Web version

Like Tweet

Common Ground

Photo of Chancellor Cross

There are many good things happening around the Institute, as you'll see in this issue of Common Ground. There are also good things happening to advance our campuses and our mission. At its November meeting, the UT Board of Trustees included several positive actions for UTIA. The Board approved the naming of the recreation hall at the Clyde York 4-H Center after Mr. A.C. Clark in honor of his outstanding service to the university, the agricultural industry, and the state of Tennessee. Construction projects to replace Ellington Plant Sciences Building and to add a Teaching and Learning facility to the College of Veterinary Medicine were sanctioned as the top priorities for capital outlay for the UT System in 2018, and a new master plan for Lone Oaks Farm was approved to guide the development of this 4-H and Conference Center. This strong support from the Board and UT System administration helps us continue to advance UTIA.

Also advancing UTIA is the development of a strategic plan to guide us across the next decade. A draft plan for the Institute was produced following a retreat that included our deans, department heads, and directors, as well as the strategic planning team. In the coming months, we'll be working hard to obtain feedback and review comments, with the goal of finalizing the plan early next year. It's exciting to think about what we want to achieve in the next ten years. We're setting ambitious goals consistent with the Alan Kay quote, "The best way to create the future is to invent it."

Speaking of plans, I hope you and your family are planning a relaxing and rewarding Thanksgiving holiday. We have much to be thankful for, and I know that I am very grateful for the hard work of all our faculty and staff, as well as the great support we receive from our many partners and stakeholders.


P.S. Be sure to follow me and the latest Institute developments on Twitter at @UTIAChancellor.

Excellence Times Two

Photo of Dr. Stier

It's rare for college deans to remain involved in teaching and research upon their administrative appointments. Rarer still for them to receive the highest honor in their field times two. Yet that's just what has happened for CASNR Associate Dean John Stier. Across the past year, two prestigious societies have named Stier a Fellow of their organizations in recognition of his career achievements. That's double honors for this specialist in turfgrass environmental issues and policies.

"I'm humbled by these awards," Stier says. "I cannot help but think of the strong mentorship and guidance I've received over the years from my teachers, my colleagues, my friends, and my family." More...

Five UTIA Scientists Have Invention Disclosures Greenlighted


Congratulations to UT AgResearch scientists Feng Chen, Tarek Abdel Hewezi, and Vincent Pantalone plus postdoc research associate Sarbottam Piya and graduate research assistant Daniel Niyikiza on their newly opened invention disclosures in September. All are members of the Department of Plant Sciences.

UT faculty, staff, and students submit invention disclosures to the UT Research Foundation. The disclosure serves to notify UT and UTRF of a discovery or intervention with potential to become a successful commercial product. This marks an early step in the technology transfer process. Well done, everyone!

Tennessee 4-H'ers Shine in National Competitions

Team competitions are one of the best learning experiences 4-H offers youth. Not only do members learn individually about the subject matter of the competition, they also learn how to work together. They learn that teamwork takes not only knowledge, but also communication and collaboration skills. They learn how to express their viewpoints and defend their decisions to the team and to the judges.

Ky Pohler with cows

These are valued workforce skills that will pay big dividends when these youth enter the workplace. Learn about three teams who recently finished among top winners in national-level competitions. More...

Endowment Giving Lifts All Our Programs

UTIA student and veteran

When individuals or organizations contribute to UTIA through endowments, their gifts are truly an investment in our real-life solutions. Beyond scholarship support, donor contributions make research and outreach possible. Even more importantly, giving through endowments supports academics and instruction.

Tom Gill understands the impact of instructional giving firsthand. The position he holds as the Donald and Terry Smith Endowed Chair for International Sustainable Agriculture exists because a pair of donors invested in academics. The namesakes of his chair believe that world change begins in the classroom with quality instructors. In fact, many professors and instructors benefit from instructional donations and so do their students, through enhanced learning inside and out of the classroom. Read more...

Hands-on Teaching Tools

Sunbelt medallion

Third-year students in UTCVM recently participated in hands-on simulated veterinary training. Faculty and veterinary technicians were taught various basic skills including how to draw blood, proper suturing techniques, and how to operate a fluid pump. A VOLstarter campaign to support the creation of a simulation teaching lab for our veterinary medicine students is underway. Read more...

UTIA Celebrates Long-term Partnership with Salzburg University, Austria

UTIA student and veteran

This year marks the tenth anniversary of official collaborations in research, teaching, and outreach between the UTIA Center for Renewable Carbon and Salzburg University of Applied Sciences in Austria. With a campus in the Austrian cities of Urstein and Kuchl, which is known by some as the "Wood Capital of the World," Salzburg University aligns closely with the research activities of the CRC in material science and forest products technology. Learn how this partnership has flourished through exchanges of students and faculty.

Dog Snakebite Study Launched

Photo of a lily

Snakebites are a common problem for dogs, especially in the summer and fall months. Poisonous snakebites need treatment. The veterinary medical center at UTCVM has launched a study to explore the effectiveness of a new treatment that may reduce a dog's pain and speed the healing process.

The study aims to examine the effectiveness of treatment by hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Dogs across Tennessee that meet the study's criteria are eligible for the research. More...

In UTCVM, Meet Isabella Pfeiffer
Clinical Assistant Professor of Radiology Oncology

Photo of Bob Hayes

Dr. Isabella Pfeiffer is originally from Munich, Germany. She graduated from the Munich Veterinary School in 2004 and over the next five years completed a rotating internship, doctoral thesis, and a medical oncology residency at the Munich Vet School and Purdue University, Indiana. She is board-certified in medical and radiation oncology.

What do you do in radiation oncology?

My special interests are stereotactic radiotherapy and avoidance of side effects from radiation therapy. As unbelievable as it sounds, I do like the physics and radiation biology background. I love working with an X-ray machine on steroids (aka, "the Linear Accelerator") and truly enjoy developing a very close relationship with my patients and their owners. For most treatments, I get to see them daily for three to four weeks. Also, in certain cases we do cure our patients with radiation therapy.

How long have you been a member of UTIA?

I started here in August 2015.

What is the best part of your job?

I love the very familiar atmosphere: everybody helps everybody. If you have an idea and need help, you will find someone who points you in the right direction, and that's not just faculty members. Staff and students are always friendly and helpful, too. I get to work with all kinds of specialists and the newest technologies. Also, I get to kiss and hug my patients without being sued.

Any other thoughts?

I try to prepare students for the real world by teaching them key points, so they can educate owners and help them make difficult decisions. I also try to emphasize that specialists are here to help them. They don't have to know every last bit about cancer. That's when they can consult with us.

Painting for a Good Cause

Painting with a Twist class

A great way to express your artistic side is to put paint to a canvas—regardless of your skill level. Recently, supporters of Tennessee 4-H picked up brushes and paint to benefit the state's largest youth organization. "4-H Painting with a Purpose" was a colorful and charitable event that raised money for educational scholarships and to send kids to summer camp. Watch here for a video about an evening of creativity for a good cause.

A River Study That Empowers a Region

Photo of a lily

Four students in the landscape architecture program earned a top national award for their publication, HydroLIT, Southeast Tennessee Water Quality Playbook. Lindsey Bradley, Erica Phannamvong, Kyra Wu, and Sarah Newton, all advised by assistant professor Brad Collett, were honored by the American Society of Landscape Architects with its highest award, the Award of Excellence.

Competition jurors referred to HydroLIT as "a truly substantive publication by students" and chose the publication from almost 300 entries as the recipient of the only Award of Excellence.

The students developed the book to empower the region to protect national resources. A result of a fourteen-month teaching and research project that began in 2015, HydroLIT features a regional water quality improvement plan with adaptable, scalable strategies for the range of landscapes throughout the river's Southeastern US flow.

That Turtle with the Nose Bling

Photo of Patches the turtle

A tiny turtle from Zoo Knoxville found herself the center of a great deal of attention this fall when doctors with the veterinary medical center of UTCVM found a way to repair a hole in her nose by making a mask with a 3D printer. It was a first-ever 3D prosthesis for the center. The team, the turtle, and her mask caught the attention of Knox area media and even People magazine. Say hello to Patches and get to know her through People's story.


Common Ground is published monthly by the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. Send comments and suggestions to commonground@tennessee.edu. The University of Tennessee is an EEO/AA/Title VI/Title IX/Section 504/ADA/ADEA institution in the provision of its education and employment programs and services. All qualified applicants will receive equal consideration for employment without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, physical or mental disability, or covered veteran status.

Real. Life. Solutions.