U.S. News & World Report recognized the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida as among the top online programs in the country, according to rankings released today.
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Five State University System institutions are ranked among the Top 35 public universities granted U.S. utility patents in 2017, according to a new report by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association.
Among all public universities in the United States, University of South Florida ranked fifth with 116 patents, University of Florida Research Foundation ranked sixth with 111 patents, Florida International University ranked 26th with 42 patents, University of Central Florida ranked 28th with 39 patents, and Florida State University ranked 34th with 34 patents.
“Florida’s public universities continue to exemplify the incredible impact that research and innovation have on the state of Florida,” said Alan Levine, chair of the Board of Governors’ Academic and Research Excellence Committee. “I’m pleased to congratulate the universities on this prestigious list and to thank them for advancing so many important discoveries and inventions that benefit humankind and fuel our economy.”
The report utilizes data acquired from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to highlight the important role patents play in university research and innovation.
“The institutions on this list are doing incredible work promoting academic innovation and incubating groundbreaking technologies which exemplify the importance of technology transfer to institutional success,” said Paul R. Sanberg, president of the National Academy of Inventors. “We are proud to collaborate with the Intellectual Property Owners for the sixth consecutive year, and it is a privilege to showcase the vital contributions to society made by universities.”
The five universities are Member Institutions of the National Academy of Inventors, as are all 12 universities in the State University System of Florida.
The National Academy of Inventors is a member organization comprising U.S. and international universities, and governmental and non-profit research institutes, with over 4,000 individual inventor members and Fellows spanning more than 250 institutions. The headquarters are located in the University of South Florida Research Park in Tampa. The Intellectual Property Owners Association, established in 1972, is a trade association for owners of patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets.
“University patents help to ignite a culture of growth and innovation which in turn stimulates local, regional and global economies and generates funding for future research initiatives,” said Mark W. Lauroesch, the Intellectual Property Owners Association Executive Director. “The Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted U.S. Utility Patents is a report which demonstrates the critical role universities play in patents, licensing and commercialization.”
The National Academy of Inventors and Intellectual Property Owners have published the report annually since 2013. The rankings are compiled by calculating the number of utility patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that lists a university as the first assignee on the issued patent. For the purposes of the report, a university is defined as an institution that grants undergraduate-level degrees.
The full report of the Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted Patents in 2017 can be found here.
The Department of Homeland Security could benefit from a reliable, real-time instrument that could scan the atmosphere for toxic agents in order to alert communities to a biological or chemical attack. UCF optics and photonics Professor Konstantin Vodopyanov is developing just such a technology to accomplish that.
He has found a new way to use infrared lasers to detect even trace amounts of chemicals in the air. Every chemical is made up of individual molecules that vibrate at their own unique frequency. Vodopyanov has found a way to use lasers to detect these vibrations.
The technique is so accurate and sensitive that he can determine if there is a molecule of any chemical present even at concentrations as low as one part per billion. So even if someone tried to hide the toxic chemicals, his technique would be able to detect them.
His findings are published today in Nature Photonics.
“We still have much work ahead,” he said. “We are now working on broadening the range of the laser frequencies that can get the job done. If costs can be reduced and the tech made mobile, the applications could be endless.”
A similar principle is used in the medical field to detect biomarkers for different kinds of health conditions, including cancer, by taking breath samples.
It’s possible, Vodopyanov said, because of the rules of physics.
“The frequencies of molecules are very distinct, but they are invariant – here, on a different continent, on a different planet, anywhere,” Vodopyanov said. “It is universal. Think of it as a molecular fingerprint. So when we use the laser we can detect these fingerprints with great precision.”
The novel approach could open the door for developing non-invasive technology, including sensors, that could be used to detect:
- airborne agents that could be encountered in a biological or chemical attack at home or on the battlefield
- traces of life by space explorers on missions to other planets or asteroids
Other collaborators on the Nature Photonics paper include Andrey Muraviev at UCF’s the College of Optics & Photonics, Viktor Smolski of IPG Photonics -– Mid-Infrared Lasers in Birmingham, AL, and Zachary Loparo from UCF’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
Vodopyanov obtained his doctorate from the Lebedev Physical Institute in Moscow. He’s spent years teaching and conducting research in Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom and Stanford University in California before joining UCF in 2013. He’s also worked in industry, including the Silicon Valley start-up Picarro, which was developing a laser-based breath analyzer for early detection of ulcers. He’s written more than 300 papers and is funded by various organizations including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Office of Naval Research, Air Force and NASA.
The National Science Foundation recently awarded a grant to an Orlando-based company and UCF Incubator client that could help improve cancer patients’ quality of life and potentially reduce the number of times patients are readmitted to a hospital.
“It’s a great honor,” said Rodney Bosley, CEO and director of SegAna. “As we move forward in advancing the commercialization of SegAna’s real-time cloud-based treatment guidance software for radiation cancer treatment, grants like these are vital.”
The company was founded to bring together technology developed at the University of Central Florida and University of California at Los Angeles into a commercially available simulated lung. The software NSF is helping fund is linked to the original research started at UCF. The grant is a cooperative grant with UCLA’s Department of Radiation Oncology.
Once fully developed, the technology would allow radiation oncologists to plan and deliver patient-specific, advanced treatments quickly and modified to suit the current tumor location and motion. More importantly, it will only deliver radiation to the tumor and avoid normal tissues, the researchers say.
SegAna’s technology will be a software framework that provides treatment guidance for radiotherapy. The software provides near real-time computing performance, facilitating clinical decision-making for adaptive radiotherapy.
“We’ve been able to show in our research how this technology will improve radiation treatment, the patient’s quality of life, and ultimately, reduce the number of times a patient is readmitted to the hospital,” Bosley said.
UCF Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professors Jihua Gou and Olusegun Ilegbusi provided the primary design of the printing materials and a 3-D printer to print a lung phantom with specific physical, radiological and mechanical properties. Gou’s expertise includes composite materials and structures, nanocomposite material and advanced manufacturing.
Ilegbusi is an expert on flow structure profiling of cardiovascular disease and image analysis, multifunctional nanocomposites and biosensors. They are cofounders of SegAna and said it was gratifying to see something they worked on make progress towards commercialization and helping improve lives.
The Small Business Innovation Research Phase 1 grant is valued at $225,000. SBIR is a highly competitive program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in federal research/research and development that has the potential for commercialization. The mission of the SBIR program is to support scientific excellence and technological innovation through the investment of federal research funds in critical American priorities to build a strong national economy.
A group of international scientists, including a University of Central Florida biologist, recently discovered that a species of fish living in the north Atlantic Ocean has an ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions that are linked to the depth of its watery habitat.
The unknown mechanism, which gives the roundnose grenadier its “super power,” appears to be coded into the species’ genetics.
Findings of the team’s study are published this week in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution. The work was conducted at Durham University in the United Kingdom in collaboration with a team of scientists and students from UCF, the University of Liverpool and Marine Scotland.
Often when people think of the ocean they think only of species living near the surface such as corals and reef fishes. Part of what makes this species so interesting to researchers is its vast vertical habitat, which can range from 590 to 8,500 feet (180 to 2,600 meters) below the surface.
“The ocean environment varies greatly between 200 and 2,600 meters including available food and light and water temperature,” said UCF Biologist Michelle Gaither. “What is really cool about this project is that we were able to use a new genetic tool to look at the differences between populations over just 1,000 meters of depth.”
Figuring out how fish evolve and adapt, especially in such vast environments, is important to understanding biodiversity and is important to conservation efforts.
In order to conserve species, scientists must understand how biodiversity originates and where we are most likely to find novel species and genotypes. Studying the genomes of this fish is just the beginning to unlocking the mystery of how biodiversity is arranged in the ocean.
“If you’re going to regulate a fishery, you can’t just say OK – let’s regulate it. Scientists need to consider where the species they’re trying to protect lives,” Gaither said. “For this species, you can’t just say no fishing below 1,200 meters because now we know that genetic diversity differs across the whole vertical range and you have to protect the whole slope.”
Once the team decoded the genome for the roundnose grenadier, they found that fish carried different genotypes depending upon at what depth they lived. For example, fish that lived at 1,800 meters were fixed for certain genes while those living closer to the surface had mixed genotypes, but they are all the same species.
“We can roughly predict the fish’s genotype based on where it lives, but the functions of these genes don’t tell the full story yet, it just shows us that there are some specializations involved at living in deeper depths,” Gaither said. “The individuals with those genes succeed living deeper in the ocean while other individuals with different genotypes do not.”
The researchers also know the fish don’t exclusively mate with individuals of their own genotype and when they do mate, it’s very likely they gather into groups called spawning aggregations where they release sperm and eggs into the water column. The fertilized eggs, and later the larvae, float around on the ocean currents for several weeks before all settling onto the ocean bottom. This furthers the mystery of how fish seek out and live at their perspective depths.
“All the fish larvae settle out around 1,200 meters, regardless of genotype and somehow they sort out by depth as they grow and mature,” Gaither said.
As it stands now, this fish is only one species, but if conditions change, it could evolve into more. That’s where Gaither’s appointment in UCF’s Genomics and Bioinformatics Cluster is key. Her work with computer scientists is tapping into new scientific territory to better understand evolution.
“As biologists, this type of research helps us understand how biodiversity evolves and how it’s generated,” Gaither said. “Genomics has given us the tools to begin to truly understand how evolution works and to better protect life on Planet Earth.”
Gaither came to UCF in December 2017 from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and holds a Ph.D. in Zoology.
A UCF Florida Solar Energy Center scientist with 40 years of experience in research and innovation in the field of hydrogen energy has been selected to receive an international award named after the visionary futuristic writer Jules Verne. [Read more…] about UCF Hydrogen Fuel Expert Selected for International Award
UCF’s Phil Metzger and Juliet Brisset from the Florida Space Institute recently landed a contract to develop a model to mine the moon for water.
Data suggests the moon has water locked away in its icy soil, especially at the moon’s poles. The challenge is finding an effective and inexpensive way to get it.
Water is important because its chemical composition could be split into hydrogen and oxygen, which could then be made into rocket fuel. The ability to generate rocket fuel in space could open up more launch possibilities and reduce costs for transportation throughout lunar space and beyond.
Metzger and Brisset aim to come up with a viable method to extract the water. The idea would be to drill holes deep into the moon and pump heat through the holes to warm the regolith underground, which has water locked in frigid ice chunks. As the regolith warms up, the water would be released as vapor and collected through pipes in the hole.
Others have proposed having big equipment dig for the water and drag ice chunks to processing plants on the moon. But the proposed process may require equipment that has less mass and be more reliable than the wheeled digging equipment needed dig up piles of regolith and haul it to processing plants that would extract the water. By extracting the water in-place in the ground, there would be no need to move tons of soil around, Metzger said.
“When you talk about getting things into space, weight matters,” he said. “So we are looking at a technique that would require less stuff you have to transport which still gets the job done.”
Mining the moon is a focus of many researchers around the nation. But most are investigating techniques that collect and process the regolith of the moon rather than the ice. The regolith is the unconsolidated residual material that overlies the solid rock.
The United Launch Alliance (ULA) has contracted the UCF duo to find out if their proposed method is realistic and cost effective.
“Procuring propellant derived from the Moon may be substantially less expensive than hauling the propellant out of Earth’s deep gravity well,” said Bernard Kutter, ULA’s chief scientist. “This in turn could reduce the cost of space transportation by as much as a factor of five.”
Those who can figure out a way to tap into water in space may be in a position to mine it and sell it for a variety of uses from life support systems and rocket fuel to radiation shielding and drinking water for space explorers.
Metzger, a planetary physicist who worked at Kennedy Space Center where he co-founded KSC Swampworks before joining UCF, is leading the project. Brisset, a research associate at the institute who has multiple degrees in mechanical and space engineering as well as physics, will work on the algorithms to run the computer simulations they hope will lead to a viable model. They also plan to hire a student to help with the testing.
The biggest challenge is a matter of geometry, Brisset said.
The team already has data that indicates heating the moon’s underground is possible. But converting the lunar ice into vapor requires high temperatures and unfortunately most of the heat will travel away through the lunar soil and be wasted.
“We have to figure out the right geometric configuration of the holes to increase the area that is heated,” Brisset said. “If we do it right, we should be able to increase the area and the time it stays warm. We will be doing a lot of modeling.”
A strain of bacteria commonly found in milk and beef may be a trigger for developing rheumatoid arthritis in people who are genetically at risk, according to a new study from the University of Central Florida.
A team of UCF College of Medicine researchers has discovered a link between rheumatoid arthritis and Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis, known as MAP, a bacteria found in about half the cows in the United States. The bacteria can be spread to humans through the consumption of infected milk, beef and produce fertilized by cow manure.
The UCF researchers are the first to report this connection between MAP and rheumatoid arthritis in a study published in the Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology journal this week. The study, funded in part by a $500,000 grant from the Florida Legislative, was a collaboration between Saleh Naser, UCF infectious disease specialist, Dr. Shazia Bég, rheumatologist at UCF’s physician practice, and Robert Sharp, a biomedical sciences doctoral candidate at the medical school.
Naser had previously discovered a connection between MAP and Crohn’s disease and is involved in the first ever phase III-FDA approved clinical trial to treat Crohn’s patients with antibiotics. Crohn’s and rheumatoid arthritis share the same genetic predispositions and both are often treated using the same types of immunosuppressive drugs. Those similarities led the team to investigate whether MAP could also be linked to rheumatoid arthritis.
“Here you have two inflammatory diseases, one affects the intestine and the other affects the joints, and both share the same genetic defect and treated with the same drugs. Do they have a common trigger? That was the question we raised and set out to investigate,” Naser said.
For the study, Bég recruited 100 of her patients who volunteered clinical samples for testing. Seventy-eight percent of the patients with rheumatoid arthritis were found to have a mutation in the PTPN2/22 gene, the same genetic mutation found in Crohn’s patients, and 40 percent of that number tested positive for MAP.
“We believe that individuals born with this genetic mutation and who are later exposed to MAP through consuming contaminated milk or meat from infected cattle are at a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis,” Naser said.
About 1.3 million adults in the U.S. have rheumatoid arthritis – an autoimmune and inflammatory disease that causes the immune system to attack a person’s joints, muscles, bones and organs. Patients suffer from pain and deformities mostly in the hands and feet. It can occur at any age but the most common onset is between 40 and 60 years old and is three times more prevalent in women.
Although case studies have reported that some RA patients suffer from Crohn’s disease and vice versa, the researchers say a national study needs to investigate the incidence of the two diseases in the same patients.
“We don’t know the cause of rheumatoid arthritis, so we’re excited that we have found this association,” Bég said. “But there is still a long way to go. We need to find out why MAP is more predominant in these patients – whether it’s present because they have RA, or whether it caused RA in these patients. If we find that out, then we can target treatment toward the MAP bacteria.”
The team is conducting further studies to confirm findings and plan to study patients from different geographical and ethnic backgrounds.
“Understanding the role of MAP in rheumatoid arthritis means the disease could be treated more effectively,” Naser said. “Ultimately, we may be able to administer a combined treatment to target both inflammation and bacterial infection.”
Naser holds a Ph.D in Medical Microbiology from New Mexico State University. He joined UCF in 1995. He has been investigating Crohn’s disease and other auto-immune diseases for more than 30 years. He has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and has presented his work at numerous conferences. He has several patents including a licensed DNA technology for detecting MAP.
Bég, a board-certified rheumatologist, has been with UCF since 2011 after completing her fellowship in rheumatology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. In addition to practicing medicine at UCF Health, she is a full-time faculty member at the college. Her research and clinical interests include conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus and osteoporosis.
Governor Rick Scott today visited the University of Central Florida’s football team to congratulate them on their undefeated season. Governor Scott awarded each player with the Governor’s Sports Award and a copy of the proclamation the Governor issued this month proclaiming the UCF Knights as national champions in Florida. To view the proclamation, click HERE.
UCF has launched a national research center focused on finding big-picture solutions to threats facing coastal communities.
In 2017, federal and local governments in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico spent more than $284 billion to deal with the impact of hurricanes and flooding, according to NOAA.
“There’s a perfect storm coming,” said Graham Worthy, UCF biologist and director of the National Center for Integrated Coastal Research. “We’ve already seen some of it. With economic constraints, environmental threats and extreme weather events becoming more and more common, now is the time to look at how we develop resilient communities that aren’t constantly in expensive recovery mode.”
While many institutions are studying ways to help coastal communities, UCF’s center is unique by bringing together dozens of experts including biologists, economics, medical care professionals, social scientists, engineers and emergency management personnel to come up with long-term solutions that incorporate multiple disciplines.
“As a biologist, I may find a solution to a water quality issue,” Worthy said. “But I don’t know the economic impact, or whether my solution may create another issue for emergency management or maybe there’s a social impact I haven’t even thought of. By having experts in all these areas together we will begin speaking the same language and come up with solutions that are big picture, and that’s the kind of solutions we need as a society.”
And while some may argue that people who live on the coast know the risks, the threats impact residents living hundreds and even thousands of miles away.
In Florida, much of the economy relies on tourism with people going to the beaches and theme parks. But sea-level rise would harm beaches and it may no longer be a draw to tourists resulting in fewer dollars coming to the state. The coast is connected to rivers and streams. Sea-level rise could also impact water quality, resulting in negative impacts to agricultural production, cattle production and even ecotourism businesses that rely on rivers.
The center, housed on the main UCF campus, includes more than 40 faculty members. The center’s researchers are pursuing multiple partnerships with national and international groups to expand its work. Claire Knox, a UCF public administration associate professor, will focus on environmental and emergency management plans and policies. She provides the connection between coastal science and policy making.
“Specifically, my research in Louisiana and Florida concludes that many land use plans lack a hazard mitigation element and are not being fully implemented,” Knox said. “Our environmental policies say one thing, yet do another. Both practices have led to a disjoined effort to restore Louisiana’s coastal wetlands and Florida Everglades ecosystem.”
The problems facing Florida are similar to those found in other states and countries that have coastlines, so the faculty expect that the solutions they develop may become national models. Knox is just one of many faculty who conduct research outside the state of Florida.
“As a Cajun from coastal Louisiana, coastal is personal. It means home,” Knox said, “A home comprised of coastal wetlands that we are losing at a rate of a football field every 45 minutes. This increases the vulnerability of coastal communities, displaces multiple unique cultures, and includes the relocation of the U.S. first climate change refugees at Isle de Jean Charles.”