New Orleans area higher education briefs for Jan. 21, 2013

LSUHSC presenting
oil spill research

Faculty from LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans’ School of Public Health will present research at the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference set for Monday through Wednesday at the New Orleans Marriott Hotel, 555 Canal St.

Presentations are all from The Women and their Children’s Health (WaTCH) Study at the LSUHSC School of Public Health. LSUHSC’s WaTCH Study is a prospective cohort study of the physical, mental and community health effects resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its aftermath.

WaTCH collects information on exposure/proximity to the oil spill; loss of income; reproductive history symptoms; comorbidities; seafood consumption; neighborhood social environment and collective efficacy; community cohesion; and other prior disaster exposures.

WaTCH Study investigators will assess whether health outcomes associated with the spill are modified by community and individual resilience and social capital.

Investigators also are studying the oil spill’s effects on children’s resiliency.

The study is being conducted among women and their children in the seven Southeast Louisiana parishes closest to the oil spill.

Helen Prejean slated
to speak at Loyola

Sister Helen Prejean will speak about abolishing the death penalty at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Loyola University’s Louis J. Roussel Performance Hall.

The event, “The Spark: Christians as Catalysts Against the Death Penalty,” is sponsored by Loyola’s Jesuit Social Research Institute, St. Gabriel Catholic Church and Trinity Episcopal Church.

The event is free and open to the public.

There will be an opportunity to purchase Prejean’s books, and the event will feature a book signing afterward.

Prejean began her prison ministry in the 1980s when she became pen pals with death-row inmate and convicted killer Patrick Sonnier.

When Prejean became his spiritual adviser, she witnessed the execution process firsthand and wrote about her experiences in the forerunner to the movie, the best-selling book “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States.”

Prejean lectures nationally and internationally about the death penalty.

She continues to counsel death-row inmates and also founded Survive, a New Orleans-based advocacy group dedicated to helping the families of murder victims.

Tulane historian leaves bequest

The Tulane University Latin American Library and the Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies have received generous gifts from the estate of the late Tulane historian and professor Richard E. Greenleaf.

Greenleaf’s gift to the library will fund special acquisitions, allowing the library to buy rare and unique research materials.

The Stone Center will use Greenleaf’s gift to establish a research support fund for the scholars who come to Tulane every year as Zemurray-Stone Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellows in Latin American studies.

Greenleaf came to Tulane in 1969 and retired from the university in 1998.

He died in Albuquerque, N.M., at the age of 81. At his retirement, he was the France Vinton Scholes Professor of Colonial Latin American History and director of the Stone Center.

Research targets
rheumatoid arthritis

A technology startup founded by Tulane researcher Aline Betancourt will use a $400,000 innovation grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a stem-cell therapy for rheumatoid arthritis.

Betancourt’s company, Wibi+Works, is utilizing a patented technology she developed at Tulane to design and produce uniform adult mesenchymal stem cells to treat chronic states of inflammation.

The Phase I Small Business Innovation Research Grant is proof of concept funding for preclinical trials to demonstrate how the technology can target specific tissues and turn off an overactive inflammatory response.

The project will be completed in collaboration with Dr. Gary Firestein and Dr. Monica Guma at the University of California–San Diego.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects more than 1.5 million adults in the United States. Betancourt, a research associate professor with the Tulane Center for Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine, said current drugs for the disease are imprecise, suppressing the entire immune system to reduce inflammation in one remote problem area.

Wibi+Works’ cell products are designed to be used as a short-term therapy when needed to manage misguided inflammation.

This targeted therapy also means that the patient’s immune system will not be compromised nor will they have to spend a lifetime on immune suppressive regimens, Betancourt says

The company is one of several local biotechnology firms housed in the newly opened New Orleans BioInnovation Center at 1441 Canal St.

UNO alumna sets music performance

University of New Orleans alumna Kadisha Onalbayeva will perform at 2 p.m. Sunday in UNO Recital Hall at the Performing Arts Center.

Her performance is part of the UNO Guest Artist and Alumni Series.

It is free and open to the public.

Steinway & Sons recently announced that Onalbayeva has been named a Steinway Artist.

She joins a roster of performers that includes Billy Joel, Diana Krall and Harry Connick Jr., and past musical greats such as Irving Berlin and Cole Porter.

She is the first Steinway Artist from Kazakhstan and the first UNO graduate to earn the distinction. Onalbayeva graduated from the UNO Department of Music with a master’s degree in composition in 2005 and a master’s in piano performance in 2006.

She is an artist-in-residence at the University of Mobile.

UNO concert series to return in the fall

The University of New Orleans’ award-winning Musical Excursions concert series will return after a one-year hiatus thanks to a $10,000 grant from two New Orleans family foundations.

The grant, from the Harper Family Foundation and the Mitchiner-Gittinger Family Foundation, will revive a tradition of presenting first-class classical and world music that began in 1993.

The series will resume during the fall 2013 semester. Recent Musical Excursions artists include cellist Alisa Weilerstein, recipient of a MacArthur “genius grant”; the Ariel String Quartet; the American Brass Quintet; several Van Cliburn International Piano Competition medalists; and world music stars such as Brazilian guitarist Adair Assad and Indian sarode virtuoso Alam Khan.

In addition to the four featured performances each year, Musical Excursions offers several free Sunday matinees.

These concerts feature local and regional artists.

In 2006, Musical Excursions expanded its mission to engage young audiences in New Orleans schools through an artist outreach effort.

Each Musical Excursions performer or ensemble performs free master classes for UNO students and conducts an informational performance at an area school.

An estimated 1,200 students have participated in the Musical Excursions outreach program.

Loyola to showcase graduate school life

Loyola University will showcase the graduate school experience with two events Tuesday, from everything required to enroll, to some of the research projects and ideas students are working on.

Both are free and open to the public.

The Graduate Research Symposium will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Held annually, the event allows graduate students at Loyola to showcase some of their research projects and ideas with current and potential students.

The Graduate Program Open House will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., in the St. Charles Room, in the Danna Student Center on Loyola’s main campus, 6363 St. Charles Ave.

The open house is an opportunity for potential students interested in learning more about the graduate degrees and dual degrees available at Loyola. Chairs and directors from each program will discuss application information, standards for admission and degree requirements.

At the end, groups will break out into round-table discussions so that potential students can float around and ask questions of each program.

Baroque Orchestra comes to Tulane

The 58th chamber music season of the New Orleans Friends of Music continues with an 8 p.m. Jan. 29 performance by the renowned Venice Baroque Orchestra at Tulane’s University’s Dixon Hall.

The concert is preceded by a free lecture at 7 p.m. by John Joyce of the Tulane music department.

The Venice Baroque Orchestra, led by founder and harpischordist Andrea Marcon, is one of Europe’s premier ensembles devoted to period instrument performance. For this New Orleans concert, the VBO program will include works by Bach, Handel, Telemann, Vivaldi, Geminiani and Veracini.

Tickets are available online (www.friendsofmusic.org) or at the door for $35 ($15 for students, with free admission for Tulane students).

Parking is available at Tulane’s Diboll Garage off Willow Street, with a free shuttle before and after the performance for concert attendees.

Compiled by
the New Orleans bureau