WKU could offer new degrees, more words revealed in ancient scrolls

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Western Kentucky University could become the next state college to get new doctorate-level degree programs.

There’s been a slate of new degree programs proposed in the legislature this session. Murray State University could add the first doctorate of veterinary medicine, and Eastern Kentucky University could add osteopathic medicine degrees. Now, WKU looks to join the list.

House Bill 630, sponsored by Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Oakland, would give WKU the ability to add five new research doctorate-level programs “in areas that the (Council on Postsecondary Education) determines directly affect the workforce and economy of Kentucky.”

WKU President Timothy Caboni said Tuesday these would be in areas related to Kentucky workforce needs, with potential degrees added in computational sciences, data science, applied economics, disaster and atmospheric science and data science.

“We need a path to create more doctoral opportunities in high demand areas, and we know this will also help grow our research productivity, federal investment, and asking and answering questions here in the Commonwealth,” Caboni said.

The bill passed unanimously out of the House Education Committee Tuesday, and passed unanimously out of the House Thursday. It will now head to the Senate.

As for the other doctorate program bills, both the bills allowing Murray State to add a veterinary school and EKU to add an osteopathic medicine degree were passed by the House and have been sent to the Senate Education Committee.

Have something that should be considered for the next round-up? Contact higher education reporter Monica Kast at mkast@herald- leader.com.

In case you missed it

Here are some Herald-Leader higher education headlines from February:

Grand prize awarded for decoding scrolls

A few months ago, portions of scrolls destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius were able to be read for the first time.

The discovery was made possible by a proposition issued by University of Kentucky professor Brent Seales and the Vesuvius Challenge, who issued an international call for people to use artificial intelligence to decode the scrolls. The Greek work for “purple dye” was the first complete word identified.

On Feb. 5, the grand prize of $700,000 was given to three people for revealing 15 partial columns from the scrolls. The winners are Youssef Nader, an Egyptian biorobotics graduate student in Berlin; Luke Farritor, a 21-year-old SpaceX intern and college student from Nebraska; and Julian Schilliger, a robotics student from Zurich. Nader and Farritor were the first and second place winners of the challenge last year, which revealed the first word.

“The grand prize contestants have clearly demonstrated what our systematic experimental framework envisioned: that virtual unwrapping and AI techniques together can deliver substantial texts from within the still-rolled Herculaneum scrolls,” Seales said.

AI, a party in Nebraska and $1 million: How a UK professor helped decode ancient scrolls

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius turned the scrolls into a charcoal-like material. Seales and his team developed a computer program called Volume Cartographer in 2016, which locates and maps 2D surfaces within a 3D object. It was then used to virtually unwrap and read text from the ancient En-Gedi scroll, believed to be one of the oldest Hebrew biblical texts found outside of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In 2019, the team developed additional ways to read Herculaneum ink, which is made of carbon and invisible to the human eye in imaging.

Bill Gatton Foundation donates $5M for scholarships

The Bill Gatton Foundation has donated $5 million towards scholarships at UK, the university announced.

The donation will go towards scholarships for current UK students from Kentucky based on financial need through the UK LEADS program, first-year students from Muhlenberg and McClean counties, students who attended The Gatton Academy and in-state students in the College of Medicine.

Through past donations, the Bill Gatton Scholarship program has awarded 94 scholarships to undergraduate students, 100 scholarships for medical students and 1,178 scholarships through the UK LEADS program.

UK President Eli Capilouto said he was “profoundly thankful” for the donation.

“Mr. Gatton’s legacy will persist for generations. Thanks to his vision for Kentucky and confidence in the power of this place, we are graduating more outstanding citizens poised to advance this Commonwealth through world-class health care, innovative research and outstanding education,” Capilouto said.

Gatton, who died in April 2022, was UK’s largest single donor who gave more than $70 million in his lifetime. After his death, the Bill Gatton Foundation has continued to donate to UK, including millions towards scholarships and a $100 million gift to the Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, the largest donation in UK’s history. The college was re-named in honor of Gatton’s parents, Edith Martin and Harry W. Gatton Sr.

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