Forensic science professor joins steering committee of Science and Human Rights Coalition

 

Researchers identifying human remains at a grave site.

Tal Simmons, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Forensic Science, has helped to lead projects documenting and identifying human remains in the former Yugoslavia, Cyprus, Sri Lanka and elsewhere.

Tal Simmons, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Forensic Science in the College of Humanities and Sciences, has been appointed to the steering committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Science and Human Rights Coalition, a network of scientific and engineering membership organizations that recognize a role for scientists and engineers in human rights.

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Words from the wise: Five longtime professors reflect on their 20-plus years of teaching at VCU

Headshots of five VCU professors against a blue background.Have you ever taken a class with a professor who taught one of your parents? With more than 2,300 full-time faculty members at Virginia Commonwealth University, including many who have been here for several decades, that scenario does happen on occasion.

We asked five professors who have two decades or more of VCU teaching experience to share their experiences, favorite moments and lessons learned throughout the years.

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Cardio-oncology expert appointed as first director of VCU Health Pauley Heart Center

Pauley Heart Center Consotorium, Dr. Greg Hundley

Greg Hundley, M.D., a graduate of the VCU School of Medicine, will serve as Pauley Heart Center’s inaugural director.

William Gregory Hundley, M.D. (M.D.’88/M), has joined VCU Health Pauley Heart Center as its inaugural director. A Richmond native and VCU School of Medicine alumnus, Hundley is recognized for studying the impact of chemotherapy and radiation therapy on heart health, advancing treatment options for patients in need of cardiovascular and oncology care. He also will serve as clinical director of noninvasive cardiology at VCU Medical Center and on the senior advisory committee at VCU Massey Cancer Center as a member of Massey’s Cancer Prevention and Control research program.

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VCU Health surgeon is first on East Coast to complete robotic-assisted kidney implantation

A team of doctors leaning over a patient on an operating table.

Robotic-assisted transplantation is the latest technical milestone in kidney transplant surgery and demands a level of technical expertise that few transplant centers in the country possess.

A surgeon at the VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center is the first on the East Coast to successfully complete a kidney implantation using the da Vinci Surgical System. Along with an interdisciplinary medical team, Chandra Bhati, M.D., associate professor of surgery at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, implanted a kidney from a living organ donor to a recipient on June 19. During robotic-assisted kidney implantations, the surgeon relies on the surgical system’s robotic arms to complete the procedure and does not use hands to assist with the surgery.

“With this surgery, we are able to offer kidney transplantation to obese people who traditionally have been denied the procedure,” Bhati said, emphasizing that the main benefit of robotic-assisted kidney transplantation is the availability to people who are obese. In obese people whose body mass index is between 35 and 40, the wound infection rate with traditional kidney transplantation is between 30 and 40 percent. The increased risk of infections and other complications leads most transplant surgeons to recommend against kidney transplantation for obese patients.

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Scientist, artist, inventor, dean: The many sides of Shawn Brixey

After two semesters at VCU, Shawn Brixey sees the School of the Arts in the position of upholding a large legacy, while at the same time projecting into the future.

At first glance, Shawn Brixey’s lab looks like any other in the Virginia Commonwealth University College of Engineering.

For starters, there are optical isolation tables, lasers, video microscopes, circuit board printers, oscilloscopes, and computer numeric control machine tools. It looks and feels a lot like a hybrid physics/engineering lab.

Brixey, dean of the VCU School of the Arts since July, is perhaps the first art school dean to have a laboratory rather than a studio. To be sure, Brixey is a rarity — equal parts artist and scientist.

With strong arts, design, science and engineering knowledge — and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology education — Brixey is equally comfortable among scientists as he is with artists. He recognizes that scientists share the same sense of awe and wonder, derived from the same place, as artists.

“We use different methodology and we approach creative problem solving differently,” he said. “But one of our fundamental goals is as we experience the structure and behavior of the world around us through observation, experiment, intervention and expression, we both want to discover what it means to be human and then document that in ways that no one’s ever really imagined.”

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VCU forensic science professor’s breakthrough in cell imaging could have major impact in crime labs

Unlike traditional forensic testing methods, Christopher Ehrhardt’s procedure can be used to identify different cell types in a sample without damaging the sample.

A Virginia Commonwealth University researcher has developed a procedure for identifying the source of cells present in a forensic biological sample that could change how cell types are identified in samples across numerous industries.

Many traditional techniques for distinguishing between saliva, blood, skin or vaginal tissue in an evidence sample are based on microchemical reactions that can be prone to false-positive or false-negative results, according to the researcher, Christopher Ehrhardt, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Forensic Science in the College of Humanities and Sciences. Additionally, they may be difficult to use on aged or heavily degraded samples.

“The information is often limited,” Ehrhardt said. “And when using conventional methods, you have to be prepared to consume part of the sample in most cases, which decreases the value of it.”

A new positioning system invented by a VCU professor delivers where GPS fails

Wei Cheng’s system allows a group of devices to know where they are in relation to one another, and could have hundreds of practical applications, from finding a friend at a concert to locating a Lyft driver at the airport.

A Virginia Commonwealth University computer science professor has developed a system that could change how we find friends in crowded places, Uber drivers in busy cities, and even family spread across a cruise ship.

Unlike GPS, which provides location data based on latitude and longitude, this new system — invented by Wei Cheng, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science in the College of Engineering — tells users where they are compared to others.

The system allows a group of devices to know where they are in relation to one another, what direction each device is traveling, and how fast each is moving.

“Think of this technology like a swarm of bees,” Cheng said. “The bees all know where the other bees are, and where they’re going.”

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Community remembers Rebecca Tyree, beloved VCU music educator

Rebecca “Becky” Tyree.

When organizers of a memorial service for Rebecca Tyree decided to form a makeshift chorus for the occasion, they put out a call for volunteers. Tyree had served as an assistant professor of choral music education and choral ensembles in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts until her death on May 24 after a bicycle accident, and the chorus seemed like a fitting tribute to her work. The organizers’ intentions were modest.

“We thought, ‘Oh, maybe some people will want to sing,’” said Erin Freeman, D.M.A., director of choral activities at VCU.

Then the replies started to come in. Former and current students from VCU. Her faculty colleagues. Local high school students she privately tutored. Performers from the Richmond Symphony Chorus. Representatives of SPARC Live Art, where she oversaw a program for special needs children. Members of the RVA Street Singers, a choir of homeless people she helped organize. Even former students and colleagues from Hermitage High School, where she had taught nearly 20 years ago.

By the time rehearsal started in the sanctuary of Second Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, more than 170 people had assembled to sing in Tyree’s honor. Freeman said the astonishing turnout was an apt illustration of Tyree’s profound and wide-ranging impact on the Richmond music community and her ability to heal others, even after her death.

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How do we view the Syrian refugee crisis? A new study looks to Instagram and Pinterest for answers

Sentiments about the Syrian refugee crisis are increasingly being expressed on social media. A new study led by Jeanine Guidry, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture, provides new insight into what and how information about Syrian refugees is being shared.

As millions of Syrians have fled their country’s civil war, the influx of refugees has prompted both humanitarian efforts to help them as well as growing views of refugees as a threat to the receiving countries’ security and autonomy.

Sentiments about the refugee crisis are increasingly expressed on social media. A new study led by Jeanine Guidry, Ph.D. (Ph.D.’17/M), an assistant professor in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture in the College of Humanities and Sciences, provides new insight into what and how information about Syrian refugees is being shared.

The study, “Welcome or Not: Comparing #Refugee Posts on Instagram and Pinterest,” was a quantitative content analysis of a random sample of 750 Instagram posts and 750 Pinterest posts to evaluate and compare visual and textual messaging surrounding the crisis.

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VCU professors join elite biomedical engineering group

Three Virginia Commonwealth University professors have joined the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, an elite group that comprises the top 2 percent of medical and biological engineers nationally.

AIMBE inducted Gregory Buck, Ph.D., of the VCU School of Medicine, and B. Frank Gupton, Ph.D. (Ph.D.’00/,H&S) and Lukasz Kurgan, Ph.D., both of the VCU School of Engineering, into its prestigious College of Fellows Class of 2018 on Monday at a formal induction ceremony during AIMBE’s 27th annual meeting.

These inductions bring the university’s total number of AIMBE Fellows to 12.

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