At $1 million, the system isn't cheap, say civil engineering Professors Bill Carter and Ramesh Shrestha. But it could slash the expense of gauging damages to beaches after hurricanes by more than 90 percent and speed up the process from months to hours, they say.
"You could map all the beaches in Florida to prepare for a hurricane and, after the hurricane, re-map the beaches, and within hours you'd know how much work had to be done," Carter said.
The first step in rebuilding beaches after hurricanes is to measure sand loss and assess other damages, such as new coves or inlets. It can take weeks or months to do this using traditional survey techniques.
Carter and Shrestha adapted a piece of high-tech equipment called the Airborne Laser Terrain Mapper to do the surveying more accurately in a matter of hours -- with the aid of software Shrestha developed at UF. Built by a Canadian company called Optech, the mapper draws on technology originally developed by NASA to map ice flows in Greenland, Carter said.
Carried aloft in a small plane, the mapper has a highly accurate pulse laser that emits 5,000 pulses of light each second toward the beach. The pulses hit and scatter back, allowing the system to precisely measure the distance between the plane and the beach. A Global Positioning System and other equipment determine the plane's location and pitch.
Shrestha and Carter leased the system for a week in 1996 to test its capabilities on Panhandle beaches damaged by Hurricane Opal. They surveyed about 300 miles of beaches in six counties. Optech's computers crunched the raw data, with UF computers and software refining it further.
The result was a digital map of the beach that contains data on the latitude, longitude and height of millions of different points on the beach -- measurements repeated every few meters. Such accuracy and comprehensiveness would be impossible through traditional surveying methods.
Shrestha said the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) spent $330,000 surveying 30 miles of beaches damaged by Opal, whereas the researchers' cost for the 300 miles, not including the system's $1 million price tag, was $37,000. The Florida Department of Transportation and DEP co-sponsored the project.
"The state survey teams spent about three months, working six days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day, to survey the beach, and then they had cross sections every thousand feet," Shrestha said. "In an hour, we mapped the whole beach with measurements every two meters."
Bill Carter, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ramesh Shrestha, email@example.com
UF's mechanical engineering department, which has one of a handful of fuel-cell laboratories in the country, was given the bus by the federal government early this year. Researchers spent several months repairing it and will begin displaying it around the state in late fall or winter as part of a state-funded project to promote the new technology.
The plans come amid continuing UF research efforts aimed at improving fuel-cell systems and growing interest in the technology's potential by several big automakers, said UF mechanical engineering Professor Vernon Roan.
Spurred by a series of technical breakthroughs in recent years, major automakers are pouring money into developing fuel-cell technology. Automakers predict fuel-cell vehicles could be available as early as 2004.
"Most of the knowledgeable people are convinced that the next-generation replacement for the internal combustion engine is going to be a fuel-cell," Roan said.
Completed in 1993 with help from computer models created at UF, the bus was one of three identical, 30-foot prototype city buses built with a roughly $30 million grant, primarily from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Roan said. It was sitting unused at Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago when the DOE agreed to give it to UF for research and demonstration, he said.
Jim Fletcher, a mechanical engineering doctoral student in fuel-cell technology, said the bus is 10 percent more efficient than comparable diesel buses -- a first step in what researchers expect will one day be a far more efficient form of transportation.
"We really and truly expect that fuel-cells are going to double the fuel efficiency of the best internal combustion engines and in some cases triple it," Roan said.
Researchers are spending summer and fall ensuring the bus' reliability and developing a presentation before starting the tours. The project is paid for by a $200,000 grant from the Florida Department of Community Affairs.
Vernon Roan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Fletcher, email@example.com
Now, a University of Florida researcher is conducting large-model tests of equations aimed at cheaper, safer bridges. Coastal and oceanographic engineering Professor D. Max Sheppard's equations could slash the cost of maintaining nearly 17,000 bridges nationwide that are thought to be at risk from the natural process known as "scour."
The constant flow of water in rivers and coastal waters tends to erode or "scour" sand or soil away from bridge piers. Without support, the piers lose their ability to support the structure, increasing the risk the bridge will collapse under its own weight or fail to withstand a collision with a ship or barge.
With research support from the Florida Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), Sheppard is conducting the tests at the nation's largest man-made water channel in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. Sheppard's work at the federally owned flume will employ 1,000 tons of sand, a 3-foot-wide artificial bridge pier and nine 50-horsepower outboard motors.
Recognizing the danger posed by scouring, the FHA more than a decade ago began requiring builders to use conservative equations to predict scour depth, Sheppard said.
While those equations have led to safer bridges, they have added greatly to the cost of bridges throughout the country, Sheppard said. The equations he is testing at the Turners Falls flume are intended to more accurately predict scour with the goal of scaling back construction and improving safety, he said.
"Where these existing predictive equations are very conservative, you can save literally millions of dollars," he said. "In some of these bigger bridges, you could probably save at least $1 million on one bridge, because these bridges are very, very expensive."
The U.S. Geological Survey-owned test flume in Massachusetts is
21 feet deep, 20 feet wide and 125 feet long. For some tests, researchers
plan to sink the
3-foot-wide, 19-foot-long pile into 6 feet of sand and observe scouring depths using video cameras and acoustic measuring devices. To test the equations in fast-moving waters, they will reconfigure the flume to form a closed "race track" shape and accelerate the flow of the water using three rows of three outboard motors each.
If successful, Sheppard's equations will lead to savings, not only for new bridges but also on existing bridges, experts say.
Based on the highway administration's current equations, 16,998 bridges nationwide are thought to be at risk from scouring should a major storm arise, while 65,689 bridges have a potential to be at risk.
Max Sheppard, firstname.lastname@example.org
Although men were more confident than women that they could remember where in the house they put things, women showed greater competence in actually finding the objects, said Robin West, a UF psychology professor who designed the research project along with Duana Welch, a UF psychology graduate student. They studied men and women in the Gainesville area between the ages of 18 and 30, and 50 and 90, but they believe the findings apply to all ages.
"To say that when it comes to memory, women have more skill than confidence and men have more confidence than skill is a simplistic way to put it, but we found it to be true in this study," said West, author of the book Memory Fitness Over Forty.
Some 300 men and women participating in the study touched a computer monitor to show where they wanted to place 20 common objects in a representation of a 12-room house that appeared on the screen. They were given 10 seconds to place the items, with no more than two allowed in each room. Thirty to 45 minutes later, they were asked to recall where they put each of the items, again by touching the rooms shown on the computer screen.
"We find that many people have more difficulty with this ability as they get older," Welch said.
Studies have shown older people don't do as well at finding things, she said.
"It's essential that older adults learn to perform these kind of memory tasks in more than one setting because they can't always control the situation they're in," Welch said. "Many of them travel. Some will be institutionalized for a time in a hospital or nursing home. Many will visit relatives for an extended period of time."
The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.
Robin West, email@example.com
The largest-ever grant of its kind to a law school will be matched with $2.5 million from the State of Florida to establish the International Center for Automated Information Research (ICAIR), which will replace NCAIR. The grant requires the college to begin fund raising for an additional $20 million during the next seven years. The resulting $25 million endowment will generate earnings for grants, conferences and program support. NCAIR will provide $250,000 in start-up funds.
"This grant allows us to play a major role in the creation of technologies that meet the needs of today's legal, business and financial communities," said UF law Dean Richard Matasar, who will oversee administration of the center in collaboration with UF's Warrington College of Business Administration. "This is applied research of the very best kind. We're attacking problems that are befuddling the practicing lawyer, accountant and business executive. And almost anything that improves the quality of our practice and our profession is good for the educational process. We'll take those improvements and drive them right back into the classroom for the good of our students."
ICAIR grants will fund cutting-edge research in areas such as electronic access to information and the courts, and litigation conducted over the Internet, said UF law Professor Betty Taylor, principal drafter of UF's successful proposal to NCAIR.
"There is a very real need for better access to legal information by the courts, lawyers and clients," said Taylor, director of UF's Legal Information Center.
Next spring, ICAIR will conduct a conference for state and federal judges and court administrators on use of the Internet to improve the administration of justice. A~other initial project may involve the translation of legal and accounting materials into other languages.
Richard Matasar, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer Tragash, coordinator of UF's America Reads Challenge program, began researching the effectiveness of training reading tutors in teaching techniques and the effect it would have on children's reading test scores.
"Without fail, the reading rate increases whether the tutors are trained or untrained," Tragash said.
UF used a portion of $150,000 available in federal work-study money to hire 47 college students and study their tutoring abilities. The Alachua County School District chose children from four Gainesville-area elementary schools to participate in the program.
The university split the tutors into two groups. The first, known
as the school-based training group, received no formal instruction at the
start of the program. The second, the university-
based training group, received 20 hours of instruction in techniques such as how to teach phonics, comprehension and fluency.
To establish their reading level, the children were tested before any tutoring began, and then spent eight to 15 hours a week with the tutors. The children were retested four months later to monitor their progress.
Initial test results showed reading rates increased for all of the students, Tragash said. For some students, she said, the number of words they were able to read per minute doubled. One student went from correctly reading 15 words a minute to 35 words a minute.
Pam Tiefenbach, a curriculum resource teacher at Idylwild Elementary, said the training has made the program successful.
"It's so much easier when the students have some tricks in their pockets," she said.
In 1994, the National Assessment of Educational Progress estimated that 40 percent of America's fourth-graders were reading below the basic level.
"If children are not reading by third grade, they probably won't ever read independently as adults," Tiefenbach said.
Tragash said tutors provide the one-on-one instruction vital to an education that may be lacking in schools and at home.
Jennifer Tragash, email@example.com
In fact, more than 75 percent of the babies studied had no major problems, the same as a group of babies who were not exposed to cocaine in utero.
Earlier studies have attributed a variety of structural defects to prenatal cocaine exposure, including anomalies of the skull, heart, skeleton, gastrointestinal system and genito-urinary tract. But a series of new findings by UF researchers are serving to dispel much of the alarm generated by earlier reports of devastating effects of prenatal cocaine exposure.
"We are trying to put into perspective what the effects of prenatal cocaine exposure really are, and that's been hard to do," said Dr. Marylou Behnke, an associate professor of pediatrics at UF's College of Medicine.
The research is part of a long-range study of crack and cocaine users and their offspring, designed to assess the physical and developmental effects of prenatal cocaine exposure.
Each year, about 45,000 infants exposed to cocaine in the womb are born, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
More than 300 women ages 18 to 43 from rural areas of north- central Florida were enrolled in the two-year study after being matched for race, number of children they had given birth to previously, prenatal risk and socioeconomic status. Physicians determined drug use through in-depth patient histories obtained after each trimester and urine screening for drug metabolites when participants entered the study and when they delivered.
Using a modified checklist of 50 major anomalies, researchers who were not told about the mothers' histories examined the babies within the first four days of life and assessed them accordingly.
They found that of the 231 babies included in the study analyses (112 who were exposed to cocaine and 119 who were not), the average number of anomalies per child did not differ by group, and no infant had more than three.
Behnke conceded the long-term future of these children remains uncertain.
"It may be that whatever subtle effects cocaine exposure has are related to future problems and may have profound impacts later on as these kids get to school age," she said.
Marylou Behnke, firstname.lastname@example.org
Researchers have only recently begun to debate the effects of gender, age, hormones and other factors on the affliction. Now, preliminary findings from a major national study of women with heart disease shed new light, including information on a promising new diagnostic tool for the half of the population that -- despite popular perceptions -- has a death rate 10 times that of men.
"Part of the problem has to do with the perception of risk in the female population. For many years it was not really recognized that coronary disease was a major cause of morbidity and mortality in women," said Dr. Jannet Lewis, an associate professor of medicine at the College of Medicine.
The first details to be reported from the WISE study -- for women's ischemic syndrome evaluation -- are offering new insights, though many mysteries remain. The National Institutes of Health is funding the $7 million effort. UF has been granted $1.45 million to conduct its portion of the study.
UF cardiologists have spent the past year testing new diagnostic procedures as part of the effort to better identify and treat women with known or suspected ischemic heart disease, caused by blocked or diseased arteries, said Dr. Carl Pepine, co-director of cardiovascular medicine and principal investigator for UF's portion of the study. Lewis is co-principal investigator.
The condition is noted for an insufficient blood supply to the heart, typically due to obstruction of coronary arteries and blood vessels by fatty cholesterol deposits or disease. It can lead to sudden death or heart attack and causes the chest pain known as angina.
The exact prevalence of ischemic heart disease is unknown, though the American Heart Association estimates it accounts for at least 365,000 deaths annually among women.
Carl Pepine, email@example.com
Now the National Institutes of Health has awarded two five-year grants totaling more than $11 million to University of Florida researchers studying one of the most promising gene delivery mechanisms -- the adeno-associated virus, more commonly known in scientific circles as AAV.
Think of AAV as a car whose passengers are genes meant to correct their flawed or missing counterparts in people with an array of ailments, from cystic fibrosis to sight-robbing eye disorders such as retinitis pigmentosa. The money is slated for studies of the spinal cord, eye, heart and lung, as well as for research into other viral agents used for gene transport.
"Although it's a great idea to cure disease with genes, and we can attack diseases we couldn't attack before, we still don't have a reliable way of getting genes into the body," said Nicholas Muzyczka, a professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at UF's College of Medicine and the American Cancer Society Edward R. Koger eminent scholar. He also directs UF's Gene Therapy Center. "So the NIH requested proposals to try to design new types of gene delivery vehicles, and one of those was AAV."
UF's interest in AAV dates to the late 1970s.
"UF has been involved in AAV virology for a very long time, and that's why we have a natural strength in it here," said Dr. Terry Flotte, an assistant professor of pediatric pulmonary medicine, molecular genetics and microbiology, and co-director of the Gene Therapy Center. "We're now at the forefront in gene therapy, and our center has really taken a leading role."
Two properties set AAV apart: It infects nondividing cells (the vast majority of the body's cells) without detectable side effects, enabling genes to be placed in a variety of organs, and it induces a very low immune or inflammatory response, so the genes inserted persist after just one application.
Among the diseases slated for study with the funds are spinal cord regeneration; a common inherited form of blindness known as retinitis pigmentosa; emphysema; Pompe's disease, a genetic disorder that affects the heart muscle; sepsis; and high blood pressure.
"Gene therapy is exciting," Muzyczka said. "If it works, we're looking at something that may be as powerful as organ transplantation, that would become a major medical procedure enabling us to do something about diseases we haven't been able to touch so far."
Nicholas Muzyczka, firstname.lastname@example.org
Those are the kinds of directions German cockroaches are leaving for each other when they navigate around your kitchen, say University of Florida researchers.
And in roach research, that's big news, says entomologist Phil Koehler, of UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
"For years, researchers thought cockroaches randomly walked around your house looking for things to eat," Koehler said.
"It turns out, as they move between food and water sources and their hiding places, they are laying down a chemical trail. And now we've discovered that other cockroaches will follow the trail back to food and water sources."
That's only half the news from Koehler and his myth-busting graduate researchers, Dini Miller and Tim McCoy. They've also found that cockroaches are following their noses, or antennae, to food sources.
"These advances are exciting because they could help us develop a bait so effective that you could place just one and then all the cockroaches in the house would swarm over it, eat it and die," Koehler said.
Miller, who discovered cockroaches are following trails, said the idea that roaches forage randomly means they would have to come out of their hiding places every night and bump into food and water by accident. But roaches never seem to go hungry, so she theorized a chemical cue might guide their forays.
Researchers already knew roaches emit a sex pheromone that helps them find mates and an aggregation pheromone that helps them find safe haven. Miller thought roaches might also use pheromones in scavenging for food.
She developed an extract from roach feces and began testing it at UF's Urban Entomology Laboratory. First, she found roaches prefer to walk on fecal material rather than a clean surface. So she laid out trails and found roaches will, indeed, follow where other roaches have traveled before.
"The pheromones are communication devices between cockroaches," Miller said. "If you have an infestation and have a lot of fecal material around, it advertises, `Hey, this is a good cockroach place.'"
The fecal extract she has developed would be ideal in baits and traps because it eliminates any airborne residue, as with sprays, and is colorless and odorless.
McCoy, too, challenged the assumption that roaches stumble into dinner.
In his experiments, he starved roaches so hunger would overcome their natural first instinct toward curiosity. He found they exited their hiding places, sampled the air, then moved steadily toward the food source, ignoring all visual cues.
"It's clear they're responding to something in the air, the odor," McCoy said.
"It's taken a lot of effort to come up with a true picture of what the cockroach is doing," Koehler said. "If we can use odors to bait them or lay down trails to trap them, it will cut down on the amount of insecticide used in the home."
Phil Koehler, email@example.com
To test sunlight on shingles and hundreds of other variables, a test "home" recently was built using a variety of products found in the typical Southern house, said Michael Annucci, senior electrical technician with UF's Energy Extension Service, part of the university's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
"Currently, the specs for materials are based on Northern climates," Annucci said. "But consider that the largest portion of the world's population lives in Florida's type of climate."
The building, located at UF's Energy Research and Education Park, consists of 14 rooms, allowing scientists to test hundreds of different variables at once. The project is funded by CertainTeed Corp., a Philadelphia-based building materials manufacturer.
More than 400 sensors throughout the structure connected to a main computer give readings every five minutes, recording data such as temperature, moisture levels and humidity. On-site weather also is monitored, with computers recording outside temperature, wind speed, relative humidity and irradiance of the sun.
The 8-by-20-foot rooms are identical in size and shape; however, half have concrete-slab floors with steel trusses and studs while the other half have wood floors and crawl spaces with wooden trusses and studs.
"It's an interesting example of industry working with the university to develop and enhance their products to be more suitable in a Southern climate," said Robert Stroh, director of UF's Shimberg Center for Affordable Housing, who helped bring the project to UF.
Michael Annucci, firstname.lastname@example.org
Consumers, too, will benefit from the process, which allows juice-makers to use natural sweeteners rather than corn syrup, said Chin Shu Chen, a food engineering professor with UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Chen's process clarifies fruit juice, producing a clear juice with no pulp. Under the process, even orange juice can have the consistency of apple juice. UF has patented the process in the United States and has applied for an international patent.
Using Chen's process, pulpy fruit juice concentrates and purees can be reprocessed in citrus processing plants during the off-season using existing evaporator and membrane equipment. This allows for year-round use of the equipment and eliminates juice-makers' dependency on seasonal fruit supplies.
Because concentrates and purees can be stored several months, purees of fruits not widely available in Florida -- such as banana puree from Central America -- can be shipped here and then processed and blended with juices of Florida-grown fruits.
The potential of using clarified juice for new product development is immense, Chen says.
Orange juice concentrate that is clarified does not have to be frozen and mixes more readily with water than traditional concentrate. It also has a longer shelf life than orange juice concentrate.
"It's an issue of convenience," Chen said. "This juice can be placed in the chilled juice section of the supermarket instead of the frozen food section."
The process also makes other new juice products possible. For example, banana puree is a favored ingredient in blended fruit juices but has limitations because of its thickness. Taking out the pulp would improve its appearance and allow wider use, Chen says.
Banana juice imparts a sweet, neutral taste that would allow processors to sweeten fruit juices without altering flavors.
"You can add clear banana juice to orange or grapefruit juice and it still tastes like orange or grapefruit juice," Chen said.
Health-conscious consumers also benefit. Currently, most juice drinks contain corn syrup and little fruit juice, Chen said. Under his process, clarified banana juice can be substituted to make healthier, 100-percent natural fruit juices.
Chen says growers of smaller fruit crops, like strawberries and blueberries, will now be able to process what they can't sell in the fresh market.
"Some fruit are abandoned because they are worth less than the cost to pick at the end of the season," he says. "If we process this puree into juice, however, we can supply the juice concentrate to the multibillion-dollar beverage industry."
Chin Shu Chen, email@example.com
It survives floods and encourages fire. And it's multiplying at a rate that scares state environmental officials like an old horror movie at the Saturday matinee.
The frightening plant is a tiny fern swallowing up thousands of acres of south-central Florida's pinelands, cypress swamps and Everglades tree islands. It's called the Old World climbing fern, or Lygodium microphyllum, and researchers from UF's Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences are trying to determine the best way to control this aggressive plant.
"The Lygodium kills understory vegetation and even mature trees by blocking out the light," said Randall Stocker, director of UF's Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. "Because it forms such a tangled canopy, it is very tough to deal with and hard to walk through."
The fern, covering an estimated 39,000 acres, could double its territory by next year but is relatively easy to kill with herbicides, Stocker said. The problem is getting rid of the dead vines that shroud trees and completely cover forest floors. The thick, strong vines form dense mats that alter the flow of streams and halt other natural processes.
Unlike the disturbing kudzu that grows unruly in Southeastern states such as Georgia, stems from the Old World climbing fern do not decay in a reasonable time. Resource managers say it could take more than five years for the dead vines to rot.
It is believed that nurseries near Jupiter may have introduced the fern to Florida from Asia in the 1960s. Its soft, attractive leaves make beautiful hanging baskets that appeal to plant lovers.
The leaf of the Lygodium climbs, twines and branches freely so it resembles a long stem with little leaves, Stocker said. Each leaf from the fern can grow up to 100 feet long.
In a 300-acre area west of Jupiter that includes hydric hammocks, flatwood cypress and former agricultural land, field tests are determining the best method for killing the menacing vine and purging the environmentally sensitive land of its stubborn and destructive remains.
Besides overwhelming other plants, the Lygodium poses a dangerous threat to the state's fire management by providing fuel ladders into tree crowns, as well as increasing fire spotting when lightweight clumps of burning fern are carried by the wind.
"The fern has altered natural fire ecology by greatly increasing the intensity of both wild and prescribed fires," Stocker said. "Native species that easily survive the intensity of normal fires can be killed by the intense heat from fires involving the fern."
Randall Stocker, firstname.lastname@example.org
The research professors were selected by their college deans based on recommendations from their department chairs, a personal statement and an evaluation of their recent research productivity, measured by such criteria as publications in books and scholarly journals, external funding and development of intellectual property.
UFRF plans to fund a total of up to 90 active professorships at any given time. The professorships are funded from the university's share of royalty and licensing income on UF-generated products.
Since it was founded in 1986 to enhance research at the University of Florida, UFRF has become the primary vehicle for handling research and intellectual property interactions with private companies and foundations. Today, it manages more than 800 grants and some 60 licensed technologies.
1998-99 UFRF Professors
Ronald L. Akers - Sociology
Linda Arbuckle - Fine Arts
Mark Atkinson - Pathology, Immunology &
Rodney Bartlett - Chemistry
William Calin - Romance Languages & Literatures
Stanley F. Dermott - Astronomy
J. Bert Flanegan - Molecular Genetics & Microbiology
Donald Forrester - Veterinary Medicine
Henry Gholz - Forest Resources & Conservation
Robin Giblin-Davis - Fort Lauderdale Research & Education Center
Dennis J. Gray - Central Florida Research & Education Center
Paul Hargrave - Ophthalmology
David A. Hodell - Geology
Sally Hutchinson - Nursing
Lonnie O. Ingram - Microbiology & Cell Science
Kevin Jones - Materials Science & Engineering
Mark Law - Electrical & Computer Engineering
M. David Miller - Education
Ivar Mjor - Dentistry
Vasudha Narayanan - Religion
Panos Padalos - Industrial & Systems Engineering
Juan Perea - Law
Mohan Raizada - Physiology
Suresh Rao - Soil & Water Sciences
Neil Rowland - Psychology
Rosalia Simmen - Animal Science
Steven Shugan - Marketing
William Thatcher - Dairy & Poultry Sciences
Deborah Treise - Advertising
Don Walker - Neuroscience