UPCOMING EVENTS

On-Campus Employment Workshop

Friday, April 27th
1:00 pm
180 College Avenue This one-hour workshop, held twice a week, is required for F-1 and J-1 who will be employed by Rutgers. The workshop discusses on-campus employment regulations, the United States income tax system and social security number (SSN) application procedures. In this workshop, you'll receive guidance in in filling out forms necessary to work on campus and apply for an SSN, including the Rutgers International Payroll Form and forms I-9 and W-4.

Global Pavilion at Rutgers Day

Saturday, April 28th
10:00 am
10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. | Voorhees Mall, College Avenue Campus All are welcome! Discover a new language, meet representatives of different cultures, and explore study abroad experiences--and much more--at our Global Pavilion at Rutgers Day, located on the Voorhees Mall. For more, visit rutgersday.rutgers.edu.    

IN THE NEWS

The Time Machine

Monday, April 2nd
Rutgers students and faculty can experience a virtual reality of ancient Petra at the Aresty Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 27. If you’ve ever wanted to stroll the streets of Petra, Jordan, when Marcus Aurelius ruled the Roman Empire, you’re in luck. Using maps, archeological data, and other scholarly and historical evidence, Sarolta Takács, history professor and director of the Modern Greek Studies Program at the School of Arts and Sciences, and a multidisciplinary team of students are building a virtual reality where users can literally experience a city annexed by one of the world’s largest empires in history. “Where do you go to exchange money? Where do you shop? Where do you bring your camel to drink water?” Takács said. “Those are the questions we will answer.” Though Petra is “very arid now,” Takács said, the city in the second century C.E. was “like an oasis,” and one of the things students can learn through her virtual reality is how water was redirected into cisterns and used for a variety of purposes. Eventually, Takács envisions using virtual reality to outline Petra’s role in a complex network of trade routes that brought spices, silk, and other luxury items from China and India to Rome. As technology evolves, so will the project, Takács says, estimating that it could take about a decade before the project’s completion. Now in its third year of development, Takács has worked closely with her history students—and computer science students—to visualize and program the virtual reality. Faith Hoatson is a French literature and medieval studies student working closely with Takács to research information, particularly visuals, to create the virtual reality.   “Throughout this process, I was almost amazed to discover how little we know about Petra. This is a civilization that flourished as a key trade city, with enough importance to be annexed by Rome,” she said.   Hoatson is working with computer science students Odalis Arias, Aviv Khavich, and Anuraag Shankar, who have joined the effort thanks to the Aresty Research Center, a division of Rutgers Undergraduate Academic Affairs that provides hands-on research and learning experiences for undergraduates.  “The Aresty program has been amazing,” said Takács. “This is a major undertaking—and it’s a challenge,” adding that setbacks such as a corrupted drive and data loss have slowed the project, but the students have helped to get it back to speed by moving the program materials to the cloud. The marriage of scholastic creativity to the technology that brings the virtual reality to life comes through a gaming engine aptly named “Unity.” Shankar says Unity—the same gaming engine used for popular games such as Angry Birds 2—allows programmers to import 3D models as objects that can be manipulated to create a scene; however, it’s not as simple as copying some files to create the scene. “In order to create the virtual map, we use data from textbooks and research other teams. Then, we use Blender—a 3D creation suite—to create different models for the buildings in Unity. Finally, those models are placed on the virtual map in Unity,” Shankar said. Together, the students are creating an animated guide—using a narrative written by Hoatson—that directs users through the virtual reality to provide useful information about the structures they see. To create the guide, Shankar says that they are using the C# programming language, a standard source code that allows objects to display multiple characteristics.   The project doesn’t end just because the semester does. Takács is seeking to take on a new group of Aresty undergraduates in the fall to continue the programming and implementation of the project. She says that the team is looking to continue using Blender in the next iteration of the program. Students and faculty who wish to experience the virtual reality of ancient Petra can do so at the Rutgers Aresty Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 27, 2018, at the Livingston Student Center. Takács says she hopes that the symposium will encourage more students to join the project. “We are currently looking for programmers and graphic designers skilled in Blender to join the project,” Takács said. Interested volunteers can contact her at stakacs@global.rutgers.edu.

Serendipitous Science

Friday, March 23rd
Daniel Shain, Rutgers University–Camden biology professor and chair, outlines his 25-year quest to find and understand death-defying qualities in animal life. How does a quick stop at a diner turn into a new understanding of organisms that can survive extreme cold and heat? Daniel Shain, Rutgers–Camden professor and chair of biology, has spent much of his career studying annelids—or worms. Twenty-five years ago, Shain joined his father on a trip to Alaska; when they stopped for lunch one day, he saw an ad on a placemat for a tourist attraction claiming to house worms in glacier ice. “I thought it was a joke—kind of like when you hear about ‘jackalopes’ in the Southwest,” he said. He said most animal life in these environments live in aquatic microenvironments, or small droplets or pools of water that sit on the surface of glaciers. These pools of water provide many nutrients and forgiving living conditions; the compacted insides of glaciers do not. On a whim, Shain visited the tourist center to investigate the ad’s claims. To his surprise, the advertised exhibit actually displayed “thin, thread-like” worms thriving in a glacial encasement. As a result, glacier ice worms became a “major focus” of Shain’s work. He received a grant from National Geographic to spend a summer in Alaska—and later, in Canada and Tibet—to look for these worms. Eventually, he found himself in the "Land of Fire and Ice," thanks in part to an international collaborative research grant from Rutgers Global and a Fulbright Scholar Program grant. “I ended up in Iceland looking for animal life—looking for anything that lives in a glacier,” he said, describing a multidisciplinary collaboration with colleagues at the University of Iceland that fueled the research. “At first, I was not really expecting to find worms, but it was a possibility. And in the process of that research, I stumbled across something else.” That “something else” came in the form of two species of bdelloid rotifers, a class of microscopic animals commonly found in freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams—but not inside hard-packed glacier ice.   “Most animals have a few hundred types of cells to worry about. It’s not like bacteria or other single-celled organisms that only have one cell to worry about in surviving,” he said. “To get all these cells to adapt at the same time is much harder, so few multicellular animals like rotifers are found in extreme hot or extreme cold environments.” Perhaps most perplexing about their discovery is the fact that bdelloid rotifers are asexual, eliminating the possibility of genetic variations that could have aided the evolution of these commonly aquatic, mild-climate creatures into cold-tolerant beings. “Asexual reproduction is generally considered an evolutionary dead end,” said Shain. Instead, rotifers can evolve through a process called “horizontal gene transfer,” where an individual can absorb the genetic qualities of its food or other type of transferring agent. In this case, the species of bdelloid rotifers found in ice were thought to have feasted on bacteria and algae—single-celled organisms that can withstand extreme temperatures. “They’re sort of famous for stealing DNA from other species that they eat,” he said. “We’ve also found a related species of bdelloid rotifers in hot springs, as well.” Shain continues to collaborate with University of Iceland evolutionary computational biologist Einar Arnason to examine the rotifers’ DNA sequence and pinpoint which parts of the genome have changed to facilitate their adaptation to ice. The team is also studying ice worms found in the field. In examining collected species of ice worms, they found that they actually expended energy—instead of storing it—while thriving in extreme environments.    “It’s something a signature of cold adaption—you have to figure out a way to make a lot more energy. So, we’ve biochemically dissected and identified the key enzymes that are different, and we can try to recreate the same property in other organisms and make them cold-tolerant.”   The team is attempting to engineer a fruit fly with the enzyme to see if it can also withstand cold temperatures, and, Shain says, this genetic modification could potentially make use of land considered too cold and barren for farming and agriculture. “We’ve successfully germinated a lab plant in ice conditions,” he said. The possibilities don’t end there. The enzyme that could make plants and insects cold-tolerant could also serve as a possible treatment for humans with energy-deficient diseases like Leigh’s Disease, a progressive and sometimes fatal condition that causes paralysis and impaired cognitive and organ function. He credits thinking beyond borders for these potential innovations. “It’s important in science to include lesser studied organisms. When you pursue these somewhat unusual, outlier organisms, you’ll find they have a lot to offer,” Shain said Shain plans to connect with colleagues in places like Iceland and Poland to look at glaciers in Greenland, Norway, Scandinavia, Uganda, and Ecuador, as well as hot springs in New Zealand, to see what discoveries these areas could yield. “International research is equivalent to combining two disciplines—when you combine fields, you get something you wouldn’t be able to get if you pursued each independently. When you collaborate with international colleagues, it opens doors and ideas and opportunities.”    

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Please join the Center for African Studies on Tuesday, April 24, at 4:30 p.m. in Murray Hall, Room 302, for a comme… https://t.co/B8hnongr4X
Happy Friday! We are excited to host our Pre-Departure Orientations this weekend for students heading abroad this s… https://t.co/hlJrVZgKXn