Alumni CLASnotes Fall 2007
In This Issue:

Campus Views

Gator TalesGator Tales

Compiled by Julian Pleasants, former director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Gator Tales weaves together the recollections of faculty, administrators, students and athletes into an entertaining and fascinating read for Gators everywhere. This lively, anecdotal new book provides an intimate glimpse into the University of Florida’s past 100 years—following its evolution from small provincial campus to major university.

Journal of Undergraduate Research Turns 10

In celebration of its 10th anniversary, the Journal of Undergraduate Research is publishing a special issue, The Ten Best, including the most impressive academic articles appearing in the on-line journal since its inception. The Journal of Undergraduate Research is a cross-disciplinary journal seeking to publish outstanding research of University of Florida undergraduates and showcase University Scholars. As part of the celebration, two of the scholars recognized in the anniversary issue will speak at the spring symposium and awards ceremony of the University Scholars Program. Creed Greer, the editor of the journal, hopes that this celebration will bring recognition to the work of undergraduate scholars and highlight the quality of research being conducted at every level at the University of Florida. Visit www.clas.ufl.edu/jur to view articles.

Christine SapienzaDevice Aids Parkinson’s Patients

For the last six years, Christine Sapienza, a professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, has been working in the area of one of contemporary medical science’s biggest challenges: Parkinson’s disease. In the last year, her findings in the study of Parkinson’s have gained national recognition.

However, her research wasn’t originally focused on individuals with Parkinson’s. Starting in 1999, she and her team of researchers had been studying respiratory muscle strength training, using a number of different patient groups. In that time, they developed a handheld device, about the size of an asthma inhaler, with an internal spring-loaded valve that works much like the pin in a weight machine.
When a patient blows through the device, the patient’s respiratory muscles and neck muscles, which are primarily used for swallowing, are forced to contract and create the pressure necessary to release the valve. “The pressure is set high enough that the muscles are working on overload and therefore increase their strength,” Sapienza said. “The neural and biomechanical mechanisms are more complex than that, but that is the short version.”

It was the founding of the University of Florida’s Movement Disorder Center that prompted Sapienza to the possibility of dealing primarily with patients affected by Parkinson’s. She realized that patients with Parkinson’s disease could benefit from the device’s ability to change breathing strength. From there, she and her team applied for grants to study the benefits of their muscle-training program specifically for patients with Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s disease is characterized by weak, rigid, and slow-moving musculature. To combat this, the muscle-training program targets two essential functions: the muscles that control swallowing and breathing. In patients who have followed the regimen, the device’s ability to “cross-train” the muscles used for swallowing has resulted in tremendously positive outcomes for improving swallow function.

This cross training has witnessed some remarkable results over a relatively short time, which include the overall strength of respiratory muscles increasing in some patients by up to 30 percent. Furthermore, after another month of training, patients have enjoyed improved swallowing movement and lessened levels of aspiration: where food, as Sapienza describes it, “goes down the wrong pipe.”

The benefits of the muscle training program come from two significant factors: the speed with which results are achieved and the ability for the patient to rehab from home. This speed and effectiveness makes the trainer an excellent treatment option for Parkinson’s patients.
In September 2008, Sapienza presented her findings to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, the largest private funding agency for scientists studying Parkinson’s in the U.S. This foundation strives to drive science forward to help with the cure. “We are so thankful for their support for our project (and) their willingness to invest in a new and innovative project,” Sapienza said.

The Gran Telescopio Canarias will be featured in the 2009 Guinness World Records as the biggest Optical Telescope in the world.UF Astronomy Keeps Breaking Records

In 2008 Stephen Eikenberry’s most luminous star was the record breaking star listed in 2008 Guinness book of records.

Now the Gran Telescopio Canarias will be featured in the 2009 Guinness World Records as the biggest Optical Telescope in the world. The University of Florida owns a five-percent share of the telescope with our partners in Mexico and Spain. The GTC had his first light in July 2007 and will be officially inaugurated in 2008.

 

Peter Ter has a rare appreciation for his college education.
Sisler’s family, pictured left to right: Hannelore Wass, Betty Ann Rainbow,
Fred Rainbow, and Brian Wass
Sisler Hall Renamed

On October 22, the Chemistry Research Building was renamed Harry H. Sisler Hall, in honor of the remarkable academic’s enduring legacy. Sisler was educated at Ohio State (B.Sc., 1936) and Illinois (Ph.D., 1939). He was a successful chemist and professor at Kansas and Ohio State before being called in 1956 to a new challenge at the University of Florida. The University of Florida Department of Chemistry needed leadership to realize its potential, and Harry Sisler knew how to lead. As head of the department from 1956 to 1968, Sisler made sweeping changes, hired outstanding faculty, and started UF Chemistry on its way to becoming a first-rank unit. He is widely remembered as father of the modern UF Department of Chemistry.

 

 

 

 

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