UTA awards 2019 interdisciplinary research grants

Tuesday, Jul 16, 2019 • Media Contact : Dana Jennings

The University of Texas at Arlington has awarded six research grants to interdisciplinary teams focusing on key areas related to health, decision making, human interaction and advanced materials.

The Interdisciplinary Research Program, or IRP, grants provide up to $20,000 to help UTA research groups advance their work and become more competitive for external funding.

The IRP was launched in 2015 by UTA President Vistasp Karbhari and Vice President for Research Duane Dimos to enhance true interdisciplinary research at the University. New grants are awarded annually on a competitive basis. 

“Advances in research are increasingly made through the convergence of disciplines,” Karbhari said. “Our faculty routinely work in inter- and trans-disciplinary teams, and this has resulted not just in wonderful new discoveries and advances through research, but in tremendous experiences for our students. The pool of ideas submitted this year was stronger than ever before and I’m pleased that we were able to support a larger number of projects and look forward to hearing of successes in the near future.”

This year’s recipients involve 17 faculty from six colleges and schools.

“Each of our winning projects tackle real-world problems with concepts for bold, high-impact solutions,” Dimos said. “Research and scholarship are strengthened when we invite diverse perspectives and approaches into our laboratories. In turn, we can better serve our society by alleviating some of the challenges we face.”

For previous recipients, the IRP awards have served as a catalyst for further funding and exposure for the team while sparking long-term collaborations.

Notably, a 2016 IRP project led by Michael Nelson, assistant professor of kinesiology, brought together faculty members from the College of Nursing and Health Innovation, College of Engineering and the College of Science to investigate the role of various body systems in affecting patients with heart failure. Investigators from the original team have received nearly $4 million from the National Institutes of Health for projects sparked by the IRP project, collaborated on five major peer-reviewed publications and made various presentations at six key conferences.

Associate Vice President for Research Kimberly Mayer, who oversees the program, said this year’s projects are inspiring.

“The proposal review process for this year’s IRP cycle was a powerful reminder of the strength of collaborative research and scholarly work happening between disciplines at UTA,” Mayer said. “Our faculty are among the best in the nation, and we are proud to be able to use this program as a launch pad to support those forming new collaborations to take on important challenges. We look forward to working with all of our applicants as they explore external funding opportunities to realize their visions for these interdisciplinary projects.”

The selected projects for 2019 are:

Using Arts and Social Sciences to Enhance Social Companion Robots' Adaptive Abilities to Improve Health Outcomes

  • Julienne Greer, assistant professor of theatre arts
  • Manfred Huber, professor of computer science and engineering
  • Kathryn M. Daniel, associate professor of nursing
  • Hunter Ball, assistant professor of psychology

Using combined methodologies from social robotics, adaptive control, applied theatre and cognitive psychology, the researchers will develop a pilot study that examines the impact of social robots on improving adherence to planned goals, such as exercise regimens, in older adults.

The long-term goal is to develop a robotic platform using innovative machine learning techniques that promote and allow the robot to adapt its interaction with the human dynamically to improve physical and mental functioning through goal adherence among older adults.

Use of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) in Acute Stroke

  • Judy R. Wilson, associate professor of kinesiology
  • Hanli Liu, professor of bioengineering

Stroke is the fourth-leading cause of death in the U.S. and treatment options are limited for those who survive. HBOT exposes a patient to 100% oxygen while inside a chamber at increased pressure. Liu and Wilson will evaluate the effects of HBOT in recovery for stroke patients using a novel, noninvasive neuroimaging tool.

Liu and Wilson have partnered with Jon Senkowsky, a vascular surgeon at Arlington Memorial Hospital, on the project.

Engineering the Gut Virome for Equol Conversion as a Countermeasure for Arterial Aging

  • Daniel Trott, assistant professor of kinesiology
  • Justyn Jaworski, assistant professor of bioengineering

Aging is the most predictive risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and recent studies show that gut bacteria can influence cardiovascular health. This project leverages Jaworski’s expertise in engineering bacteria and Trott’s in aging cardiovascular physiology to determine whether gut bacteria can be modified to promote cardiovascular health in advanced age.

Costs and Consequences of Implicit Racial Bias in the Financial Services Industry

  • Jandel Crutchfield, assistant professor of social work
  • John C. Adams, associate professor of finance
  • Emmanuel Morales-Camargo, assistant professor of finance

Over half of U.S. households have invested in at least one mutual fund, but poor mutual fund selection can destroy long-term personal financial health for investors and their families.

Adams, Crutchfield and Morales-Camargo are working to understand the reasons for poor choices in selecting mutual funds by piloting an experimental study that will examine the effects of implicit racial bias in the selection of mutual funds.

Understanding the Dynamic Human Brain During Economic Decision Making with Dual-mode Brain Imaging

  • Shuo “Linda” Wang, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering
  • Hanli Liu, professor of bioengineering
  • Kay-Yut Chen, professor of information systems and operations management
  • Sridhar Nerur, professor of information systems and operations management

Understanding human-driven inventory decision-making is central to improving efficiencies in supply chains and business systems. The goal of the project is to build a biological model of decision-making, capturing the perception of risks and associating decision making in an inventory management scenario.

New Bulk and Thin Film Phosphor Materials to Meet Challenges in Solid-State Lighting: A Collaborative Chemical and Engineering Approach

  • Robin Macaluso, associate professor of chemistry
  • Weidong Zhou, professor of electrical engineering

Macaluso and Zhou are addressing challenges in solid-state lighting efficiency that will continue to reduce global energy consumption. This team combines expertise in materials synthesis and fabrication and characterization of semiconductor optoelectronic materials and devices to explore inorganic sulfides and oxysulfides as potential solid-state lighting phosphor materials.