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Colleges and Schools Highlights

January 18th, 2012 Posted in Highlights

College of Engineering

Engineering graduate students receive recognition at entrepreneurship competition

Engineering graduate students Yiwen Wan and Samu Chakki received 2nd prize as a team in a competition in which UNT student teams presented their mobile/iPad app ideas to Dallas-Fort Worth business and technology leaders.

The event, “The Innovation Challenge,” was held on Nov. 19 at the Alcatel-Lucent Gravity Center in Plano, Texas. UNT and Alcatel-Lucent sponsored the competition for which around 15 teams were originally entered. Each team was required to describe an innovative idea for a mobile/iPad app, a product based on the idea, a marketing plan, and a business model that supported it.

In addition to Wan, a research assistant in Computer Science and Engineering, and Chakki, an M.S. student in Electrical Engineering, the team included Michael Wang, a senior at the Texas Academy of Math and Science. The product proposed by the team is called funNECT, a fun mobile app that connects people with family and friends across the world through a long distance virtual PhotoBooth and real-time interactive fun using photos, video and other media.

College of Information

Fulbright Senior Specialist appointment awarded to Knezek

Regents Professor Dr. Gerald Knezek has been awarded a Fulbright Senior Specialist appointment to the University of Twente, The Netherlands, to carry out collaborative research and writing, and to conduct three two week seminars during the 2011-12 school year. The collaborative research will be to extend the work begun with European colleagues while serving as co-chair of the International Summit on ICT in Education at UNESCO, Paris, in June 2011. The three seminars will be for doctoral candidates and junior faculty in the areas of psychometric instrumentation, scaling methods, and research symposium presentation design. Dr. Knezek previously served as a Fulbright Scholar to Japan in 1993-94 and a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Ecuador during 2006-07.

College of Music

The Jazz Lecture Series was started by Neil Slater in 1982. Here’s the Spring 2012 lineup:

Carol Welsman, vocalist, January 31

Rakalam (Bob) Moses, drums, February 7

Dave Kikoski, piano, February 14

John Clayton, bass, March 6

Mary Halvorson, guitar, March 13

Jason Marshall, baritone saxophone, March 27

Brian Lynch, trumpet, April 10

Steve Turre, trombone, April 17

More news from the division of jazz studies can be found at

College of Public Affairs and Community Service

Retirement reception for Rudy Seward

All Sociology and Gerontology alumni are invited to a retirement reception for Rudy Seward.

Learn More Here

Tacoma hires MPA graduate as city manager

The Tacoma, Washington City Council voted to hire T.C. Broadnax as the next city manager. Broadnax has been an assistant city manager in San Antonio since 2006. In Tacoma, he will replace Eric Anderson who was fired in July. Broadnax is a 1993 graduate of the MPA program.

New Veteto publication available

The Slaw and the Slow Cooker is a new book edited by James Veteto and Edward Maclin. The publication focuses on exploring a deeper understanding of barbeque in the cultural context of the mid-South. James Veteto is the Director of the Laboratory of Environmental Anthropology at UNT and the Southern Seed Legacy project. He is an environmental anthropologist specializing in ethnoecology, agrobiodiversity studies, sustainable agricultural systems, sustainable development, food and culture, and ecotopian possibilities. James has worked with local and indigenous communities in southern Appalachia, the Ozarks, and the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains of NW Mexico.

College of Visual Arts and Design

Communication design alumus creates spicy elixir

Rahul Panchal (’04), president and CEO of Prometheus Springs Elixirs, says he was just playing around when he created the prototype for his spicy-sweet elixirs from a jar of tap water and spices left to steep on the window sill of his room in Bruce Hall.

“I wasn’t even planning on really drinking it,” he says. As a freshman in 2000, Panchal found himself craving his parents’ fiery Indian food. His mother sent him Indian spices, but without a kitchen, Panchal was frustrated.

“I wanted a way to get more spices in my diet without cooking a whole new meal,” he says. So he experimented. First, he loaded the spices into a saltshaker and sprinkled them on his cafeteria food. When that didn’t work, he did some research and decided to steep them to extract their nutrients. He made a rustic tea out of a jar of water mixed with spices and left in the sun.

“I was just doing it to see what would happen,” Panchal says. “Over time, I noticed the spices releasing vibrant colors into the water, and when I tried it, it was surprisingly good. I realized if I could find a way to balance the pungent flavors, this could be huge.”

Panchal continued to brew the tea for himself and friends as he earned his degree in communication design and went on to work at top advertising agencies for brands including Coca-Cola and Burger King. In 2006, he came across market research that showed spicy food sales were spiking in the U.S.

Panchal realized that, besides a version of V8 and a handful of spiced beers, no one made a spicy drink. That was the catalyst for launching Prometheus Springs Capsaicin Spiced Elixirs. In 2007, Panchal tweaked his tea and pitched it to one Whole Foods store. The store buyer suggested he find a distributor.

Initially, the drinks were sold as a “nutritional supplement” because of the health benefits from the added capsaicin, a chili pepper extract. But the product is now marketed simply as a “refreshing spicy beverage.” Panchal encourages consumers to research the health benefits of capsaicin online. “We’ve seen a lot of companies get squished by the FDA, and we didn’t want to fight a fight we couldn’t win,” he says. “So now we’re just making sure people know it’s spicy and it tastes great.” So great that the tea is now sold in 45 states by more than 1,000 stores nationwide. It is available in Texas at Central Market and Whole Foods.

The company is based in New York and currently offers six flavors: pomegranate black pepper, lychee wasabi, lemon ginger, citrus cayenne, spicy pear and mango chili. All of the drinks are spiked with capsaicin and all are organic and gluten-free.

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