University of Texas at Austin

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We all think we know what happy means. But when you get down to it, how would we actually define it? Raj Raghunathan has tried. He teaches marketing at UT’s McCombs School of Business. He studies, among other things, consumer behavior, decision theory, and happiness. Raghunathan says different people define happiness differently, but a couple of traits are universal. It’s a positive emotion, and we want to experience it. But, he says, pursuing society’s most common markers of happiness won’t actually get us there.

Frank Meaker, flickr.com/utlibraries

With classes back in session on the 40 Acres, it won’t be long before students are huddled around books and notes, cramming for exams.

It’s a time that Frank Meaker has come to catalog – but not on a way you’d expect.

Meaker’s been with the University of Texas for 25 years; for the last 10 years, Meaker’s worked at the Perry-Castañeda Library as a maintenance specialist. Toward the end of each semester, he noticed the whiteboards in study rooms would be filled with drawings – some crude, some detailed, but all a window into stressed-out students’ minds.

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UT researchers have developed 61 new strains of genetically-engineered bacteria, which they say could improve and transform vaccines.

The strains of E. Coli are part of a new class of adjuvants, which are substances mixed in with vaccines that stimulate and improve the human body’s immune response to vaccinations. M. Stephen Trent, an associate professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at UT who worked on the research, said these new strains gives the medical field more options for vaccine development.

courtesy Andrew Magill at flickr.com/amagill/

The University of Texas is warning students to be cautious of emails from private companies that advertise student loans from for-profit lenders.

Those emails may use misleading wording in the subject line that could suggest that they were sent by the university. But the Office of Student Financial Services at UT does not promote or endorse any private lenders, according to spokeswoman Jamie Brown.

She says that even with reputable companies, students should shop carefully.

University of Texas

Two professors at the University of Texas have won the National Medal of Science, the highest award given to scientists, engineers and inventors by the U.S. government. They are only the fourth and fifth UT faculty members to win the prize since 1962.

Doctor Allen Bard, a professor in the Chemistry Department at UT, received the award for his outstanding achievement in electrochemistry. He developed an electrochemical microscope that analyzes the chemical makeup of very small surfaces.

2012 was a banner year for renewable energy. But in Texas and across the county, one energy story captured public attention like none other: fracking.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a drilling practice used to extract natural gas from hard-to-reach deposits. Hydraulic fracturing fluid is pumped deep into underground wells to break up natural gas deposits. The fluid is then removed, and deposited into disposal wells, while the gas deposits are collected.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Turn on the History Channel, and you’ll find plenty of speculation about the Mayan calendar. The “long count” calendar comes to an end on Dec. 21, 2012 – and chances are you’ve heard what that’s supposed to mean.

David Stuart, a professor of art history at the University of Texas at Austin recently deciphered a hieroglyph that included a second reference to the end-date. “This is an important date,” Stuart tells KUT News.  But “the Maya never said anything about the end of the world … they never predicted or prophesied anything about what would happen.”

Greg Echlin, KUT News

The Texas Longhorns have advanced to the women’s volleyball championship game for the third time in four years.  The only thing standing in the way of a possible national title is Penn State. 

The Lady Lions has defeated the Longhorns in their last two final four appearances. Texas coach Jerritt Elliott hopes this will be different than their last trip to the title game in Tampa three years ago, a heartbreaking five-set loss against Penn State.

University of Texas School of Law

A controversial University of Texas law professor’s comments on race are drawing negative attention online.

In an interview with the BBC, Lino Graglia said African-Americans and Hispanics are less academically competent than whites. “I can hardly imagine a less beneficial or more deleterious experience than to be raised by a single parent,” Graglia said. “Usually a female, uneducated and without a lot of money.”

At that point, the interview interjected: “I’m black. I was raised in a single parent family. You’re saying I’m likely not as smart as a white person of the same age?”

Good morning. The National Weather Service says a freeze warning is still in effect through 10 a.m., before Austin warms to the mid-50s this afternoon. Here’s some stories KUT News has been working on:

“When the Senate Committee on State Affairs of state lawmakers got together Monday at the Capitol, they were urged to require companies to provide workers’ compensation insurance.

The Texas Department of Insurance says one out of five employees in the state works for a company that does not provide workers’ comp. That number has stayed relatively unchanged for two decades.”

“State Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview), has announced his intention to challenge current speaker Rep. Joe Straus (R-San Antonio.)

Following the announcement another Straus challenger – Rep. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) – dropped out and put his support behind Simpson.”

utexas.edu

On Saturday night, following Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel’s Heisman win, some Aggies got so carried away by their excitement that they saw the man called “Johnny Football” everywhere.

The University of Texas’s December graduation also took place on Saturday.  It’s the university’s tradition to light the clock tower orange, with the windows lit to form the class year of the graduates.  So Saturday night, the clock tower bore a giant 12, in honor of the 2012 graduating class.

University of Texas Energy Institute

Update and correction: In a press release, UT announced that ​Dr. Raymond Orbach had “resigned.” It did not say, however, that Orbach will be staying at UT as a tenured professor. Orbach has only resigned as head of the Energy Institute, effective Dec. 31. This post has since been corrected. 

Original post: One University of Texas professor has retired and another has stepped down from a leadership role after a review found a conflict of interest in a controversial report on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

As KUT News previously reported, the report from the UT Energy Institute, “Separating Fact From Fiction in Shale Gas Development,” stated that fracking, when executed properly, doesn’t contaminate groundwater. But StateImpact Texas reported that the study's leader failed to disclose financial ties to the drilling industry, including a seat on the board of a drilling company.  

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

On the agenda for Thursday morning's meeting of the University of Texas System Board of Regents is a discussion on a topic near and dear to the pocketbooks of many students and their parents: student loan debt.

With student loan debt now surpassing national credit card debt, part of UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa's framework for advancing excellence, which was approved in 2011, called for the formation of a task force to study the issue. The task force's report, which includes recommendations on how the system can help ease the burden on students, will be presented at Thursday's meeting.

KUT News

A group that formed in 2011 in response to a prominent push for higher education policy proposals it viewed as misguided released a report on Thursday that makes a case for the value of the state's flagship universities: the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University.

The Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education report was written by Michael McLendon, a professor of higher education policy and leadership at Southern Methodist University. He previously worked at Vanderbilt University, where he completed much of the work on the report.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The Texas Longhorns will play Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio this post-season.

The Longhorns have played the Oregon State Beavers twice. UT won both times. Oregon State does have a better record and a higher rank this season. The game is Dec. 29.

Some expected the Longhorns to head to the Cotton Bowl. Instead, that’s where UT’s Big 12 rival Oklahoma will play former Big 12 rival Texas A&M on Jan. 4.

The Sooners lost out on a chance to play in a BCS bowl when Mid-American Conference champ Northern Illinois moved up in the rankings and earned an automatic bid.

NASA/ESA/Andrew C. Fabian

Scientists at the University of Texas say they’ve discovered the most massive black hole ever identified.

It sits in the center of a galaxy called NGC 1277. It has a mass equivalent to about 17 billion suns.

Doctor Karl Gebhardt is an astrophysicist at UT, and a member of the team that made the discovery. He says their finding could help us better understand the way galaxies are formed.

flickr.com/eelundgaard

A trial is underway to determine who owns a Andy Warhol portrait of Farrah Fawcett: the late actress’s on-again, off-again companion, or the University of Texas.

UT and actor Ryan O’Neal face off in a Los Angeles courtroom today. When Fawcett died in 2009, she bequeathed her art collection to UT, her alma matter – including a silkscreened portrait of Fawcett made by famed pop-artist Andy Warhol in 1979.  UT reportedly hired a private investigator to track down the portrait.

MJ&M Facebook Page

An actor, a musician and UT’s head football coach are joining forces to help kids in need.

Mack Brown, Jack Ingram and Matthew McConaughey are putting together an event they’re calling “Mack, Jack & McConaughey" or "MJ&M."

There's not a lot of information right now—even the event's website says "additional details to be announced."

What we do know is that MJ&M will be a two-day, celebrity-filled special event held in Austin in April to raise funds for various children’s charities. The only charity already listed by name as one that will be supported is McConaughey’s just keep livin Foundation.

Callie Richmond via Texas Tribune

Despite its glowing reputation, Austin has faced a gap when compared with other major metropolitan areas: the lack of a medical school and the cutting-edge research it can provide.

But that gap appears to be closing after Travis County voters approved a five-cent property tax hike this month to help finance a plan to overhaul the region’s approach to health care — including the construction of a research-intensive medical school that will be affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin.

Good morning. The National Weather Service says to expect highs in the 60s and gusty winds today. Here’s a look at stories KUT News has been working on:

"The Texas House has formed a committee to look into how the state would handle “sequestration.” That’s the package of automatic federal spending cuts and tax increases that take effect at the end of the year — the so-called 'fiscal cliff.' That includes about $109 billion in cuts.

The committee was put together by House Speaker Joe Straus, who said in a news release that he hoped Congress would be able to find a way to reduce the deficit without increasing taxes or cutting jobs."

"Today is the first day Texas lawmakers can file bills ahead of the 2013 legislative session. The 200 or so early bills are usually a hodgepodge of political statements, second attempts and high priority legislation. …

Several first-day bills filed by Republicans in 2010 focused on illegal immigration, and efforts to curb it in Texas. Maybe because of Mitt Romney's poor performance among Hispanics (or maybe not), there were no immigration bills filed by mid-afternoon today."

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