UNLV’s astronomy researchers reached for infinity and beyond in October with two major deep-space studies — one discovering evidence of the first planet to orbit three stars and another dissecting the mystery of a massive cluster of fast radio bursts. Back on Earth, public health concerns continued as experts parsed the convergence of flu season and the COVID-19 pandemic. On the business side of things, university experts spoke about the wide-scale changes percolating in Las Vegas’s biggest industries. In addition to that, UNLV’s Small Business Development Center announced a partnership with the city of North Las Vegas on a one-stop shop for small business owners seeking entrepreneurial guidance. Finally, the story of one UNLV student’s life-saving heroics is garnering well-deserved recognition.
Read on to learn about all this and more in the latest edition of UNLV Newsmakers.
Medical School Student Puts Classroom Lessons In Action
Elizabeth (Liz) Groesbeck, a third-year Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine student, was recognized in October for her heroism while helping render aid to an accident victim. In August, Groesbeck was on her way to a Raiders game when she crossed paths with a pedestrian who lost a limb in a near-fatal hit-and-run car crash. The EMT-certified student jumped out of her rideshare to apply crucial aid to the man before ambulances arrived. Her quick thinking helped save his life. The Raiders presented Groesbeck with Super Bowl tickets and Clark County commissioners named Oct. 5 in her honor.
- KLAS-TV: 8 News Now (twice), Medscape, MD Edge, Las Vegas Sun (twice), Las Vegas Review-Journal, El Tiempo, Germanic.
Stand Back Tatooine: Three-Star Planetary System Discovered
UNLV’s latest scientific discovery has left many reminiscing about the home of Luke Skywalker, a binary star system by the name of Tatooine — except, it gets better. UNLV researchers have discovered evidence of a planet orbiting three stars at once, in what’s known as a rare circumtriple orbit. The planet lies in GW Ori, a star system 1,300 light years from Earth in the constellation of Orion. Though the planet remains hypothetical, the finding could enrich astronomers’ understanding of planetary formation and how objects can form under extreme circumstances.
- Jeremy Smallwood, lead author on the study and a recent UNLV graduate, was quoted about the research’s significance: Forbes, New York Times, Salon, Mashable, Nerdist, Live Science, CNET, Phys.Org, New Scientist, Space.com, The Seattle Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, El Tiempo, KSNV-TV: News 3 (twice), Nouvelles du monde, and Germanic.
Mysterious Cosmic Source Goes on a Rant
Sounds like some stars out there were feeling jittery. Early in October, UNLV was part of an international study that uncovered the largest-ever set of fast radio bursts (FRBs) detected from one source in deep space to date. A flurry of more than 1,650 FRBs detected by the FAST telescope over 47 days in 2019 unlocks clues to the nature and location of the powerful millisecond-long cosmic radio explosions.
- Bing Zhang, UNLV astrophysicist and a lead author of the study, was quoted about how the deep-dive research on FRB 121102 has the potential to shed new light on what fuels fast radio bursts as a whole: CNN, Vice, Salon, Newsweek, Tech Explorist, Science Daily, Sky & Telescope, New Atlas, EurekAlert!, and Germanic.
Small Business Center Lends a Helping Hand
When the pandemic storm unleashed a tornado of hardships for local business owners, UNLV’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) was there for hundreds of entrepreneurs who needed help. In addition to offering guidance on loans and business plans, the center teamed with North Las Vegas officials by stationing two advisors at the city’s Small Business Connector, a new SBDC satellite office to make business advice even more accessible to the public.
COVID and Flu Season Double Trouble
Like Michael Myers, COVID just won’t stay down. To make matters worse, COVID is now being joined by its distant cousin, influenza, as temperatures drop. With the two viruses sharing a number of similar symptoms and both circulating in the air concurrently, university experts advised people on how to protect themselves from both.
- Updates on the vaccine mandate: Las Vegas Sun, KTNV-TV: ABC 13 (twice), KSNV-TV: News 3, and KLAS-TV: 8 News Now.
- Brian Labus, UNLV epidemiologist, spoke about several COVID-related topics, including: booster shot approval, rapid COVID test accessibility, mixing-and-matching shots, and what COVID precautions to take for specific situations.
- Rapid tests & mix-match shots: Associated Press, Las Vegas Sun, KSNV-TV: News 3, KLAS-TV: 8 News Now, and Yahoo!.
- Booster shots & precautions: Runner’s World, KNPR, Las Vegas Review-Journal, KTNV-TV: ABC 13 (twice), (three times)
- School of Medicine professor Edwin Oh explained to KSNV-TV: News 3, KTNV-TV: ABC 13, and Yahoo! how he’ll track this season’s most prevalent influenza strains using similar techniques that he used to surveil COVID strains in wastewater.
- The Nevada Independent featured an article written by Brookings Public Policy student researcher Olivia Cheche on the gap in vaccination rates between Black Nevadans and those of white, Asian, and Latino residents.
- Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine dean Marc J. Kahn talked about how COVID has impacted minority groups on Voice of America (twice).
- The Las Vegas Review-Journal talked to David Glenn Weismiller, medical professor, about the possibility of a “twindemic.”
World of Gaming, Tourism Seeing Prosperity
Las Vegas' big three industry giants — gaming, hospitality, and tourism — saw a busy October. Many experts observed that these industries are in a state of flux, with pandemic-related pivots on the horizon. Although the large-scale changes are dizzying, experts say that they might be needed to evolve into something even better.
- Asia Gaming Brief interviewed Brett Abarbanel, director of research at the International Gaming Institute, on the increasingly blurred lines between gaming and gambling.
- Fox Business reflected on Las Vegas’s gambling history with resident gaming historian David G. Schwartz. He also spoke about the Hard Rock casino expansion plans in New York: Associated Press, The Washington Post, Bloomberg, and Yahoo!.
- Alan Feldman, distinguished fellow in responsible gaming, spoke about Las Vegas’s post-pandemic recovery and received recognition for his many years of service in the gaming industry: Travel Weekly, Northern Nevada Business Weekly, GGB News (twice), GGB Magazine Podcast, and The Nevada Independent.
- USA Today featured quotes from hospitality professor Mehmet Erdem on the topic of hotel cleaning systems changing after COVID.
General Expert Round-Up
- Austin Horng-En Wang, political science professor, was quoted in Al Jazeera about the tense political situation between China and Taiwan.
- Jeffrey L. Cummings, renowned Alzheimer’s disease researcher, commented on the repurposing of the drug, bumetanide, to treat Alzheimer’s disease and continued to inform the media about Aducanumab’s pros and cons: STAT, The Scientist, MarketScreener, and Neurology Link.
- Research professor Kristen Averyt spoke about the historic drought in the American Southwest and measures to prevent it from worsening for future generations: NBC News, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Las Vegas Sun, and El Tiempo.
- MEL Magazine highlighted how The Optimum Performance Program in Sports (TOPPS), a mental health training method spearheaded by psychologist Brad Donohue, can help athletes, first responders, and others turn anger into a conductive force.
- Nancy Lough, co-director of UNLV’s Sports Research and Innovation Initiative, talked to the New York Times over the precedent the Raiders must set going forward after former coach Jon Gruden’s racially insensitive comments.
- Verywell Mind and communications professor Natalie Pennington teamed up to discuss work-related stress amid the growing digital era.
- Michael Green, Nevada historian, encouraged Nevadans to help protect historic sites that are in danger of being lost: KSNV-TV: News 3, and Nevada State News.
- Social behavioral health professor Melva Thompson-Robinson looked into HPV vaccine hesitancy among Hispanic populations with Verywell Mind.
- David Damore, political science chair, gave his early predictions on The Hill ahead of the 2022 Senate race.
- Fox Business analyzed the implications the wide scale shipping backlog in California will have on businesses with economics professor Stephen Miller.
- Mashable asked astronomer Jason Steffen about what makes the James Webb telescope launch revolutionary.
- Social work professor Nicholas Barr gave insight on veteran housing and the influx of residents at the Desert Moon Motel home: MoneyGeek, Los Angeles Times, and Yahoo!.
- Philosophy professor Amy Reed-Sandoval went on the FAB Gab to talk abortion bans and pandemic ethics.
- Bloomberg Law quoted law professor Jean Sternlight on the increase of arbitration escalation in work-related cases.
- William Bauer, history professor, guest starred on KPFA to ruminate on California’s history with enslaving Indigenous people.
- Architecture professor Steffen Lehmann discussed the concept of “rewilding” urban areas with Bloomberg CityLab.
- College of Urban Affairs dean Robert R. Ulmer, criminal justice chair Joel D. Lieberman, and criminal justice instructor Daniel Holstein spoke with U.S. News & World Report about the College of Urban Affairs’ partnership with CSI show creator Anthony Zuiker to teach students in a mock crime scene.
- UNLV film professor Warren Cobb spoke to KTNV-TV:ABC 13 and KVVU-TV: Fox 5 Vegas about safety on movie sets following the tragic death of a prominent cinematographer.