Research and Innovation Newsletter

  Volume I, Issue 4                                                               July - August 2020

In this Issue...

Article 1: Walton Grant Establishes I3R Initiative 
Article 2: Interdisciplinary Team Awarded $1.5 Million to Study Freight Movement
Article 3: Arkansas Receives $20 Million Grant for Data Analytics Collaboration, Network
New Hire Spotlight and Personnel Transitions
Unit Announcements
Recent Awards & Recognitions

Greetings from the Vice Chancellor

Welcome back! I know we are starting the Fall semester with both excitement and consternation.  We’re working very hard to increase the former and reduce the latter. Over the last several months, dedicated faculty, staff, and administrators have made extraordinary efforts to get our campus ready for this challenging semester. According to the recommendation made by the UA COVID-19 Research Response Team, Chancellor Steinmetz approved the adjustment of research activity to Level 3 according to UA’s Research Continuity Plan on August 10, 2020. This means that researchers may return to “Limited Activity,” defined as: 

  • Tasks requiring physical presence only  

  • Approved faculty and key personnel only 

As before, ongoing research work must be approved by department heads and/or research deans.  Please continue to aggressively follow best practices of personal protection, including wearing face coverings and maintaining physical distance. Signs with precautionary reminders have been posted throughout campus and in the labs. Please refer to the Research Continuity document for the complete plan and guidelines.  

Despite the challenges and uncertainties caused by the global pandemic, this is also a very exciting time for the University of Arkansas, especially for its research enterprise. Six weeks ago, we received a $194.7 million grant from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation to establish the Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research (I3R), underneath which there will be five new research centers of excellence related to UA’s signature research areas. The overarching goal of I3R is to transform the research, innovation, and economic development culture of the university. The grant is one of the largest, single private gifts ever given to a university for advancing research and economic development. The U of A research community is very excited and extremely grateful for this generous grant. It will accelerate our upward growth trajectory as an R1 research university nationally along multiple fronts in the coming years. The new building will provide state-of-the-art research space for our innovative faculty and students by breaking down the traditional disciplinary silos. The I3R facility will serve as an innovation hub on campus to reduce the time from discovery to market and further expand our 360-partnership with industry in northwest Arkansas and beyond. To read more details of the I3R initiative, read the breakdown of this multi-faceted project.  

Not surprisingly, our number-one priority for the coming academic year is to implement the I3R vision and continue promoting convergence, interdisciplinary research, and scholarly activities. Additionally, we plan to review and revise current academic policies related to Research & Innovation to develop incentive programs for early-stage projects that can potentially lead to innovation or commercialization. We will also continue cultivating an inclusive culture for research excellence that values diversity and equity in every step of the entire research project cycle. Last, but certainly not least, we plan to continue strengthening and expanding our efforts to provide better support for all researchers on campus, including faculty, staff, postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduate students. 

It will take coordinated teamwork to achieve the ambitious goals we have set for the coming academic year. Thank you all for your dedication to our research enterprise at the U of A. We are looking forward to working with you during this exciting and challenging time. In order to become productive and innovative researchers, it will take all of us working together to stay safe, stay agile, and stay Razorback strong. 


- Daniel Sui, vice chancellor for research & innovation 

Walton Grant Establishes I3R Initiative

In Action Item #4 of the 2020 Focus on the Future publication, Chancellor Joe Steinmetz introduced his vision for UofA’s research enterprise. “We should strive to be a top-caliber research institution, among the very best, one that attracts increased funding from federal and private industry sources,” Steinmetz said. One way to bring this vision into reality “is to create a more collaborative campus research environment that facilitates innovative research and pushes the boundaries of discovery.”
With generous funding from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation, the University of Arkansas will advance to establish the Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research (I3R). The four-faceted initiative includes funding entrepreneurship education, the construction of a state-of-the-art facility in Fayetteville, the formation of a satellite campus in Bentonville, and the implementation of five innovation clusters which will function as a collaborative framework rather than separate areas of discipline. 
Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation and Distinguished Professor of Geosciences, Dan Sui stated, “The U of A research community is very excited and extremely grateful for this generous grant. It will accelerate our upward growth trajectory as an R1 research university nationally along multiple fronts in the coming years. The new building will provide state-of-the-art research space for our innovative faculty and students by breaking down the traditional disciplinary silos. The creation of I3R will serve as an innovation hub on campus to reduce the time from discovery to market and further expand our 360-partnership with industry in northwest Arkansas and beyond.”
The five innovation clusters of research will be housed in the I3R facility. Focus areas include Data Science, Food and Technology, Materials Science and Engineering, Integrative Systems Neuroscience, and Bioscience and Bioengineering Research in Metabolism. 
Construction plans are underway for the facility. Architectural designs are also being discussed among key research faculty members and leadership personnel. The location has yet to be determined. The University has commenced a national search for an executive director.
Learn more about how I3R will positively impact the university, the state, and beyond by reading "7 Ways the I3R Grant Will Help Transform the University of Arkansas" written by Dean Matt Waller of the Sam M. Walton College of Business.  

Interdisciplinary Team Awarded  $1.5 Million to Study Freight Movement


An interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Arkansas has been awarded $1.5 million to develop a new traffic-sensing technology to track cargo as it moves through roadways and ports. The project will help business leaders and government agencies better plan for future investments in infrastructure and economic development.

The project, led by Sarah Hernandez, assistant professor of civil engineering, is unique because it allows researchers to monitor commodity movement without having to stop traffic or cut into roadways to install equipment. Using a combination of LiDAR and video sensing, U of A researchers have developed an algorithm that can distinguish among trailer types, including container, platform, livestock, dump, and others, to provide unique insights into commodity flows along a roadway or port.

Similar to radar, LiDAR uses pulsed, infrared laser light to detect distant objects and measure the distance to those objects.

“Our inland waterways move a significant amount of freight and rely equally on efficient water- and land-side transportation systems,” Hernandez said. “This project will provide detailed truck volume data for the roads used to access inland waterway ports. With this data, we can better design pavements, manage port operation, and direct funds to support better highway connectivity.”

Hernandez said the project will help build efficiencies through a better understanding of how water and truck transport systems interact.

The research is led by an interdisciplinary team composed of faculty, research associates, and students from the departments of civil engineering, computer science and computer engineering, and the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies.

The team’s goal is to develop a network of interconnected data collection systems to monitor and manage inland waterway activity including port and terminal operations, vessel movements, and vehicle activity.

“The low-cost sensor developed in this project has the potential to deploy across the U.S. so state transportation agencies and private industry can better understand the demand and usage of critical inland waterways and supporting highway infrastructure,” she said. “What’s currently missing in decisions regarding multi-modal water and truck investments is a clear understanding of how the two modes interact. This research, through our specialized traffic sensor, will inform multimodal system operations and management.”

Hernandez said the team’s research will help generate data to drive future policy decisions.

“This project will develop a traffic sensor that measures truck activity in such a way that trucks, drivers and fleets remain anonymous but still provide the level of data needed to create policy and prioritize transportation investments for efficient freight movement,” she said. “Public transportation agencies and private firms and operators need to understand when, where, and what freight is moving. This information can be used to design targeted policies to promote critical industries and to identify and select infrastructure projects that support critical or underserved industries.”

The funding was awarded by Inter-Modal Holding LLC, a holding company specializing in transportation, commerce, technology, and related infrastructure. The team’s study will focus on the Upper Ohio River Valley region, a major transportation system for the United States. The original work was sponsored by the Maritime Transportation Research and Education Center, known as MarTREC.

Hernandez said the project requires expertise from across campus to meet the full need.

“This team is very much interdisciplinary consisting of civil engineers, computer scientists and computer engineers, geographers and photogrammetry experts,” she said. “The sensor we are designing requires hardware and software development that has to meet highway and traffic standards. There are also aspects related to communications protocols, power adaptation, and field data collection. This means we need to pool expertise from a broad and diverse team.”

Written by Nick DeMoss
Featured on Research Frontiers
August 3, 2020

Arkansas Receives $20 million Grant for Data Analytics Collaboration, Network

A $20 million grant to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s Division of Science and Technology, in partnership with the University of Arkansas and eight other colleges and universities, will build a high-performance computing network for data analytics and bring together scientists and engineers from across the state to focus on data analytics.

The five-year grant, from the National Science Foundation’s Established Program, to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), will be matched by $4 million from the state. With it, researchers will establish a program titled “Data Analytics That Are Robust and Trusted,” or DART.

In order to collaborate effectively, DART researchers plan to create a statewide computing-cloud called the Arkansas Research Platform that will integrate existing high-performance computer resources at colleges and universities. DART will also provide enhanced educational opportunities as researchers and students work on specific projects.

“Our goal is to make Arkansas a nationally recognized hub for data science research and innovation,” said Jack Cothren, director of the U of A’s Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies, professor of geosciences and the co-principal investigator of the award.

More than 40 scientists from the U of A and other colleges and universities in the state will focus on three major areas of data science: managing data sets that are too big or complex for traditional hardware and software, ensuring security and privacy of that data, and developing machine learning and artificial intelligence models that better inform decisions and give insight into the underlying process.

Data analytics and data science education are priority funding areas for the NSF and a signature research area for the University of Arkansas. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has also emphasized data-science education as a means of moving the state’s economy forward, which makes the grant timely, said Dan Sui, vice chancellor for research and innovation.

“The DART project embodies the full spirit of convergence research NSF has been supporting during the past five years,” Sui said. “The project not only dovetails with Governor Hutchinson’s priority to invest more in data science and workforce development for the digital economy in Arkansas but also propels data science and data analytics research to a new level of excellence. I want to thank and congratulate the entire project team for their successful effort in securing this transformative federal grant. This project will have far-reaching impacts in Arkansas and beyond for generations to come.”

EPSCoR is the NSF’s program to enhance research competitiveness. DART, which begins July 1 and ends in June 2025, will have the broadest reach of any EPSCoR project in Arkansas, noted Chancellor Joe Steinmetz.

“The NSF EPSCoR grant is fantastic news for the research footprint and economy of the state of Arkansas,” Steinmetz said. “The University of Arkansas looks forward to playing a leadership role in the collaboration of researchers and institutions in every corner of the state to advance the DART project, and to showcase one of our signature research areas — data science.”

Written by Bob Whitby
Featured on Research Frontiers
June 15, 2020


New Hire Spotlight

Please welcome the following individuals to VCRI. We're glad you've joined our team!
Amy Pickering joins the Office of Sponsored Programs as a contract specialist, where she will help negotiate and execute a variety of agreements. Born in Fayetteville and raised in Kansas, Amy recently moved back to Fayetteville and said she is “glad to return after years of being away." Away from the office, Amy enjoys hiking camping, reading, knitting and embroidering. For 2020, her goal is to “stay healthy and safe and to appreciate every day.”  
Thomas Kenny works in the Office of Sponsored Programs as an award specialist. He primarily works on setting up awards and grants in Workday. Thomas is from Illinois, where he grew up on a farm outside a small town. He enjoys fishing, reading and walking. His goal for this year is to “get comfortable with the adventure of starting a new job and living in a new state.” 
Texas native Marlena Teeuwen is an administrative analyst with the Office of Sponsored Programs, where she provides a variety of clerical support. She started working at the university in 2019 at the Jean Tyson Development Center. Marlena likes reading fun books, baking and running. Her goal for this year is to “settle into my new role in the Office of Sponsored Programs and grow with the new changes this next semester will bring.”
Joshua Gilgen, from nearby McDonald County, Mo., joins the Office of Sponsored Programs as a post-award specialist, and with this job, fulfills his goal for 2020, which was moving back home to Northwest Arkansas. His future goals include working “on getting my master’s degree in accounting.” When not working, Joshua enjoys reading, gaming, and spending time with his family.

Personnel Transitions
A few personnel changes of note:

Molly Throgmorton has moved from the Office of Sponsored Programs to Innovation and Industry Partnerships as a research development specialist.

Stacy Stuart, formerly the assistant director of research development in Innovation and Industry Partnerships, has moved to the College of Education and Health Professions where she serves as research director. 

Devin Shepherd will be transitioning from a his position in the Office of Research and Innovation to a full-time graduate assistantship. 

Special thanks to each of these individuals for their dedication to VCRI. 
Unit Announcements

Workday training is still available online through Microsoft Office 365 apps. Learn how to access the materials by watching 
this brief video

Be sure to follow the instructions on how to complete the Workday Fundamentals and Employee Self Service (ESS) courses.  There is an Acknowledgment of Completion action that must be finished to get credit for completing the training.

Additional Instructor-led training sessions are being offered by our University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Workday Project Team.  Check the HR Employee Development Calendar for available times. Please register ahead of time. 

If you experience issues with Workday, visit the Help Portal for assistance. 

Research Camp 2020 to be Held in Mid-October

The offices of the  Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Enhancement  and the Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation are sponsoring a one-day research and discovery camp for faculty members who are early in their research programs. The purpose of the camp is to introduce new faculty or postdoctoral associates to strategies and techniques that will make research programs more successful. The camp will be held locally in mid-October.

Space will be limited and registration will be required to attend this event. Registration information will be released in early September.  

From the Office of Scholarly Communications:

ScholarWorks@UARK is always open! You'll find UofA's premier research centers, scholarly journals, faculty publications, and teaching materials as well as student research and creative work. Don't see your research group? Let us know! We'll not only post your work online; we'll also promote it through social media.

The Office of Scholarly Communications has recently been in collaboration with the Federal Public Access Compliance Task Force to assist principal investigators with fulfilling mandates to share publications and data. For our initial launch, we're focusing on publications resulting from National Science Foundation (NSF) research awards dating from January 1, 2016, to present. As we move forward with other funding agencies, we aim to make compliance a smooth, easy process for principal investigators.

To learn more about our services, please contact Melody Herr.
From the Office of Sponsored Programs:

Biosketch: a new updated form will be available for use on or after 10/5/2020. An announcement will be made when this form becomes available. Current and Pending Support: a new updated form will be available for use on or after 10/5/2020. An announcement will be made when this form becomes available.
Research Compliance Fall 2020 Training Schedule:

Faculty, staff, and students may register for training through the Employee Development Program website or by contacting our office. All workshops will be offered via Microsoft Teams. Individual or group sessions available on request.


9/3 – Human Subjects Research Overview

9/15 – Export Controls

9/15 – Biological Safety

9/17 – Animal Care and Use Overview

9/24 – Responsible Conduct of Research

9/25 – Conflict of Interest/Commitment


10/8 - Human Subjects Research Overview

10/13 - Biological Safety

10/15 - Animal Care and Use Overview

10/21 - Export Controls

10/22 - Responsible Conduct of Research

10/23 - Conflict of Interest/Commitment


11/5 - Human Subjects Research Overview

11/9 - Export Controls

11/10 - Biological Safety

11/19 - Animal Care and Use Overview

11/23 - Responsible Conduct of Research

11/24 - Conflict of Interest/Commitment

-Jason Ramage, assistant vice chancellor for research and innovation and RSCP director
Recent Awards and Recognitions
Congratulations to the following faculty members on their research achievements and recognitions.

Josh Sakon, a biochemistry professor in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, has "received $30,000 from the NIH – and a matching gift from the Commercialization Fund, a subset of the U of A Chancellor’s Fund – to develop and commercialize sFGF1, a human “fibroblast growth factor” designed by Suresh Thallapuranam, professor of biochemistry" (NIH Supports Research on Biological Drug to Rebuild Heart Tissue).

Nicholas Greene and Tyrone Washington, professors of health, human performance & recreation in the College of Education and Health Professions, "have received a $1.6 million National Institutes of Health grant. The five-year Research Project Grant (R01) focuses on preventing cancer cachexia, a wasting syndrome that largely affects the muscles, along with other body tissues, and is present in up to 80% of cancer patients" (Exercise Science Professors Receive $1.6 Million NIH Grant to Research Cancer Cachexia Prevention).

Matthew A. Waller, dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business, will be receiving the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals' 2020 Distinguished Service Award during the CSCMP EDGE 2020 Live! Conference and Exhibition Opening General Session in September (Waller to Receive Supply Chain Distinguished Service Award). 

Jia Di, professor of computer science and computer engineering in the College of Engineering, "has received a $600,000 grant to pursue technology that makes digital chips more resilient to security attacks" (Researchers Receive DARPA Funding to Improve Chip Security).

Paul Adams, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, was "elected to the Executive Board of Directors of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE). He will officially take office Oct. 1, and his term will be for 3 years" (Paul Adams Elected to Executive Board of Directors of National Organization). 

Julian Fairey, professor of civil engineering in the College of Engineering, was "awarded $755,000 from the Department of Defense to develop a new monitoring method for so-called “forever chemicals” in water on military installations" (Researchers Developing Device to Monitor "Forever Chemicals" in Water).

Freddie Bowels, professor of foreign languages in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, "has been named a distinguished member of the National Association of Teacher Educators" (Professor Freddie Bowels Named Distinguished Member of Association of Teacher Educators).

Fang Luo, assistant professor of electrical engineering, and David Huitink, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, both in the College of Engineering, have "received a $600,000 award from the Federal Aviation Administration to gather information to help enhance safety and reliability for future electrical aircraft" (Researchers Awarded $600,000 to Enhance Safety of Electrical Aircraft).

Arya B. Gaduh, professor of economics in the Sam M. Walton College of Business, was "invited to join the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab as an affiliated professor. The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, or J-PAL, is a global research center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that works to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence" (Gaduh Named Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab Affiliated Professor).

Daniel Sutherland, professor of history; Kevin Fitzpatrick, professor of sociology and criminology; Ben Vining, professor of anthropology; and Toni Jensen, professor of English, all received honors from the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. (Fulbright College Announces 2020 Winners of King, Nolan and OMNI Awards).


  Congratulations to the following undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students for their research achievements and recognitions.

Brynn Bodwell, Kanaan Hardaway, Kira Simonson and Clare Yurchak, senior biological engineering majors in the College of Engineering, "earned first place [at the Gunlogson Environmental Student Design Open Competition hosted by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers] for their project designing a bioretention cell for use by the city of Fayetteville to reduce flooding, treat parking lot runoff and improve the aesthetic of the nearby parking lot" (Biological Engineering Students Earn National Honors for Research and Design).

Chase Daril, Karlton Haney, Trevor Perry, Jack West, Bryan Withers, Irina Britten, Lexxy Gentile, and Wesley Nimmo, industrial engineering students in the College of Engineering, "have been chosen as national semi-finalists for their work on senior design projects. The projects were selected as semi-finalists for the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineering Capstone Senior Design Award. National winners will be chosen in October" (Two Industrial Engineering Teams Selected as Semi-Finalists for National Capstone Award).

Sherif Sharfadine, a plant pathology graduate student in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences, "has been selected to participate in the Global Burden of Crop Loss Initiative" (Plant Science Grad Student Sharfadine Selected for Global Crop Loss Program).

Tyler K. Chafin, recent doctoral graduate of biological sciences in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, received "a three-year, National Science Foundation "rules of life" post-doctoral fellowship with a focus on interdisciplinary research using biological collections" (Biology Graduate Student Awarded NSF Post-Doctoral Fellowship).

Daniel Parker, doctoral candidate in the adult and lifelong learning program in the College of Education and Health Professions, co-authored an article recently published by Frontiers in Psychology. "The article — 'Functional Contextualist Approach to Mastery Learning in Vocational Education and Training' — examined a model of mastery learning in career and technical education, known internationally as Vocational Education and Training" (Adult and Lifelong Learning Doctoral Student Publishes in Top-Tier 'Frontiers in Psychology).  

Jake Jones, doctoral candidate of biomedical engineering in the College of Engineering, "has been recognized by The Optical Society for his work using machine learning to examine image data sets related to skin wound healing" (Biomedical Engineering Student's Research Recognized by National Biophotonics Group).

Deandrae Smith, doctoral candidate of food science in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences, was recognized by the Bahamas Consulate General, Astra Armbrister-Rolle. "Highlights from the Diaspora is a citizen recognition initiative created to share stories and success of Bahamian citizens in the United States. Smith was the first person to be featured in the quarterly communications piece" (Bahamian Deandrae Smith Earning Doctorate in Food Science, Honored by Consulate General). 

Paul Bonney, doctoral candidate of physics in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, "has received an $89,659 grant from the Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST) program to study the habitability of exoplanets using global climate models" (Physics Doctoral Student Paul Bonney Receives NASA FINESST Research Grant).

Mark your calendars! 

The inaugural U of A Research Week has been rescheduled for November 9-13, 2020. Participate in an exciting week of events highlighting various aspects of the university's research enterprise! 

"promoting innovation, stimulating creativity"
Research Frontiers
VCRI Website
Issue 2 (March-April)
Issue 3 (May-June)
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