On the Move: 14 November 2013

Arts & Business Council, Rotary Club of Nashville, TSU, TriStar Centennial Medical Center, Vanderbilt announce personnel updates
Nov 14, 2013 7:00 AM

Vote to be deferred on proposed VU engineering building

A Metro Board of Zoning Appeals vote on a setback and skyplane variance for a proposed Vanderbilt University engineering research building will be deferred until the board’s Jan. 2, 2014, meeting.

The vote was to have taken place at the Nov. 21 BZA meeting before VU officials requested the deferral.

If constructed, the building will span about 370,000 square feet. To be located on a site currently home to green space and a terrace next to Olin Hall (home to the VU School of Engineering), the building will be bordered by Olin Hall on the east and Garland, 25th and Highland avenues on the north, west and south, respectively.

Read more here.

Nov 14, 2013 6:45 AM

VU prof: iPads help autistic children develop language

A Vanderbilt University professor has conducted research that shows children with autism who are minimally verbal can learn to speak later than previously thought, and iPads are playing an increasing role in making that happen

Ann Kaiser, a professor at Vanderbilt Peabody College of Education and Human Development, found in her research that using speech-generating devices to encourage children ages 5 to 8 to develop speaking skills resulted in the subjects developing considerably more spoken words compared to other interventions. All of the children in the study, which was funded by Autism Speaks, learned new spoken words and several learned to produce short sentences as they moved through the training.

"For some parents, it was the first time they’d been able to converse with their children,” said Kaiser, Susan W. Gray Professor of Education and Human Development. “With the onset of iPads, that kind of communication may become possible for greater numbers of children with autism and their families.”

Relatedly, Kaiser (pictured) has begun a new five-year long study supported by the National Institutes of Health’s Autism Centers of Excellence with colleagues at UCLA, the University of Rochester, and Cornell Weill Medical School. She and a team of researchers and therapists at the four sites are using iPads in two contrasting interventions (direct-teaching and naturalistic-teaching) to evaluate the effectiveness of the two communication interventions for children who have autism and use minimal spoken language.

Results from the Autism Speaks study will be available in spring 2014.

Read more here at vanderbilt.edu.


Nov 13, 2013 9:30 AM

On the Move: 12 November 2013

Community Foundation, Crichton Group, Jagemann, PearlPoint, Vanderbilt announce personnel updates
Nov 12, 2013 7:00 AM

Fisk, VU plan bridge program focused on science, math and computer science

Fisk University and Vanderbilt University are planning a bridge program focused on courses in natural science, mathematics or computer science.

The program would include a Fisk undergraduate degree — weighted toward courses in natural science, mathematics or computer science — obtained within three years. The degree would be followed by a master's degree in computer science from Fisk, bridging to a biomedical informatics Ph.D. from Vanderbilt.

The proposed program, which would begin enrolling students in fall 2015 at the earliest, would expand the Fisk-Vanderbilt Bridge Program established in 2004 and currently bridging Fisk masters programs to Vanderbilt doctoral programs in astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics and materials science.

“Perhaps because of the relative newness and interdisciplinary character of biomedical informatics, most entering undergraduates aren’t aware of the role that this field has in advancing health care and biomedical science, nor of this growing field’s tremendous need for experts and leaders,” said Dr. Lee Limbird, dean of the Fisk School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Business and interim dean for graduate studies.

“With this proposed training program, we want to begin addressing that deficit of awareness and help fill the pipeline with talented students of color,” Limbird added.

Paul Govern and vanderbilt.edu have more here.

Nov 4, 2013 6:10 AM

On the Move: 29 October 2013

GS&P, SunTrust, Vanderbilt, VUMC, WGU Tennessee announce personnel updates
Oct 29, 2013 7:00 AM

VU prof among trio to land $3.6M NSF grant

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $3.6 grant to a team of scientists and engineers that includes Nabil Simaan, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt University.

The grant will cover work on the five-year project, called Complementary Situational Awareness for Human-Robot Partnerships. The effort will involve a close collaboration among research teams directed by Simaan; Howie Choset, professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University; and Russell Taylor, the John C. Malone Professor of Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University.

Providing surgical robots with a new kind of machine intelligence that significantly extends their capabilities and makes them much easier and more intuitive for surgeons to operate is the goal of the team, the grant awarded to which is part of the National Robotics Initiative.

“Our goal is to establish a new concept called complementary situational awareness,” Simaan (pictured) said in a release. “Complementary situational awareness refers to the robot’s ability to gather sensory information as it works and to use this information to guide its actions.”

One of the project’s objectives, according to Vanderbilt, is to restore the type of awareness surgeons have during open surgery – where they can directly see and touch internal organs and tissue – which they have lost with the advent of minimally invasive surgery because they must work through small incisions in a patient’s skin. Minimally invasive surgery has become increasingly common because patients experience less pain, blood loss and trauma, recover more quickly and get fewer infections, and is less expensive than open surgery.

Surgeons have attempted to compensate for the loss of direct sensory feedback through pre-operative imaging, where they use techniques like MRI, X-ray imaging and ultrasound to map the internal structure of the body before they operate, VU reports. They have employed miniaturized lights and cameras to provide them with visual images of the tissue immediately in front of surgical probes. They have also developed methods that track the position of the probe as they operate and plot its position on pre-operative maps.

Simaan, Choset and Taylor intend to take these efforts to the next level, creating a system that acquires data from a number of different types of sensors as an operation is underway and integrates them with pre-operative information to produce dynamic, real time maps that precisely track the position of the robot probe and show how the tissue in its vicinity responds to its movements, VU reports.

For example, adding pressure sensors to robot probes will provide real time information on how much force the probe is exerting against the tissue surrounding it, VU reports. Not only does this make it easier to work without injuring the tissue but it can also be used to “palpate” tissue to search for hidden tumor edges, arteries and aneurisms. Such sensor data can also feed into computer simulations that predict how various body parts shift in response to the probe’s movements.

Oct 29, 2013 6:45 AM

International stocks boost VU endowment

Vanderbilt University's endowment posted a gain of more than 9 percent in the year ended June 30, thanks in good part to growth in its international stock portfolio. Rob Kozlowski of Pensions & Investments writes that the university's investment managers want to further grow their exposure to global markets.

Oct 25, 2013 7:12 AM

On the Move: 24 October 2013

Medalogix, Pharos Capital, University Club, Vanderbilt announce personnel updates
Oct 24, 2013 7:00 AM

VU greenhouse gas emissions down 19% since 2008

Vanderbilt University has seen the overall green house gas emissions from the campus and medical center decrease by 19 percent from an all-time high reached in 2008.

In addition, GHC emission on the campus dropped by 14 percent from 2005 to 2012, even though Vanderbilt has seen significant growth in square footage, staff, students and research dollars since 2008. When growth is taken into account, GHG reductions are down more than 25 percent.

Read more here.

Oct 24, 2013 6:40 AM