Also In This Issue

Lab Work: Research at Texas A&M

Over the Hump

The Texas A&M University Large Animal Hospital usually treats horses and farm animals, but occasionally they encounter a rarer species, such as Sybil: a 7-year-old, pregnant dromedary camel that became one of the first of her kind to recover from a dislocated hip.

When Sybil arrived at the hospital barely able to walk on her left hind leg, radiographs showed that her hip joint was dislocated out of its socket and her femur had moved far away from her pelvis. While dislocated hips are especially hard to treat in large animals, Sybil’s owner, Dr. Ron McMurry, insisted Texas A&M veterinarians do everything possible to save her life.

Dr. Kati Glass ’09, a clinical assistant professor in large animal surgery, and her team moved forward with a risky procedure that secured Sybil’s hip in place. “We learn something new every time we have the opportunity to take a chance on a procedure like this, and that can make us more optimistic about future similar cases,” Glass said.

Sybil is now home in Jasper, Texas, where she is back in the pasture with the rest of her camel family preparing for her baby.

Standing Strong

Through a project funded by the National Science Foundation, researchers at Texas A&M University and the University of Colorado at Boulder are studying the effectiveness of using hybrid sliding-rocking (HSR) columns in bridge designs to protect against earthquakes.

A conventional bridge column is cast from concrete as one solid piece, making damage after an earthquake likely. HSR columns, however, are built as a series of individual concrete segments held together by steel cables that allow for controlled sliding and rocking. Post-tensioning strands further ensure columns are pushed back to their original positions after an earthquake.

Such an infrastructure improvement could save thousands in taxpayer dollars. “By preventing bridge damage, we can maintain access to affected areas immediately after earthquakes for response teams,” said Dr. Petros Sideris, an assistant professor in Texas A&M’s Zachry Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “In mitigating losses related to post-event bridge repairs and closures, more funds can also be directed to supporting the recovery of affected communities.”

As their project continues, the team plans to study other aspects of HSR columns, such as how resistant they are to vehicular impact.

  • Illuminating Surgeries

    A new wireless surgical lighting device developed by Sung Il Park, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, allows for illumination in the exact spot where a surgeon is working. His device consists of a light within a surgical patty, which is a pad used during operations to protect tissues and manage fluid. Most surgical lighting devices can’t provide high-light intensity in a particular area, meaning Park’s device could significantly lower surgical risks in the operating room.
  • Pioneering Flood Prevention

    Researchers at Texas A&M University and the University of Tokyo have created what is perhaps the most accurate map of global freshwater hydrography ever made. Dubbed MERIT Hydro, the map uses complex computer algorithms to determine the shape of millions of Earth’s rivers, lakes and canals. Its precision allows for the improved prediction of future flooding events across the world and estimates large-scale flood risks.
  • Aggie Research in the Cereal Aisle

    A healthier cereal is hitting supermarket shelves! Texas A&M AgriLife researchers created an all-natural black grain sorghum hybrid called Onyx that is being used in Grain Berry cereals. With higher levels of antioxidants, Onyx sorghum can combat a spectrum of free radical threats to the body and slow sugar and carbohydrate absorption in the gut.

Work Bots

Dr. Ranjana Mehta, an associate professor in industrial and systems engineering, and Dr. Prabhakar Pagilla, a mechanical engineering professor, are conducting research on human-robot interactions in the workplace.

Their research will study the behaviors of collaborative robots, which work side by side with individuals to complete repetitive tasks in fields such as manufacturing, mining, construction and energy. While collaborative robots are equipped with advanced sensors and software designed to help them swiftly detect and adapt to intrusions in the workplace, the pair hopes to uncover more about how they process and respond to human emotions. Their findings can help ensure safer and more efficient work environments.

“Collaborative robotics is a growing area in robot technology and will be an estimated
$13 billion business by 2025,” Mehta said. “It is thus timely to develop technical intelligent support mechanisms to enhance safer human-robot interactions and teaming.”

Using wearable brain imaging technology, researchers will study the fatigue and stress states of Texas manufacturing workers while they interact with robots. As the robots process these emotions, they will use machine learning to guide their reactions to workers’ cognitive states. With the gathered data, the team will develop an augmented reality assistant to help workers safely perform their jobs with collaborative robots.

What Makes Me Hangry?

Has anyone ever told you, “You’re not you when you’re hungry?”

There’s a simple explanation: When we don’t eat for long periods of time, our body’s glucose levels drop, making it harder to control feelings of anger and irritability. In other words, being hangry is a real physiological condition!

In order for our brain to function properly, it needs glucose for energy. We get this energy source from the foods we eat—primarily carbohydrates. When blood sugar levels get low, certain hormones kick in that produce a hunger signal. If we ignore that signal and the urge to eat, it can lead to dizziness, nausea and, for some people, a short temper.

The best way to avoid or eliminate hanger is to stay in tune with hunger feelings. “Many people experiencing hanger tend to grab the first foods they can get their hands on, such as candy or chips. These foods aren’t the most nutritious and only temporarily raise blood sugar levels,” said Dr. Jenna Anding ’87, a Texas A&M University nutrition science professor and AgriLife Extension specialist. “If you start to feel hungry but your next meal is a couple of hours away, try to snack on foods like whole fruit, nuts, cheese or peanut butter crackers to fight off hanger pangs.”


Dunae Reader '15

Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications/Spirit Editor/Maroon Co-Editor