Life, family and faith among African-Americans and Latino families

January 29, 2016

Nick Wolfinger, a U professor of family and consumer studies, this month released research about faith and family life among nonwhite Americans in a new book, “Soul Mates: Religion, Sex, Love & Marriage Among African Americans and Latinos.” By 2050, a majority of Americans will be minorities, yet we know little about faith and family life among nonwhite Americans, according to Wolfinger, whose book details interesting aspects of family life. “Soul Mates” offers a positive portrait of black and Latino families. Most African-Americans will marry at some point in their lives, a majority of African-Americans are coupled when they have children, and most black couples are happy and monogamous. Most Latinos will marry at some point in their lives, a majority of them are married when they have children, most Latino couples are happy, and divorce rates are lower among Latinos than for the country as a whole. One reason so many families of color are thriving is that they tend to be more religious than average Americans. Wolfinger is available to talk to media about the book and some of its surprising findings. Nick Wolfinger, office 801-581-7491,


Seeking Moab’s missing groundwater

January 29, 2016

Groundwater is an important resource for Utah’s Grand and San Juan counties, and provides nearly 100 percent of the drinking water for the city of Moab. Surface water in the Moab area is fully allocated, and with the population growing, it is important to find how much groundwater is available. So University of Utah geology and geophysics professor Kip Solomon and graduate student Nora Nelson are working with U.S. Geological Survey researchers to find “missing” groundwater in Spanish Valley, south of Moab. Spanish Valley’s groundwater resources last were evaluated in 1970. However, more recent sampling of groundwater at the valley’s downstream end failed to find much of the groundwater that was included in the 1970 evaluation. While groundwater is by far the largest reservoir of usable fresh water on Earth, replenishment rates are highly variable and difficult to measure, which complicates management decisions that seek to use groundwater in a sustainable manner.

Kip Solomon, office 801-581-7231, cell 801-718-6921,

Gamma rays from far, far away

January 14, 2016

At least 7.6 billion years ago – when the universe was less than half its current 13.8-billion-year age – a superbright galaxy known as a blazar spewed two powerful jets of light, X-rays, radio waves and other radiation, including gamma rays. These gargantuan jets were emitted as a supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s heart sucked in huge amounts of gas and dust. One of those jets was aimed at Earth. It slammed into Earth’s atmosphere last April 25. It was detected by various orbiting and ground-based observatories, including the world’s most sensitive, high-energy gamma-ray observatory, VERITAS, the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System in southern Arizona. Dave Kieda – a U professor of physics and astronomy and dean of the graduate school – leads the U’s research group in the multi-institution VERITAS collaboration. He can discuss the latest findings, published last month, about blazar PKS 1441+25’s gamma ray blast from the distant past. One is that the universe is much more transparent to the passage of radiation than was thought, given that the gamma rays reached Earth despite the “fog” of light from other objects in the universe. Second, the gamma rays originated much farther from the heart of the supermassive black hole than was expected, about the 4-light-year distance between our sun and the nearest star. Third, the gamma-ray measurements confirmed theories about the number and brightness of stars and galaxies that emit gamma rays.
David Kieda, office 801-581-6926, cell 801-518-2548,

Flash technology

December 17, 2015

U metallurgical engineers will celebrate completion of their innovative $5 million Flash Ironmaking Reactor – a project aimed at developing “flash technology” to make iron and steel as an alternative to the traditional blast furnace and coke oven. The new process is expected to significantly reduce energy consumption, save money and reduce water and air pollution, especially climate-warming carbon dioxide gas. The project – funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, American Iron and Steel Institute and the U – is led by metallurgical engineering professor Hong Yong Sohn and project manager Yousef Mohassab. They will lead a tour of the lab, followed by a presentation in the nearby Olpin Union.
Hong Yong Sohn, office: 801-581-5491, cell 801-809-7457 | Email:
Yousef Mohassab, office: 801-585-5867, cell 801-386-0358 | Email:
Ribbon-cutting and tour, Mining Systems Research Lab, Bldg. 59 (onsite signs say Ivor Thomas Lab), 128 Central Campus Drive, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Presentation of Flash Ironmaking Reactor, Panorama East Room, Olpin Union Bldg., 200 Central Campus Drive, 11:30 a.m. – noon.

Medical miracles

December 17, 2015

It’s a problem that medical providers often face: patients near the end of their lives request treatments that their physicians think are medically inappropriate, or futile.  The problem becomes even thornier when the patients request futile treatment because they believe in the healing power of prayer and are hoping for a religious miracle, according to Teneille Brown, a professor at S.J. Quinney College of Law who has researched the issue and earlier this year published a paper titled “Accomodating Miracles.” Most states have passed medical futility statutes that allow physicians to unilaterally discontinue futile treatments. However, physicians are generally quite uncomfortable invoking these statutes, especially if the life support, chemotherapy, or feeding tubes are requested in order to give the patient more time to pray for a miracle, Brown’s research has found.  Under the religious freedom protections of the federal and state governments, what are the doctors legally allowed to do?  Do these medical futility statutes violate principles of religious freedom? Brown is available to speak about these issues and how they relate to her research.
Teneille Brown | Phone: 801-581-5883 | Email:

The development of fairness

November 20, 2015

A dozen scientists from nine universities tested 866 pairs of children in seven nations to learn how our views of fairness develop and change. One child in each pair had to allocate Skittles or other candies either to themselves or their partner. The study, published Nov. 18 in the journal Nature, found that young children quickly develop one sense of fairness: an aversion to getting less than others. That was true in all seven societies: the US, Canada, Peru, India, Mexico, Uganda and Senegal. But another sense of fairness—an aversion to having more than others—developed only later in childhood and only in three of the societies: the US, Canada and Uganda. That suggests culture plays a big role on that form of fairness. Karen Kramer, an associate professor of anthropology at the U, was among co-authors of the study, conducting research on Maya-speaking children of Mexico.
Office 801-581-8535 | Cell 505-690-3999| Email: 

Conflict minerals, Congo and Congress

November 18, 2015

A University of Utah law professor testified in Washington D.C. this week, telling the House Financial Services Monetary Policy and Trade Subcommittee that the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 —in which public companies are required to monitor their supply chain for minerals mined from regions controlled by militia groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo —is not effectively curbing companies from using “conflict minerals” in their products. Jeff Schwartz will publish a forthcoming article in the Harvard Business Law Review examining the inaugural data submitted by companies to the SEC—and whether the disclosures helped with supply chain transparency. His research and testimony before Congress indicates that the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 isn’t having its desired effects. The rule “is a failure in its current form, because the filings that companies have submitted to the SEC in response do not provide sufficient insight into conflict mineral supply chains,” he said in the hearing, which was covered by the Wall Street Journal. Schwartz is available to speak about his research, testimony and other issues related to conflict minerals and the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010.
Phone: 801-581-3773 | Email:

Context from Campus: Nov.9 -13

November 6, 2015

Trending Topics:

How toxic is social media?
This past week, a 19-year-old Instagram model Essena O’Neill with over 800,000 followers made international headlines when she announced that she would quit social media. O’Neill has since re-captioned many of her old photos to reveal the amount of effort and sponsorship that went into seemingly effortless and spontaneous moments. She also spoke out on the toxic effects social media had on her self-esteem and perceptions of reality. It’s undeniable that social media is an unavoidable aspect of Americans’ lives and have many benefits such as keeping distant friends and family members connected. However, there are many negative effects too, such as unrealistic expectations and unhealthy comparisons. Avery Holton, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Utah, is available to comment on O’Neill’s recent actions, motivations and social media’s impacts in general.
Avery Holton Phone: 801-585-1067| Email:

Utah Legislative Preview: What will be the hot issues in 2016?
Medicaid expansion, LGBT rights versus religious freedoms, the right to use medical marijuana and a host of other issues took center stage during the 2015 Utah legislative session.
What’s on deck for 2016?  Jason Perry, interim director of the Hinckley Institute at the University of Utah, is available to offer commentary on the notable political events of 2015 as well as predictions for what’s to come in 2016.
*To schedule an interview with Jason Perry, contact Natalie Tippets, Phone: 801-581-8514 | Email:

Link between family history of Alzheimer’s disease and financial planning
A new study from University of Utah researchers asserts that the people most likely to see expert financial advice and to delay retirement are those whose families People whose families have a history of Alzheimer’s disease. The study, by U researchers Cathleen Zick, Robert Mayer and Ken Smith, suggests that people who may be prone to Alzheimer’s are perhaps more in tune to the costs of institutionalized care and therefore plan more. The study, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, found people whose families had a history of Alzheimer’s were 86 percent more likely to have visited with a wealth management professional and 40 percent less likely to retire before age 65 in comparison to people without a history of Alzheimer’s in their families. The study has been submitted to American Journal of Alzheimer’s disease & Other Dementias and will be published in coming weeks. Researchers are happy to discuss their findings.
Cathleen Zick Phone: 801-581-3147 | Email:

Nice guys can finish first
Do nice people have a greater ability to motivate others to cooperate? Or is competence the most important factor at play when it comes to organizing cooperation? Those questions are at the forefront of new research published by University of Utah anthropologist Shane Macfarlan and co-author co-author Henry F. Lyle of the University of Washington in the journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. After spending several months studying the dynamics of people in Dominica and Peru, Macfarlan and Lyle uncovered new information about how people respond to different characteristics among leaders. “The gist is this: do competent or “nice” folks have a greater ability to motivate others to cooperate? While nice guys are nice and everyone likes them, we may not believe they are capable of getting the job done and therefore they may have difficulty getting others to contribute to collective endeavors,” said Macfarlan. “It might feel good to help Forrest Gump because he’s a nice guy; however, he’s not the guy you want to organize cooperation because he doesn’t seem so competent. The information is relevant to ongoing debates over what makes a strong leader, said Macfarlan. He noted that society continually debates whether they prefer leaders who can get the job done, —or who are cooperative. Macfarlan is available to speak to media about the findings of his study.
Shane Macfarlan | Phone: 510-295-9282 | Email:

New York Mets star and U alum George Theodore remembers
He was nicknamed “The Stork.” At 6 feet 5 inches tall, George Theodore stood out among the 1973 New York Mets. He moved well on his long legs, making him a dynamite first baseman and a quick outfielder. Today, as a school social worker, he towers above the elementary students with whom he works, yet his warm demeanor, quirky sense of humor, and terrific baseball stories make him easily accessible to both kids and parents. During his senior year of college – upon the recommendation of his aunt – Theodore applied to the U’s Master of Social Work (MSW) Program. Shortly after being accepted, he was drafted by the New York Mets in the 31st round of the amateur draft. He eventually returned to the U in 1976 and finished his degree, embarking on a lifelong career in social work. Theodore recently shared his story with the College of Social Work and is happy to speak about the role the U played in shaping who he is today.
Jennifer Nozawa, public relations specialist, University of Utah College of Social Work | Phone: 801-585-9303 | Email:


Saturday, Nov. 7
Religious freedom in a changing world

Religious freedom: it’s a topic that has received intense national attention in recent months, following the actions of Kentucky Court Clerk Kim Davis —who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples because of her religious beliefs. Davis spent five days in jail after ignoring a court order that she issue marriage licenses to all couples, following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June 2015 that legalized gay marriage. Her actions drew both ire and support, and the high profile case is one example of many cases before legislatures and courts that have addressed conflicts between civil rights and religious liberties. In Utah, other issues of religious freedom have also made headlines, including this week’s announcement by the LDS Church on membership of same-sex couples and their children. Continued attention on the topic is one reason students at the S.J. Quinney College of Law are helping to organize a symposium discussing the issue. Sponsored by the J. Reuben Clark Law Society, the event will feature discussion by attorneys, faith community leaders and a legislator on various topics related to religious freedom. Cost is $10 for the general public and $5 for students.
S.J. Quinney College of Law, 383 South University Street, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Monday, Nov. 9
Evidence-based decisions for policy: The case for eyewitness identification

The University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law on will host a symposium dedicated to better understanding eye witness identification through the use of science for decision-making about public policy. The event at the law school takes place at the Flynn Faculty Scholarship Room (6500) on the sixth floor of the law building. “Evidence-Based Decisions for Policy: The Case for Eyewitness Identification,” will feature a lecture by Joanne Yaffe, a professor at the University of Utah College of Social Work. In late 2013, the National Academies asked Yaffe to help with a fast-track study examining eyewitness identification.  For 11 intensive months, she collaborated with a multidisciplinary team of well-known experts from across the country, examining the issue through the lenses of law enforcement, the judiciary, and social sciences.  The National Academies later released the group’s report, which urged caution in handling and relying upon eyewitness identifications in criminal cases. The group also recommended best practices for law enforcement and courts.
S.J. Quinney College of Law, 383 South University Street, 12:15 to 1:15 p.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 10
The authors and illustrator of “March,” the best-selling graphic novel series that narrates U.S. Rep. John Lewis’s account of the civil rights movement, will speak at the U Nov. 10. Lewis, co-author Andrew Aydin and illustrator Nate Powell will discuss the books and their goal to educate and inspire young people to understand the power of nonviolence. They will participate in a book signing immediately following the event.
Libby Gardner Hall, 1375 Presidents Circle, 11 a.m.

Wednesday, Nov. 11
The U will honor 11 Utah veterans, including Chris Haley, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and lost a leg while trying to aid another injured solider, at its 18th annual Veterans Day commemoration ceremony. The tribute includes a panel discussion, “Forgotten and Abandoned Vietnam Veterans,” a 21-cannon solute, an awards ceremony and a concert.
Union Building, Ballroom, 200 S. Central Campus Drive, 8:30 a.m.-Noon

Thursday, Nov. 12
“The Case Against 8”

The Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah will host a public screening of the Sundance film, “The Case Against 8” draws back the curtain on one of the most contentious legal cases of recent years that paved the way for the ultimate Supreme Court ruling to legalize same-sex marriage. The film will give audiences the opportunity to experience this historical journey in an in-depth and intimate way. The director Ryan White will lead a Q&A session immediately following the screening.
Salt Lake Film Society’s Broadway Centre Cinemas, 111 E. Broadway, 7 p.m. 

Thursday, Nov. 12
Reflections on the 2015 UK parliamentary election
You may know all about how election day shook out in the U.S. this month, but do you know how the 2015 UK parliamentary election changed the political landscape across the pond? Here’s your chance to find out: The Hinckley Institute of Politics hosts “Reflections on the 2015 UK parliamentary election.” John Francis, a professor of political science, will host a panel exploring the recent election.
Orson Spencer Hall, Room 255, 260 Central Campus Drive, 9:10 to 10:10 a.m.

Processed meats and cancer

October 30, 2015

Can eating bacon cause cancer? People across the country became concerned about their breakfast favorite when, on Oct. 26, the World Health Organization released a report announcing findings that eating processed meats like hot dogs, bacon and sausage raises the risk of colon cancer, and put the meats in the same cancer-causing classification as cigarettes and asbestos. Dr. Jewel Samadder, a gastroenterologist at Huntsman Cancer Institute, is available for interviews regarding this study, and can discuss how much processed meats can be consumed, if at all. To schedule an interview with Dr. Samadder, contact Linda Aagard, Director of Public Affairs, Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Linda Aagard Phone: 801-587-7639 | Email:

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October 9, 2015

This October, the U is participating in Breast Cancer Awareness Month with its Breast Assured campaign to encourage more women to learn about mammograms and self-check breast exams at one of our pink lemonade stands throughout the month. Dr. Nicole Winkler, a radiologist specializing in the detection of breast cancer through mammography, is available for interviews regarding a variety of oncology-related topics. More specifically, she can discuss whether mammograms are as effective as we thought in detecting cancer and what to do if your mammogram comes back abnormal. To schedule an interview with Dr. Winkler, contact Linda Aagard, Director of Public Relations for the Huntsman Cancer Institute.
Phone: 801-587-7639 | Email: