Katie Gagliano
Journalist
LSU
Professor, doctoral candidate develop device to improve prostate cancer screening Katie Gagliano  February 2, 2016 
Physics professor Guang Jia and medical physics doctoral candidate Joseph Steiner are revolutionizing prostate cancer screening by developing a device to increase accuracy. If successful, their device will produce more accurate CT scans of the prostate and improve prostate cancer diagnoses. Current screening methods, including the prostate-specific antigen test and the digital rectal exam, have a wider margin of error than Jia and Steiner’s proposed technique. PSAs can be released for a variety of prostate diseases, not only cancer, and DREs may not detect small or obscurely located tumors, Jia said. The device involves attaching an intraoral sensor to an inner rectal coil to produce higher image resolution when used in conjunction with a CT scan. The intraoral sensor is used in dental radiography and inner rectal coils are traditionally used in MRIs, Jia said. “That’s the good thing about what we’re trying to do,” Steiner said. “Everything’s already been done, and we’re just mashing everything together.” Traditional prostate CT scans use a surface coil, which has difficulty producing a detailed image of the prostate because of the organ’s small size and central location. An internal sensor will localize the CT radiation and produce a clearer image of the prostate, Jia said. “This is like during the day, if there’s a street lamp you might not identify it from the bright sky,” Jia said. “But if you put your eyes very close to the lamp, you cannot ignore it. The detector is our eye, and the prostate is the lamp.” The digital detector has 100 times smaller pixels than a CT scan, producing scans with 10 times higher resolution, Jia said. The device is being tested using an imaging phantom — an object used in scanners to evaluate imaging devices and a kumquat at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, Steiner said. The kumquat is similar in size and shape to a human prostate and provides greater imaging potential because it is made of biological tissue. After perfecting their technique on the kumquat, tests will begin on canine prostates donated by the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. A 3-D printer will be used to produce a model of either the canine or human lower body to test the detector using more naturalized dimensions, Jia said. It will likely be two years before testing is complete and the device moves on to human trials, Steiner said. “Because this has never been done before it’s kind of exploratory research,” he said. “You have to start at the bottom and work your way up.” Exploration includes optimizing the CT scanner to produce the best image for the lowest dose of radiation, Jia said. This requires testing radiation levels, exposure, tilt angles and additional factors to produce the most efficient results. Outside of screening, Jia and Steiner’s method can be used to target cancer treatments such as brachytherapy treatment, which uses radioactive seeds to provide low-dose radiation to a small area of the body. Detailed screening will allow doctors to target the brachytherapy seeds’ injection to ensure correct placement and improved treatment, Steiner said. The device may also be used to screen higher risk cancers including cervical cancer and rectal cancer, Steiner said. Though more expensive and uncomfortable for the patient than a PSA or DRE, Jia and Steiner’s technique could reduce the number of procedures a patient undergoes and minimize associated medical risks. “If the benefits outweigh the costs, it’ll be a viable solution,” Steiner said. Jia and Steiner submitted a patent application for their device through the LSU Office of Innovation and Technology Commercialization on July 29.
          LSU students create design for 'Hyperloop' transportation system Katie Gagliano  February 2, 2016 
LSU students create design for 'Hyperloop' transportation sysThe LSU Hyperloop design team is looking to revolutionize transportation in Louisiana — but first, they have to turn their concept into a reality. On Saturday, the team competed against more than 115 teams from 27 states and 20 countries at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition Design Weekend at Texas A&M University. Though the University’s team did not win, MIT claimed the award for best overall design, the members are confident their design is viable. Civil engineering senior and outgoing team leader Josh Manriquez began organizing the LSU team in September after being inspired by mogul and inventor Elon Musk’s proposal for Hyperloop, an innovative ground transportation system. Manriquez said he believes Hyperloop is a viable transportation option for Louisiana and could transform commerce and industry in the South. “Let’s say you want to be able to live in Houston and work in Atlanta — with the Hyperloop that really would be possible,” Manriquez said. The team’s pod design has an almond-like shape and will utilize a magnetic levitation engine from technology company Arx Pax to suspend the pod within a 10.8 psi internal tube environment. The pod will use a wheel propulsion system to propel the pod throughout the tube in conjunction with the engine. Making their design as comfortable, safe and practical as possible was the team’s main concern, Manriquez said. “When you tell people you’re going to send them off close to the speed of sound in a closed tube, it’s not exactly something they’re thrilled to try right off the bat,” Manriquez said. Mechanical engineering sophomore Trent Andrus, LSU Hyperloop’s new team leader, said the team integrated several practical safety measures into the design to assuage community fear. The pod features a primary braking system that will grip a center beam within the tube, slowing the pod similar to how a car grips its brakes. The brakes will have redundancy and the wheel propulsion system can also be used to steer the pod in the case of total brake failure, Andrus said. The team also developed an emergency evacuation procedure and designed their Hyperloop tube with equally spaced exit doors to allow users to exit the system from any location, he said. Before they can persuade people to use their pod, however, the team must overcome more immediate challenges. Mechanical engineering junior Austin McMichael said the team’s main concerns moving forward are improving team communication and recruiting team members with backgrounds in programming and electrical engineering. Organizing the team of 16 engineers and ensuring project details were clearly understood was a challenge the team faced ahead of the Texas A&M competition, she said. A tiered communications system made it more difficult for the team to develop a cohesive design. “Teamwork, communication — those things are huge,” Manriquez said. “You can be amazingly intelligent, and if you don’t have those you can forget about it.” Additionally, the team struggled with a lack of involvement from electrical engineers and programmers. The team will need to recruit heavily from those departments to make their design a reality, McMichael said. Internal team dynamics weren’t the only challenge the team faced. “Communicating with LSU was rough too,” she said. “We weren’t able to get a whole lot of support from them, which was disappointing. But, we managed.” The University’s lack of support was evident in comparison to other teams at the competition, especially schools with strong aeronautical and aerospace programs, Manriquez said. Paying out of pocket for presentation materials and design literature limited the quality level the team was able to produce, Andrus said. Without funding from the University, the team is preparing to pitch its design to local companies and investors to procure funding to produce a scalable test model. Producing the sub-scale model will cost approximately $77,000, McMichael said. The team has already received support from Global-E CEO Carl Guichard, who worked with the team as a mentor throughout the design process. Guichard is coordinating with the team to provide battery packs to support the pod’s braking system, McMichael said. The team is working personal connections to make funding a reality, and is already considering three build- out locations in Baton Rouge and New Orleans should funding become available, McMichael said. Manriquez said support from connections in southern Louisiana has been monumental in moving the project forward. “It’s just amazing,” he said. “These are the kind of people where one second you’re sitting around a table eating gumbo and the next building a Hyperloop pod.” If the team can procure funding, Manriquez said he is confident LSU Hyperloop’s design will succeed. “I have no hopes,” Manriquez said. “I just have something that I know for a fact. I know for a fact that when LSU goes out there to Hawthorne, California and puts the pod in the track, it will be the best design. I know we have the best design, I know that it’s the most practical and I know it’s the only one that will hold up over time. 9000          Katie Gagliano    February 15, 2016 For department of mathematics chair Robert Perlis, the current budget crisis is just one more disaster in a series of setbacks that have prevented the University from achieving its full potential. “For 36 years, I’ve been saying we’re about to turn the corner, we’re about to become a great university — and it’s still that way,” Perlis said. “We’re just about ready to move into the big time, and then something like this happens and you take a step backwards.” The flagship campus has suffered a 55 percent reduction in state general fund support over the past six years, cutting University state support from $254 million to $114 million. In response, the University has eliminated 180 faculty positions and 170 staff positions and cut or consolidated 35 academic programs since fiscal year 2009, according to a Jan. 25 administrative report. The cuts have hindered department functioning across the University. In recent years, the mathematics department has grown smaller while teaching loads have increased. In response, the department has consolidated courses such as Calculus I and Calculus II, into sections averaging 160 students instead of the 40-person class size preferred by faculty and students, Perlis said. The larger class sizes prevent professors from providing students with individualized attention and make the education process more impersonal, he said. If more cuts come in the next fiscal year, more classes will likely be consolidated. Overloaded faculty is a concern in many departments. Department of petroleum engineering chair Karsten Thompson said budget cuts may prevent his department from filling open faculty positions and decrease faculty flexibility. The department may be forced to consolidate classes, cancel certain electives and contract courses out to adjunct professors to ensure class availability, he said. And course loads likely won’t lighten anytime soon. Hiring during the budget crisis has been difficult because of a lack of funding options and questions surrounding the University’s stability, Perlis said. Perlis said positions vacated by retiring professors can only be filled with permission from University administration. In recent years, the department has often been denied permission to fill its open faculty positions. When permission is granted, potential hires are often concerned about the state budget crisis and its effect on the University’s future. Every candidate interviewing for a current position in the mathematics department has raised concerns about the budget deficit and the security of a potential position, Perlis said. Though the University has not reneged on contracts before, fear exists among young academics, he said. “You are thinking about accepting a job at LSU and say, ‘Okay, I’ll show up in August and be a new assistant professor,’” Perlis said. “But what if the job is not there? Then you pretty much ruined your career, haven’t you? The fear of that happening is a big worry for young people starting their careers.” For the engineering department, the budget crisis’ coincidence with the current hiring cycle is also a hindrance to filling available faculty positions, Thompson said. Petroleum engineering departments around the country hire in the same cycle, so potential faculty may be recruited to other universities if budget limitations put a freeze on new hires, he said. Attracting graduate students, like faculty, is another ongoing concern. Graduate students are vital to the University, both as students and as course assistants. Graduate students assist in grading upper division courses, leading recitation sections and teaching lower-level courses in some departments, Perlis said. The University’s graduate stipends aren’t competing with the national average, and the non-competitive awards make it more difficult to attract exceptional candidates, he said. Candidates with several offers may be enticed by other universities’ more generous stipend offers. The lack of competitiveness in graduate student stipends is mirrored by the average pay of University faculty, which has fallen behind the national average for comparative universities. Ten peer institutions identified in the Flagship 2020 Agenda surpassed the University in professor salaries for the 2014-2015 school year. Twelve exceeded the University’s average associate professor salary, and nine offered higher assistant professor salaries. During the 2014-2015 school year, the University paid professors an average salary of $116,334, associate professors $82,125 and assistant professors $75,051, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Some salary differences were small; Colorado State University paid professors an average salary of $117,018. Others were significant; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign paid its professors an average salary of $144,927. Most of the 10 peer institutions exceeded the University’s average professor salary by approximately $5,000 to $10,000, according to the NCES. Prior to a 3 percent pay raise in the 2014-2015 school year and the 4 percent pay raise in the 2013-2014 school year, faculty members didn’t receive a pay raise for five years, according to the Office of Budget and Planning. The state of faculty salaries, combined with the possibility of an estimated $940 million state budget shortfall for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, is not helping to boost faculty and staff morale. “Each year it’s always just been a struggle to make sure there’s enough paper for the Xerox machine and that all the computers in the offices are working,” Perlis said. “It’s been six years of just trying to make ends meet.” The fear that ends may not meet plagues staff members and faculty in academic departments across the University, Perlis said. Staff members in the mathematics department are anxious about job security following staff furloughs in previous years, he said. Thompson said faculty in the petroleum engineering department are taking a more pragmatic approach to the cuts, pushing forward despite a widespread sense of uncertainty. “I think the general sentiment is, ‘You have to wait and see,’ and there’s just not too much sense in worrying about it until we understand what is going to happen,” Thompson said. Regardless of the unease across campus, both Perlis and Thompson voiced a dedication to maintaining student services as best as possible to shield students’ education from the effects of budget cuts. Both chairs also agreed research in their departments would likely be insulated from the financial impacts of the budget cuts. Much of the research funding in both departments, and across the University, is funded through federal or privatized funding, Perlis and Thompson said. Research outside of academic programs may not be as insulated. The LSU AgCenter, whose core mission includes agricultural research, could face an $11.5 million cut, equivalent to 32 percent of the AgCenter’s budget, according to a 2016 fiscal year budget message from the AgCenter. The cuts would dramatically impact the AgCenter’s ability to conduct research, hindering ongoing projects in nutrition and crop variety development that benefit Louisiana’s agricultural industry, the budget message said. Since 2008, the AgCenter has eliminated 400 positions across its academic departments, extension offices and branch research stations. One hundred positions are slated to be eliminated in the 2015 to 2016 fiscal year, and another 160 filled positions are at risk if the 32 percent cut is implemented, the message said. “Everybody is sick and tired of budget cuts,” Perlis said. “Everybody fears the worst case, but the worst case seems to keep getting worse and worse Sunyoung Park, assistant professor of human resource education and workforce development, said professors’ investments in
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   University already lacks competitive salaries, manageable faculity workloads
Sunyoung Park, assistant professor of human resource education and workforce development, said professors’ investments in students can improve the educational environment. Park is presenting her research at the Academy of Human Resource Development’s international conference from Feb. 18-20. Park’s research includes the effect of a team-oriented environment on the workplace, the positive impact of a leader’s evaluation of talent and multigenerational female leadership in Korea and India. Park’s research method involves analyzing numbers and statistics from target audiences and government agencies to determine trends and behavior in the workplace environment, she said. “This research showed that leaders and organization culture positively influenced productivity, organization commitment and job satisfaction,” Park said. One finding revealed team-oriented workplaces enhanced the learning culture of organizations and encouraged positive organization citizenship behavior, increasing employees’ commitment within the organization outside of mandatory duties. Another result showed a leader’s vision of talent could influence employees’ attitudes, organizational commitment and job satisfaction. When organization leaders show they care about the talent within the company, it boosts employees’ positive feelings and encourages productivity, Park said. These findings can be applied to classroom settings as well as businesses, she said. When department directors or professors show interest and investment in students, it increases the students’ trust in the professor and encourages a positive learning environment for both faculty and students, Park said. “The faculty can play a role in leading students,” she said. “If the faculty show a strong vision of excellent students, they can support students and positively influence the student’s good attitude or achievement.” Park’s research is not limited to workforce development. She has also partnered with a co-author to analyze the similarities between multigenerational leadership in India and her native Korea. The research is ongoing, and Park’s findings will appear in two books on the topic, she said. This will be Park’s 10th year attending the AHRD conference. Aside from presenting her research, Park will be networking with fellow scholastics to strengthen the University’s ties with fellow AHRD Program Excellence Network institutions. Park has also served as the conference’s international, global and cross-cultural issues chair since 2014 and will be reviewing the work of 40 scholars at the conference.
     Professor studies ways to improve workplace culture                         February 16, 2016
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 Professor studies ways to improve workplace culture                         February 18, 2016
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Robert Birgeneau, co-chair of the Lincoln Project and former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, presented on the challenging state of public research universities Thursday in the Dalton J. Woods Auditorium. The Lincoln Project is sponsored by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and works to combat rampant state disinvestment in public research universities. The project analyzes the status of public research universities to assess methods of maintaining excellence and accessibility in the long term, Birgeneau said. Public research universities are drivers of innovation and economic development in the United States. Of the top 50 venture capital and business producing universities worldwide, 20 are American public research universities, he said. Aside from the monetary benefits, public research universities act as a conduit for lower income students to enter mainstream society and thrive, Birgeneau said. “Public research universities are the single most effective mechanism for addressing the issue of income inequality, which has reached crisis proportions in the United States,” he said. “The gap between the rich and the poor is growing and growing in a way that is going to destabilize our society. We need healthy, well- functioning public research universities to have a stable and just society.” If disinvestment continues, the danger of privatization increases, and public universities will offer less financial aid to low-income students, Birgeneau said. Lower income students will struggle to attain higher education and public research universities will no longer serve their purpose, he said. Disinvestment has occurred for a number of reasons, he said. Public education’s status among discretionary funding makes it one of the first areas targeted for cuts when states face financial challenges. Additionally, many state budgets are under increased pressure from programs such as Medicare, he said. In 2013, 11 states allotted more money from the state general fund to corrections than to higher education. Corrections funding grew by 141 percent between 1986 and 2013, while higher education funding increased by 5.6 percent, according to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Disinvestment is not solely a monetary issue, Birgeneau said. In recent decades, society’s perception of education has soured, and higher education is now predominantly perceived as a private good instead of a public good. Louisiana has cut higher education spending by 41 percent between 2008 and 2014, the highest cuts in the country following the recession, according to a Young Invincibles report. Louisiana’s budget is facing an approximately $940 million shortfall, with higher education expecting a $70 million cut in the best-case scenario. “I think that’s a very dangerous thing to do,” Birgeneau said. “The best professors are very mobile, so they can leave. They can go to other states. Building a great university like LSU takes a long time.” Physics professor Ward Plummer agrees with Birgeneau. Plummer organized Birgeneau’s visit and said he believes Louisiana’s future spending decisions will impact the value of a University degree for years to come. “If you have a degree from LSU, what’s going to happen in the next five to 10 years is going to really determine what that degree is worth,” Plummer said. “If we go in the right direction, there’s no doubt that an LSU degree can be worth more than it is now. If they close the University down, it will be worth nothing.” Plummer said he thinks the state faces unique challenges compared to other universities. The state’s dependence on the oil and gas industry, and the mishandling of deficit calculations, has plagued the state and higher education for decades, Plummer said. Plummer said he hopes exposing Birgeneau to these challenges will help further reflect Louisiana’s situation in the solutions the Lincoln Project is developing. Birgeneau is scheduled to meet with state legislators and the commission of higher education Friday, with Gov. John Bel Edwards possibly attending, Plummer said. Government plays an integral role in resolving the problems facing higher education, Birgeneau said. Educating people in positions of power who can influence budgets is one of the Lincoln Project’s main objectives. Several states have sent copies of the Lincoln Project’s publications to their legislators, he said. The Lincoln Project recognizes the importance of politics in higher education, and has enlisted several former politicians to serve on the project’s board. Bipartisan politicians in Washington recognize the importance of discussing possible solutions, Birgeneau said. Former Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican, and former Rep. George Miller, a D - California, are helping develop federal strategy for the organization. “Even though one is a moderate Republican and one is a fairly left wing Democrat, on education they agree,” Birgeneau said. Duplicating this bipartisan support on a larger scale will be key in developing solutions to the crisis in higher education. The Lincoln Project is developing several strategies for improving higher education funding, including promoting partnerships between federal and state governments with foundations and individual philanthropists, he said.
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