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TAMPA, Fl. — The Global Center for Hearing and Speech Research (GCHSR) at the University of South Florida smells like fresh paint. The halls are mostly empty and there is plywood on some of the floors. Construction of the newest, state-of-the art facility at USF and was completed just weeks ago.
This world-renown lab arrived in 2010 from the University Of Rochester’s Medical Center (URMC). The GCHSR had been conducting research at URMC since 1990 and received a grant renewal last year. That is when the College of Behavioral Sciences and the College of Engineering at USF began courting the GCHSR. A multimillion dollar facility was built and the center was moved from Rochester, NY to Tampa, FL.
Florida’s aging population is expanding rapidly. Nearly everyone will experience some hearing loss with age, which is the third most chronic condition in elderly people, aside from cardiovascular problems and arthritis according to Robert Frisina, director of the GCHSR.
Frisina says, “Age related hearing loss can be very frustrating for an older person. Just when they want to spend time with their family and grandkids they cannot communicate.”
When a person begins to lose hearing, high pitches usually become inaudible first. Children have high-pitched voices and often resort to yelling when communicating with grandparents. Yelling only distorts sound and, eventually, children tend to lose patience. This leaves grandparents feeling left out of conversations, depressing for those who had normal hearing most of their lives.
Frisina speculates it will be years before age-related hearing loss is cured. It is a complex condition with ear and brain involvement. Researchers will probably develop ways to prevent hearing loss.
The GCHSR has a full animal model lab and full human clinical lab on the premises. The researchers plan to use the molecular and animal research to demonstrate how they can fix hearing loss. Eventually, clinical trials will be conducted on humans. The center has developed clinical labs that test the hearing of people up to 95 years old.
The center is always looking for participants. Test subjects will receive hearing tests normally worth hundreds of dollars free of charge. At the end of testing, the participant will know whether he or she is suffering from age-related hearing loss and what can be done to help this condition.
Monday, November 28th, 2011, 2:30 pm
TAMPA— The University of South Florida researchers at the Global Center for Hearing and Speech Research lab are studying brainstem cells that determine age-related hearing loss. Mackenzie Ott, a Neurophysiologist, (right) and Dr. Xiaoxia Zhu, M.D., a Biological Scientist, (left) are staining sections to mount on slides in order to examine under a microscope. The slides will allow the researchers to visualize anatomical differences in brainstem cells and how they relate to age-related structural and functional changes in auditory network cells involved in Presbycusis, or age related hearing loss. Ott and Zhu are using a hematoxylin and eosin stain kit, also known as H&E stain, to conduct their research. It is the most widely used stain in medical diagnosis. Without the stain it would be difficult to see biological tissue under a microscope. The stain gives the tissue contrast and highlights particular features of interest.
The Chemical and Biomedical Engineering Department at the University of South Florida is experiencing an expansion in enrollment, as well as more female students than in years prior.
According to the Bureau for Labor and Statistics, biomedical engineers have an expected growth of 72 percent over the next decade, while other engineering fields will only grow by about 10 percent. Robert Frisina, the director of biomedical engineering, believes the healthcare crisis may be partly responsible for this dramatic increase.
“People want better health coverage for less money. That means there is a greater demand for more advanced medical devices and biomedical engineers,” Frisina said.
The ChBME department was awarded a $200,000 expansion grant for the 2011 school year. Enrollment of ChBME students has increased by 53 percent over the last two years and women make up nearly 42 percent of this department. In Piyush Koria’s nano-medicine class, 11 of his 20 students are female. Both the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) chapters at USF have female presidents.
Traditionally, ChBME is the program of choice for women, but women are still underrepresented in engineering. USF wants to see equality in a field of study generally dominated by men. “Women bring a different set of skills and will aid in the progress of the ChBME department,” Koria said.
Under graduate advisor Scott Campbell thinks the increase in enrollment might have something to do with changing the name of the department from Chemical Engineering to Chemical and Biomedical Engineering. USF does not offer an undergraduate biomedical engineering degree because, to be competitive in this field, you need at least a graduate degree.
The expansion of the program means improving the department on multiple fronts. According to the biomedical director, each new faculty member sets up his or her lab, teaches a course and develops new course work with a biomedical application. This means ChBME students will have more opportunities to volunteer on research projects and to gain valuable experience. The department’s expansion makes ChBME students more likely to succeed in future endeavors within this rapidly growing field of study.