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December 2008 E-newsletter: University News

UVA rated a ‘best value’ among public colleges
Source: Daily Progress

The University of Virginia has come in at No. 3 in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance’s “100 Best Values in Public Colleges.”

Kiplinger’s ranked UVA based on its academic quality, its AccessUVA financial aid program and its large endowment and successful fundraising operation. AccessUVA pledges to meet 100 percent of student need and guarantees loan-free financial aid packages for students whose family income is up to twice the federal poverty level.

Kiplinger’s lists UVA’s total in-state costs—including tuition, fees and room and board—as $18,460 per year for in-state students and $38,760 for out-of-state students. UVA graduates carry an average debt load of $16,847, second-lowest among the top 10 schools, according to the magazine.

Kiplinger’s has ranked UVA third for three of the past four years; this year, it trails only the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Florida.

Researchers identify hot spots for cold germs
Source: Health News

A recent study presented at a joint meeting of the American Society for Microbiology and the Infectious Diseases Society of America confirmed what parents have long suspected—toys in the pediatrician’s waiting room could be exposing children to cold viruses. One in five of the toys sampled tested positive for rhinoviruses or influenza B, according to the researchers. And even more concerning is that cleaning the toys provided only modest germ-killing effect.

For the study, Dr. Diana Pappas, of the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital, and her colleagues took 20 swab samples from toys in a four-pediatrician office on three different occasions during the fall and winter of 2006 and 2007. They tested for viruses common at the given time of year; rhinovirus in October, January and March, respiratory syncytial virus in January, and influenza A and B in March. They also collected 15 swabs from the toys in the sick waiting area before and after they were cleaned.

Using polymerase chain reaction (PCR), the researchers found viral RNA on 12 of the 60 toys sampled, three of which were from a “new toy grab bag,” that had been searched through by many children while selecting a toy. Six of the toys from the sick-child waiting area were contaminated with virus, and two contaminated toys came from the well-child waiting room. Toys from exam rooms were not found to have viral RNA on them.

Although nurses wiped down the toys twice a week using germicidal wipes, six of the 14 toys tested before cleaning had rhinovirus RNA and four of the toys still did after cleaning. Two toys that were not contaminated before cleaning became contaminated afterwards. “Cleaning the toys per office protocol with a commercially available disinfectant cloth only minimally decreased the presence of viral remnants, from 40 to 26 percent,” said Dr. Pappas. “What was really discouraging was that two toys that tested negative before they were cleaned were positive afterward. We don’t know how, but the virus is somehow being transferred.” She also cautioned that the presence of viral RNA does not necessarily mean the toys are infectious.

Parents who are concerned about germs in the pediatrician’s office also need to be worried about them at home or on play dates, according to a separate study by Owen Hendley, M.D., also of University of Virginia Children’s Hospital and a researcher on both studies. Dr. Hendley was involved in a study two years ago that showed cold viruses could linger on surfaces in hotel rooms for 24 hours after an infected guest leaves, waiting to be picked up by the next unsuspecting guest. His new study involved 30 adults who were beginning to show signs of the common cold. Nasal secretions from 16 of the participants tested positive for rhinovirus by PCR, but rhinovirus was detected via culture in just seven of them.

The 16 who had tested positive were asked to identify 10 places in their homes they had touched in the preceding 18 hours, which the researchers subsequently tested for the presence of rhinovirus. Of the 160 surfaces sampled, 66 (41 percent) tested positive. The most commonly infected surfaces included door knobs (6 of 18), refrigerator door handles (8 of 14), television remotes (5 of 10), and bathroom faucets (8 of 10). However, the biggest germ hotspots turned out to be salt and pepper shakers; all three tested were positive.

Dr. Hendley also wanted to know whether an infectious virus could be transferred to fingertips, where it could then make its way to the mouth or nose and cause infection. To find out, the researchers asked six of the infected participants to flip a light switch, touch a number on the phone keypad and hold a telephone handset—all of which had been contaminated with the participants’ own mucus. An hour after they touched the surfaces, 22 percent of the samples taken from the fingertips contained rhinovirus. However, after a day, the number fell dramatically to just 3 percent, and after two days, there were no traces of rhinovirus detected. “I was pretty happy that the infectivity of the virus decays over time,” said Dr. Hendley. “But if you come home and turn on a light switch that (a cold sufferer) just shut off, you’ll have a pretty good chance of catching it.”

The researchers say there is no evidence to support that wiping down household surfaces gets rid of rhinovirus. Their recommendation for protecting yourself from infection is the same advice that has been passed down for generations: wash your hands frequently during cold and flu season, especially before touching your eyes or mouth.

Dedication of School of Architecture additions celebrates collaboration, transparency and the creative process
Source: UVA Today

Karen Van Lengen

Karen Van Lengen welcomed Saturday’s autumn rain, even as it forced the dedication of the two new additions to the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture indoors.

In her remarks, the dean told the high-spirited crowd of faculty, students, alumni, administrators and friends, “The rain is beautiful today. It is a quiet rain and a resource for replenishing the earth,” she said.

“That is what we are doing here with these additions. They provide a replenishment of the school that will give us a life and new life in the future.”

The additions—photographs of which were projected on the front wall of the auditorium—were designed by faculty members William Sherman, associate dean for academic affairs, and W.G. Clark, Edmund Schureman Campbell Professor of Architecture and an alumnus of the school, in collaboration with SMBW Architects in Richmond. Alumnus and professor emeritus Warren Byrd created the landscape designs.

The new wings add 12,000 square feet, accommodating the school’s growth since Campbell Hall was built in 1970. Each design also makes a statement about what architecture and architecture education mean.

Clark designed the Victor and Sono Elmaleh East Wing, which houses three rooms to hold review sessions of students’ designs, as a transparent expression of the dialogue between student and teacher that is the hallmark of the school’s education process. Through the use of both clear and thermally efficient white glass on three sides of the addition, he makes visible the process of what goes on inside.

Sherman’s addition includes 26 faculty offices that promote interaction among the school’s disciplines—architecture, landscape architecture, architectural history and planning—and between faculty and students. His design also includes examples of sustainable principles, a focus throughout the school’s curriculum.

Byrd’s designs for the gardens are also teaching tools, providing examples of materials, design principles and ways to use the landscape to achieve sustainable goals, such as curbing erosion while purifying water runoff before it heads downstream.

The expansion provided educational opportunities from the first days it was considered, with faculty members leading classes for students to explore their own design options. That process continued as the school community watched and discussed the construction phase and now experience working in the completed building.

The additions, “plus eight design/build projects we are celebrating today, fit into a bigger vision and a pedagogical vision for the school,” Van Lengen said.

University President John T. Casteen III said that the additions expressed Jefferson’s intent in designing the Academical Village, a tool to be used in the process of learning and an architectural framework that promotes activities meant to bring people together.

“Jefferson’s architecture embodies the spirit of enlightenment. These two additions certainly do that,” he said.

Executive Vice President and Provost Arthur Garson Jr. praised Van Lengen and all those involved in the project. “These buildings fit appropriately a school that is great. It has a reputation as being one of the really great schools of the University,” he said.

Stuart N. Siegel, president of the UVA School of Architecture Foundation’s Board of Trustees, lauded Van Lengen as “our cheerleader and driving force,” and expressed gratitude for her work on the project and as dean for the past decade. “This building is a tremendous legacy of your deanship,” he said.

Perhaps a comment from a letter sent by the Elmalehs, generous supporters of the school who gave the lead gift for the Elmaleh East Wing and were not able to attend the celebration, best summed up what everyone was feeling. “It is something we will be proud of for the rest of our lives,” they wrote.

Read “Karen Van Lengen Completes Deanship in 2009 »

Boar’s Head opens new meeting space
Source: WVIR-TV NBC Channel 29

Jack Looney

A new $10 million meeting space is opening up in Albemarle County. Wednesday was the official ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Boar’s Head Pavilion. It has 9,000 square feet of space, and the grand ballroom can hold 400 guests for dinner.

The University of Virginia owns and operates the pavilion, and University President John T. Casteen III says the facility will attract a variety of visitors.

“The adaptability and scale of this building are unique, and that’s the element of it we find exciting from the University’s point of view,” Casteen said.

The facility is specifically intended for a business audience. No new parking lot was built for the pavilion, but managers say 200 spots are available up the street and they can provide shuttles for events.