/10-14, 2012. 


Dr. Cristina Torres, Research Assistant Professor with the Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy and the Department of Physics and Astronomy recently published a paper entitled “The critical coupling likelihood method: a new approach for seamless integration of environmental and operating conditions of gravitational wave detectors into gravitational wave searches.”  Class. Quantum Grav. 29 (2012) 205018 (18pp)


Vice President for Academic Affairs

956-882-8266 •