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Stories this week at Wake Forest University

October 10, 2007

BIOFUEL MAKES DEBUT AT WAKE FOREST — Lawn mowers, a backhoe, a wood chipper and about 20 other pieces of off-road maintenance equipment used by Wake Forest’s Facilities Management department are now powered by a biodiesel blend.  The biofuel was made by two biology professors (Dave Anderson and Miles Silman), two staff members (Marcus Wright and Robert Vidrine) and a handful of students from waste oil collected at the Dixie Classic Fair and other local places.   The group is focused on making and promoting biologically-based fuels.  The Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) has also been involved in the project.  “This is a wonderful experience when we can partner with an academic department,” said Jim Alty, assistant vice president for Facilities Management.  “Not only does this partnership assist in student learning, but it provides the university with an alternative fuel source based on a renewable resource and reduces the impact of global warming.  Overall, this is a great example of a win-win for the entire university community.” Facilities Management employees began using a 90 percent diesel/10 percent biodiesel mixture in selected equipment Oct. 3.  In the future, the department may increase the percentage of biodiesel in the mix.

Contact:  Cheryl V. Walker, (336) 759-6073.


FRESHMAN SEMINAR SPARKS START-UP COMPANY, BIOBOTZ — Six freshmen got so excited about their first-year seminar in biophysics last year they started a nonprofit company, BioBotz.  The company aims to produce an educational interactive online game, an animated television series and ancillary stuffed toys and action figures starring characters based on the amino acid chains that operate like tiny robots inside living cells.  “They’re trying to create the Pokemon of molecular biology,” explains Jed Macosko, an assistant professor of physics at Wake Forest who taught their first-year seminar, “Harnessing Life’s Molecular Machines: From AIDS Tests to Hydrogen Cars,” a course that encourages students to look at the molecular level of cells for new product and process ideas that can be developed into entrepreneurial ventures.  None of the six students knew each other prior to attending the class, but after Macosko encouraged them to consider turning the business idea they conceived as a classroom assignment into reality, they stayed in touch over the summer, developing the characters and storyline that will drive the action.  “We want to take the complexities inside a cell, and make them fun for kids to learn,” says Mike Metzmaker, a sophomore from Massachusetts and spokesman for the group. 

Contact:  Eric Frazier, or (336) 758-5238

AUDIO, VIDEO OF IMMIGRATION CONFERENCE AVAILABLE ON WFU WEB SITE – Audio recordings of the sessions held Oct. 3-5 during the university’s Voices of Our Time event titled “Immigration: Recasting the Debate” are available on the Wake Forest Web site at  Video recordings of the sessions will also be posted on the site throughout the week.  Ray Marshall, professor emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin and secretary of labor during the Carter administration, gave the opening keynote address and U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) delivered the closing keynote address of the conference.  Marshall said the United States must have immigration in order to grow economically, but to remain competitive in the global marketplace, the country will need well-educated workers.  Burr attributed Congress’ failure to pass an immigration bill to it being “just too hot politically” and stated that if the issue is to be resolved it will take a groundswell from the American people.

Contact: Pam Barrett, or (336) 758-5237.

A  DAY IN DEACON LAND FOR LOCAL CHILDREN — A Day in Deacon Land is the theme for this year’s Project Pumpkin, Oct. 25 from 2:30 to 6 p.m. on Hearn Plaza (the Quad).  It is designed to provide safe Halloween fun for some 2,000 children from 50 invited agencies, and is not open to the general public.  Costumed volunteers will lead children through residence halls for trick-or-treating, and Hearn Plaza will be decorated like the classic children’s board game Candy Land.  Carnival games, face painting, haunted houses and clowns are among the entertainment in store for the children.  Student musical groups will perform, and Wake Forest athletes will also make an appearance.  Volunteers, organizers and entertainment groups will be available for morning show interviews.

Contact:  Audrey Fannin, or 336-758-4393

NEGATIVE POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS GET THUMBS UP FROM PROFESSOR— “Negativity is good,” says Allan Louden, associate professor of communication.  “Although negative advertising is almost universally condemned by media and pundits, negative campaigning is where voters actually learn something about the campaign and the candidates.  When people mix it up, they can actually talk about the issues.”  Negative political campaigns are the focus of Allan Louden’s first-year seminar, “Negative Campaigning:  Controversy in Theory and Practice.”  In the class, students are exploring the following questions:  Are negative ads/campaigns effective?  Are they necessary?  Do negative ads/campaigns affect voter turnout?  Do negative campaigns impact the ability to govern?  Students in the class will debate both sides of each question in class.  To talk with Louden and/or sit in on the class debates, contact the News Service.

Contact:  Cheryl Walker,, (336) 758-6073

THE SHAPE OF SPACE — When we look out on a clear night the universe seems infinite, but that may be an illusion.  Mathematician Jeffrey Weeks will take audience members on a tour of several possible shapes for the universe during his presentation, “The Shape of Space,” at 6 p.m. Oct. 16 in Brendle Recital Hall. Using interactive 3-dimensional graphics and recent satellite data, Weeks will demonstrate the concept of a "multiconnected universe.”  This talk is geared toward a general audience, from middle school students to amateur astronomers. 

Contact:  Audrey Fannin, or 336-758-4393

THE SMALL-MART REVOLUTION —Author Michael Shuman will give a talk on how North Carolina businesses can beat their global competition at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19 in Brendle Recital Hall.  A lawyer and economist, Shuman is vice president for enterprise development for the Training and Development Corporation, and has written several books about challenges facing small business owners in the global economy.  His talk is part of a two-day conference sponsored by the Divinity School titled “Sitting Together at God’s Table: Living our Faith in a Global Economy” Oct. 19-20.  Workshops will address how individuals can respond to hunger, AIDS, poverty and global warming, and will teach practical strategies for working with foundations, local and federal governments.

Contact:  Audrey Fannin, or 336-758-4393

FAMILY DAY EXPLORES A FESTIVE WAY OF CELEBRATING THE DEAD – Wake Forest’s Museum of Anthropology will highlight the “Días de los Muertos” (Days of the Dead) celebration at its fall Family Day from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 20.  The event will feature several booths highlighting different aspects of the celebration and will include Mexican crafts, games, music, storytelling and food.  Days of the Dead is an ancient Mexican religious celebration that is considered a festive time when family members remember and honor their dead and the continuity of life.  The holiday is officially celebrated Nov. 1-3.  Family Day is presented in conjunction with the museum’s annual Days of the Dead exhibit that will run through Dec. 14.  The exhibit features a traditional Mexican “ofrenda” (a home altar with sugar skulls, colorful tissue paper cutouts of skeletons, food and beverage offerings, marigolds and photos of deceased relatives), photographs of public ofrendas as well as toys and objects used in children’s ofrendas.

Contact: Pam Barrett, or (336) 758-5237

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