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March 7, 2023

Research, workforce development and economic growth news stories and other feature articles from the University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Alaska Southeast, University of Alaska System Office and the UA Foundation. Compiled by the University of Alaska System Office of Public Affairs.

University of Alaska Anchorage

Bernie’s Pharmacy helps educate Alaska pharmacists for fifth year in a row

Since the Doctor of Pharmacy Program began in Alaska, Bernie’s Pharmacy has provided nearly $30,000 in scholarships to students.  

Bernie’s Pharmacy is an Alaskan-owned, independent pharmacy in Anchorage, founded in 1980 by life-long Alaskan, Bernie Klouda. Over the years, Bernie provided the opportunity for pharmacy students to complete their intern rotations at Bernie’s Pharmacy, mentoring many pharmacy students and new pharmacists. 

“The collaboration between UAA and ISU to open a Doctor of Pharmacy education program in Alaska has been a historic undertaking to address the unique needs of developing pharmacists in our state, and Bernie’s Pharmacy has been with us every step of the way, making sure our students are successful,” explains Tom Wadsworth, PharmD, BCPS, executive associate dean for the program at UAA/ISU. 

Contact: Jennifer Motes

Checks are presented to the Bernie Klouda Memorial Scholarship supporting the UAA/ISU Doctor of Pharmacy Program.

Checks are presented to the Bernie Klouda Memorial Scholarship supporting the UAA/ISU Doctor of Pharmacy Program. Present are (L to R): Executive Associate Dean Tom Wadsworth, Editha Manansala from First National Bank of Alaska, Scholarship recipients David Besh, Hee Namung and Viktorija Podlutskaya, Jacqueline May, Alaska Pharmacist of the Year and Teresa E. Hall-Klouda, owner of Bernie's Pharmacy, and Kippy Lane, branch manager from First National Bank of Alaska. (Photo by Brett Rawalt / University of Alaska Anchorage)

UAA faculty and students use machine learning to debunk COVID-19 misinformation

Since the launch of the cutting-edge chatbot ChatGPT in late 2022, the potential applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning have dominated the news.

At UAA, computer science Professor Shawn Butler, Ph.D., has been using machine learning to debunk COVID-19 misinformation on social media. Butler’s efforts are part of the Division of Population Health Sciences and Department of Journalism and Public Communication’s mission to combat COVID-19 misinformation on public-facing Facebook pages with scientifically accurate information from credited sources through its ongoing Alaska Public Health Information Response Team project.

Identifying and responding to misinformation on the internet can be a daunting and time-consuming process. So Butler and her team developed a way to use machine learning to assist in automatically identifying COVID-19 misinformation through natural language processing analysis, where a model is fed a data set of text labeled as “misinformation” or “not misinformation” with point values assigned to certain keywords or phrases to train the model to identify misinformation that is not labeled.

Currently, Butler’s model boasts an 80% accuracy rate when identifying misinformation and a 50% accuracy rate when identifying what isn’t misinformation — a number she is confident will improve after providing the model with a much larger labeled data set.

Contact: Matt Jardin

Six UAA alumni named Top Forty Under 40 in 2023

The Alaska Journal of Commerce released its annual list of the top young professionals in the state. Selected from a field of 262 nominations, the 2023 Top Forty Under 40 recipients exemplify excellence in professional and community service. 

Congratulations to all awardees, including six Seawolf alumni (and one faculty member) who made this year's list.

Contact: Matt Jardin

University of Alaska Fairbanks

UAF researchers aiding NASA in developing Venus seismometer

Researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, working with NASA, are helping create a Venusian seismometer that can operate long enough in that planet’s extremes to provide insight into its seismicity.

It’s a major challenge. Venus has surface temperatures of 900 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt lead, and atmospheric pressure 90 times that of Earth, equal to the pressure a mile beneath Earth’s oceans.

Learning about the seismicity of Venus is one part of NASA’s Seismic and Atmospheric Exploration of Venus, or SAEVe, project. 

Contact: Rod Boyce 

Graphic showing instruments to be aboard NASA’s Seismic and Atmospheric Exploration of Venus lander.

A seismometer is one of many instruments to be aboard NASA’s Seismic and Atmospheric Exploration of Venus lander. (NASA illustration)

Study: Drones effective for surveying tidewater glacier habitat

A University of Alaska Fairbanks research project has shown that drones can accurately measure icebergs shed by tidewater glaciers, a potential boon for studying vanishing coastal habitat for seals and other animals in the North Pacific.

Aerial surveys of such icebergs have taken place for decades, but they typically require good weather and expensive fixed-wing aircraft. Drone surveys are much cheaper and more easily deployed. 

However, it was previously unclear whether drones could deliver accurate images when both they and the floating icebergs were drifting in winds and currents.

The study found that the drones performed well, recording the height and size of icebergs with mean error ratios of less than 10%. 

Contact: Jeff Richardson

MAPTS gets grant to train workers for mine near Tetlin

A $300,000 state grant will help the University of Alaska Fairbanks train local residents for jobs at the Kinross Manh Choh mine project. 

Manh Choh is a gold prospect located on Tetlin tribal land southeast of Tok. The funding is part of a pilot project to train up to 28 residents from the Tok area. 

UAF’s Mining and Petroleum Training Service, a branch of the university’s Cooperative Extension Service, will provide the training at its center near Delta Junction.

MAPTS director William Bieber said trainees will gain the skills necessary to start and hold mine-related jobs. Many of these lifelong skills are transferable to other jobs, he said.

“This program and facility is the only one in the world that trains entry-level miners in a real mining environment,” Bieber said. 

 Contact: Julie Stricker

University of Alaska Southeast

UAS Class “The Vietnam War in Film” Announces Guest Speakers for 2023 Spring Semester

The University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) class “The Vietnam War in Film” (HIST375) has begun and this semester will feature several guest speakers. This course examines the origins, development, legacies and the many facets of the Vietnam War through documentaries, feature films, short films, visuals, and written texts to explore not only the American perspective but many others, including those of Americans' friends and foes.

All classes begin at 5:30 pm and end at 8:30 pm. The first 90 minutes of class will be a documentary screening or lecture, followed by an open discussion.

Contact: Keni Campbell

Nguyet Nguyen, Ph.D., UAS Assistant Professor of History

Nguyet Nguyen, Ph.D., UAS Assistant Professor of History

UAS Faculty & Leadership Featured in Princeton Symposium

On February 10, Princeton University partnered with the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) and other organizations to present the symposium “Tlingit Art, Spirit, and Ancestry: Healing Histories of Dispossession.” The event took place in the Chancellor Green Rotunda of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs in Princeton, New Jersey. The event was recorded for later viewing.

The symposium explored the restoration of Tlingit belongings and art to the places from which they were taken. It “confronts histories of dispossession and asks how we can restore ancestral connections. Speakers reorient Western understandings of material objects towards Tlingit and Indigenous experiences of embodiment, spirituality, land, and kinship.” Princeton acquired hundreds of Tlingit belongings when Presbyterian missionaries brought them from Southeast Alaska to the Princeton Theological Seminary in the late 19th century.

Contact: Keni Campbell

UAS Asian American and Pacific Islander Student Club kicks off with laughter, music, and food

A new opportunity for students to connect is underway this semester with the formation of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) club. “We are excited for our students and they are motivated to make this happen. I’m just happy to see their great energy and what they can bring to our campus because I know they work hard.” shared Mae Delcastillo, Administrative Manager for Enrollment Management & Student Affairs. The motivation to start an AAPI club at UAS stems from the increase in anti-Asian xenophobia linked to the COVID-19 pandemic in this current world. The hope for this club is to unite and support our AAPI students in a safe place where we can educate and bring our own sense of pride in our heritage and culture into the institutional environment. We also want to explore and address issues concerning our AAPI students. This club would not happen if it were not for our students and the support and guidance from community leaders, committed faculty and staff, and our Student Equity & Multicultural Services Manager, Kolene James.”

Contact: Keni Campbell

UA System Office

Short-term accomplishments, long-term progress highlighted at February Regents Meeting

The University of Alaska (UA) Board of Regents heard how the university plays a major role in Alaska’s current economy and future capacity for growth during its February meeting. The Regents heard updates on the System’s role as an economic driver, and further refined Goals and Measures to set the system up for future success and growth including a focus on UAF becoming a tier 1 research university, an emphasis on growing enrollment across the system and developing a skilled workforce for Alaska’s industries.

"I'm pleased with the progress UA has made on our Goals and Measures, and optimistic about the future of all three universities,” Board Chair Ralph Seekins said. “I'd like to express a hearty ‘welcome’ to our new Regents, and thank them for their willingness to serve. We look forward to seeing continued positive progress under President Pitney's leadership."

Contact: Jonathon Taylor

Chair Regent Seekins during February meeting

Chair Ralph Seekins smiles during the February Board of Regents meeting. (Photo by James Evans)

UA Foundation

UA Giving Day sets new record

The University of Alaska system, including University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks and University of Alaska Southeast, wrapped up the most successful UA Giving Day in its history, raising over $1.3 million in 49 hours. The universities saw an incredible show of support from more than 1,700 donors who came together to make a difference in the lives of students and support important programs and activities.

“The total dollars raised is astounding, and so is the fact that thousands of gifts were received from throughout Alaska, 46 states and seven countries,” said Tod Burnett, UA Foundation president. “These gifts will benefit students across Alaska. It’s humbling to see the phenomenal support for Alaska’s public university system.” 

Contact: Cassandra Stalzer

Text 49 hours for Alaska over picture of UA museum

#49HoursForAlaska (Courtesy UA Foundation)

UA System "Did You Know?"

Did you know the University of Alaska system offers more than 40 programs directly related to the construction industry in Alaska?

From carpentry to surveying, heavy duty equipment to welding, and civil engineering to project and construction management, these programs range from short-term certificates to four-year degrees and beyond, and all are designed with industry input to provide the skills needed for employment or career advancement.

Since 2011, 3,626 people have graduated from programs relevant to the state's construction industry and are working either directly in construction or are employed in closely-related industries such as transportation, mining, and oil and gas. Significant numbers also work in state and local government. 

Learn more about the programs, partnerships and opportunities available across the University of Alaska system in our latest “Did You Know” video feature.

Contact: Jonathon Taylor

Students in the Construction Management program work with a contractor on a job site

Students in the Construction Management program work with a contractor on a job site. (UAF photo)

For more information on the UA Newswire, contact UA Manager of Communications & Marketing Monique Musick at mmusick@alaska.edu