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Research is the engine of progress. Through thoughtful, diligent work, scientists, engineers, and other scholars advance human discovery and improve our quality of life. UT Arlington places a high value on its role in this vital process. We have recruited pioneering researchers and added state-of-the-art equipment, generating unprecedented increases in our research activity. Our expertise in biomedical engineering, nanotechnology, medical diagnostics, genetically targeted therapies, clean energy, and other areas is changing lives and helping solve some of the world’s most urgent problems.

Jae Yu, physics associate prefessor; Andrew Brandt, physics professor; Kaushik De, physics professor; Andrew White, physics professor
Crash and Learn

About 3,000 physicists are working to unlock the mysteries of the universe at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, and professors and students from UT Arlington are playing a significant role. Members of the College of Science’s High Energy Physics Group, which includes professors, from left, Jae Yu, Andrew Brandt, Kaushik De, Andrew White, and Amir Farbin (not pictured), have helped build and analyze data on both the ATLAS project at the Large Hadron Collider and its predecessor, the D-Zero Experiment at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois. Graduate—and even undergraduate—students travel to the experiments as well. Scientists hope that by looking at what happens when protons collide at extraordinarily high speeds, they can prove or disprove complex physics theories, including those explaining the origins of matter, the presence of dark matter, and string theory. UT Arlington is also home to one of the largest computer centers in the world receiving data from the ATLAS project almost as the experiment occurs. “This is an exciting time for scientific discoveries, and students at UT Arlington can participate in the greatest scientific journey of the 21st century,” Dr. De says. “No one really knows what mysteries the universe holds for us.”

Laura Gough

PROBING FOR CLUES TO CLIMATE CHANGE

Biotic awakening is a term for the dramatic change that can happen when climate warming affects tundra soil temperatures. And it’s a term that biology Associate Professor Laura Gough knows well. She recently received two National Science Foundation grants to study the impact of soil warming and associated vegetation changes in arctic Alaska. “We’re seeing something of a greening of the Arctic,” Dr. Gough says, “with implications for everything from greenhouse gases to impacts on mammalian prey species to breeding patterns of migratory birds.”

Pranesh Aswath

CLEANER ENGINES, CLEANER AIR

Pranesh Aswath is doing his part to protect the environment by ensuring that car engines are cleaner and more fuel efficient. The professor and associate chair of the Materials Science and Engineering Department earned UT Arlington’s Outstanding Research Achievement Award in spring 2010 for his work in tribology and lubrication.

Dr. Aswath, who teams with Vice President for Research Ron Elsenbaumer, has developed chemicals that reduce friction in engines, improve fuel economy, and reduce harmful emissions and deposits on catalytic converters.

solar panels

FROM LABORATORY TO MARKETPLACE

Breakthroughs in cancer detection and synthetic fuels helped UT Arlington earn the most awards for Texas Ignition Fund (TIF) projects of any UT System institution. UT Arlington has received $475,000 for 10 projects. The UT System Board of Regents created the TIF grant program to stimulate commercialization of research discoveries at UT System institutions by providing early-stage funding for the development and maturation of such discoveries into marketable intellectual property. Other projects include research on drug development and solar cells.

Carolyn Cason

IN THE PATIENT’S BEST INTEREST

From improving the administration of CPR to designing a better hospital room, Carolyn Cason is focused on improving patient care. That work has earned international recognition for Dr. Cason, associate dean for research in the College of Nursing and director of the Center for Nursing Research. She and a team from the Dallas-based architectural firm HKS Inc. received a 2010 Design & Health International Academy Award for their examination of hospital room standardization. They used UT Arlington’s Smart Hospital to test their ideas.

Kevin Schug, Chemistry and Biochemistry Assistant Professor

MOLECULAR MASTERPIECE

Tell chemistry and biochemistry Assistant Professor Kevin Schug that he’s the lone recipient of the prestigious Eli Lilly Young Analytical Scientist award, and he’ll tell you he’s not alone at all.

“I owe much of my success to the supportive academic and research environment here, which includes a superb collection of faculty, colleagues, administrators, and most importantly, students,” he says. “Without my students and their hard work, none of this would have been possible.”

The Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company took an interest in Dr. Schug’s work because he and his crew have been developing techniques to study interactions between molecules and between drug and biochemical compounds. One goal of the research is to provide quantitative information about the nature of binding in such systems of interaction. His efforts could lead to streamlined drug discovery methods and, potentially, new drug compounds.

Schug also is studying chirality, a property of some molecules and most drug compounds. He describes chirality in terms of left- or right-handedness. “Sometimes only one of the hands can exert the desired biological action, whereas the other hand might actually be toxic. Before the drug compound can be used, all of the hands need to be separated.”

His group studies these chiral separations, which interest pharmaceutical companies seeking to develop and purify new therapeutic entities.

“The beauty of research is that it leads you down paths you probably never saw coming,” Schug says. “At UT Arlington, I’ve been fortunate to share that journey with a group of very capable and innovative students and colleagues. I couldn’t imagine a better place to grow as a researcher and scholar.”

Ellen Pritham, biology assistant professor

GENETICALLY WIRED TO INNOVATE

Ellen Pritham is a pioneer, but erase any Wild West notions from your head. The biology assistant professor is a trailblazer in the burgeoning field of genetics.

“My work focuses on understanding the ways that genetic information changes over time,” she says. “We are particularly interested in pathogenic organisms that must respond rapidly to the ever-changing conditions imposed by their environments.”

In a field where technologies to produce and analyze genome sequences are way ahead of understanding what it all means and how it all connects, Dr. Pritham is most excited about the probability of discovery. “There are lots of new things just waiting to be unearthed. We have a chance to make novel discoveries almost on a daily basis.”

Pritham and her lab partners are studying mobile DNA, called transposable elements, which are the most dynamic part of the genome and can hold clues to fighting disease. Since transposable elements are also often a genome’s largest component, understanding which sequences are transposable elements becomes critical to the proper annotations of a genome.

Transposable elements are also a rich source of non-viral vectors for gene therapy because they have already learned how to efficiently manipulate an organism’s genome. Medical researchers are eager to investigate unique transposable elements as new vectors and to capitalize on their innate strategies.

At UT Arlington, Pritham has found not only financial support through a grant from the Research Enhancement Program, but a wealth of inspiration from her fellow trailblazers—the students and post-doctoral researchers who work with her in the lab.

“Their hard work and ability to think outside the box leads to exciting discoveries and new research trajectories,” she says.

Seong Jin Koh, associate professor of materials science and engineering

HIGH-TECH DETECTION

Suppose a soldier returning from the battlefield is unknowingly carrying a contaminant. But sensors embedded on a tiny electronic chip detect it, alerting personnel to treat the soldier, potentially saving his or her life and avoiding harm to fellow troops.

Seong Jin Koh is leading a team at work on sensors that can detect extremely small amounts of DNA molecules of harmful biological species or early stages of various types of cancer.

The sensors also could identify dangerous species in food supplies that may have been compromised by the enemy. And they might detect harmful and sometimes deadly biological agents on an enemy combatant trying to infiltrate a U.S. perimeter.

“If some foreign agent has been put on a soldier, this sensor could detect it,” says Dr. Koh, associate professor of materials science and engineering. “It could even be used in the battlefield to see what’s in that environment.”

He says most existing DNA detection techniques are time-consuming, expensive, and not sensitive enough to indicate extremely low concentrations of DNA molecules.

But his technique, funded by the National Science Foundation, is sensitive enough to detect even a few DNA molecules in a sample. The sensor output is a simple electrical signal that emanates from a small silicon chip, which makes the system both cost-effective and easy to use.

Other possible applications include detecting mutations of cancer-causing genes that would signal early-stage cancers and developing medicines for them, or investigating crime scenes where only the smallest traces of evidence are left behind.

Liping Tang, Bioengineering Professor

STEMMING THE TIDE OF DISEASE

If you could cure any ailment, what would it be? Cancer? Diabetes? Stroke? Bioengineering Professor Liping Tang is shooting for all of the above with his research on stem cell production and harvesting.

Dr. Tang and Ramesh Saxena, an associate professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, have discovered that by utilizing medical devices such as catheters, they can create 200 times as many adult stem cells as other harvesting methods. Moreover, the adult stem cells created are multi-potent, meaning they can serve a variety of functions.

“In our research, the stem cells recovered could be reintroduced into the same person who produced them to help fight disease,” Tang says. “Those adult stem cells also could be used for tissue engineering and stem cell therapies.”

The new method could provide a less controversial way of creating stem cells than science that focuses on embryonic stem cells, which has fueled debate in the political and scientific communities.

The research team already has produced heart stem cells outside the body, as well as muscle, fat, nerve, and bone cells. Currently, bone marrow is considered the most abundant source of adult stem cells, as it can yield 500,000 stem cells from one patient. Tang’s method can yield more than 100 million stem cells.

“We have to do more testing, but preliminary reports have been encouraging,” he says. “The new cells are going home into the site of an injury.”

Professor Tang thinks that in two to five years, donors could be using an adult stem cell bank just like a blood bank. “Imagine people coming into the bank and getting adult stem cells for their spinal cord injury or diabetes. That would be marvelous.”