UNO president named to Homeland Security Council, and other news of higher education

Peter Fos, president of the University of New Orleans, has been appointed to the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council by U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. His appointment is for two years.

The council provides assistance to the Department of Homeland Security on matters related to recruitment, international students, academic research and faculty exchanges, homeland security academic programs and cybersecurity.

“I am honored to be appointed to the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council,” Fos said. “I am passionate about the issues that the council addresses, and I look forward to helping Secretary Johnson and his team in any way that I can.”

The council is composed of up to 23 members. They include leaders from state colleges and universities, community colleges and government universities. The council is expected to meet three times a year.

Professor raising funds for rare brain disorder research

A professor at the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans is asking the public for assistance in fundraising for research on a rare inherited brain disorder that affects children.

Shyamal Desai, an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, is researching ataxia telangiectasia, which can confine children to a wheelchair by 12 and take their lives a decade later. It causes degeneration in the part of the brain that controls motor movements and speech.

Desai’s lab recently discovered that a protein called ISG15 may trigger brain cell degeneration associated with the condition.

She has partnered with Consano, a crowdfunding platform that lets individuals donate directly to specific medical research projects, to raise funds to advance her work.

Desai is seeking $25,000 to purchase A-T cell lines, commercially available tissue from patients with A-T and lab supplies to screen for ISG15. The funding will enable her to confirm the role of ISG15 in A-T, which could provide the basis for the development of drugs to decrease ISG15 levels to slow or stop the progressive neurodegeneration, or brain cell death.

“As a scientist, I should not get emotional when I perform my research,” said Desai. “But that is easier said than done when you meet an anxious mother seeking to find the cure for her disabled A-T child.”

To learn more about how to help Desai’s research, visit www.consano.org/projects/49-ataxia-telangiectasia-is-isg15-the-culprit.

Loyola Law to pay tribute to alumnus

The Loyola University College of Law will pay tribute Tuesday to New Orleans Bar Association President and adjunct law professor Mark Surprenant for his work on behalf of Louisiana lawyers struggling with family deaths or catastrophic illnesses.

Surprenant, who graduated from Loyola Law School in 1977, is scheduled to receive the 2014 Glass Honoree Award at the Louisiana State Bar Association’s annual meeting in Destin, Florida.

Surprenant is a partner with the Adams and Reese law firm in New Orleans and has served as president of both the Loyola Law Alumni Association and the Loyola University Alumni Association. He established HUGS, Adams and Reese’s corporate philanthropy program in 1988, and CA&RE, the firm’s official pro bono program, in 2000.

In 2002, he co-founded the statewide organization Support of Lawyers/Legal Personnel All Concern Encouraged, known as SOLACE Inc. The organization consists of 8,500 volunteers in Louisiana and has chapters in 18 other cities across the U.S. It assists judges, lawyers, paralegals, legal secretaries and their families who have experienced a life-changing tragedy.

Tuesday’s event will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at John Wehner’s Village Door in Destin.

Advanced registration is available for $45 ($50 at the door). For more information, contact Jennifer Jumonville at (504) 861-5741.

All proceeds will benefit the College of Law Alumni Association Scholarship Fund.

UNO awarded $98,000 grant for science lab

The University of New Orleans has received a one-year, $98,832 grant from the Louisiana Board of Regents to create a state-of-the-art materials science laboratory. The lab will give UNO students hands-on experience with energy and electronic materials in a new course that will be one of the few of its kind in the nation.

A research team — three physicists, a materials scientist and a chemist — will purchase equipment to set up 15 sophisticated experiments in which students will fabricate materials and devices and characterize their structure and properties, according to Leszek Malkinski, professor of physics and the grant’s principal investigator.

Some of the other experiments will involve harvesting and converting energy and investigating energy exchange in solar cells.

The new lab course, which will first be offered in the fall semester of 2015, is unusual in the diversity and number of proposed experiments. Materials science is an interdisciplinary field that applies the properties of matter to various areas of science and engineering.

The other principal investigators on the grant are Kevin Stokes, professor and chairman of physics; Leonard Spinu, professor of physics; John Wiley, professor of chemistry; and Weilie Zhou, associate professor with the Advanced Materials Research Institute.