CTO of Oculus VR Visits UT Dallas Campus

John Carmack, Chief Technology Officer of Oculus VR

John D. Carmack visited UT Dallas on April 9 to discuss the state of virtual reality.

Carmack is an American game programmer and the co-founder of id Software. Carmack was the lead programmer of the id video games Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake, Rage and their sequels. Carmack is best known for his innovations in 3D graphics, such as his famous Carmack’s Reverse algorithm for shadow volumes, and is also a rocketry enthusiast and the founder and lead engineer of Armadillo Aerospace. In August 2013, Carmack took the position of CTO of Oculus VR.


Duo to Present the Story of ‘Argo’ at Lecture on Tuesday

The last talk in the ATEC Distinguished Lecture Series is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building lecture hall.

Speaking will be Tony and Jonna Mendez, the pair behind the story told in the Warner Bros. feature filmArgo, winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture of 2012. The lecture is presented by the Ann and Jack Graves Charitable Foundation

Tony Mendez is a retired CIA officer, author and award-winning painter. In 1965, he was recruited by the CIA’s Technical Services Division. He led two lives. To his friends, he was a quiet bureaucrat working for the U.S. military, but for 25 years, he worked undercover, often overseas, participating in some of the most important operations of the Cold War. To the CIA, he was its disguise master. From Wild West adventures in East Asia to Cold War intrigue in Moscow, he was there.

Tony and Jonna Mendez, former CIA officers
Tony and Jonna Mendez,
former CIA officers

Over the course of his career, Mendez moved into the CIA’s executive rank. Mendez and his subordinates were responsible for changing the identities and appearance of thousands of clandestine operatives, allowing them to move securely around the world.

In 1980, Mendez was awarded the Intelligence Star for Valor for engineering and conducting the rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Iran during the hostage crisis. This rescue operation involved creating an ostensible Hollywood film production company, complete with personnel, scripts, publicity and real estate in Los Angeles. The story served as the basis for his most recent book, Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled off the Most Audacious Rescue in History, as well as the film Argo.

When Mendez retired in 1990, he had earned the CIA’s Intelligence Medal of Merit and two Certificates of Distinction. Seven years later, on the 50th anniversary of the agency, he was awarded the Trailblazer Medallion, which recognized him as an “officer who by his actions, example or initiative … helped shape the history of the CIA.”

Jonna Mendez is a retired CIA intelligence officer with 27 years of service, living undercover and serving tours of duty in Europe, South Asia and the Far East.

She joined the CIA’s Technical Services Division in early 1970 and was overseas within a few years, serving as a technical operations officer with a specialty in clandestine photography. Her duties included training the CIA’s most highly placed foreign assets to use spy cameras and process the intelligence they gathered. She earned the CIA’s Intelligence Commendation Medal before she retired in 1993.

The couple continues to consult for the U.S. intelligence community and has participated in more than 22 television documentaries. In 2002, the two collaborated on Spy Dust, a book about their work in Moscow during the last decade of the Cold War.

Both are founding board members of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. Jonna Mendez also serves as vice president of the La Gesse Foundation, presenting American pianists in Europe and at Carnegie Hall, and is on the board of the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Tickets and Parking

Prices vary between $10 and $20 for seats in the lower level of the Edith O’Donnell ATEC Building’s lecture hall. Tickets for balcony seats are $5.

Staff and faculty members can purchase up to four tickets for each lecture that will be discounted by $5. Emails were sent to staff and faculty with a discount code. The discount only applies to assigned seats in the $10-to-$20 range.

If seats are still available, free standby tickets will be distributed to students with a valid Comet Card beginning one hour before the lecture. First come, first served. One ticket per student. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here using a desktop or laptop computer. For information about parking and valet service, click here.

Bionics Expert Hugh Herr Describes Efforts to End Disability, Offers Hope at ATEC Lecture

Hugh Herr’s lecture showcased the most recent developments in bionics and prosthetics, and pointed to a bright future for those like Kathryn Kuehn of Richardson. “His talk gave me hope for the future," Kuehn said.
Hugh Herr’s lecture showcased the most recent developments in bionics and prosthetics, and pointed to a bright future for those like Kathryn Kuehn of Richardson. “His talk gave me hope for the future,” Kuehn said.

Last year, Richardson resident Kathryn Kuehn lost both hands and feet from a sudden bacterial infection that caused septic shock. The amputations left her in need of prosthetic limbs advanced enough to help in daily activities, including all that goes into raising two children.

When Kuehn saw that bionics expert Hugh Herr would be speaking at the UT Dallas campus as part of the Arts and Technology Distinguished Lecture Series, she snagged a front-row seat.

“He told me it gets easier as time goes on,” Kuehn said. “His talk gave me hope for the future. Who knows with advances in technology what kind of prosthetics I’ll have in 10 years. It was special for me to meet him. The lecture was exactly one year from the day I had my legs amputated.”

Herr’s talk showcased the most recent developments in bionics and prosthetics and pointed to a bright future for those like Kuehn.

Hugh Herr, who heads the biomechatronics research group at the MIT Media Lab, is creating bionic limbs that match the function of natural limbs.
Hugh Herr, who heads the biomechatronics research group at the MIT Media Lab, is creating bionic limbs that match the function of natural limbs.

“The key challenge, truly, in bionics, is to eliminate disability in the world through biology, technology and design. This is the challenge of the century,” Herr said.

What made Herr’s talk promising was his own personal investment in advancing the field of bionics: Herr is a double amputee himself. Traversing the stage, revealing a pair of bionic limbs, he shared the story about a blizzard he encountered while rock climbing that left him without legs at the age of 17.

Herr showed a picture of himself lying in a hospital bed without his legs.

“What do you see in this picture?” he asked. “Do you see weakness or strength? Do you see a cripple or a great athlete?”

Initially, Herr’s team of doctors leading him through his recovery said he would never climb a mountain again, and that even the simplest of tasks — like driving a car — would be difficult.

“My doctors were wrong because they took a common view of my body. I believe they viewed me as broken. They viewed technology as static. But technology is not a static thing; there is innovation. So I switched it upside down. I said, ‘I’m not broken — the technology is broken.’ ”

Herr proved his doctors wrong. He designed customized prosthetics for himself and went back to rock climbing. He made narrow feet for small rock fissures and spiked feet for ice climbing. Eventually, he became a better rock climber than ever before, he said.

“Society said I was a cripple without legs. A year after my amputation surgery, I climbed walls that no human had ever climbed before,” Herr said.

Herr’s inventions showed him potential for an augmented human. He saw that inadequate technology was the only obstacle to ending disability.

Herr said technological developments that could help end disability are currently being developed.

Herr talked about researchers who are mapping the brain and complex tissues and developing tools that interface with the brain with a high speed of specificity. He also discussed the challenges of attaching these mechanical interfaces to the body in safe, comfortable ways.

New technologies, Herr said, are also being developed at places like the MIT Media Lab, where internal tissue strengths of a limb can be mapped to make prosthetics customized and comfortable. These developments extend beyond artificial limbs, he said.

“This notion that things are small, medium, large has to be eliminated. My view of the world is that every human is mapped. The technology that a person uses is informed by one’s own data. In that world, shoes will no longer give us blisters,” Herr said.

Herr ended his visit at UT Dallas by fielding questions from the audience. When a student asked what Herr’s advice would be to students interested in working in the field of bionics, he responded by encouraging students to jump in and start building.

“Just take this view that life is for learning. Learn through building,” Herr said. “Find a problem to solve that you’re passionate about and learn along the way.”

Before his lecture, Herr met with a handful of UT Dallas faculty and students. Here, engineering PhD students Hanqi Zhu (center) and Toby Elery describe the work they are doing in the Locomotor Control Systems Laboratory.
Before his lecture, Herr met with a handful of UT Dallas faculty and students. Here, engineering PhD students Hanqi Zhu (center) and Toby Elery describe the work they are doing in the Locomotor Control Systems Laboratory.

Visiting Artist Lecture with Maggie Evans

Thursday, April 09, 1:00 PM

Venue: ATC 3.605

Ticket: Free

Maggie Evans was born in Denton, Texas in 1980. She graduated from Utah State University with a BFA in Illustration in 2003 and received an MFA in Painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2008.

Maggie’s work is included in many public and private collections throughout the United States, including the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. She was awarded a China Government Scholarship in 2011, a full fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center in 2008 and a Graduate Fellows Award from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2005. Maggie has had ten solo exhibitions. Her work has been included in over fifty juried and invitational group shows and has earned numerous placement awards. In addition to her work as an artist, she teaches adjunct in the Department of Foundation Studies at SCAD and performs regularly as a jazz bassist and vocalist.

Maggie currently divides her time between Savannah, Georgia and Hangzhou, China. Her work is represented by Mason Murer Fine Art in Atlanta, Georgia and J. Costello Gallery in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
Artist Statement

My artwork creates spaces where humanity may be examined from a broad, universal perspective. Rather than focusing on individual identities I explore intrinsic human psychologies that transcend cultural and geographic boundaries. My current series examines the human compulsion to create social hierarchies. This work began as graphite drawings on rice paper while I was conducting a year long artist residency in Hangzhou, China. Recently I translated the drawings into site-specific

Both drawings and installations use the imagery of hundreds of identical chairs carefully arranged in hierarchical compositions. The installation pieces are created from urethane plastic chairs. Each chair measures 7”x3.5”x3” and is cast individually from molds created using a 3-d printer. The traditional drawings and contemporary installation media work together to emphasize the timeless persistence of the human need for a leader, the desire to be part of a group, and the social divisions and hierarchies that result.

For more infomation visit maggieevansart.com


Summer and Fall 2015 EMAC Courses

Clear your registration holds!

The Summer and Fall 2015 schedules are now live in Coursebook, and registration begins on Monday, April 6.  You can find your registration appointment time in Orion.

As you look at your options for Fall 2015, you will find that the esteemed STAFF is covering a remarkable number of courses. STAFF is not some new AI tool that will randomly generate grades. We will have several new faculty members come fall (watch for news about this soon!), and we will post names as soon as we complete the hiring process.

You also will notice more special topics courses than usual, and the following information may help you choose among them.

  • COMM 3342.001 COMMUNICATION RESEARCH METHODS (Drogos): Research Methods will take a project-based, active approach to learning and understanding quantitative research methods. We explore fundamental issues of the scientific process as they are relevant to communication research. As we move through the course we will be posing communication-specific research questions, and using the methods of content analysis, survey, and experiment to answer those questions.
  • COMM 3342.002 ADVANCED WRITING AND RESEARCH (Lambert): This course is designed to build on students’ experiences in RHET 1302 to improve technical and professional writing skills as well as to investigate needs and elements necessary in industry documents. Students will study and practice audience analysis, corporate culture, and mechanics and style to improve their writing. In addition, they will consider research methods that allow them to identify best practices for various professional documents, including manuals; instructions; books, proposals, reports (e.g., feasibility, progress, travel, budget); and online documents.

  • COMM 3342.003  COMMUNICATION, MEDIA, AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (Lee): Communication is an indispensable part of human life, and communication scholars have long examined the ways in which mass media, new media technology and ordinary people influence, and are influenced, by one another. This course will offer an overview of such influences, and students are expected to leave the course with knowledge of how communication shapes our perception, how mass media affect our attitudes and behaviors, and how the rise of new media technology complicates our understanding of the relationship between mass media and everyday citizens.

We have three sections of COMM 3342 to give people on the 2012-14 degree plan several options to satisfy a major requirement (subtext: there probably won’t be as many options in spring, so you might want to take advantage of the choices here). Students on the 2012-14 degree plan also have the option to use COMM 3351 History and Theory of Communication and COMM 4360 Communication Ethics as prescribed electives. (Students on the 2014-16 degree plan shouldn’t feel left out — these courses already appear as prescribed electives on your degree plan.)

We also have special topics courses under the EMAC prefix: Kim Knight will teach a section of EMAC 4372 (Topics in Emerging Media and Communication) and its graduate counterpart, EMAC 6381 (Special Topics in Emergent Communication). Both courses will focus on viral media. These courses will explore the notion of “the viral” as a mode of communication. They will begin with a look at the history of the term and its definitional and metaphorical operations, particularly in relation to biology and computation. They will then situate the term within the contemporary media landscape that produces “viral structures” that influence our engagement with media, institutions, and one another. Finally, they will examine “viral media” as it is represented in media, through literature, film, and art.

Graduate students also may like to know that Matt Brown’s section of EMAC 6375, Research Methods in Emerging Communication, will focus on Cognitive Ethnography.

Finally, undergraduate students planning to enroll in EMAC 4380 Capstone Project should check their UTD email accounts for information about the new application and enrollment process. Undergraduate students who want to complete their capstone project next fall must submit your application by April 15; otherwise, they will be assigned a project supervisor.  Students interested in enrolling in EMAC 4V99 Senior Honors in Emerging Media and Communication should consult with their academic advisors to determine their eligibility and to acquire the appropriate forms. Graduate registration processes for the Advanced Project requirement will remain the same.