ATEC Team’s Creation to Add Interactive Harmony to Jazz Artist’s Show

ATEC sculpture for jazz show
The relief sculpture, constructed by ATEC Professor Andrew F. Scott and his students, depicts a modified peace sign emblazoned in between a set of eyes.

By now, visitors to the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building have grown used to seeing an alternating set of distinctive, cardboard sculptures strewn across all corners of the first floor.

Angular renderings of mermaids, chess knights, masks and an array of abstract forms provide a jolt of creative panache for passers-by. It’s all courtesy of the 3-D Studio and Digital Fabrication Lab led by Professor Andrew F. Scott at UT Dallas.

Stepping into the lab, visitors are met with a workspace in constant motion. At the moment, graduate students are buckling down — weaving their way through a series of tall, steel frames and multiple piles of broad cardboard panels. Scott and his team are in the homestretch of wrapping up a massive undertaking: a relief sculpture that will serve as the interactive backdrop for an upcoming Terence Blanchard concert.

The final work — flat and tall — will stand at a little over 15 feet high and 31 feet wide.

“Think of it as a canvas that we’ll be projecting light onto,” Scott said. “It’s going to be synchronized dynamically to the musical performance, so the music is going to drive the visual performance. In many ways, I see our role as being the sixth member of Terence’s group.”

Members of Scott’s team started with a model a fourth of the size of the final product, giving them an opportunity to test the visual projections they’ve been developing. Another model — half the size — followed suit.

“This model was built in a way that mimicked how we were going to create the full-scale version,” Scott said. “We sort of look at it as skeleton, muscle and skin. We have a steel framework that forms the skeleton of the piece. This carries the loads used to lift it. Attached to that, we have a 2-ply cardboard grillage muscle system that ties into the skeleton. That supports the thin cardboard skin, which is the face of the work.”

While Scott has been working in the realm of 3-D-fabricated art since he was a graduate student at The Ohio State University, his work in projection mapping is relatively new — a product of his appointment to the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication in 2015.

“The biggest shift to my move here and the way it informed my work is that, heretofore, I’d been really concentrating on object making,” he said. “Upon my arrival here, I began to incorporate all the constituent aspects of ATEC into my creative process. I started to do work with light, work with animated content in it and work driven by music. All of these things came together and marked a really dramatic shift in my artistic practice.”

He began projecting photos of people on to his 3-D sculptures. His work became a metaphor for the ways in which society projects certain images and ideas onto them, particularly African-American men.

Shortly after that, he showed his first projection-mapped piece, “Reliquary,” at the PULSE Art and Technology festival in Georgia. The piece caught the eye of his longtime friend and Grammy Award-winning jazz musician Terence Blanchard.

“We have a very long history; we’ve been friends for many years, and we were trying to find ways that we could collaborate,” Scott said.

He ended up working with Blanchard to create the cover art for the musician’s 2015 album “Breathless.” The piece he created for the album, part of Scott’s Black Man Grove series, depicts a sole fist raised in the air with mangrove roots growing out of the wrist.

Blanchard and Scott will continue their creative partnership with this upcoming concert. It’ll be the first time that Scott’s work interacts with a live performance.

Over the final 20 days before their deadline, Scott and his team will focus on the visual elements that will be projected on to the sculpture’s façade. Referencing music taken from Blanchard’s live performances, the students are developing visuals of different textures and styles.

This is ATEC graduate student Vic Simon’s first foray into the field of projection mapping.

“I spent a whole lot of time over the winter break doing preparation — learning about projection mapping and MadMapper,” he said. “It’s been a wild ride, but it’s a really cool piece of creative technology, and I’m very excited about it.”

Students in the course — Topics in Arts and Technology: Projection Mapping — become well-versed in an array of programs used to realize the finished product. Software such as MadMapper and MODUL8 are used to manipulate and edit video in real time.

ATEC graduate student Michael Bradley has split his time between building the sculpture and writing software to help create visualizations for the show.

Bradley said that unlike other courses he’s taken, Scott invites students to combine their individual — and often vastly differing — skills in pursuit of a common goal.

“We have media specialists, fabrication specialists, 3-D modelers, programmers, engineers,” Bradley said. “It’s hard, if not impossible, to work so closely with people like this for 15 or so weeks and not pick up a thing or two from them. I’m learning about new software like in other classes sure, but in this case, when we have a problem to solve or a hole to fill everyone steps up with their own experiences, and Scott composites all the ideas we have into a working solution.”

Next week, the sculpture will be moved to the lecture hall in the ATEC building, where the team will add the final touches.

Scott often likens the way his team has worked this semester to Blanchard’s jazz ensemble — seemingly disparate creative parts coming together to create harmony. The students in the lab work in time, synchronizing the rhythm of their workflow.

“The whole is a manifestation of the interaction between the parts, and a lot of the times, you don’t know how the parts are going to come together dynamically until you’re in a live, improvisational creative process,” Scott said. “It’s going to be alive and animated. It raises a lot of artistic questions, and it raises a lot of artistic directions that could probably keep me busy for the next 20 years. It makes teaching very exciting because I can often look at some of the ways my students approach those elements, and they approach it in a way I never would. It gives me an opportunity to learn from them and edify my artistic growth.”

Terence Blanchard Live

Terence Blanchard

American jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard will perform alongside his quintet the E-Collective at UT Dallas. A five-time Grammy winner, Blanchard has been one of the world’s leading jazz artists since his debut in the 1980s. He has released 20 albums and has composed the scores for films such as “Malcolm X,” “Love & Basketball,” “Cadillac Records” and “Chi-Raq.”

The performance is made possible by the School of Arts & Humanities and the School of Arts, Technology, & Emerging Communication (ATEC).

When: Friday, April 21, 8 p.m.

Where: Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building Lecture Hall

Buy tickets

University Establishes Brettell Award in the Arts in Honor of Educator

Dr. Richard Brettell
Dr. Richard Brettell

The University of Texas at Dallas, with a generous gift from philanthropist Margaret McDermott, has announced the creation of the Richard Brettell Award in the Arts, a biennial honor recognizing established artists in any medium.

The award will be bestowed upon artists whose body of work demonstrates a lifetime of achievement in their field. Winners will receive a $150,000 prize and will participate in a campus residency where they will spend time interacting with faculty and students.

“Dr. Richard Brettell is recognized worldwide for his prolific scholarship, for his charismatic lectures that have introduced thousands to great art, and for his leadership in creating numerous cooperative organizations in which scholars and artists can collaborate in new and rewarding ways,” said Dr. Hobson Wildenthal, executive vice president at UT Dallas. “Margaret McDermott has made a visionary gift that honors her esteemed friend and colleague Rick Brettell, while simultaneously providing a major new enrichment of the cultural life of UT Dallas and the greater Dallas community.”

The campus residency will provide award recipients with access to the innovative work being conducted at UT Dallas in the arts, science and technology. Recipients will have an opportunity to connect with the students and faculties across the full spectrum of the University’s research centers and academic departments. The residency will include a major public lecture along with seminars, faculty round-tables, and extensive interactions with students and with members of the larger Dallas arts community.


Details will follow after an official announcement of the awardee in The Dallas Morning News on Sunday, April 9.

The award may be given to an artist working in any art form including performance, literary and visual arts. The inaugural recipient of the award has been selected by McDermott and Brettell, and will be announced Sunday, April 9.

The award honors Brettell, the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies and the Edith O’Donnell Distinguished University Chair. One of the world’s foremost authorities on Impressionism and French painting from 1830 to 1930, Brettell is also the founding director of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History at UT Dallas.

“Following the leadership of Mrs. McDermott, the arts have come to play an increasingly important role at UT Dallas.” Brettell said. “This award will further emphasize that role, and ensure that artists in all mediums — architects, painters, actors, photographers, dancers, digital artists, choreographers, poets, novelists — the sky is the limit — will regularly visit UT Dallas and the Dallas metroplex, enhancing the links between the city and our university and inspiring our faculty, staff, and students. It is an immense honor that she suggested that this award, which is modeled on the one honoring her late husband at MIT, be named after me.”

McDermott’s prior contributions to UT Dallas include the McDermott Suite in McDermott Library, the Eugene McDermott Scholars Program, many major endowed professorships, the ongoing UT Dallas Campus Enhancement Project, and the Eugene McDermott Graduate Fellows Program.


Brettell Award Events

The first recipient of the Brettell Award in the Arts will be featured at two lectures and a public forum:

Tuesday, April 11, 4 p.m.
Lecture at UT Dallas

Wednesday, April 12, 5 p.m.
Public forum, followed by reception
at Nasher Sculpture Center

Thursday, April 13, 2 p.m.
Lecture at UT Dallas

New Living Learning Community to Help Female Students Gain STEAM

Mary Jane Partain
Mary Jane Partain

When Dr. Janell Straach took computer science courses at UT Dallas a few decades ago, there were very few female students in her classes.

“I just accepted it as that’s the way it is. We all knew each other. You found each other and clung together,” she recalled.

As the department grew and women were still underrepresented in classes, “there was no mechanism for them to connect,” said Straach, who is now a senior lecturer in computer science in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.

“What I hear from female students most often is that they feel they’re the only one. When they don’t see other women in their class section, they sometimes think, ‘Maybe I’m not making the right choice,’ or ‘I’m not smart enough to compete with the guys.’ That’s just not true,” Straach said.

To help female students in the STEAM fields be better connected, UT Dallas will pilot a new Living Learning Community (LLC) in fall 2017 to support women in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

The new Women in STEAM LLC will accommodate 28 students entering their sophomore through senior years in engineering, computer science, arts and technology, and emerging media and communication.

Students in the new LLC will live near one another in a cluster of new apartments on the southwest side of campus. A peer advisor will be an overall resource and help develop a sense of community for the students. As faculty advisor, Straach will teach a weekly Topics in STEAM course for the students.

Organizers hope the new LLC will increase the retention of female students in these fields through support from peers, faculty interactions and programming.

“One of the things that helps with the retention for women in STEAM fields is having a sense of support,” said Mary Jane Partain, director of Living Learning Communities. “If they don’t feel they belong, they’re more likely to opt out.”

At UT Dallas, student-led groups such as Women Who Compute help nurture a sense of belonging. Organizers hope the LLC will offer the next step by giving students the opportunity to study, take classes together and hang out with like-minded peers.

Women in STEAM LLC

Women in STEAM

Here are some of the requirements that students must meet for the program: (The full list is here)

  • Be entering their sophomore through senior year.
  • Major in engineering, computer science, arts and technology, or emerging media and communication.
  • Be enrolled in a minimum of 12 credit hours.
  • Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.75.

Surveys show that students who participate in living learning programs experience smoother social and academic transitions to college and express higher self-confidence in their abilities to succeed in college, Partain said. They also have a greater sense of belonging on campus and more professional self-confidence.

Women in STEAM fields especially need support because they are still in the minority in these academic majors and careers. According to the National Science Foundation, women accounted for only 18 percent of the computer science bachelor’s degrees and 19 percent of the engineering bachelor’s degrees earned in 2012.

Women in male-dominated STEAM fields also can experience gender bias and either subtle or overt sexual harassment, said Lauren DeCillis, director of the Galerstein Women’s Center, one of the UT Dallas partners for the new LLC.

The Galerstein Women’s Center will work alongside the LLC to develop programs that contribute to a supportive, culturally diverse environment, DeCillis said.

“We can broaden their circle of community, connect them with industry partners, networking and mentoring relationships, as well as other peers across disciplines,” DeCillis said.

The Women in STEAM LLC will provide a network of support for current students and help create a pipeline of future UT Dallas students through pre-college outreach to area students.

LLC participants will work with UT Dallas camps and programs for high school students, including the Techy Girls Residential Camp, which helps North Texas high school junior and senior girls become interested in computer science careers.

“Research shows that when encouraging female students to enter these STEAM fields, the younger the better,” Partain said.

“We want to create an environment of support where women can lean on one another, grow together and transition into their fields. We want to support them in the classroom and after hours, to create a cycle of success.”

Applications for the new LLC will be accepted through Friday, March 24.

19th-Century Photo Technique Comes into Focus at Comer Lecture

Keliy Anderson-Staley
Keliy Anderson-Staley (Photo by Andre Tur)


In the digital era, imagery is immediate.

An amateur photographer can point, shoot, edit and share an image in a matter of minutes. But Houston-based photographer Keliy Anderson-Staley explores a different kind of immediacy in her work.

She specializes in a 19th-century technique called tintype photography, which results in stark, black-and-white or sepia-toned images, and is best known as the technique used to capture images of Abraham Lincoln and prominent Civil War figures.

“I immediately fell in love with this process when I saw the potential in it,” Anderson-Staley said. “It’s hard to say why exactly, except that I liked the connection to history, the materiality of the end product and the physical engagement with the materials.”

Anderson-Staley, who has been creating tintype portraits since 2004, will be sharing insights into her creative process as part of the annual Comer Collection exhibition and lecture series on Tuesday, Feb. 28. The free lecture, which is open to the public, will be at 7 p.m. in the Davidson Auditorium. A reception at 6 p.m. will precede the talk.

Open through March 10 in University Theatre, the exhibition, Binary Consciousness, will feature three of Anderson-Staley’s tintypes, as well as other works from the Comer Collection.

She uses a method, also known as wet-plate collodion process, that requires images be made entirely while the metal plate still has a layer of wet collodion — a viscous liquid made by dissolving guncotton in nitric acid.

The plate is then sensitized in a bath of silver nitrate that will form the image. Although the process is more labor intensive than modern photography, the results are instantaneous.

“Kevin” is one of the tintype portraits taken by Keliy Anderson-Staley and featured in the “Binary Consciousness” exhibition on display through March 10 at University Theatre.

The photos featured in the exhibition are from Anderson-Staley’s “[Hyphen]-Americans” series, which explores the diversity of American faces that she has captured over the last 10 years.

“In presenting all these modern subjects in this mode, I am very interested in how that history collapses, and in how we start to realize that what we think of as a defining feature of someone’s expression is often the result of process, of photographic technology and the conventions of the form,” she said.

Anderson-Staley said that photography has not always played an innocent role in documenting visual history — especially early processes that were often used to create racist catalogues of human “types.” But this project highlights the individuals, she said.

“Each individual in this series defiantly asserts their selfhood, resisting any imposed or external categorizing system we might bring to these images,” she said. “Echoes and patterns of similarity and difference can be found across my installations, but each portrait reminds us of the persistent uniqueness of faces and our common human identity.”

About the Comer Collection

The Anderson-Staley tintypes are only the latest addition to an impressive collection of photography and texts more than 10 years in the making.

In the summer of 2004, Jerry L. Comer MS’77 donated an assortment of 96 photographs and 153 books to the School of Arts and Humanities at UT Dallas.

“I had accumulated some pretty significant pictures, and they were just in boxes under the bed,” Comer said. “As I got more and more pictures, I became concerned that they could be damaged beyond repair. So, I decided to gift them to the school.”

Comer, an avid amateur photographer who has won a number of local competitions including the Best of Show honor at the State Fair of Texas, said he has been collecting photographs since the late 1950s.

“I’ve been a photographer for as long as I can remember,” Comer said. “I developed my first roll of film in summer camp when I was 11 years old. Taking pictures led to an interest in collecting them as well.”

Over time, he amassed a personal collection of images that depict important mid- to late 20th-century American life, including several that record the civil rights movement. Two photos in the collection — “American Gothic” by Gordon Parks and “Birmingham 1963” by Charles Moore — are featured in the LIFE book “100 Photographs That Changed the World.” Since 2004, the collection has expanded several times, and now contains close to 1,000 photographs and books.

ATEC Undergrad’s Artistic Pursuits Lead to Game Industry Scholarship

Heidi Neunhoffer
Heidi Neunhoffer

Midway through her freshman year studying communication design at the University of North Texas, Heidi Neunhoffer came across UT Dallas in a publication listing the University among 100 other schools deemed the best in animation education.

She said the arts and technology program, in particular drew her attention.

“I’ve always been interested in art,” Neunhoffer said. “I love observing the world, watching movies, playing games, thinking about stories, but for a while, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with art. I just wanted to draw and maybe tell stories. I really loved animation, but I never thought about who made it. Then, in high school, I found out a girl a few classes above me was going to Cal Arts to become an animator. She’s a great artist, and she really inspires me. I realized that if I really wanted to, I could go into animation too.”

After some careful consideration, she decided to transfer to UT Dallas to pursue her passion.

Now a senior, Neunhoffer has received the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) Foundation Scholarship, which supports students pursuing careers in the computer and video game industries. She was among 30 recipients representing institutions such as Duke University, Brown University and the University of Southern California.

“Institutions like UT Dallas rightly recognize the value in preparing students for careers in the video game industry, meeting a rising demand among students and eventual employers,” said Anastasia Staten, executive director of the foundation. “The ESA Foundation is committed to supporting this growth and has provided nearly 300 women and minority students with scholarships to pursue video game-related degrees, giving them not only the opportunity to follow their dreams, but also creating a pipeline of skilled and well-educated job candidates for the video game industry and other careers in STEM-related fields.”

The $3,000 scholarship will help Neunhoffer as she wraps up a fruitful undergraduate career.

Most recently, she had a hand in the preproduction of the annual short film created by the animation studio class. Neunhoffer had input with the script and storyboarding the project, which is in development.

“Heidi is a great example of the type of student who can excel within ATEC,” senior associate dean and associate professor Todd Fechter said. “She has the ability to take classroom concepts and expand them into something greater. Recently, she took it upon herself to create her own short story, complete with designs and storyboards. She created a nice presentation book and showed it to well-known industry professionals at this year’s CTN Animation Expo. They loved it! I’m not surprised. She is one of the most talented and dedicated students I’ve met.”

Neunhoffer has been hungry for opportunities to practice. She said preproduction design classes, taught by Fechter, allow her to hone her craft.

Neunhoffer also has served as a student assistant in the photography department since she began at UT Dallas. She helps with digital printing, mixing darkroom chemicals and assisting with maintenance of the Comer Collection of Photography.

She participates in Comet-Con’s Artist Alley every year, and is working on her ATEC Honors Capstone project.

“The ATEC program is really great because you get to choose what you want to focus on,” she said. “Going to school here has also helped me meet lots of people with similar interests, and it’s really given me time and resources to develop as an artist.”

ATEC Alumnus Gabriel Dawe Creates Colorful Illusions for Exhibit

When visitors first step into the atrium of Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum of American Art, they’re met with two massive rays of iridescent light seemingly emanating from the walls. Upon closer inspection, the light dissipates and thousands of strands of colored thread reveal themselves.

The installation, Plexus no. 34, is the work of Dallas-based artist and UT Dallas alumnus Gabriel Dawe MFA’11, who has crafted different iterations of his Plexus series throughout the country. Displayed in the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C., to Denmark and New York, the works make use of the contrast between the size of the thread and large, open spaces.

“The intent of the Plexus series is to materialize light, to give it density, so that I can offer the viewer an approximation of things otherwise inaccessible to us — a glimmer of hope that brings us closer to the transcendent,” he said. “That difference in scale makes the thread disappear, in a way, leaving the color behind. You end up with these very ethereal structures.”

Gabriel Dawe
Gabriel Dawe installs Plexus no. 34, which will be on display at the Amon Carter through July 25, 2018. (Courtesy the Amon Carter Museum of American Art)

Plexus no. 34, which will be on display at the Amon Carter through July 25, 2018, uses 18 different colors of thread in large swaths spanning the walls of the atrium.

The series is a natural transition from Dawe’s previous embroidery work, which holds special meaning for him. As a child, Dawe remembers stealing little pieces of thread in attempts to make his own designs, in part because his grandmother refused to teach him.

“My mother’s family in Mexico was very conservative in a way, and I would spend a lot of my time with my grandmother,” Dawe said. “There was a lot of macho culture in the household that got passed down to us, and there was a strong dichotomy between boys and girls. So, when I started trying to find my voice as an artist, as a grown man, I revisited that frustration. That’s really what ignited the desire to work with textiles — to challenge those notions, in a way.”

Still, growing up in Mexico City had a positive influence on Dawe, who recalls going to art classes and museums constantly. Fascinated with poster design and photography, Dawe chose to study graphic design at the University of the Americas in Puebla, Mexico.

In 2000, he moved to Montreal and worked as a graphic designer for several years.

“I had a big burnout, and that’s when I decided to quit design,” he said. “That’s basically when I really plunged into making art, trying to show my art, and trying to make it as an artist.”

Dawe first conceived of the Plexus series during his residency at CentralTrak: The UT Dallas Artists Residency, while completing his MFA in arts and technology at UT Dallas. He said he owes his success in part to the residency program, which provides space for eight artists (four visiting and four graduate students) to live and work in downtown Dallas.

“While my experiences as a graphic designer have had an influence on what I do, it was the 3-D work I started exploring in grad school that really took me by surprise,” Dawe said. “I hadn’t really done that, and it was a departure from the 2-D nature of graphic design.”

Dr. Charissa Terranova, associate professor of aesthetic studies and former director of CentralTrak, oversaw Dawe’s residency as a graduate student. She said his current, site-specific, thread-based installations grew out of his deconstructions and reconstructions of everyday pieces of clothing.

“The powder-pink, ruffled silk cuff covered in stick pins, which he gave me years ago, sits atop the jewelry box in my bedroom,” she said. “If I am not thinking about Gabriel when seeing one of his installations while traveling — as I did at the Renwick in Washington, D.C., I think of him for a moment each day when I see this work in my home. It has been wonderful to witness his evolution and the development of his experimentation with fabric, thread and sewing into full-fledged public space.”

For now, Dawe is focusing on his thread work. He most recently completed a 90-mile weaving of thread that will be on display for three years at the San Antonio International Airport. But Dawe said he doesn’t discount the use of other mediums in the future.

“I think there’s an organic evolution of the work. I’ve always had this vision of working with gold leaf for years, for example. I don’t know when, but I’m sure it will come up in the future,” he said.

ATEC Team Receives Healthy Dose of Grants for Virtual Medical Work

Dr. Zielke and research team
Researchers from the Center for Modeling and Simulation and the Virtual Humans and Synthetic Societies Lab include, (from left), Stephen Rodriguez, Erik DeFries, Sean Lenox, Jacob Keul, Dr. Marjorie Zielke, Nick Orr, Gautham Mathialagan, Dylan Fino, research manager Gary Hardee, Leonard Evans, Djakhangir Zakhidov and Joel Rizzo.

A research team from the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication at The University of Texas at Dallas has received two grants — one each from Southwestern Medical Foundation and the National Institutes for Health — to fuel ongoing research into virtual reality-based medical experiences.

The Center for Modeling and Simulation and the Virtual Humans and Synthetic Societies Lab, both led by ATEC professor Dr. Marjorie Zielke, are developing an emotive “Virtual Reality Patient,” or VRP, in conjunction with Southwestern Medical Foundation, that medical students will be able to use to improve their patient communication skills.

The center also has received a clinical trial planning grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to explore virtual reality-graded exposure therapy for those with chronic back pain.

“Both of these new projects continue to establish the center’s growing presence in the medical simulation space,” Zielke said. “Serious games for health and medicine along with our virtual humans program are both critical research areas that we want to continue to grow and nurture.”

Revolutionizing the Medical Interview with Virtual Reality Patients

virtual reality patients
A visualization of an emotive “virtual reality patient” experience is shown. The project, under development by Dr. Marge Zielke’s research team in the Center for Modeling and Simulation and the Virtual Humans and Synthetic Societies Lab, has received funding from Southwestern Medical Foundation.

Working alongside subject-matter experts at the UT Southwestern Medical Center, Zielke’s team hopes to create a platform that will replicate medical interviews with the help of virtual patients and caregivers.

Zielke said the platform will offer high-quality simulations, known as emotive Virtual Reality Patients, which can exhibit medical symptoms to help medical students improve their verbal and nonverbal communication skills.

The virtual humans will complement other training methods, and ideally possess a lifelike ability to have both a conversation and convey emotion — something Zielke said is particularly important in the interview process, given that patients express some things nonverbally.

“Virtual humans have always been a major focus for the center,” Zielke said. “We’ve been working on this project for quite a while, and we would really like this to be a stake in the ground for developing world-class research on virtual patients in Texas. We are very grateful for this grant from Southwestern Medical Foundation to continue our research track focused on virtual humans here at UT Dallas. We hope to develop one of the first augmented or virtual reality-based conversational digital patients right here in our lab.”

With the $200,000 grant from the foundation, Zielke’s team will first develop a state-of-the-art “natural language interface” capable of responsive and realistic communication, with the team compiling data on body language, facial cues and other physiological information.

Zielke said the center has long been interested in creating virtual robots that can either work in tandem, or in some cases, replace the need for medical mannequins often used in educational scenarios. The advantage of a training simulation is its potential to physically emulate what symptoms the patient is presenting.

Given the lab’s past work on game-based medical simulations featuring stroke patients, Zielke said her team has a rich backlog of data regarding stroke-specific dialogue and symptoms they can use as their first case in this new project.

“From its very beginning, Southwestern Medical Foundation has sought to advance medical knowledge to benefit our community,” said Kathleen Gibson, president and CEO of Southwestern Medical Foundation. “As new methods of advanced learning become available, we want to support those innovations that keep medical education at UT Southwestern at the forefront. This collaboration between UTD and UTSW is an exciting example of such innovation and progress.”

Serious Games for Serious Pain

The center — along with colleagues at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Ohio University and others — also has received a $700,000 grant from the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse to develop a serious game aimed at helping patients with chronic back pain.

Unlike most games, serious games are not designed to entertain but to teach, and they’re used in industries such as defense, education and health care. The game Zielke’s team is developing employs the use of graded exposure therapy, which is a method of reducing physical or psychological impairments through gradual exposure to the source of pain or fear.

Titled VRGE (Virtual Reality Graded Exposure), the game uses graded exposure to allay physical disabilities by promoting engagement in physical activities that might otherwise seem intimidating to patients with back pain.

Zielke said graded exposure therapy has traditionally been delivered in clinical settings, so its ability to help patients at home has been limited. VRGE will use motion-tracking technology, ongoing onboard assessments and motivational rewards within the game to reinforce traditional graded exposure therapy.

This ongoing project also received support from the American Pain Society and the North American Spine Society through Dr. Zina Trost at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2015 and 2016.

Note: The research was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R34DA040954. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

ATEC to Raise HIV/AIDS Awareness with Week of Interactive Events

The AIDS Memorial Quilt project on the Washington Mall
Sixteen panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt Project, seen here at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., will be on display Nov. 28-Dec. 1 at UT Dallas. Visit the HIV/AIDS Awareness Week website for more information.

In recognition of HIV/AIDS Awareness Week and World AIDS Day, UT Dallas and the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication will hold a Reading of the Names ceremony and host a display of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.

From Nov. 28 to Nov. 30, the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Buildingmain lobby will be home to 16 panels from the quilt, the largest piece of community folk art in the world. The memorial quilt, which has served as a tribute to the lives of those who have died of HIV/AIDS since 1987, has more than 49,000 unique panels inscribed with messages, names and art.

Leticia Ferreira, PhD student in ATEC and executive producer of HIV/AIDS Awareness Week, was instrumental in helping bring the AIDS Memorial Quilt to campus.

“The AIDS Memorial Quilt represents a celebration of life, of memory, and the struggle to be acknowledged as a fellow human being,” Ferreira said. “The quilt is not only a piece of mourning, it is a piece of celebration, honoring lives and love. For my generation, it reminds us of the activists, artists and those who are unnamed that came before us. We must honor them and continue our fight to end the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.”

An installation from ATEC PhD student David Wilson will also make its debut during the quilt display. A collaboration between the school’s Public Interactives Research Lab, the Emerging Gizmology Lab and the Fabrication Lab, Wilson’s installation projection maps the 5,852 individual images that comprise the digital representation of the AIDS Memorial Quilt onto both sides of a 7 ½-foot tall reinforced cardboard star. Wilson selected the star as a symbol that connects Texas and the artistry of the quilt.

This day connects our campus community with those across the globe who are committed to raising awareness about the AIDS epidemic and who promote safe-sex education.

Dr. Anne Balsamo, dean of the School of Arts, Technology and Emerging Communication

“The idea to fabricate a three-dimensional star, itself a cultural icon particularly here in Texas, came after design meetings within the Public Interactives Research Lab,” Wilson said. “Our goal was to choose a form that took cues from iconography found on the textile quilt, where motifs like trees, triangles, stars, rainbows and clothing are frequent, while also highlighting the cross-cultural nature of the effects of the pandemic, that as human beings effect and affect us all. The lone star transduces and retranslates the digital form of the AIDS Memorial Quilt into an intense source of color and light in commemoration of those who have died anonymously or alone from HIV/AIDS.”

Throughout the week, representatives from the Rainbow Guard, UT Dallas’ LGBTQIA advocacy student group, will provide statistics, safety tips and testing information. There will be free HIV testing at the Wellness Center.

On World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, the quilt display will move to the Plinth, where volunteers will take part in the Reading of the Names beginning at 10 a.m. A vigil also will take place at the Spirit Rocks.

“Hosting the Quilt and HIV/AIDS Awareness Week is important to UT Dallas because it educates our students and the surrounding community of the historical significance behind the making of the quilt,” said Dr. Jillian Round, clinical assistant professor in ATEC and project manager of HIV/AIDS Awareness Week. “The week also plays a role in informing our community about current statistical data and the power of knowing one’s status. It is an awesome responsibility and privilege to host the quilt.”

Dr. Anne Balsamo, dean of the school, has a history with the project, having developed the AIDS Quilt Touch mobile app with her research team at the New School in New York City.

“I am so grateful to the many people and groups who have come together to plan the events for UT Dallas in honor of World AIDS Day,” she said. “This day connects our campus community with those across the globe who are committed to raising awareness about the AIDS epidemic and who promote safe-sex education. I’m proud to be a part of these events.”

The Public Interactives Research Lab, in collaboration with the University of Iowa and the NAMES Project Foundation, will launch an update to the app that will allow users to annotate a digital version of the quilt and explore names and panels.

AIDS week logo

Visit the HIV/AIDS Awareness Week website for details about all the events and interactive opportunities that will be held Nov. 28-Dec. 1.

ATEC Welcomes Dr. Josef Nguyen

Dr. Josef Nguyen

The School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication has welcomed a new tenure-track faculty member to its staff this fall.

Dr. Josef Nguyen, an expert in play and game studies, comes to UT Dallas from the University of California, Davis, where he was affiliated with the ModLab, an experimental lab for media research and digital humanities. Embodying ATEC’s interdisciplinary nature, Nguyen’s research interests lie at the intersection of technology, literature and digital media.

“ATEC faculty model how to collaborate across differences as they demonstrate deep expertise, intellectual flexibility and collegial open-mindedness,” said Dr. Anne Balsamo, dean of the school. “Collaboration across differences changes the conversation for everyone. Dr. Nguyen is a perfect fit to the ATEC philosophy.”

In 2015, the University announced the creation of the school, which offers degrees in emerging media and communication and arts and technology,  in response to the growth in both the arts and technology and emerging media and communication programs. Last spring, 1,195 undergraduates, 119 master’s students and 25 doctoral candidates were enrolled in the programs.

“The School of Arts, Technology and Emerging Communication is a destination for artists, designers, scholars, researchers, and reflective practitioners who seek to collaborate on intentional future-making through the creation of new cultural forms, the design of new technological experiences, the production of new knowledge, and the transformation of culture industries,” Balsamo said.

The school is housed in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building, which holds classrooms for game design, 2-D and 3-D art studios, a motion capture lab, a recording studio and 3-D fabrication labs.

New Tenure-Track Faculty

Dr. Josef Nguyen, assistant professor of arts and technology

Previously: doctoral candidate at the University of California, Davis

Research interests: play and game studies, digital media and culture, science and technology studies, contemporary literature, cultural constructions of creativity and innovation

Quote: “I am excited to join the UT Dallas community through the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication. I look forward to the collaborative learning and research environment here that will allow me to investigate how the decisions involved in the design, development, circulation, engagement, and disposal of digital media are always political. I am particularly eager to work with students and fellow faculty on assignments and projects that integrate rigorous critical analysis with thoughtful and socially conscious design.”

New Faculty Series

News Center is publishing profiles of tenured and tenure-track professors who have recently joined the University. The following school profiles have been published:

ATEC Student Serves Winning T-Shirt Design for Second Straight Year

Fayna Zeng
Fayna Zeng’s design will appear on T-shirts worn by American Southwest Conference champions in 2016-17.

It’s no surprise to faculty members in theSchool of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication that one of their students has won a regional design competition for the second year in a row. The graphic design created by UT Dallas sophomore Fayna Zeng will be used on 2016-17 American Southwest Conference championship T-shirts after a vote of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

Zeng is the first two-time winner of the annual ASC Championship T-Shirt Design Challenge after her winning design last season. She is a double major in arts and technology and emerging media and communication.

“Fayna’s winning design this year is impressive, and it reflects our school’s consistent, yet innovative, approach toward design curriculum,” said Dr. Jillian Round, a clinical assistant professor of arts and technology. “Her designs are well-thought out through use of color, shape, texture, space, form, unity, balance, hierarchy, emphasis and contrast. I am very proud of her accomplishment.”

Zeng said she wanted to try something different from last year’s winning design. She chose a palette of blue, black and white for the 2016 gray shirt. Her design has a Western feel, with stars that are reminiscent of a sheriff’s badge, as well as reflecting Texas and the conference, and a general standard of excellence. Swirling ribbons symbolize the finish line in a race.

“I wanted to change it up a bit and get out of my comfort zone a bit and not have it be perfectly aligned like last year’s design,” Zeng said. “The light blue stands out, but doesn’t clash. I also like the use of drop shadow and fade-in colors to make it stand out on a gray background.”

Her designs are well thought-out through use of color, shape, texture, space, form, unity, balance, hierarchy, emphasis and contrast. I am very proud of her accomplishment.

Dr. Jillian Round,
clinical assistant professor of arts and technology

Round said Zeng’s design is a textbook example of what she’s learned in her design principles classes at UT Dallas, where she’s studied typography, graphic design, logos, information design, color theory and composition.

The design will be displayed on the front of the short-sleeved T-shirts that all conference champions receive after their victories.

As a member of the UT Dallas volleyball team, which won its conference title last year, Zeng is hoping she gets to wear her own T-shirt design again this year.

“It was a good feeling. It was fun to see my teammates and our men’s soccer team wearing my design after winning conference titles last year. I really wanted to win the design competition again to represent my school outside of volleyball,” Zeng said.

The contest is open to all students of ASC schools. Zeng’s design is the third-consecutive winning artwork by a UT Dallas student. As a senior golfer and emerging media and communication major, Dylan Carroll won for his design in 2014.

UT Dallas students keep winning, Round said, because they not only learn theoretically sound design principles, they also learn how to put the theory into practice using design problem-solving techniques.

“It’s not a mystery to us here why she won. She did it right,” Round said. “Good design is just nice to look at. I cannot say enough how proud we are of her.”