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UTA advances toward Tier 1 status, graduates more than 200 Ph.Ds, increases research expenditures by nearly 9 percent to $85 million

Wednesday, September 28, 2016 • Media Contact: Louisa Kellie

Research Laboratory at UTA

Research Laboratory at UTA

The University of Texas at Arlington continues to move steadily toward Tier 1 status, graduating more than 200 doctorates for the third year in a row and generating research expenditures in excess of $85 million, up nearly nine percent from the year before.

“UTA is now a research powerhouse and the consistently high number of doctoral degrees granted over a sustained period of time reflects this excellence,” UTA President Vistasp Karbhari said. “We are firmly on the road to becoming the school of choice for students who want to carry out impactful research that leads them to excellent positions in academia, public service or the private sector.”

Recent UTA graduate Lillian Frink, who earned her doctorate in chemistry, signed on immediately as a chemist at ExxonMobil, the world's largest publicly traded international oil and gas company.

During the past five years, Frink researched and published eight journal articles under Daniel Armstrong, UTA’s Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry and an internationally recognized scientist ranked No.8 in the Top 100 most influential people in analytical science by The Analytical Scientist.

“My research at UTA in gas chromatography and separation science led directly to my job at ExxonMobil, where I continue to do the same kind of work,” Frink said. 

Research Expenditures by source

Research Expenditures by source

Duane Dimos, vice president for research and dean of graduate studies, emphasized that UTA intends to continue expanding its graduate programs and encourage more students to pursue doctorate degrees across a wide variety of disciplines.

“An abundance of graduate teaching assistant and graduate research assistant positions allows Ph.D. students to get their degrees and to be paid a stipend while doing so,” Dimos said. “UTA’s graduate students find that their earning power, options, and opportunities are substantially increased when they earn these higher degrees.”

In 2016, UTA was also named to the elite group of R-1: Highest Research Activity universities by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the definitive list for the top doctoral granting research universities in the United States.

“We are putting a real focus on developing cutting-edge interdisciplinary research proposals and have had very good success with national sponsorship agencies, especially the National Institutes for Health, where we were awarded numerous new grants this year,” Dimos said. “This strategy forms part of our increasing teaching and research focus on the theme of  Health and the Human Condition within the Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions|Global Impact.”

Other theme areas being strengthened within UTA’s Strategic Plan are sustainable urban communities, global environmental impact and data-driven discovery. In late October, UTA will break ground on the 220,000-square-foot Science and Engineering Innovation and Research building, which will support significant growth of students in areas of workforce need and provide the basis for enhanced interdisciplinary research activity across all areas of the Strategic Plan.

“We designed this building with glass interior walls to enable work in the collaborative lab spaces visible to the different research teams and also to first-year students, a concept called ‘science on display’,” Dimos said. “This should further encourage interdisciplinary work among faculty and also enable younger students to visualize the opportunity that research could offer.”

Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie) congratulated the university’s administrators on these new successes.

“UTA is an important driver of the economic vitality of North Texas,” Turner said. “North Texas needs more Tier 1 universities to support our rapid growth and workforce needs, and we expect UTA will shortly join that elite group.” 

UTA student doing research

Another important factor for future success is faculty excellence. UTA’s faculty already count among them three members of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering, and 13 fellows of the National Academy of Inventors, the largest number for a Texas University and the second largest in the U.S.

To support this expansion in students and research activity, UTA is hiring new star faculty at the highest rate of any public university in the nation, with a cohort of more than 60 entering this fall semester, and plans to continue hiring over the next year.

Several of the new faculty received substantial external funding to start their research at UTA from different state entities, including:

  • Zui Pan, a noted Ohio State University College of Medicine esophageal cancer researcher, who joined UTA’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation in August. Pan’s appointment was made possible in part by a grant from the University of Texas System Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention, or STARs, program.
  • Star cell biology researcher Mark Pellegrino, who joined UTA as an assistant biology professor in August. A $823,067 grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas helped recruit Pellegrino from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Other leading new faculty entering this fall include:

  • Teresa Taber Doughty, dean of the College of Education, who sits on the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation Board of Visitors and was on the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education Board of Examiners from 2011-2015.
  • Peter Crouch, dean of the College of Engineering, who led major growth in the engineering schools at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and Arizona State University, where he earned industry support from major companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman Corp. and Motorola.
  • Scott Palmer, professor and chair in the History Department. His research includes the nexus of linking technological innovation, political authority, and the arts in Russian’s Imperial and Soviet eras.
  • Kwangho Nam, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. His research focus is on chemical thermodynamics, structural biology, biophysics and theoretical chemistry. He worked and published several manuscripts while at Harvard University, from 2006-11 under Dr. Martin Karplus who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2013.
  • Krish Prabhu, chief technology officer of AT&T, was appointed research professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering to serve as a resource for UTA as it bolsters its expertise in data-driven discovery and cyber security.

The university also continues to bolster its capacity to translate research into benefits for society through the UTA Research Institute or UTARI. Close to 40 patents have been issued on UTA research over the past two years and several new companies have been created around UTA to commercialize innovative ideas. A Silicon Valley partnership is creating another ecosystem for the commercialization of technology, which has already resulted in the licensing of UTA technologies.

“UTA is making a real impact on society through research and innovation that tackles real-life issues,” Dimos said. “This is part of the value we bring to the North Texas area and to the nation.”

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a Carnegie Research-1 “highest research activity” institution of about 55,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. U.S. News & World Report ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times’ 2016 Best for Vets list. Visit to learn more, and find UTA rankings and recognition at

For more on the Strategic Plan, see Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.