First Chancellor's Fund Research Grants Awarded for 10 U of A Faculty Proposals

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – More than 30 University of Arkansas faculty have been awarded the first 10 research grants from the Chancellor’s Discovery, Creativity, Innovation and Collaboration Fund.

The Chancellor’s Fund was established last year to promote faculty research that addresses several of the U of A’s guiding priorities: to enhance the university’s research and discovery mission; build a collaborative and innovative campus; promote innovation in teaching and learning; and strengthen graduate education. The university is investing up to $1 million a year in the research grants, the bulk of that money coming from SEC Network and television revenues allocated by the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.

There were 75 proposals submitted to the competition, which were reviewed by a panel of 20 faculty and administrators, chaired by Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Jim Coleman.

The Chancellor’s Fund projects that were selected cover a broad range of research: from finding a way to improve Arkansas’ rice crop to determining if broccoli can strengthen an infant’s immune system; from developing a new way to study the brain to bringing greater public attention to the work of Arkansas architect Fay Jones; from bringing food to those who need it to establishing the link between smartphone use and neck pain. Several of the projects use “big data” analysis or the latest in technological and research developments, but all have practical applications and benefits for people in Arkansas.

“The panelists and I were impressed with the quality of the proposals we received,” said Coleman. “Some of these proposals were the crucial first steps for potentially ground-breaking work, others were collaborations that would not happen without this particular funding, and all of them showed the talent and resources of the University of Arkansas and our faculty. It seemed the only real limitation we faced was the amount of money we had available.”

The winning grant proposals came from faculty representing 24 academic departments in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences, the College of Engineering, the College of Education and Health Professions, the Sam M. Walton College of Business and the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design. Researchers from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute are also collaborating on two of the projects.

These are the research teams that are receiving Chancellor’s Fund grants, listed in alphabetical order by the lead investigator’s name, with a brief summary of their proposals. The full abstracts for each of the proposals are available online.


Bob Beitle Jr., professor of chemical engineering. The research team includes: Hanna K. Jensen, research assistant professor of biomedical engineering; Brinck Kerr III, professor of political science; Jeff Amerine, adjunct instructor of management and founder of Start Up Junkie Consulting.

Project summary: The researchers will develop and assess a new way of treating a rare disease and determine if a non-profit or start up business can bring the treatment to market.

Walter G. Bottje, physiologist in poultry science. The research team includes: Byung-Whi Kong, functional genomics and molecular virologist in poultry science; Sami Dridi, avian endocrinology and molecular genetics in poultry science; Doug Rhoades, University Professor of biological sciences; Nicholas P. Greene, assistant professor of exercise science; Reza Hakkak, professor of dietetics and nutrition, UAMS and researcher at Arkansas Children’s Research Institute.

Project summary: The researchers will pursue a joint project with UAMS and ACRI, using big data analysis to understand fundamental mechanisms of obesity, while offering training opportunities for students and faculty at all three institutions to analyze big data.

Jia Di, professor, 21st Century Research Leadership Chair in computer science and computer engineering. The research team includes: Alan Mantooth, Distinguished Professor and the Twenty-First Century Research Leadership Chair in Engineering in electrical engineering; Simon S. Ang, professor of electrical engineering; Jie Xiao, associate professor and Arkansas Research Alliance Scholar in Inorganic Chemistry, in chemistry and biochemistry; Trenton L. Roberts, research assistant professor of soil fertility/soil testing in crop, soil and environmental sciences.

Project summary: The researchers will develop sensors that can be placed inside of plants’ stems to determine when they need more, or less, water and fertilizer, to reduce waste and increase crop yield.

Kevin M. Fitzpatrick, University Professor and Jones Chair in Community, in sociology. The research team includes: Xuan Shi, assistant professor of geosciences; Matthew L. Spialek, assistant professor of communication.

Proposal summary: The researchers will develop a comprehensive database to connect local food recovery efforts with the food insecure in an effort to increase access, reduce hunger, and develop a mobile food network in Northwest Arkansas.

Kaitlin Gallagher, assistant professor of health, human performance and recreation and John Jefferson, associate professor of physical therapy, UAMS.

Proposal summary: The researchers will study how smartphone use causes neck pain and develop strategies to reduce this pain.

Greg Herman, associate professor of architecture, and David Fredrick, associate professor of classical studies and director of the Tesseract Center.

Proposal summary: The researchers will develop a prototype website and public-access kiosks to make the homes designed by Arkansas architect Fay Jones accessible to a wide public audience.

Jae Kyeom Kim, assistant professor of human environmental science. The research team includes Sabrina P. Trudo, associate professor of human environmental sciences; Mechelle Bailey, clinical instructor of human environmental sciences; Jiangchao Ziao, assistant professor of animal sciences; Allison L. Scott, assistant professor of nursing; Marilou D. Shreve, instructor of nursing.

Proposal summary: The researchers want to find how diets rich in broccoli-family vegetables can transform microbes living in infants’ intestines and strengthen the infants’ immune systems.

Clemencia Rojas, assistant professor of plant pathology and Andy Pereira, professor of crop, soil and environmental sciences.

Proposal summary: The researchers will analyze large genomic data to discover genes responsible for resistance to high temperatures and a bacterial disease in rice, information that they could later use for crop improvement.

Woodrow L. Shew, associate professor of physics, and Nathan Parks, assistant professor of psychology.

Proposal summary: The researchers will develop a new way to measure changes inside the brain from outside the skull, which may be key for diagnosing and treating disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke and autism.

Xintao Wu, professor and the Charles D. Morgan/Acxiom Graduate Research Chair in computer science and computer engineering, and Anna Zajicek, professor of sociology.

Proposal summary: The researchers will determine ways that big data, as well as predictive models built with the data, may discriminate or lead to discrimination against certain groups of people, and develop ways of preventing this discrimination.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


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