Andrea Torres

News reporter for The Rider at UT Rio Grande Valley

Bringing light to the matter

A free speech alley, panel discussion and information tables will all be part of the Gender Comm Expo to be hosted on the Brownsville campus from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday. “The purpose of the event is to promote the awareness, down here in the Valley, of sexual assault,” said Rebeca Rodriguez, a communication junior in John Cook’s Gender Communication class who is coordinating the event. “Because, recently, it’s been growing; there’s an increase.”

Tradition comes alive

Yellow, purple and red crepe paper flowers decorated the Edinburg Student Union lobby where UT Rio Grande Valley celebrated Día de los Muertos Monday. Day of the Dead, a Mexican celebration which takes place Nov. 2, honors “dead loved ones and [makes] peace with the eventuality of death by treating it familiarly, without fear and dread,” according to Encyclopaedia Britannica online. People honor those who have died by preparing special cuisine and setting altars with the photographs and memento

More than a best friend

After being told her daughter would never walk again, Megan’s mother was surprised to see her take 10 steps toward Murphy, a therapeutic dog designated to help her. “After 10 steps Murphy sat down,” said Denise Silcox, a clinical assistant professor from the UT Rio Grande Valley School of Rehabilitation Services and Counseling. “And Megan looked at the therapist and said, ‘I’m tired too’ and sat down. Nobody told the dog to do that; it was instinctual.”

Campus carry: more questions than solutions

With thousands of high school seniors across the country applying for college this fall, many will look at their choices and think twice about considering Texas universities. While the rest of the states in this country look into having stricter gun laws, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 11 last summer, also known as campus carry, which will allow concealed handgun license holders to carry their weapons on higher education campuses. In the eyes of Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), aut

Tuition increase plan advances | UTRGVRIDER

Freshmen and graduate students entering UT Rio Grande Valley in Fall 2016 may have to pay a higher tuition than current students. In a special meeting Oct. 2, the University of Texas System board of regents authorized its schools to develop recommendations for a 2 percent increase in tuition and required fees, according to a system news release. The increase is needed to account for escalation of costs on campuses for salaries, technology, infrastructure and other expenses.

Explosives research at UTRGV

A scanning electron microscope delivered to UT Rio Grande Valley last week will be used in research to help create new explosives for the Defense Department, physics professors say. The half-million-dollar, Japanese-manufactured microscope was delivered in two boxes last Tuesday to the M1 building on the Brownsville campus. “We’re working with DOD to make the new kind of explosives,” physics Professor Karen Martirosyan said last Tuesday during a tour of the applied physics laboratories given to The Rider. “We are working to make nanoparticles [that] can explode very fast. We are working to make some microengines, rockets, this kind of research, and also environmental research.” The microscope, which is the first of its kind in the region, was funded through a grant from the Defense Department and the research that will be conducted with the equipment is funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and the Air Force, Martirosyan said. “This is contributing to all biophysics and biomedical,” he replied when asked what type of research can be conducted with the microscope. Martirosyan said nanoparticles are about 50,000 times smaller than a human hair. “So we need to look [at] that, how we will see and that is the [scanning] electron microscope,” he said. About 50 physics, biomedical sciences and biophysics undergraduate and graduate students work with Martirosyan and Associate Physics Professor Ahmed Touhami on research experiments, Martirosyan said. Visiting students and faculty from across the world also work with the department. Touhami said the microscope will also be used by other departments in the university, including biology and chemistry. Among the other equipment shown in the tour was the integrated fluorescence and atomic microscope that was funded through a $276,233 grant from NSF in 2013. “This microscope allows you to image … at nanoscale,” Touhami said. “We are studying biological systems with the physical technique because in biology there is a lot of physics.” He gave an example of bacteria, which have “hair” that sticks to a surface. “And, this stickiness is a force. … Understanding the physics of this stuff is very important,” Touhami said. The techniques used to produce this research are unique to South Texas. Students from UT Austin are also conducting research on biological systems at UTRGV. The Rider also toured the optical physics laboratories, where research is conducted on gravitational waves. The labs are located in the Science, Engineering and Technology building. The research is conducted in collaboration with and led by the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They also use laser interferometric detectors located in Hanford, Wash., and Livingston, La. “This is purely research on a graduate level,” said Volker Quetschke, a physics associate professor. “All the research that happens here has nothing to do with pre-manufactured classes. This is only stuff that is done on a novel basis when we want to find out something. Either we want to improve the detector as it exists or find some new stuff.” Among the students working in the optics laboratory is Artemiy Bogdanovskiy, a physics doctoral student. Bogdanovskiy had this advice for undergraduate students who wish to conduct research in optical physics: “They need to think twice and make sure that is exactly what they want. If they do, well, they need to study math and physics.” Students interested in conducting undergraduate or graduate research with the Physics Department may email department Chair Soma Mukherjee at

Student advisory council shares concerns

Allowing University of Texas System institutions to independently increase tuition was one of the major topics discussed during this month’s UT System Student Advisory Council meeting in Austin. More than 20 student representatives met Sept. 11 and 12 for the first UTSSAC meeting of the academic year. They also discussed student concerns for their individual institutions such as the campus carry law, maternity leave and daycare programs for students, transfer scholarships, campus safety and student health insurance rates. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley representatives on the council are Student Government Association President Alberto Adame and Kathryn Brough, a public relations and marketing junior. The Legislative and Financial Affairs Committee, which Adame chairs, weighed the tuition proposal. “Students at many, at most, institutions that are academic want those increases because they want to fund additional activities,” Adame said in a telephone interview with The Rider last Tuesday. “They want the fees to increase so they can accommodate more students, they can help out more students and they can see their services increase.” Students in other system schools passed tuition referendums but they were rejected by the board of regents, Adame said. “Even if the student bodies were behind it and the community was behind it,they were just denying everything,” he said about the board of regents. During the meeting, student representatives presented issues on their campuses. Adame and Brough presented problems that the consolidation of UT Pan American and UT Brownsville has brought. “The transition has been shaky, hasn’t been great for everyone,” Brough said, adding that students reported having problems with services at both campuses. “A lot of students were having trouble with financial aid and the paperwork getting lost. …Another one was the differences between the campuses, especially in smoking policies. They’ve been having two different policies for years and now we’re going to incorporate that into one.” Issues presented at the UTSSAC meeting were based on concerns students voiced through social media. “We used a lot of social media, a lot of the complaints and we also took a look at, naturally, what were the combinations, you know, we are two campuses getting together,” Adame said. Criminal justice corrections senior Isabel Moreno, said one of her fears during the transition was having her classes dropped. “That was one of my main concerns,” Moreno said. “I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, what if that happens to me?’ I was asking about it and it has happened to the students that their classes get canceled the last minute or they have a different professor.” Students with concerns about UTRGV may email Adame at or Brough at The next UTSSAC meeting will take place Nov. 14 in Austin.