May 2019

UNT Endowed Professor Bob Bland heading to China as top-level foreign expert

Dr. Bland will spend the summer teaching and mentoring faculty and students at Renmin University in Beijing.

DENTON (UNT), Texas – Dr. Bob Bland, Endowed Professor of Local Government and interim chair of the University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service (HPS) Department of Criminal Justice has been selected to teach at Renmin University of China as part of their Recruitment Program of Top-Level Foreign Experts. The program is initiated as part of their State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs. Dr. Bland will teach and work with faculty and students in the School of Public Administration and Policy from May 28 to July 2.

“I was very fortunate to be selected and look forward to teaching a course at Renmin for their MPA and Ph.D. students,” Dr. Bland said of the honor.

Dr. Bland will teach a course titled “Public Finance Policy and Management in the U.S. to graduate students, deliver academic lectures to students and faculty and work with faculty on a project while in China.

“I hope to complete a study of China’s municipal bond market that I’m working on with Dr. Kelly Shi from UNT and will be delivering two or three guest lectures to the scholarly community at Renmin,” Dr. Bland said. “I hope to convey that UNT is a quality university with which Renmin would benefit from a permanent partnership in a variety of disciplines.”

UNT to host STEM camps for students with disabilities as part of Texas Workforce Commission grant

STEMParticipants will learn skills in computer science, computer engineering, electronics and more.

DENTON (UNT), Texas – The Texas Workforce Commission has awarded the University of North TexasWorkplace Inclusion and Sustainable Employment (UNT WISE), in conjunction with the UNT College of Engineering, $88,667 to offer the Explore STEM! Summer Program, a variety of summer camps for students ages 14-22 with disabilities.

“Our goal is to provide students with disabilities exposure to STEM fields through interactive, hands-on programming. We hope this piques interest in various STEM careers, which are in-demand and offer great opportunities,” said Lucy Gafford, director of UNT WISE, which is housed in the UNT College of Health and Public Service Department of Rehabilitation and Health Services.

Participants must apply through their local Texas Workforce Commission Vocational Rehabilitation Services division, to be considered for the program. Camps are as follows:

  1. Explore STEM! Computer Engineering
  2. Instructor: Dr. Robin Pottathuparambil, senior lecturer of computer science and engineering, UNT College of Engineering
  3. When: July 29 to Aug. 2 – 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  4. Where: UNT Discovery Park, 3940 North Elm St. in Denton.
  5. This program is designed for students with little to no previous exposure to computer engineering who have an interest in basic programming and working with computer hardware. Activities will include:
    • Basic programming concepts – students will learn how to write C programs with simple loop and conditional structures.
    • Rover programming – students will learn how to use the Ti-Nspire calculator to program simple tasks that can be executed on a Ti-Innovator Rover.
    • Internet of Things (IoT) activity – students will interact with an IoT environment (smart lights, alarm, buttons, temperature sensor, humidity sensor, Amazon Echo Dot with Alexa and other devices) and create a smart IoT application which will interact with the devices and generate necessary outputs.
    • Printed Circuit Board (PCB) soldering – students will solder sample PCBs and test their PCB with a power source.

Explore STEM! Computer Science

  1. Instructor: Dr. Stephanie Ludi, professor of computer science and engineering, UNT College of Engineering
  2. When: Aug. 5 to 9 – 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  3. Where: UNT Discovery Park, 3940 North Elm St. in Denton.
  4. This camp is for students with an interest in basic programming and working with computer hardware as it pertains to the Internet. Students must have the ability to understand basic concepts of coding and be able to follow instructions to create and test computer programs. This program is designed for students with little to no previous exposure to computer science who have an interest in programming and coding and will start with basic concepts that include:
    • Internet foundations
    • Website design
    • Programming and testing

Dr. Ludi has a particular interest in students with visual impairments and would like to open the opportunity to students with visual impairments first.

Maker STEM Camp (in partnership with the SciTech Discovery Center in Frisco)

  1. Instructor: Various
  2. When: Aug. 5 to 9 – 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  3. Where: SciTech Discovery Center, 8004 North Dallas Parkway in Frisco.
  4. Students will be introduced to STEM skills and learn their practical applications as well as have an opportunity for career exposure.  Activities include:
    • Woodworking: Participants will be introduced to the makerspace workshop. They will learn basic shop safety and complete a skills assessment for basic hand tools which include hammers, hand saws and electric drills. They will use these tools to cut, shape, glue and form the most versatile of materials – wood – to safely create a unique wooden object to take home.
    • Mechanical linkages: Mechanical linkages aren’t glamorous, but they are used to bring objects, such as Halloween props, robots and animatronics to life. In this workshop, students will develop blueprints and build an animatronic take-home object from cardboard, foam board, wood and/or metal.
    • Electronics: Almost everything we touch today contains electronics. They are the building blocks of technology. In this workshop, students will learn about components, circuits and how to solder, then take home what they make.
    • Scratch programming and Makey Makey: Software coding is what makes our electronic gadgets so cool. In this workshop, students will learn to code in Scratch and make a unique input interface device. Their creation will interface to their code via Makey Makey, a way to connect the software world to the hardware world. Students take home what they make.
    • Arduino: Arduino is a great tool that allows students to program a microcontroller – a discrete electronic component that operates like a basic computer. Knowing how to use an Arduino is an essential skill for a maker. It allows you to create almost anything from animatronic dinosaurs to funhouse lighting. This is a more advanced topic involving coding and electronics and will introduce students to basics of microcontrollers and their applications.

For more information on the camps, visit

Can we train our brains to halt tinnitus?

UNT researchers say the method shows promise.

DENTON (UNT), Texas – Tinnitus, which most people describe as ringing in the ears, is the sensation of hearing sounds in the ear without an actual external sound being present. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that nearly 15 percent of the general public — more than 50 million Americans — experience some form of tinnitus, often to a debilitating degree. While there is currently no scientifically-validated cure for most types of tinnitus, researchers in the University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service (HPS) are hoping that by retraining the brain, they can lessen the severity of tinnitus.

Dr. Amrita Pal, postdoctoral researcher, and doctoral student Joshua Caldwell, under the supervision of Dr. Daniele Ortu, research assistant professor in the Department of Behavior Analysis, and Dr. Kamakshi Gopal, professor and chair in the Department of Audiology and Speech Language Pathology, have worked together to determine if behavioral intervention can improve tinnitus.

“Tinnitus is a massive problem, especially in veteran populations as they’ve often been in close proximity to explosions. Cells at the cochlear level are often destroyed and areas of the brain can continue firing in somewhat of a phantom response, similar to someone who has lost a limb but continues to feel it,” Dr. Ortu said. “What we’ve devised is an experiment where our subjects took part in five sessions – two at the audiology lab and three in the behavior analysis lab – to see if we can reduce tinnitus in loudness and frequency of occurrence.”

Subjects with tinnitus underwent two, four-hour-long audiology test sessions, conducted by Joshua Caldwell under the guidance of Dr. Gopal. They assessed the subjects’ hearing status, measured tinnitus characteristics such as loudness and pitch of the tinnitus, acquired brain responses to sound signals, and obtained info on the impact of tinnitus on the individuals’ daily life.

In three, two-hour training behavior analysis sessions, run by Dr. Amrita Pal under the guidance of Dr. Ortu, subjects wore an electroencephalogram (EEG) cap so real-time responses could be recorded from cortical neurons as they listened and responded to sounds at the tinnitus pitch, as well as various pitches around their tinnitus pitch. During the training sessions, individuals were positively reinforced when they responded to the pitches just above and below their tinnitus pitch, but not to their exact tinnitus pitch.

Following training, subjects were re-tested in the audiology lab to assess the benefits of training. Results indicated that training helped some subjects by either decreasing the frequency of occurrence of tinnitus or decreasing the loudness of tinnitus. Auditory responses also showed promising sensory-perceptual changes at the brain level.

“At this time, we are cautiously optimistic about this training model, but we still have a lot more work to do in this area before solid conclusions can be drawn,” Dr. Gopal said. “The pilot findings from this study will help us refine the protocols for our next study.”

Dr. Neale Chumbler, dean of the college, says this shows how cross-departmental collaboration can make significant strides in research.

“This study exemplifies the importance of cross-college, interdisciplinary collaboration. When researchers with such strong skillsets and knowledge come together, they can help change lives, as Dr. Pal, Mr. Caldwell, Dr. Gopal and Dr. Ortu have shown,” Dr. Chumbler said. “Their hard work may lead to a discovery that has implications to change millions of lives in a minimally invasive way. This is an exciting collaboration that would not have come about without our faculty stepping outside of their silos with the potential to deliver innovative treatment options.”

The researchers plan to continue their study with a larger sample size. The research team recently won an award for Best Professional Poster in the Tinnitus Category for their research and Joshua Caldwell won the best oral presenter award at the American Academy of Audiology National Convention in Columbus, Ohio.

$112k grant to fund clinic at UNT that will develop auditory testing protocols for children with autism

The University of North Texas is home to one of only two clinics in the nation – and one of only three in the world – that will offer auditory testing services specifically for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

DENTON (UNT), Texas – The majority of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) experience some form of auditory processing issue, yet there are currently no set standard testing procedures for them. With the help of a $111,843 grant from Sonova USA, Inc., researchers in the University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service’s Department of Audiology and Speech Language Pathology hope to change that.

“Children with ASD can experience a variety of auditory processing problems that vary greatly from what occur in children without ASD, and they are a highly underserved demographic in audiology,” said Dr. Erin Schafer, professor and director of graduate studies in audiology. “With this clinic, we will be able to compile and pool data that will allow us to closely look at the areas where they struggle most and establish an efficient and sensitive testing protocol.”

Only the UNT Speech and Hearing Center and Hearts for Hearing in Oklahoma will offer auditory services specifically for children with ASD, and UNT’s clinic will be able to provide intervention services for the children, thanks to the results of a previous study funded by a Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) grant. In the study, Dr. Schafer and Lauren Mathews, principal lecturer, confirmed that use of remote microphone hearing technology from Sonova USA, Inc., computerized listening training and guided repetitive practice of processing speech in noise improves auditory processing abilities in individuals with ASD.

“We will provide individuals with ASD evidenced-based intervention to address their difficulties with processing of speech in noise,” Mathews said. “During the two-and-a-half years of the THECB study, we were able to develop and refine processes and therapeutic activities to efficiently and effectively target processing speech in noise.”

Dr. Schafer says that Sonova USA, Inc., manufactures remote microphone technology, the Phonak Roger Focus, that was used in their most recent research.

“Our THECB-funded study, as well as several other published studies confirm that use of remote microphone technology, which sends a teacher’s voice directly to a child’s ear at a comfortable volume, significantly improves speech understanding and classroom behavior in children with ASD. Given the measurable benefits, we will continue to fit this effective hearing technology on children with ASD.”

Dr. Schafer says she will publish the results of the Sonova USA, Inc., funded study in hopes of creating international standard operating procedures for audiology testing of children with ASD.

Dr. Neale Chumbler, dean of the college, says it’s exciting to see the researchers’ collaboration come full circle.

“Our college is fortunate in that we are equipped with the tools and talent needed to facilitate not only the research and data collection to develop these testing standards for children with ASD, but that we can actually use proven treatment methods our own researchers developed,” Dr. Chumbler said.

Dr. Schafer and Ms. Mathews plan to begin providing these clinical services late Summer 2019.

Tornado research by emergency management Undergraduate Research Fellows earns awards at UNT Scholars Day

The two graduated from UNT on May 11.

DENTON (UNT), Texas – Stephanie Ray and Graham Huether, both recent graduates of the University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service Department of Emergency Management and Disaster Science (EMDS), earned third place at UNT Scholars Day for tornado research. They were both 2018-19 UNT Undergraduate Research Fellows.

Stephanie Ray’s research focused on the role of commemoration in the long-term recovery following the Joplin, Missouri, 2011 EF-5 tornado. She interviewed participants in the annual Joplin Memorial Run.

“I asked them about their motivation for participating in the race and learned that commemoration following disasters plays a large part in the overall recovery,” Ray said.

Ray’s mentor was Dr. Elyse Zavar, assistant professor in EMDS.

She was amazingly patient with me and always supportive,” Ray said. “Because of the experience I’ve had, I've decided to build upon my research in the grad program.”

Graham Huether’s study examined the role of social capital with tornado resilience among international students at a university located in Tornado Alley. He recruited international students to participate in semi-standardized interviews to gain an in-depth understanding of their knowledge and experience with tornadoes, as well as the forms of social capital they depend on for tornado information and warnings.

“The results of this study illustrate the importance of social capital for international students and its role with tornado resilience,” Huether said. “They suggest that while international students may lack tornado knowledge or experience, the bonding, bridging and linking social capital afforded to them contributes directly to their risk perception and resilience. This study addresses a gap in the current research on tornado resilience at universities and may support these institutions in developing a culture of tornado resilience among international students.”

Huether’s mentor was Dr. Gary Webb, chair and professor of EMDS.

“Working with such a well-respected and well-published mentor like Dr. Webb has not only shown me how to conduct meaningful and thorough research, but also that disaster research is a passion of mine that I plan to pursue for a long time,” Huether said. “Although Dr. Webb is my primary research mentor, every faculty and staff member of the EMDS department helped me at some point over the past year.”

Huether added that his success has been a collaborative effort.

“Academic research is not an individual endeavor. Throughout the past year, Stephanie and I have not only relied on each other, but the encouragement of the college of HPS and the EMDS department. Between Corey Olszewski winning first place last year, and our Scholars Day success in 2019, it really shows the level of support that is given to students in the EMDS program. I firmly believe that we have the best and fastest growing college at UNT, and the Emergency Administration and Disaster Planning program is not only the first of kind, but also the best nationwide.”

Dr. Neale Chumbler, dean of the college, echoes Huether’s sentiments.

“I’m incredibly proud of these students and am always impressed, but not surprised, to see the quality of research that comes from our scholars,” Dr. Chumbler said. “These Undergraduate Research Fellows have exceptional mentors and I want to continue to see our college expand research opportunities for our students because they are imperative to their success, as well as our commitment to excellence in higher education.”

UNT online graduate criminal justice program ranked number three in Texas by U.S. News and World Report

The program is tied for number 24 in the nation.

DENTON (UNT), Texas – U.S. News and World Report has named the University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service (HPS) Department of Criminal Justice online graduate degree program number three in Texas and No. 24 in the nation on its 2019 list of Best Online Programs.

It noted the following as reasons for the high rankings:

  • All of the online graduate-level criminal justice classes are recorded and archived so that students can access lecture material at their convenience.
  • The admissions deadline for programs is rolling.
  • All courses are taught by Ph.D. level faculty who also teach campus-based courses.
  • Course offerings and flexible schedule are designed to suit the needs of both working professionals and full-time students.

“The continued acknowledgement and strong rankings of our programs build on the reputation of our college and quality of our faculty, lecturers, staff, alumni and students,” said Dr. Neale Chumbler, dean of the college. “Our program is deserving of this recognition, as well as the many others it has received.”

For more information on the UNT College of Health and Public Service and any of its degree programs, visit