Summary of research achievements on campus

RAMPING UP RESEARCH. UTA is one of four U.T. System universities that a prominent East Coast consulting firm will work to develop into top-tier research institutions. In July, the Board of Regents authorized hiring the Washington Advisory Group to recommend strategies for UTA, U.T. El Paso, U.T. San Antonio and U.T. Dallas. The company also will propose research enhancements at four other U.T. System institutions. “We anticipate that public-private partnerships will be a fundamental element of every university’s efforts to strengthen its presence in research,” said Chancellor Mark Yudof. The UTA study should be complete early this year.

GAINING ON PAIN. A team of experimental psychologists is studying why people with multiple sclerosis experience pain and how to treat it. Led by psychology Assistant Professor Yuan Bo Peng, the researchers are using optical imaging, electrophysiological techniques and behavioral methods to study the disease. The team includes psychology Associate Professor Perry Fuchs and biomedical engineering Associate Professor Hanli Liu. Their goal is to understand the mechanisms of pain, which may lead to better pain management for MS patients. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is funding the project.

BIG BUCKS FOR SMALL TECHNOLOGY. UTA’s nanotechnology research efforts received assistance in September when the University secured almost $2 million in federal funding. Part of the 2004 defense appropriations bill, the grant totaled $10 million and also benefits nanotechnology programs at U.T. Austin, U.T. Dallas and Rice University. In 2002, the four universities founded the Strategic Partnership for Research in Nanotechnology to position Texas as a leader in the burgeoning field. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, was instrumental in securing the funding.

EXPERIENCED LEADER. Professor Ronald L. Elsenbaumer has been named interim vice president for research, succeeding Keith McDowell, who left in November to become vice president for research at the University of Alabama. Dr. Elsenbaumer, who was serving as associate vice president for research and director of the Institute for Nanoscale Science and Engineering Research and Teaching, was previously chairman of the Materials Science and Engineering Department, chairman of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department and director of the NanoFab Research and Teaching Facility.

DIGGING UP BONES. Millions of years ago, Arlington may have been a lot like Jurassic Park. Geology student Phil Kirchhoff and his friend Bill Walker discovered the remains of a duckbill dinosaur in June while searching for fossilized shark teeth in northeast Arlington. The 100 million-year-old remains, which include a tooth, pelvic fragment and two pieces of vertebrae, are the first dinosaur fossils found in Arlington. The hadrosaur or heavy lizard was a herbivore that grew to as long as 30 feet. Geology Professor Christopher Scotese, who teaches a course on dinosaurs, says the discovery may help resolve the debate over whether duckbills originated in North America or Asia. “From a hadrosaur’s point of view, Arlington, Texas, may have been the duckbill Garden of Eden,” he said. Kirchhoff and Walker donated the remains to the Dallas Museum of Natural History.

HIGH-TECH HELP. Researchers in the Computer Science and Engineering Department have landed a $2.2 million grant to develop wireless communication devices for the disabled. Led by Associate Professor Farhad Kamangar, a UTA team will design cellphone-sized personal portable devices (PPDs) customized for a person’s disability, including hearing and vision impairments and mild cognitive disorders. A pilot project will provide PPDs and related services for a 12-county rural region of Northeast Texas. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission awarded the grant as part of the state’s biggest funding effort to improve communication services for people with disabilities. UTA secured the largest grant of the 16 universities, school districts and nonprofit organizations that received funding.

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