Alum to discuss role in major fossil discovery

Zachary Throckmorton, part of team that identified new hominin species Homo naledi, will return to campus Nov. 19 for a public presentation

The University of Indianapolis will welcome back one of its graduates Nov. 19 to discuss his role in a recent scientific breakthrough: the identification of a previously unknown ancient relative of modern humans.

Throckmorton

Throckmorton

The announcement in September of a new species of hominin – Homo naledi, whose fossilized remains were found in a South African cave – made headlines around the world. Zachary Throckmorton, who earned his UIndy Master of Science in Human Biology in 2007 and now teaches anatomy at Tennessee’s Lincoln Memorial University, was among the select international group of scientists who were invited to study the specimens and co-author the first published analyses.

Throckmorton’s presentation, “Homo naledi Strides Again,” is scheduled 5 to 6:30 p.m. Nov. 19 in UIndy Hall A of the university’s Schwitzer Student Center, 1400 E. Hanna Ave. The University Series event is presented with support from the Blanche E. Penrod Lecture Series and organized by the FOUND and ARCHAIC student organizations for forensics and anthropology.

Admission is free and open to the public. Attendees are asked to register in advance at homonaledi.eventbrite.com.

Homo naledi apparently interred the bodies of its dead, a practice once thought exclusive to modern humans, and it was built to walk upright, according to Throckmorton, a specialist in human gait and the development of the lower extremities. Other characteristics, however, are distinctively different from today’s anatomy. Read more

Study raises questions about DNA evidence

DNA interviewGraduate Student Cynthia Cale (center) and recent graduate Madison Earll (far right) discuss their DNA transfer study with online news channel TheLip.tv.

Watch an interview with the researchers on TheLip.tv
Read Cynthia Cale’s column in the science journal Nature

UIndy researchers say contamination through secondary transfer
of material could implicate the innocent or help the guilty go free

If your DNA is found on a weapon or at a crime scene, does that make you guilty?

A judge or jury might think so, but a new study from the University of Indianapolis shows that secondary transfer of human DNA through intermediary contact is far more common than previously thought, a finding that could have serious repercussions for medical science and the criminal justice system.

Increasingly important to criminal investigations, DNA analysis once required substantial samples of blood or other bodily fluids, but advances in the field now make it possible to produce a complete genetic profile of a suspect from just a few cells left behind – so-called “touch DNA.” The emerging concern, long considered a theoretical risk but only now systematically confirmed by the UIndy study, is that the presence of those cells does not prove that the person actually visited the scene or directly touched the object in question. The DNA easily could have been transferred by other means.

Latham

Latham

“I think this issue has been swept under the rug,” said Associate Professor Krista Latham, who directs UIndy’s Molecular Anthropology Laboratory and oversaw the study designed as a course project by Human Biology graduate students Cynthia Cale and Madison Earll. “There have been some holes in this kind of research, and I think that allowed people to disregard it, but this is a very well-designed project. It’s going to change the way the medicolegal system looks at DNA evidence.”

The researchers detail their findings in the January issue of the Journal of Forensic Sciences, with a paper titled “Could Secondary DNA Transfer Falsely Place Someone at the Scene of a Crime?” Cale also discusses the study in an op-ed column for this week’s issue of the journal Nature.

Read more

Criminal Justice adds Cybersecurity track

With data theft an increasing concern for government, business and individuals, a new interdisciplinary program at the UIndy prepares graduates for the fast-growing field of cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity is the newest concentration in UIndy’s Criminal Justice bachelor’s degree program, supplementing the core studies with courses in applied computer science, such as programming, computer networking, data structures, date encryption and network security.

Students can augment their skills for careers in traditional law enforcement and security work, or prepare for specific cybersecurity positions such as information security analyst, a career field the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects will grow 37 percent by 2022. The entry-level education requirement is a bachelor’s degree, and the 2012 median pay was $86,170 per year.

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Activist doctor takes aim at global health care

Paul FarmerPhysician and international health activist Paul Farmer addresses the audience Tuesday at UIndy’s Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center. His talk was presented by the University Series and the Blanche E. Penrod Lecture Series.

Read IBJ recap

Dr. Paul Farmer speaks with dry wit and humble humor as he rattles off statistics from the world’s major infectious disease outbreaks.

“I know all this stuff because I’m a nerd,” the globetrotting physician-anthropologist said Tuesday night at UIndy’s Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center.

But the stories he tells from his work in West Africa, Haiti and elsewhere are chilling, and the questions he poses are troubling: Why did the Marburg virus kill only 22 percent of the people who contracted it in Germany, but 90 percent of those it touched in Angola? Why did all 11 Americans who contracted Ebola last year survive, while thousands died in West Africa? And why did he lose friends and colleagues — trained medical professionals — to Ebola?

The answer is simple, according to Farmer, subject of the best-selling 2003 biography Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World. His talk was part of this year’s University Series, which also will host Mountains author Tracy Kidder on Nov. 12.

In many developing nations, the personnel, supplies and facilities required for even basic public health care – the “staff, stuff and space,” in his parlance – are simply missing.

Read more

UIndy to launch engineering program

First phase focuses on industrial and software engineering degrees

Amid rising workforce demand, the University of Indianapolis will begin offering bachelor’s degrees in engineering for Fall 2016.

The first phase of the program is focused on Industrial Engineering and Software Engineering, two specialties not widely available in central Indiana. Until now, UIndy has offered engineering only in partnership with other institutions.

Manuel

Manuel

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“This program continues the momentum of the University of Indianapolis as we develop curricula aligned with industry and global needs,” said Robert Manuel, President. “We have a history of creating programs that connect the academy to the world around it, just as we established schools of education, nursing, adult learning, psychology, and physical and occupational therapy and built them into respected national models.”

The Software Engineering curriculum will prepare graduates to design, develop and evaluate large-scale software systems in terms of cost-effectiveness, efficiency and reliability throughout the software life cycle. Industrial Engineering will prepare graduates to design, develop and evaluate the complex systems involved in the processing and delivery of an endless range of products and services. Each program will involve design projects throughout the coursework and will culminate in a senior capstone course that enables students to complete a significant engineering project in collaboration with an external industry partner.

The University of Indianapolis program, while providing the STEM preparation vital to careers of the future, will be rooted in the foundational skill development that enables graduates to be leaders as well as technical experts, said Deborah Balogh, Executive Vice President and Provost.

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Partners celebrate Health Pavilion opening

Health Pavilion dedication panorama

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Watch WTTV-CBS4 report

Not one, but four ribbons were cut Friday when hundreds of students, faculty, staff and community partners gathered for the dedication of the UIndy Health Pavilion, a cutting-edge space designed for innovative collaborations among academic disciplines and health care industry professionals.

“We started dreaming about this building about 18 months ago, and in the architects’ rendering, they had this room filled with people,” President Robert Manuel said, glancing around the crowded two-story atrium as onlookers lined the balcony rail. “I don’t believe any of us thought we’d be done in 18 months to be here today, but it’s really pretty powerful to look out and see it done, filled, and doing what it was built to do.”

The four-story, 160,000-square-foot, $28 million structure at Hanna and State avenues now houses UIndy’s nationally respected programs in nursing, psychology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, gerontology, kinesiology, athletic training and social work, The building also houses two clinical facilities opening this month in partnership with Community Health Network: a health and wellness clinic for faculty, staff and students; and the latest addition to CHN’s growing line of Community Physical Therapy & Rehab centers, bringing new services to the University Heights neighborhood.

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UIndy alum assists in science breakthrough

Zach Throckmorton at Rising Star Workshop cc by William Harcourt-SmithDr. Zachary Throckmorton, who earned a UIndy master’s degree in 2007, examines a fossil specimen at the Evolutionary Studies Institute of South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand. (photo by William Harcourt-Smith)

Previously unknown species sheds new light on human evolution

The worlds of science and pop culture alike were rocked last week by a landmark announcement, and a University of Indianapolis alumnus had a hand in it – or, perhaps more accurately, a foot.

Dr. Zachary Throckmorton ’07, now a professor at Tennessee’s Lincoln Memorial University, is among a select international group of scientists who were invited to study specimens and co-author the first published analyses of a previously unknown species of ancient hominin. In a barely accessible cave chamber in South Africa, Homo naledi appears to have deliberately interred the bodies of its dead, a practice once thought exclusive to modern humans.

The news was announced Thursday through two papers in the scientific journal eLife and a story on the National Geographic website, followed by media accounts worldwide. The project is the cover story in National Geographic’s October issue and the subject of a NOVA/National Geographic Special that is viewable online and airs for the first time Wednesday night. Even The Onion offered a typically cheeky take on the news.

Throckmorton, 34, who came to UIndy in 2004 to study evolutionary anatomy under Professor John Langdon and earn his Master of Science in Human Biology, said by phone this week that the ongoing project is the opportunity of a lifetime.

“Every once in a while there’s a remarkable discovery or development in the field that provides an enormous amount of new data that is really exciting for everyone in the field to start considering,” the Michigan native said. “If you had told me in 2004, ‘Hey, you’d better get back to studying because in a decade you’re going to have an opportunity to describe a new species of the genus Homo,’ I would have said ‘Yeah, sure.’”

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Fresh facilities, opportunities await students

The downtown skyline is clearly visible from the fourth floor of the new UIndy Health Pavilion, highlighting the university’s connection to the city.

Incoming freshman class sets records for size, academic success

Students returning to the University of Indianapolis for the Aug. 31 start of fall classes will find a campus – and a neighborhood – in transformation.

Manuel

Manuel

New facilities are just one sign of progress on a multifaceted development plan designed to boost quality of life in the University Heights area while keeping UIndy on the leading edge of innovation in higher education, President Robert Manuel said.

“The strategy developed by our university community already is proving successful in bringing new energy to this part of Indianapolis,” Manuel said. “Given the synergy between our work, related community development efforts and the planned bus rapid transit line that will connect us to other key sites in the city, we expect to see tremendous advancements over the next few years.”

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Archaeology project gets Bicentennial approval

PrintA UIndy public archaeology project led by Associate Professor Christopher Moore has been declared an official Bicentennial Legacy Project by the 2016 Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

Moore and his students have been working since 2013 at a Carroll County site called Baum’s Landing, which was home to some of that area’s first white settlers and remains rife with traces of 19th century commerce, transportation and everyday life.

Moore

Moore

The UIndy team will return in September to the site near Delphi, not only to continue surveying and mapping the site, but also to involve local residents in the project. In the coming year, they plan to stage three public archaeology events in which visitors of all ages can join in the archaeological work, as well as a series of public lectures on the historic Baum family, archaeology in general and the material culture of our pioneer ancestors.

Moore, also a UIndy alumnus, teaches in the departments of Anthropology and Physics & Earth-Space Science.

TEDx tickets go on sale Monday morning

Tickets for the fourth annual TEDxIndianapolis, taking place Oct. 20 at UIndy, will go on sale at 9 a.m. Monday.

Click here to purchase tickets, which are $89 and include lunch. Seating is limited, and organizers anticipate a quick sellout.

tedx-indy-logoUIndy is a presenting sponsor of this year’s event and will host it at the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center. Under the theme “Keep It Simple,” 16 local and national speakers will explore questions of art and design, sustainability, education, technology and entrepreneurship.

TEDx conferences are local, independent events organized in the spirit of the international TED organization and its “Ideas Worth Spreading” mission.

Read about TEDxIndianapolis at UIndy

Learn more about the speakers

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