College of Science

Grover to emphasize research in new associate dean role

James Grover has been involved in a variety of research during his 19 years at UT Arlington, but now he's getting a chance to play an even bigger role in the groundbreaking work being done in the College of Science.

Grover, a professor of biology who has been at UT Arlington since 1993, took over as associate dean of the College of Science on April 1, 2012. He will be heavily involved in the college's research profile and in providing support in securing funding for faculty and graduate students.

He replaces Krishnan Rajeshwar, who left to become the University's associate vice president for research. Asked why he volunteered to take on the additional workload, Grover responded in his usual humble fashion.

"It was an opportunity to do some good things for my colleagues and our students," he said.

Many of his duties as associate dean will be research-related, he said. He will help with strategic planning on ways to improve the research environment and support the accomplishments of faculty and students. He will work with committees which select faculty for research-based awards, and which provide internal funds to support research. He also will be involved with providing fellowship funds to support graduate students.

"I will have other roles in helping to make sure that our faculty has adequate research space and facilities, and in working on improvements and enhancements for the graduate curriculum," Grover said.

College of Science Dean Pamela Jansma said she is excited by the opportunity to work with Grover, who joins assistant deans Greg Hale and Ed Morton in the college's leadership team.

"Dr. Grover has been a very valuable part of our biology faculty for years in research, teaching and service," Jansma said. "He's a joy to work with and is an excellent mentor to his students. He has a distinguished record of collaboration particularly on interdisciplinary initiatives. We're looking forward to working with him in his new role as associate dean to continue to enhance our research profile and find ways to increase funding for our faculty and graduate students."

Grover will also continue with his own research, which involves algal ecology, microbial ecology, theoretical ecology, and water quality in lakes, rivers and reservoirs. In the past eight years, he has been awarded over $4.5 million in grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas AgriLife and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for projects ranging from a water quality study of area lakes to testing approaches to control golden algae, which release toxins that are harmful to fish.

His current research involves doing studies to characterize hydraulic conditions in Lake Granbury, located in Hood County. Previously, he did experiments to show that increased water flow when there is a golden algae bloom will reduce the amount of algae and their toxicity.

"We did this work in enclosures - very large plastic bags - floating in the lake, and we would like to scale it up to the coves that occur in the margins of the lake," he said. "We should be able to do this by pumping in deep water from the lake that is free of golden algae. This would create coves that are free of algae and their toxins where fish could find a refuge. But in order to do this we need to have a good understanding of the hydraulics of coves, and that work is now under way. It involves putting a harmless fluorescent dye into the water and sampling the cove to follow its dispersion over the course of a week.

"Those observations are analyzed statistically and used to develop mathematical models of cove hydraulics and algal bloom dynamics so that we can forecast the effects of the treatments we would like to try."

Grover has also received several grants with professor of biology Thomas Chrzanowski that have supported studies of microbial interactions and dynamics in aquatic systems.

"In many ways, the basic understanding that comes from these studies has been useful when thinking about environmental management problems that involve harmful algae, nutrient pollution, and water quality," Grover said.

Grover has also long been involved in mentoring students and helping them establish solid foundations in research. In 2008, he helped establish a program aimed at improving undergraduate science education and encouraging biology and mathematics students in learning about the opposite discipline and conduct collaborative research. The Undergraduate Training in Theoretical Ecology Research (UTTER) program is being funded by a five-year, $781,000 NSF grant. The funds provide two-year scholarships to students who take three courses designed to emphasize how mathematics and biology can work together to answer basic questions in ecology and epidemiology.

"The students also take a summer research workshop and several research oriented seminars as they complete a collaborative research project under the guidance of faculty members," Grover said. "Between the courses and the research project, the students can get unique perspectives on the subjects of biology and mathematics, and they can develop research experience and skills that will prepare them for advanced studies and rewarding careers."

Grover and Hristo Kojouharov, associate professor of math, are UTTER co-directors. Grover teaches the majority of one UTTER course and part of a second course. He also participates in research workshops and seminars and helps to mentor students through their projects. The scholarships are

James Grover
James Grover has done extensive research in algal, microbial and theoretical ecology, as well as in studying water quality of lakes and rivers.

awarded to eight students each year, but the courses associated with UTTER are open to any students who have taken the prerequisites.

"So even though we have funds to support only eight students per year, many more can benefit from the unique courses we have developed, that give students a chance to do original research projects while developing skills and knowledge in mathematics and biology," Grover said.

Grover will also continue his teaching duties, focusing on courses that play an important role in certain programs, including UTTER. He follows the interdisciplinary approach extolled by the UTTER program as he also teaches courses in earth and environmental sciences (Environmental Systems - Biological Aspects) and mathematics (Mathematical Modeling in Ecology).

Jonathan Campbell, biology professor and department chair, praised Grover's contributions to the department and college, and predicted success in his new role.

"He has excelled in both the realm of research and teaching," Campbell said. "His research has had an important impact on his field, and he has trained a large number of students who have gone on to productive careers. Also, his many other accomplishments should not be overlooked. He has provided considerable service to our department, the University, and the community. In his role as associate dean I have no doubt that he will make a significant contribution."

Grover, who was born in Binghamton, New York, and grew up in the upstate New York region, became interested in biology early on. His family went camping often and he also did a lot of camping and hiking in the Boy Scouts.

"This gave me the chance to encounter nature and become familiar with forests and lakes," he said. "I was also always very good at math, and in school I got the chance to do accelerated work in this subject, which prepared me well for the sciences. So when I got older and began thinking about a career, it was natural to look at environmental sciences and ecology, where I could combine my love for living things and my enjoyment of mathematics."

He earned a B.A. in Environmental Science from the State University of New York in Purchase, N.Y., in 1982 and followed with a Ph.D. in Ecology at the University of Minnesota in 1988. He then worked for a year as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Max Planck Institute of Limnology in Germany and for four years as a postdoctoral research associate at the NERC Centre for Population Biology at Imperial College London, Silwood Park campus, U.K.
In 1993, he accepted an assistant professor position at UT Arlington and has been here ever since.

"UT Arlington has a long tradition of strength in aquatic biology and aquatic sciences more generally," Grover said in explaining his decision to move to Texas. "So I knew I would be able to find colleagues and collaborators here. I also thought it would be very interesting to live in a warmer climate than any that I'd experienced previously. And I was right on both counts. I've had a number of very fruitful collaborations on campus and beyond, and the dynamics of lakes and other ecosystems here in Texas have some unique features that are fun to study."

Grover is also involved in various other activities outside of his research and teaching. He serves or has served on the editorial boards of various periodicals; on the governing board of the Texas Rivers and Reservoirs Management Society (2000-03); on numerous NSF panels; as judge or coordinator of various science fairs and events; and as chair and member of the working group on Curriculum Research and Community Engagement, University Sustainability Committee (2007-present).

He welcomes the new challenges which await him as associate dean and looks forward to lending his experience and expertise while helping to push the College of Science to new heights in research and teaching.

"I'm honored to have this opportunity and excited about what lies ahead," Grover said. "We have so many bright minds with such good ideas in the College, and I'm looking forward to helping them any way I can."

Posted April 10, 2012