Jobs well done
Programs and people that empower, enable, enlighten
t the May university commencement exercises, when I presented the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences degree candidates, I told the audience that these graduating students would bring us improved health and well-being, a plentiful and safe food supply, a sustainable environment and, indeed, a better world.
This issue of Perspectives showcases some of the College faculty, curricula and activities that empower these and future graduates to fulfill many of those promises.
Advances in biotechnology serve a vast spectrum — from food production to pharmaceuticals to the environment. In early summer, the Biotechnology Education facility opened in Jordan Hall, and with it comes a new undergraduate minor in biotechnology — making available to undergraduates technologies and equipment heretofore available only to graduate students and research faculty. This program will offer an enabling technology, giving students the skill sets to apply biotechnology in analyzing endangered populations, environmental remediation, health and medicine, and plant and animal agriculture. Featured here are the faculty members who will help produce a workforce much in demand today — training students from across the university in the techniques of molecular biology, as well as how to responsibly address ethical issues.
Medical treatment must take gender into consideration, according to the findings of Dr. John Vandenbergh, Zoology, and his colleagues on an Institute of Medicine committee, who participated in an 18-month study on differences between the sexes and how those differences affect health. The committee’s report concludes that many normal physiological and disease functions are influenced directly or indirectly by sex-based biological differences. Read here why the report suggests there is much to be gained through a better understanding of how hormonal and genetic differences between men and women affect health.
Investigating animal nutrition led Dr. Jim Croom, Poultry Science, to findings that may have significant implications in human health research. In his work on aluminum toxicity, Croom found that human peptide YY, when injected into mice with a condition similar to Down syndrome, decreases brain aluminum. Aluminum has been under study as a contributing factor in Alzheimer’s development. The metal appears in higher-than-usual levels in the brains of humans with Alzheimer’s, as well as of those with Down syndrome. In our news section, we report this research, which may point to ways to safely remove aluminum from a person's brain.
Environmental impacts of several College programs are also presented in this issue. Preserving biodiversity was the goal of Dr. Nick Haddad, Zoology, as he led a research team to small wildlife-containing areas and thin habitat strips called corridors to study how these corridors affect plant and animal dispersal. Addressing the hazard to water quality of stormwater runoff was the strategy of North Carolina Cooperative Extension specialists as they recently completed a series of bio-retention areas in Cary. And, to better understand the environmental impact of swine waste management in North Carolina, Dr. Dan Israel, Soil Science, has been monitoring the groundwater beneath fields to which swine waste is applied in a Sampson County watershed.
Finally, we announce the retirement of a College faculty member whose teaching, research and administrative activities have touched the lives of more than 16,000 students since 1970. Dr. George Barthalmus, director of Academic Programs, leaves a job well done. His parting message concludes this issue of Perspectives.
Dean, College of Agriculture
and Life Sciences