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Inaugural Interdisciplinary Research Program projects reach across disciplines to advance innovation

ARLINGTON, Texas – Five collaborative research projects involving faculty from seven colleges and schools ranging from innovations in pain management to personal security have won inaugural Interdisciplinary Research Program awards through a University of Texas at Arlington initiative aimed at advancing true interdisciplinary research and enhance the University’s competitive position nationally.

Interdisciplinary Research Program

The University of Texas at Arlington recently awarded five teams the inaugural Interdisciplinary Research Program awards.

President Vistasp M. Karbhari and Dr. Duane Dimos, vice president for research, launched the Interdisciplinary Research Program this spring based on the recommendations of a faculty task force focused on developing strategies and tactics to enhance interdisciplinary research across campus. Forty-eight faculty teams submitted proposals aligned with the four guiding themes of the Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact: Health and the Human Condition, Sustainable Urban Communities, Global Environmental Impact and Data-Driven Discovery.

“UT Arlington has incredible faculty members representing the highest level of scholarship in their disciplines. Their work and that of their students is among the best in research and innovation nationally,” President Karbhari said. “Our strategic plan emphasizes the criticality of collaboration across disciplines, and it was exciting to see the tremendous response from faculty to this initiative.

“To become even more competitive for limited federal and corporate research support, our best ideas and technologies must be interdisciplinary to achieve results with the highest impact possible. Dr. Dimos and I are deeply grateful to the group of faculty who developed the basis for this initiative as part of the deliberations on tactics and strategies for our Strategic Plan.”

Winning proposals earn a seed grant that is intended to advance research efforts to the level that the team could compete for externally funded, competitive grants from the corporate world and agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, NASA, the Department of Defense and others. The 2015 awards represent the best of early research ideas within the university, Dr. Dimos said.

“I’m elated that in the first year we received so many quality ideas,” said Dimos, who joined UT Arlington in April after a 25-year career in a variety of research and management positions at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M. “Funding agencies look favorably on interdisciplinary collaboration. It’s the mantra of today’s research projects.”

The winning proposals are:

  • A System for Neuro-Feedback Anger Management to Prevent Domestic Violence. J.-C. Chiao, Peter Lehmann, Anne Nordberg, Yuan Bo Peng, Jodi Tommerdahl and Shouyi Wang, representing collaboration among the College of Engineering, the College of Education and the School of Social Work. The research team will build a wireless, wearable device, which will be embedded in a hat. The device will detect brain signals related to anger. A person who is growing angry will receive an alerting signal from their watch or smart phone reminding him or her to practice anger-management techniques learned in therapy sessions. UT Arlington’s system will help to establish a systematic method to help individuals control anger responses.
  • The Effectiveness of Objective Monitoring and Exercise Intervention for Chronic Low-Back Pain Management. Gian-Luca Mariottini, Robert J. Gatchel, Hanli Liu, Cynthia Trowbridge, Christopher T. Ray, representing collaboration among the College of Engineering, the College of Science and the College of Nursing and Health Innovation. Low back pain affects many people worldwide, causes activity limitation and work absence. The project’s goal is to study a new multi-dimensional exercise therapy that combines an advanced body-monitoring tele-remote technology and optical brain imaging in hopes of reducing low-back pain.
  • The Dallas-Fort Worth Community Opportunities for Resilience Education: Climate Science Education Model for the Public and K-12. Yekang Ko, Dong-Jun Seo, Jiyoon Yoon and Jun-Hak Lee, representing collaboration among the College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs, the College of Engineering, the College of Education and the College of Science. The North Texas region lags behind other large metropolitan areas in addressing climate change, partially due to lack of public awareness and political support for climate action, researchers assert. The project’s goal is to help overcome barriers by developing an interdisciplinary education model to improve public understanding of climate-related extremes such as floods, droughts and heat waves for proactive community planning and action for resilience of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
  • Exploring Organizational Needs for Improved User Authentication Systems. Matthew Wright and Jingguo Wang, representing collaboration between the College of Engineering and the College of Business. User authentication systems are proliferating, from fingerprint scanners to passwords based on social network images. Yet companies and other organizations have been slow to adopt them. The project’s goal will be to survey information technology managers in the health care industry, where security requirements are especially high, to determine their authentication needs. The team will then design new systems to meet their needs and thereby improve the security of sensitive health data.
  • The iWrite Project: A Computer-Based Rehabilitation Approach for Handwriting in Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder. Priscila Caçola, Mark Ricard, Fillia Makedon, Hanli Liu, representing collaboration between the College of Nursing and Health Innovation and the College of Engineering. This project will compare and investigate the effectiveness of a mobile app handwriting intervention in performance in children with Developmental Coordination Disorder. The researchers expect to establish parameters of cortex activity to explore plasticity resulting from intervention, and the implications of handwriting interventions.

Proposals for 2016 Interdisciplinary Research Program awards are expected to be due next spring.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 51,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as one of the 20 fastest-growing public research universities in the nation in 2014. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as a “Best for Vets” college by Military Times magazine. Visit to learn more, and find UT Arlington rankings and recognition at