Was there ever life on Mars?
Why is it getting hotter in Las Vegas?
Can we find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease?
The people of UNLV set out to answer these questions and more in 2019. While we may not have all of the answers yet, the work being done in laboratories and classrooms around campus and across multiple disciplines is indicative of a collective spirit geared toward making the community and world a better place.
More than 31,000 students, staff and faculty members traverse the walkways, classrooms and laboratories around UNLV’s campus each day. This is just a small, but mighty, sampling of the people of UNLV making it happen.
Dispatches from the Red Planet
Martian rocks and soil samples might hold the answers to one of science’s greatest mysteries: was there ever life on Mars? UNLV geoscience professor Elisabeth "Libby" Hausrath will be among the first to hold those answers in her hands.
Hausrath will be a part of a team of scientists — chosen by NASA — to select the rocks, soils and other related samples that the historic Mars 2020 rover mission will bring back to Earth. The samples, Hausrath said, “have the capacity to fundamentally transform our understanding of that planet.”
Her once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was captured by several media outlets this fall:
New Football and Basketball Coaches Take the Helm
New eras are underway for UNLV’s flagship men's athletics programs. This spring, the university welcomed T.J. Otzelberger as the new head coach of Runnin’ Rebels basketball, and earlier this month, UNLV named Marcus Arroyo as the new head coach for men’s football.
Otzelberger joined UNLV after leading the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits to two NCAA Tournaments, and Arroyo celebrated his welcome into the Rebel family just a week after winning the Pac-12 football championship as the offensive coordinator of the Oregon Ducks.
The possibilities for how research can make a difference in the lives of Nevadans can be found on every corner of campus. UNLV’s new Department of Brain Health is the latest enterprise to join the university’s effort to advance science for the benefit of society.
The department, which is being led by chair Jefferson Kinney, and research professor Jeffrey Cummings, will investigate the causes of and treatments for neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. And with the influx of professional sports in Las Vegas, Kinney is leading a group of UNLV researchers and community partners to tackle traumatic brain injuries in athletes.
- Kinney talks brain health research in a Fox 5 segment, and explains UNLV’s new interdisciplinary effort to study traumatic brain injury in athletes on KSNV-TV.
- Kinney and research professor Jeffrey Cummings were among panelists featured on a Vegas PBS segment about Alzheimer's disease.
A Changing Climate
The latest national survey from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found that the highest percentage of Americans since their surveys began are “extremely” or “very” sure global warming is happening. It’s no surprise, therefore, that climate change is an area of study that touches multiple labs and classrooms in a variety of ways across UNLV’s campus.
George Rhee, a professor of physics and astronomy at UNLV, is helping Nevada address the problem of climate change through an online calculator he created that determines the state’s total fossil fuel demand by 2050, based on a range of renewable energy options chosen by the user.
Emma Frances Bloomfield, an assistant professor of communication studies at UNLV, is contributing to the climate change conversation by helping people better communicate about science and the environment. She developed a new method for categorizing climate change beliefs and has studied tactics for communicating with deniers.
With the ever increasing images of out-of-control wildfires, intense flooding, and declining animal species, several other UNLV researchers were called upon to offer insight into a problem that continues to gain traction in the minds of Americans and people around the globe. Former Vice President Al Gore also offered his insight on the topic during a discussion with the campus community in late April. Speaking to a packed audience at UNLV's Ham Hall, Gore assessed the impacts of an increasingly warmer world and offered suggestions on how everyone can contribute to the Global Sustainability Revolution. Prior to the talk, Gore and UNLV President Marta Meana met with students from UNLV's Solar Decathlon team, which is designing and building a solar-powered home – nicknamed Mojave Bloom – for an international competition in 2020.
- Climate change calculator: KNPR, Las Vegas Sun
- Conversing about climate change: Grist (twice), Fast Company, Variety, The Nevada Independent
- Matthew Lachniet, professor of geology, weighs in: Mashable, KNPR
- UNLV Research Professor Kristen Averyt talks with The Nevada Independent on local climate change coordination. She also spoke with KNPR and Public News Service.
- Steffen Lehmann on the urban heat island effect: KDWN, Nevada Current, Las Vegas Sun, KNPR
- Shawn McCoy, assistant professor of economics, on the price impact of homes in wildfire zones after a fire occurred nearby: The Denver Post, Bankrate, U.S. News & World Report
- Scientist Dale Devitt weighed in how the changing climate impacts local trees: Las Vegas Sun
- A conversation with Al Gore: Las Vegas Review-Journal, Las Vegas Sun, KSNV-TV: News 3, KNPR, Nevada Current, KTNV-TV: ABC 13
Detectives at work
A group of UNLV history students have spent the past several months working to preserve an important part of Nevada and Hollywood history. The students learned how to become 'history detectives' — using seemingly mundane clues such as paint colors, clothing materials and styles to decipher and catalog details of artifacts at Walking Box Ranch. The historic ranch in Searchlight was built in 1931 by legendary silent film stars Rex Bell and Clara Bow as a way to escape the hustle and bustle of Hollywood.
A second group of students were solving mysteries of a different nature — these mysteries were found beneath yellow crime tape. In 2019, UNLV’s College of Urban Affairs debuted Urban Adventure, a new class that immerses students in the middle of a mock crime scene. The experiential, scenario-based class asks students to utilize core skills and knowledge from across all Urban Affairs disciplines to investigate a crime while also exploring the effects a crime can have on a community.
- History detectives: Las Vegas Review-Journal, KLAS-TV
- Urban Adventure: KVVU-TV, KLAS-TV, Las Vegas Sun
Business and Engineering Wins
What’s the best way to freshen the perception of a legacy newspaper, and grow its membership? How can a small business owner — who sells empanadas — reach her profit goals? These are the questions that marketing and accounting students, respectively, set out to answer during competitions this year. UNLV’s American Marketing Association team won first place in the collegiate case competition in New Orleans during the AMA International Collegiate Conference last month, and for the third year in a row, UNLV accounting students won the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) annual National Student Case Competition.
Across campus at the UNLV College of Engineering, student teams showcased innovative solutions to real world challenges during the Fred and Harriet Cox Senior Design Competition, which was held in both the spring and fall semesters.
- Marketing win: Las Vegas Review-Journal
- Accounting win: Las Vegas Review-Journal
- Engineering competition: KLAS-TV, KSNV-TV (twice)
Championing a Cause
On a busy day at UNLV, you'll likely find high-achieving senior Skye Dunfield bustling to and from her classes at the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs. You'll also find her guide dog, Cindi, at her side. Dunfield, who is legally blind, took over the college's social media page earlier this year to help answer questions and debunk stereotypes of blind people. She also took her message up to Carson City, where she advocated on behalf of blind people before the Nevada Legislature.
And in addition to maintaining a 3.9 GPA, the criminal justice major has also been working to make UNLV’s social media posts more accessible to the visually- and hearing-impaired:
From the measles outbreak and changes in the federal tax law, to a national debate on gender equality and a search for aliens at Area 51, UNLV professors and researchers were called upon to provide context and lend their expertise to myriad topics making local, regional, national and international news headlines. Below is just a small sampling of their compelling contributions.
Prepping for Tax Season
After the holiday season ends, another one quickly follows. While it’s not celebrated with lights, cookies and presents, a refund might be in your future. Boyd School of Law Professor Francine Lipman has all of your answers about tax season:
Separating Facts from Myths
In 2019, nearly 1,300 cases of measles were reported in the U.S. — the greatest number since 1992. Johan C. Bester, UNLV School of Medicine Bioethics Director, offered insight on the role of vaccinations and how they keep Americans healthy:
Aliens (or not) at Area 51
When paranormal enthusiasts descended upon Nevada to storm Area 51, UNLV sociologist and pop culture expert Michael Ian Borer was ready to answer all of our burning questions about the trends that fueled revelers’ interest in this social media phenomenon:
Claytee White, director of the Oral History Research Center, is leading an effort to document the stories of individuals and groups who make up Southern Nevada’s Latino population. Latinx individuals have made crucial contributions to the development of Southern Nevada, and the new project is aimed at expanding the diversity of the voices that Special Collections and Archives preserves:
Explaining Earthquake Risk
When Southern Nevada residents felt the ripples of two California earthquakes this summer, it's no surprise that local media called upon UNLV geoscientist Wanda Taylor to give us answers.
Taylor, who has studied active faults in Nevada for decades, weighed in on the region's earthquake risk and related preparedness strategies:
Fashion Faux Pas
History professor and fashion/culture expert Deirdre Clemente talked to several media outlets about the changing social norms around athleisure, power suits, and wearing leggings to work:
Setting Planets to Music
UNLV astronomer Jason Steffen has spent years studying exoplanets — planets that orbit distant stars — and has also dabbled in music theory. What do you get when you put the two together? An out-of-this-world musical of sorts. Steffen explains that music might be able to reveal insights on these very far away celestial bodies:
Gender Equity and Mental Wellness in Sports
The historic U.S. Women's National Soccer Team win this year energized a national debate on gender equality not only in sports, but in all workplace environments. College of Education Title IX researcher Nancy Lough and Rachael Robnett, a developmental psychologist, weighed in.
Mental wellness in athletes was another important topic this year. Brad Donohue, psychology professor and founder of The Optimum Performance Program in Sports (TOPPS), continued to spread the word about the link between mental health and sports.
- Nancy Lough: Vegas PBS, Authority Magazine, The Ultimate Sports Parent Podcast, The New York Times
- Rachael Robnett: Fast Company
- Brad Donohue: Las Vegas Review-Journal, The Ultimate Sports Parent Podcast, Everyday Health
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