SMU Site Of New Laser Center

SMU has joined the University of Virginia and the University of Michigan as a site in the National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Lasers and Plasmas for Advanced Manufacturing. The center’s mission is to develop the science, engineering and technology base for laser and plasma processing of materials, devices, and systems for advanced manufacturing. The following companies and agencies are members of SMU’s Center for Lasers and Plasmas: Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Halliburton Service Energy, General Motors, and the Army Research Laboratory. Radovan Kovacevic, the Herman Brown Professor of Mechanical Engineering at SMU, will serve as the center’s director.

Archiving The Digital Age

Texas Instruments Inc. and the Jack Kilby family have made two major gifts to the University, creating the Historic TI Archives and the Jack St. Clair Kilby Archives at SMU. The collection will be cataloged and stored at DeGolyer Library.

“The TI archives tell the story of the company responsible for many inventions that we take for granted in our everyday lives,” says Central University Library Dean and Director Gillian McCombs.

Included in the two collections is the world’s richest history in technology and engineering. Among the items are numerous firsts: the integrated circuit, the commercial transistor, the electronic calculator, the single-chip microprocessor, early digital watches, and early cell phone technologies.

In 2008 the SMU School of Engineering, with the DeGolyer Library and the Library of Congress, will host a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the birth of the digital age with Jack Kilby’s Nobel Prize-winning invention of the integrated circuit. Symposia and exhibits will examine the many ways in which technology and engineers have shaped the modern world.

Bumping Up Against The Glass Ceiling In Congress

Women in Gadsden, Alabama, may achieve many things on par with men, but election to the U.S. House of Representatives will not be one of them. Gadsden is the worst place for women running for Congress; New York City ranks as the best place, according to a new study by Dennis Simon, SMU professor of political science, and Barbara Palmer, a scholar with the Women and Politics Institute at American University.

Why is it taking so long for women to be elected in greater numbers to Congress when they’ve achieved so much in other spheres of American life? To answer that question, Simon and Palmer searched for clues to the political gender gap. Working from data that includes all elections to the U.S. House of Representatives in all 435 Congressional districts from 1956 through 2004, they found that upscale, urban, and diverse Congressional districts are more women-friendly, while rural, Southern, and traditional districts are the least friendly to women.

Since 1916 only 203 women have been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Another factor is incumbency. The study also found that in the past three redistricting cycles, women candidates have done better at getting elected to Congress, although not all equally. Democratic women candidates have an easier time running for Congress than their Republican female counterparts. In addition, by using demographic data from 2002 and 2004, Simon and Palmer also assess the political fortunes of women in some of the key 2006 Congressional races.

“Palmer and Simon masterfully scour modern history for the smoking gun behind why women continue to be hindered in their quest for integration into Congress,” says Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL).

The study appears in the book Breaking the Political Glass Ceiling: Women and Congressional Elections (Routledge, 2006); available on To learn how the other 435 Congressional districts fare for women, go to

Dallasaurus Is The Missing Lizard Link

When an amateur fossil hunter picked up a handful of unusual fossilized vertebra at a suburban Dallas construction site in 1988, he could not have guessed that 16 years later his find would lead scientists to rethink the evolution of a group of extinct, ocean-dwelling lizards.

Last year researchers in SMU’s Department of Geological Sciences determined that the 92-million-year-old fossil belongs to a 3-foot-long swimming lizard that fills a significant gap in the evolutionary history of mosasaurs. Mosasaurs, lizards that evolved seagoing adaptations such as fins and a modified swimming tail, dominated the oceans during the last 33 million years of the age of dinosaurs, says SMU paleontologist Michael Polcyn. He and collaborator Gordon Bell Jr. of Guadalupe National Park reported their findings, along with other contributions by SMU researchers, in the proceedings of the First International Mosasaur Research Symposium published as a special edition of the Netherlands Journal of Geosciences (2005, vol. 84-3).

They named it Dallasaurus turneri, after the location of its discovery and for Van Turner, the amateur paleontologist from Central Texas who ensured that his finds were deposited into professional collections for study. Using Turner’s fossil, housed at the Dallas Museum of Natural History and the Texas Memorial Museum at the University of Texas at Austin, Polcyn and Bell pieced together Dallasaurus’ anatomy and an understanding of its natural history and relationship with other mosasaurs.

Dallasaurus sits at the base of a major branch of mosasaur evolution. It retained complete limbs, hands, and feet suitable for walking on land, while the limbs of later mosasaurs evolved into flippers, relegating them to life in the ocean. Dallasaurus lived during a time of globally warm temperatures and sea levels as much as 250 meters higher than today. During that period, the Dallas area lay at the floor of a shallow sea, and the shoreline was about 30 miles north of the metroplex.

Dallasaurus provides paleontologists with a window into the early evolution of only one group of extinct lizards but also provides insights into how lizards today may exploit new habitats. “Learning how Dallasaurus adapted to changing environmental conditions and why mosasaurs eventually became extinct may help us understand how environmental changes influence evolution and apparent success in some groups and catastrophic extinctions in others,” says Polcyn, director of SMU’s Visualization Laboratory in Geological Sciences.

SMU paleontologists, internationally known for their dinosaur discoveries, also have made significant contributions to the knowledge of numerous other groups, including mammals and crocodiles. The identification of Dallasaurus adds to their repertoire the relatively unexplored area of mosasaurs and other ancient marine life. Because of insights gained from Dallasaurus, SMU paleontologists are examining similar fossils found in Kansas. They also are beginning what they hope is a long-term project in Angola in western Africa that has yielded new mosasaur specimens.

The Dallasaurus discovery also underscores the important work of amateur paleontologists and their donation of fossils to museums and universities for study, says Professor of Geological Sciences Louis Jacobs, president of the Institute for the Study of Earth and Man.

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Adler To Direct SMU-in-Taos

Associate Professor of Anthropology Michael Adler has been named executive director of SMU-in-Taos, overseeing its programs, budget and personnel.

Adler, who studies the Pueblo cultures and peoples of the Southwest, has directed the Archaeological Field School at SMU-in-Taos since 1991. He has been instrumental in developing and maintaining productive relationships between SMU-in-Taos and the various populations of Northern New Mexico.

Professor of Biological Sciences John Ubelaker, who had served as director since 1993, will continue as director emeritus.

Business, Law Rank Among Best Graduate Schools

U.S. News & World Report released its 2007 “America’s Best Graduate Schools” guidebook, which reports that two SMU schools increased their rankings. The Cox School of Business increased its standing in all of its rankings, rising to number 10 for its Professional M.B.A. program, 14 for its Executive M.B.A., and 41 for the full-time M.B.A. The Dedman School of Law also increased its national ranking, rising from 52 to 43 in the report.