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Rachel O'Neill, Ph.D.

Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, Molecular & Cell Biology and Institute for Systems Genomics

Dr. O'Neill's research projects use molecular genetic approaches to study centromere function and evolution

Cancer Susceptibility Genomics Genome Stability

Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Dr. Oeldorf-Hirsch's research focuses on information sharing on social media, particularly in the areas of news, science, and well-being.

Science Communication News Engagement Computer-mediated communication Communication Technology Social Media Media Effects Human-Computer Interaction Health Communication

Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar, Ph.D.

Professor of History

Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar’s research interests include the 20th century United States, with a focus in African American history.

African American Studies U.S. Popular Culture Black Nationalism Social History Twentieth-Century United States

Sherry Pagoto, Ph.D.

Professor of Allied Health Sciences

Leveraging technology for health promotion and disease prevention

Health Behavior Sun Safety Skin Cancer Prevention Digital Health Social Media Exercise Diet Obesity

Joseph Pancras, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Marketing

Expert in retail competition

Competitive Marketing Strategy Customer relationship management (CRM) using Digital Marketing and Analytics Retail Competition Customer and Marketing Relationality Targeted Marketing in Mobile and Digital Media Cross-category and cross-media marketing

Crystal Park, Ph.D.

Professor of Psychology

Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of Connecticut

Meaning Making Psychology of Religiousness and Spirituality Stress, Trauma and Coping Yoga Research Cancer Survivorship

Linda Pescatello, Ph.D., FACSM, FAHA

Distinguished Professor of Kinesiology

Dr. Pescatello specializes in exercise prescription for health benefit

Blood Pressure Cardiovascular Disease Complementary and Alternative Exercise Exercise Genomics Exercise Prescription Hypertension Obesity Physical Activity

Felicia Pratto, Ph.D.

Professor of Psychological Sciences

Psychology expert, specializing in race and sex discrimination and intergroup dynamics

Terrorism and counter-terrorism Xenophobia Prejudice, tace- and sex- discrimination in hiring Homophobia Violations of International Humanitarian Law in war-time

Jeremy Pressman, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Political Science, Director of Middle East Studies

Dr. Pressman specializes in the Arab-Israeli peace process, US foreign policy, and the scope of political protests in the United States.

Political Protests Middle East Peace Process Arab-Israeli Conflict

Rebecca Puhl, Ph.D.

Professor of Human Development and Family Studies

Clinical psychology expert, specializing in the study of bullying and weight stigmatization

Weight Discrimination Weight Stigma Weight-based bullying
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Our Experts Weigh In

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It's a fabulous fall - and our expert can explain why all those colors come out this time of year

Autumn has arrived.  And as we all take time to welcome this wonderous palette that nature delivers year after year, those who are curious about all those colors are looking for answers. Why there are so many different shades, tints, and tones? What causes the colors to change? And where's the best place to find one of nature's finest displays of leaves? It's a topic that comes up every year, and recently Connecticut Public Radio connected with UConn's Bob Fahey to get some of the answers about autumn in New England. I ventured into a forest in northeastern Connecticut with two UConn tree experts. We met up at Horsebarn Hill, one of the best viewpoints in the state, surveying a rolling river valley showing off with fall colors. We see oaks just starting to turn red. Nearby hickories provide a dash of yellow – and, of course, the maples are already stealing the show, even on a cloudy day. Here’s what I found out: Our trees are diverse One reason the foliage is so good is simply due to the number of species we have. “We have a very diverse hardwood forest in this part of New England,” said Bob Fahey, an associate professor and forest ecologist at UConn. “We have both species that are more southern species and also some of the more northern species.” “In comparison to say, the Mid-Atlantic or other places that have lots of deciduous species, we have maples, which are just the best,” he said. “We also have a number of species that have nice yellow foliage,” he said. “Birches and beech. If you go a little bit farther south from here, mostly what you have is oaks. And oaks can have good fall foliage colors, but there are a lot of times they don't and they don't last for as long.” We have lots and lots of trees The diversity of species provides a diversity of color, said Tom Worthley, an associate extension professor and a forester at UConn. He asked me to remember the last time I flew over Connecticut. What did you see, he asked. Lots of trees, right? “Most of the ground is covered by a tree canopy,” Worthley said, noting that some estimates put that tree canopy cover at around 75% of the land area of the whole state. “Back where we were standing a few minutes ago, we had some cherry trees,” Worthley said, his eyes scanning the trees enveloping us. “There's a few remnant ash, there's some walnut around the edges here. And let's see, some hickory.” A walnut tree towers over us – and there are even some white pines. It’s that varied bioscape that sets New England forests apart. “Even in my two-acre forest behind my house, I have 22 different species of tree, which is more than some regions of the northern part of the U.S.,” Fahey said. Travel to the west, and what you’re likely to see are lots of evergreens and aspen trees. “Not that there aren't others, there are plenty of others, but not in the same abundance and not in the same kind of mix that we have around here,” Worthley said. Climate plays a role Across New England are rolling hills with microclimates that can contribute to vibrant fall colors. “You’ll see ... highly different color in different parts of the landscape, which has to do with temperature differences,” Fahey said. Combine that with Connecticut’s mix of southern and northern species and the colors here might not be as exciting and bright as what you would see in Vermont and New Hampshire, Fahey said. But our foliage season can sometimes last a little bit longer. One reason? Oaks. “We have so much more of that oak component,” Fahey said. “The oaks will hold their leaves until the end of October.” Moisture, temperature and the amount of daylight all contribute to how long it takes for a tree to shed its leaves. And, for each species, the calculation is different. “A tree makes an economic decision,” Worthley said. “It decides, ‘Well, it's costing more in energy to keep these leaves going than what they're producing for me and so it's time to shut them off.’” Why do leaves fall anyway? It’s when leaves are green that the most important work is happening, pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and giving us oxygen. And for that green color, we can thank the pigment chlorophyll. “The color that's in the leaves – is always there from the time the leaf is grown,” Worthley said. “As the growing season fades, the chlorophyll disappears,” he said. Then the other colors in the leaf can begin to show off. Pigments like anthocyanins (reds and purples) and carotenoids (yellows and oranges) peek out, tiny threads in an autumnal blanket transforming New England’s green forests into a richly colored landscape. The colors are out - but only for a limited time.  If you're a journalist looking to know more about this topic before all the leaves fall, then let us help. Dr. Fahey is an Associate Professor in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment and Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the University of Connecticut. He is also the George F. Cloutier Professor in Forestry, director of the UConn Forest, and associate director of the UConn Eversource Energy Center. Simply click on his icon now to arrange a time to talk today.

Robert T. Fahey, Ph.D.

October 24, 2023

4 min

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A dose of regulation mixed with free-market observation - What can Connecticut learn as the state enters the cannabis era?

It's only been since January, but the cannabis industry in Connecticut is already a hit among consumers. There was initial worry that the quick expansion of stores and dispensaries could potentially blunt the long-term success of the retail aspect of the product in the state, but according to UConn's Fred Carstensen concerns about the oversupply seen in neighboring states is not a worry. “It’ll take three to four years to see how the market develops,” said Carstensen, a professor at University of Connecticut and the director of the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis. In an article that goes into great detail, Carsten told the Stamford Advocate about the many factors and influences that can impact what has been a volatile market in some states since legalization became the trend. And as the state government checks the expansion of Connecticut’s adult-use cannabis market, Carstensen said local governments do the same. He said it wouldn’t matter if Connecticut’s retail cannabis scene was over-licensed, under-licensed, or just right. “Every municipality has the right to say yea or nay (to retailers),” Carstensen said. But he said an estimated 69 cannabis retailers in the Nutmeg State’s pipeline will make the bigger picture clearer. “(Then) it's pretty much available to everybody on a relatively short-travel basis,” Carstensen said. “Then we'll actually know what the market is.” Regulation and observation will be key to measure the success or failure of the market. Carstensen said that as the Nutmeg State’s market matures, retailers will “pull that business back into Connecticut when we become more competitively priced.” Peake agreed that “as (more Connecticut retailers) open up, we can probably expect the vast majority of those folks to be buying cannabis in Connecticut.” And Carstensen said that as much as interstate cannabis purchases skew understanding Connecticut’s market, it also serves as a check on oversaturating the Nutmeg State’s cannabis economy... And, Carstensen said, if there were too many cannabis dispensaries, "the market will tell us." "They’ll close,” the economics professor said. If you're a journalist looking to know more about this emerging industry in Connecticut and beyond, let us help. Fred Carstensen is a University of Connecticut professor and director of the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis. He is a renowned an expert in the areas of public policy, economic history, and economics. Simply click on his icon now to arrange a time to talk today.

Fred Carstensen, Ph.D.

October 02, 2023

2 min

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#Expert Research: Biodegradable ultrasound implant could improve brain tumour treatments

One of the challenges in treating certain types of brain cancer is the way that the blood-brain barrier prevents chemotherapy drugs from reaching the tumors they're meant to target. UConn's Thanh Nguyen, a biomedical and mechanical engineer, is developing new technology that could improve how we are able to treat brain tumors.  He recently spoke with Physics World about this groundbreaking research: A new type of biodegradable ultrasound implant based on piezoelectric nanofibres could improve outcomes for patients with brain cancer. Researchers led by Thanh Nguyen from the the University of Connecticut’s department of mechanical engineering fabricated the devices from crystals of glycine, an amino acid found in the human body. Glycine is not only non-toxic and biodegradable, it is also highly piezoelectric, enabling the creation of a powerful ultrasound transducer that could help treat brain tumours. Brain tumours are particularly difficult to treat because the chemotherapy drugs that would be effective in tackling them are blocked from entering the brain by the blood–brain barrier (BBB). This barrier is a very tight junction of cells lining the blood vessel walls that prevents particles and large molecules from making their way through and damaging the brain. However, ultrasound can be safely used to temporarily alter the shape of the barrier cells such that chemotherapy drugs circulating in the bloodstream can pass through to the brain tissues. Currently, to achieve such BBB opening requires the use of multiple ultrasound transducers located outside the body, together with very high intensity ultrasound to enable penetration through the thick human skull bone. “That strong ultrasound can easily damage brain tissues and is not practical for multiple-time applications which are required to repeatedly deliver chemotherapeutics,” Nguyen tells Physics World. By contrast, the team’s new device would be implanted during the tumour removal surgery, and “can generate a powerful acoustic wave deep inside the brain tissues under a small supplied voltage to open the BBB”. The ultrasound would be triggered repeatedly as required to deliver the chemotherapy that kills off the residual cancer cells at tumour sites. After a set period of time following treatment the implant biodegrades, thereby eliminating the need for surgery to remove it. The research, reported in Science Advances, demonstrated that the team’s device used in conjunction with the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel significantly extended the lifetime of mice with glioblastomas (the most aggressive form of brain tumour) compared with mice receiving the drugs but no ultrasound treatment. This is fascinating research and if you are interesting in covering this topic, then let us help. Professor Nguyen focuses on biointegrated materials and devices at nano- and micro-scales for applications in biomedicine, and he's available to speak to media about his research. Simply click on his icon now to arrange an interview today.

Thanh Nguyen, Ph.D.

July 17, 2023

2 min

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Pioneering UConn Researcher Regrows Human Bone Using a Biodegradable Implant

A pioneer in the field of regenerative engineering, UConn's Dr. Cato T. Laurencin is charging toward his goal of regenerating a human limb by the year 2030.  In a step toward reaching that goal, Dr. Laurencin and his team have detailed their success in regrowing bone using a plant-derived molecule in a recent study published by PNAS, marking a major step toward affordable, safe bone regeneration and growing replacement limbs. Dr. Laurencin discussed this impressive breakthrough this week with Hearst Connecticut Media: Most bone fractures heal reasonably well with care. But in severe breaks, where sections of bones are missing, or in crush injuries bones don’t always heal very well. In those cases, self-grafts or donated grafts of healthy bone from other, non-broken bones can be used to help close the gaps. But bone grafts don’t always take. Since about 2001, recombinant bone morphogenic proteins have been used to help stimulate bone growth in injuries where bone wouldn’t otherwise heal but their use has limits. While they work on long bone fractures, like those in your limbs, they’re not used on more complex bones. In some experimental treatments with fractured pelvises, recombinant bone protein caused bone tissue to form outside the skeleton. Forming bone tissue outside the skeleton is one of the more troubling side effects of this treatment. Bone tissue engineering seeks to get around this by developing implants that use adult stem cells to direct the growth of new bone across breaks that bones could not heal on their own. Some of this work involves building custom implants designed to mimic the missing bone to guide bone healing. Others attempt to deliver the bone protein in an implant, stopping it from leaving the injury area, to prevent side effects. These bone treatments are also expensive. In a meta-analysis from 2006, researchers found that they cost more than standard care for severe fractures. But UConn team took a different approach, using the drug forskolin, a molecule derived from a plant in the mint family. Forskolin triggers cells to make something called “cyclic AMP” a messenger molecule that is normally made in response to hormones. This messenger molecule turns on a wide variety of cell functions depending on what cells in which locations it stimulates. “We were intrigued by being able to find some natural material that people were already consuming in quantity,” said Dr. Laurencin, “But obviously there’s a difference between ingesting it and putting it on one location, like a bone site.” Dr. Laurencin’s team created a biodegradable plastic implant impregnated with forskolin, testing this on rabbits. The implants guided the creation of new bone tissue after 12 weeks. If you're a journalist looking to know more about this groundbreaking research taking place at UConn, let us help with your questions and coverage. Dr. Cato Laurencin, CEO of the Cato T. Laurencin Institute for Regenerative Engineering at UConn, is available to for interviews. Simply click on his icon now to arrange a time to talk today.

Cato Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

June 14, 2023

2 min

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Why does Alabama have more gun deaths than New York? UConn expert explains.

Only five million people live in Alabama, but the state has the fourth highest firearms  death rate in the country. In 2021, the state had 26.4 firearm deaths per 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Compared to New York -- a state with about 20 million people and a rate of 5.4 gun deaths per 100,000 in 2021 -- the question becomes: Why does such a small state rank so high for gun violence? UConn expert Kerri Raissian offered perspective and insight on the causes and reasons why these tragic incidents occur in specific regions and states more often across America in an interview with the Alabama Reflector: A 2019 brief published by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, a nonprofit research center for the State University of New York (SUNY) system, said universal background checks, concealed carry permits and laws prohibiting people who have committed violent misdemeanors reduce gun homicides. “One policy that has come up against legal challenges recently has been not allowing people under the age of 21 years old to have certain guns or types of weapons,” Raissian said. “It is helpful. That age group has the highest risk of perpetuating homicides of any age group in the U.S.” Social policies can also deter gun violence. “It is laws, it is access to guns, it is also poverty,” Raissian said. “We have a lot of evidence that laws that you wouldn’t think have anything to do with gun violence, like Medicaid access, summer school for kids, employment opportunities for kids, are really good at reducing gun violence.” Raissian cited a randomized controlled trial of a youth summer employment program that was established in Chicago that had reduced incidents of gun violence compared to a control group. “It is not just about keeping them busy because these differences persist,” Raissian said. “It is also learning conflict resolution. It is also learning communication skills — all those things that come from employment and positive interactions tend to reduce violence of any form.” But Raissian and Grant Reeher, a professor of political science at Syracuse University, both said no single law will solve the issues of gun violence. The full article is attached above, and well worth the read. Kerri Raissian is an associate professor in the School of Public Policy at the University of Connecticut, director of the University of Connecticut's UConn’s Center for Advancing Research, Methods, and Scholarship (ARMS) in Gun Violence Prevention, and co-director of the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP) Gun Violence Prevention Research Interest Group. She is available to speak to media about this important topic - simply click on her icon now to arrange an interview today.

Kerri Raissian, Ph.D.

June 02, 2023

2 min

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CEO Compensation: What's the Limit of 'A Lot'?

Should corporate executives be paid a lot? Yes, says management expert David Souder, a professor in the UConn School of Business Boucher Management & Entrepreneurship Department. But, he says, "What's the limit of 'a lot'?" “It’s proven very hard to determine where it stops being the appropriate amount of ‘a lot,'" says Souder in an interview with Hearst Connecticut Media. The highest-paid CEO in this year’s Equilar 100 was Peloton Interactive’s Barry McCarthy, whose awarded compensation totaled about $168 million. At No. 2 was Apple’s Tim Cook, whose awarded remuneration amounted to about $99 million. Equilar’s survey also highlighted the huge gap between CEO compensation and the income of rank-and-file workers. Last year, there was a median ratio of 288 between CEO compensation and median worker pay; the ratio was 254 in 2021. The compensation awarded last year to Cigna’s Cordani equated to about 277 times his company’s median worker pay of $75,627, according to Equilar. Including several thousand employees based in Connecticut, Cigna operates globally with more than 70,000 employees. At many companies, shareholders weigh in on executive compensation through “say on pay” proposals that let them cast advisory votes. Shareholders typically endorse remuneration, as seen in the results of Cigna’s 2023 shareholders meeting that was held on April 26. About 221 million votes were cast in support of the company's executive compensation, compared with nearly 30 million votes against, about 18 million “broker non votes” and nearly 612,000 abstentions. Some progressive elected officials such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, are unhappy with CEO compensation levels at large companies because they believe their pay constitutes corporate greed that hurts rank-and-file workers. Among their proposals, they have sought to pass legislation that would increase taxes on companies that pay their CEOs more than 50 times the median level. “The pay disparities raise questions that are very hard to answer,” Souder said. “If you want an experienced chief executive, and they’ve been paid at these (exceptionally high) levels, then you have to also pay at these levels. And nobody wants a below-average CEO. So you end up with these subtle underlying pressures that cause CEO pay to rise.” David Souder specializes in strategic management and is available to speak with the media. Click his icon to arrange an interview today.

David Souder, Ph.D.

June 01, 2023

2 min

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