Bring students home to Tier One

In recent weeks, UTSA has focused on aggressively marketing ticket sales for the homecoming football game. Similarly, UTSA President Ricardo Romo has aggressively been marketing UTSA’s pursuit of Tier One status.

In his recent state of the university address, Romo spoke of the GoldStar Initiative — a $40 million initiative to bring more than 60 researchers to UTSA over the next four years.

Despite the Tier One emphasis on funding research initiatives, the university has failed to highlight and recognize the scholars and researchers at the university and their innovative work.

For example, Karl Klose, a professor of biology and a researcher at UTSA’s South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases, works with Vibrio cholerae, the bacterium that causes cholera.

Cholera infects the small intestine causing diarrhea, vomiting, rapid dehydration and death. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cholera affects over 4 million people each year causing more than 100,000 deaths.

Klose and his team of researchers discovered that Vibrio cholerae’s Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) thermometer senses a shift in temperature as it enters the human body.

The RNA thermometer recognizes the human body’s temperature and then turns on the virulence factors that lead to cholera. In short, Klose’s laboratory discovered that interfering with the RNA thermometer can prevent the Vibrio cholerae bacteria from causing the disease.

Klose has not found a cure for cholera, but if doctors are able to control the RNA temperature, then the body will be able to naturally pass the bacteria without its causing infection.

Klose and his research team hope to design intervention strategies against cholera in the future.

Aside from conducting research at UTSA’s South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases, Klose has received a contract from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to conduct research to develop a vaccine for the virus tularemia.

The funding for the research comes from the DOD’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency and is one of the largest contracts UTSA has received this year for research in infectious disease. UTSA’s research brings scholars closer to developing a vaccine for tularemia — a bioweapon for several countries around the world.

Instead of marketing ticket sales for football and highlighting the upcoming Mr. and Mrs. UTSA elections, perhaps UTSA should highlight the university’s groundbreaking research — with something more than a UTSA Today feature. Homecoming instills spirit in the UTSA community, but groundbreaking research and inspiring teaching can do the same. All are components of a Tier One university.