ATEC Lecture Series Resumes on March 22 with Aviation Pioneer

The United States’ first African-American female combat pilot will be the featured speaker as the third season of the ATEC Distinguished Lecture Series resumes at The University of Texas at Dallas on Tuesday, March 22.

Known as “Flygirl,” Vernice Armour is a motivational speaker and veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who used her experience serving as a police officer and completing two tours in Iraq to create a seven-step process called the Zero to Breakthrough™ Success Plan.

Armour’s talk, “Driving Diversity Deep into the DNA of Your Organization,” reveals how to foster and manage diversity — a challenge she has faced as a former diversity officer for Headquarters Marine Corps and as a liaison to the Pentagon.

The lecture, which will be in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building, will begin at 7:30 p.m. The lecture series is presented by The Dallas Morning News.

Armour went from serving as a police officer to becoming a combat pilot for the U.S. Marines in three years. Within months of earning her wings in 2001, she was flying over Iraqi deserts in a missile-equipped attack helicopter while supporting her fellow soldiers on the ground. She made the Naval Air Station’s prestigious Commodore’s List, received the Academic Achievement Award and was her class’ top graduate.

After returning home and developing her success plan, Armour also launched VAI Consulting and Training LLC.

She has appeared on a variety of media outlets including The Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, The Tavis Smiley Show and NPR. Armour also was the first African-American woman on the Nashville Police Department’s motorcycle squad, and has received two honorary doctorates and other awards recognizing her as an aviation pioneer.

Tickets and ParkArts and Technology Lecture Series logoing

For tickets, prices vary between $10 and $20 for lower-level seats in the Edith O’Donnell ATEC Building’s lecture hall. Staff and faculty members can purchase up to four tickets that will be discounted by $5. Emails with a discount code were sent to staff and faculty.

Students with a valid Comet Card can get free balcony tickets at Ticketing Assistance, ATC 1.201, beginning one hour before the lecture. One ticket per student. First come, first served.

For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

For directions and parking, see this map.

Coming in April

Keith Jenkins

On Thursday, April 28, the series’ third season will conclude with Keith Jenkins, general manager of digital and social media for the National Geographic Society. Jenkins, who oversees the organization’s digital experience, products and staff, will discuss photography and multimedia.

Before joining National Geographic, he was the supervising senior producer for multimedia at, a photographer and editor atThe Washington Post, and the first photography director at and AOL. Jenkins, who also has held posts atThe Boston Globe and graphic designer Dietmar R. Winkler, has won numerous prizes, including an Emmy Award and honors from the Society of Publication Designers, the Edward R. Murrow Awards and the Peabody Awards. Purchase tickets.


Chemistry Professor’s Research Strengthens Art Conservation


Dr. David McPhail, the newest professor in the chemistry department in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, is studying how ultra-slow surface processes can gradually change the appearance of museum objects over time-scales of tens, hundreds or even thousands of years.

McPhail, who is also the Distinguished Chair of Conservation Science in the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History, is an expert in the field of ion beam mass spectrometry — an analytical technique that can typify the composition of a material’s surface and tell you how that composition is changing over time as the surface interacts with the immediate atmosphere around it.

“The ultimate aim of my work is to provide conservators and curators with practical steps that they can take to arrest completely or significantly reduce the degradation so that the useful life of the museum objects can be extended for the many future generations of museum visitors,” McPhail said.

He also uses a range of complementary electron microscopy, optical microscopy and atomic force microscopy techniques to better understand physical changes in the surfaces over time such as the development of cracks and pores.

“This is an exciting new thrust for our campus and partner museums. The conservation science effort brings together UT Dallas’ strengths in science, engineering and technology and pairs them with critical needs in the arts,” said Dr. Bruce Novak, dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

“We currently have several faculty members who are working on conservation projects, and we’re looking forward to initiating a much broader agenda under Dr. McPhail’s leadership,” Novak said. “He is a tremendous catalyst for new partnerships that will involve chemists, physicists and materials scientists working closely with the arts community.”

McPhail is also working closely with the O’Donnell Institute and the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s major art museums, including the Dallas Museum of Art and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, in collaborative research projects.

I am very keen indeed to reach out to all colleagues at UTD and beyond who are interested in conservation science so we can grow capacity in this area and become an international center of expertise in conservation science in the years to come.

Dr. David McPhail,
Distinguished Chair of Conservation Science

“David was unique among our international applicants to this joint professorship in being truly distinguished as a research scientist as well as deeply involved in the physical or forensic study of works of art,” said Dr. Richard R. Brettell, founding director of the O’Donnell Institute and the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies.

“He will hit the ground running and become part of UTD’s important School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics as well as the region’s distinguished group of fine arts conservators,” Brettell said. “The art and science focus of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History is splendidly embodied in our first chaired appointment.”

McPhail is working with conservators from the DMA to characterize the dyes used in Andean textiles to understand how the fabrics were made and how to best conserve them. He is also analyzing materials used by the Mexican printmaker José Posada with the Amon Carter Museum and, again with the DMA, technical studies of the working methods of Texas-based contemporary artist John Wilcox.

Previously, McPhail lectured and conducted research at Imperial College London, where he developed research collaborations with London’s major museums. He was deputy director of the Graduate School at the university from 2011 to 2015 and acted as the academic lead on a joint PhD program with the National University of Singapore from 2010 to 2015.

He has won the Imperial College Rector’s Award for teaching — one of the university’s highest faculty accolades — twice.

McPhail has a PhD in mass spectrometry from Imperial College London, a postgraduate teaching certificate from the University of London and a bachelor of science in physics from Bristol University. He is a Fellow of the U.K.’s Institute of Physics and served on its council from 2010 to 2014.

“I am delighted to have this amazing opportunity at UTD to carry out research and teaching at the interface between the arts and the sciences,” McPhail said. “I am very keen indeed to reach out to all colleagues at UTD and beyond who are interested in conservation science so we can grow capacity in this area and become an international center of expertise in conservation science in the years to come.”

Collaborative Minds Bringing Sounds to Brain Data in Yearlong Project

CVL and ATEC research
From left: UT Dallas professors Dr. Gagan Wig, Scot Gresham-Lancaster and Dr. Roger Malina are working on a project, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, that may help you hear how your brain works. The three are looking at a 3-D model of the brain and a subset of its functional connections.

Data from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have provided eye-popping pictures of the way the brain is wired, and allowed neuroscientists and laypeople alike to view intricate anatomical and functional connections between regions of the brain. But what if a new tool could be applied to MRI and other data, to listen to the way the brain works and how it is forged with connections?

An emerging effort to “sonify” imaging data is taking root at UT Dallas’ Center for Vital Longevity, in the lab of Dr. Gagan Wig. The approach, now funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), allows data to be represented by sounds from which a trained listener might be able to discern patterns of brain connectivity not readily seen in available visualization strategies.

Wig, an assistant professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, is working with his UT Dallas colleagues Dr. Roger Malina, Arts and Technology Distinguished Chair, Scot Gresham-Lancaster, assistant professor in the sound design program in the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication, and a mix of scientists, computer programmers and artists to translate data to sight and sound.

The yearlong effort is designed to create a dynamic prototype tool that will enable exploration of brain connections in a three-dimensional interactive video game environment.

We have largely tried to understand how brain networks function by visualizing them. Certain insights, however, might be contained in a neural ‘song’ or signature that allows researchers to discern distinct rhythms or patterns of brain networks that might in themselves reflect sonic signatures, much like a chorus or the way a beehive might hum rhythmically with activity.

Dr. Gagan Wig,
assistant professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences

The approach can be likened to the 1960s sci-fi movie Fantastic Voyage, where a small medical crew was shrunk to microscopic size and injected into the bloodstream of an injured scientist, yielding a stunning panorama of visuals and sounds in the inner workings of the human vascular system, traveling in a small submarine to repair a blood clot in the brain.

“We have largely tried to understand how brain networks function by visualizing them,” Wig said. “Certain insights, however, might be contained in a neural ‘song’ or signature that allows researchers to discern distinct rhythms or patterns of brain networks that might in themselves reflect sonic signatures, much like a chorus or the way a beehive might hum rhythmically with activity.”

The team’s initial data set is functional brain connectivity MRI information collected from a large sample of healthy adults ranging in age from 20 to 89 years, taken while they were at rest. Initial results, based on analyzing the data using mathematical analysis and visualization of brain networks, were recently reported by Wig’s group in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In addition, the team is particularly emphasizing generating a user interface that allows a broader range of data sets to be incorporated, thus allowing use of data sets beyond ones studied by Wig’s lab

“The project aims both to create data exploration software for the use of the scientists, but also to enable performance,” Malina said. Gresham-Lancaster, with collaborating artists Tim Perkis and Andrew Blanton, will “perform” the data in art settings.

“Our new approach for representing complex patterns from information will have applications in medical research and also extend beyond the neuroscience domain,” Wig said. “The yearlong project will conclude with the development of a prototype that could be called or analogized to a data stethoscope that allows us to compare brain networks of healthy and unhealthy individuals,” just as standard stethoscopes are used by physicians to take vital signs and quickly determine abnormalities in the heart and lungs.


Media Contact: Alex Lyda, UT Dallas, (972) 883-3783,
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155,

Speed-Driven Journalism, Social Media Not Slowing Industry Struggles

Angela Lee

With the rise of speed-driven journalism, reporters face an industrywide expectation to use social media to engage readers. But new research from UT Dallas finds actual practices are falling short of that goal.

In her most recent study, Dr. Angela Lee, assistant professor ofEmerging Media and Communication, examined how journalists use social media in their pursuit for speedy news, and how they perceive their audiences are affected by tweets and posts.

Using in-depth interviews with 11 journalists from different national, metropolitan and local newspapers, Lee’s findings offer several reasons why social media may be unable to save news organizations from financial woes.

Published by The International Journal on Media Management, the study finds that despite an organizational expectation to use social media to engage audiences, journalists primarily use Twitter to communicate with other journalists.

“This study contributes to a larger body of work looking at the disconnect between journalists and news consumers,” Lee said. “Despite prevalent organizational expectations that journalists engage with audiences on social media, most interviewees have very little experience with, or knowledge of, their audiences.”

Although Lee did not conduct a content analysis of social media accounts, she said that interviewees use it to share their work and interests, as well as a form of keeping in touch.

The Pew Research Center’s State of the News Media report suggests that, even as print news remains the core product for most news organizations, the medium is in decline, with both revenue and circulation falling annually.

Despite prevalent organizational expectations that journalists engage with audiences on social media, most interviewees have very little experience with, or knowledge of, their audiences.

Dr. Angela Lee,
assistant professor of Emerging Media and Communication

According to the report, online operations are growing but at a snail’s pace. Digital advertising only accounts for a sliver of total ad revenue — 17 percent in 2014.

Despite these observations, journalists are not receiving institutional support or resources for audience engagement on social media, which could explain a lack of implementation, she said.

Platforms like Twitter do offer more opportunities for transparency in the newsgathering and delivery processes, but Lee argued that the economic value of such platforms is also crucial to most commercial news organizations in the U.S.

She suggested that the prospect of social media saving the newspaper industry from its financial woes is grim.

“When asked to assess the economic viability of Twitter as a news platform, most interviewees believed that while Twitter may encourage news use by serving as teasers, it is unlikely to encourage audiences’ willingness to pay,” she said. “So the question is, how do you save the news industry with a product that is unlikely to generate profit?”

Emerging Media Expert to Discuss Interactive Projects on Feb. 18

Dr. Anne Balsamo

Dr. Anne Balsamo

‘Designing Culture: Reading Walls, World Expos, and Digital Memorials’

When: Thursday, Feb. 18, 4 p.m.
Where: Lecture Hall, Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building

Open to the public; no ticket purchase required.

Parking: From Floyd Road, guests will enter campus at Lookout Drive (see map). Parking in Lot B is free for lecture attendees, and a shuttle will transport them to the lecture hall.


A leading expert in the field of media studies will present a talk on public interactives — an emergent media form that serves to drive social engagement in communal spaces such as urban streets, museums and transportation hubs.

Dr. Anne Balsamo, dean of the School of Media Studies at The New School in New York City, will give a lecture at 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building’s lecture hall. Her talk, “Designing Culture: Reading Walls, World Expos, and Digital Memorials,” is free and open to the public.

Balsamo will share details from projects in her design-research portfolio that illustrate the concept of public interactives.

Projects from her Public Interactives Research Team include the “AIDS Quilt Touch,” a mobile Web app where visitors can search for a name or leave a memorial in a digital book.

“When technological innovation and creative expression are combined to communicate with wider audiences, public interactives activate some of the best affordances of emerging media: using the power of culture to communicate and explicitly including the viewer in processes of knowledge production,” said Dr. Kim Knight, professor of emerging media and communication in the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication.

Previous to her post at The New School, Balsamo had concurrent appointments at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the Interactive Media & Games Division of the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California.

Balsamo has written two books — “Technologies of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg Women” and “Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work.” She was also a member of the distinguished Palo Alto Research Center in 1999, where she collaborated in the design of media for reading, exhibition, public art and cultural projects.

She has a PhD in communications research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Media Artist Explores Digital Labor, Teaches Humanity


For centuries, artists have utilized varying resources to create, educate, and inspire.  Developments in technology have enabled concepts in artistry to evolve from basic photographic innovations into developments branching into hyper-connected web communities utilizing a multitude of digital platforms.  For artists specializing in media, this ability to collaborate and engage globally allows for deeper humanitarian interpretations.

For media artist, author, and UT Dallas Associate Professor xtine Burrough, art-making is altruistic and multidimensional.  Her eye for deconstructing and reconstructing media to generate new perceptions of form and function are blended with classroom experience and corporate knowledge as a former Web Designer.  xtine’s conceptional, instructional, and technical skills from these experiences combine to a bring a greater meaning to her art, as well as fuel her desire to teach.

“I knew right away, this is where I want to be,” xtine shared while students gathered in the courtyard outside her office window.  “I want to be in the classroom.  I really like working with the students.”

xtine’s goal to invite participants, including students, into her work is part of a larger agenda to generate awareness.

Xtine-4394A previous collaboration with the Mechanical Turks, a digital workforce also known as Turkers, led to the creation of xtine’s most recent exhibit, Mediations on Digital Labor.

The exhibit aims to express concerns regarding interface and culture; predominately  worker’s rights.  While digital laborers have a variety of reasons for working on projects, pay is not comparable to the traditional workforce.  For this reason, professor Burrough hired the Turkers to do nothing.

That’s right – nothing.  Workers were hired to rest and report what it was like to do so for one to three minutes.

With this data, xtine visualized a gallery space.  Requiring fifty hours of creation, xtine drew the typography of her findings in chalk on the gallery’s black tiled floor, allowing patrons to experience her artwork by walking through the space.  As art-goers passed through the exhibit, the chalk interpretations of each worker was altered by footprints, signifying a loss of information.  Her message is a play on unencrypted data, as well as the faceless and nameless online workforce of the digital age.

With a range of interests in appropriation, culture jamming, montage, and translation, xtine’s expertise lends itself to broadening the observer’s experience by providing a fusion of said knowledge to explore.  Her knowledge of coding, for example, offers a unique behind-the-scenes perspective to technical-minded audiences.  Blending xtine’s use of visual concepts creates an arena where she hopes people will view her work as social projects that involve technology to “reach a certain level of humanity.”


xtine frequently updates her website missconceptionswhere she posts information on her projects such as On the Web and Walk on Wire, as well as information about her speaking engagements, publications, and other previous exhibits, such as Mechanical/Olympic Games, which placed as an Honoree in the 2009 Webby “Weird Category”.

This story was originally produced by   for the Office of Research at UT Dallas