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UNT Insider | January 2011 issue | UNT furthers commitment to grow as a research university, expands research cluster program

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UNT furthers commitment to grow as a research university, expands research cluster program

From a UNT News Service press release

UNT Research Cluster

Research at UNT, the North Texas region's most comprehensive research university, will continue to expand with a commitment to invest in four new collaborative research clusters and five strategic areas that will advance UNT toward major research university status.

This commitment begins Phase II of the UNT research cluster program. The clusters are part of a long-term plan to bolster transformational, integrative and high-impact research and address complex scientific, technological, environmental and societal problems through multidisciplinary collaboration and innovation. The new cluster areas add to the previous seven clusters that already are advancing with high profile hires.

"I heartily endorse this extension and refinement of our efforts to strengthen research and research funding at UNT," President V. Lane Rawlins says. "Especially in tight fiscal conditions, we must have clear priorities and plans."

Hiring premier faculty researchers remains a cornerstone strategy to expand the university and serve students. New senior faculty bring experience, reputation and technical expertise that will catalyze research strengths within a given cluster and develop meaningful collaborations across UNT as well as with researchers from other universities, industries and organizations.

This cross-disciplinary research model is a fundamental component of the cluster program, with new hires, faculty and students working across departments and colleges in the university. Shared expertise, facilities, methodologies and resources provide fertile ground for the development of new infrastructure, technologies and solutions.

The four new clusters were chosen based on demonstrated leadership and enterprising research:

  • Computational Chemical Biology: This cluster will use computational science, modeling and simulation to tackle chemical problems, both fundamental and applied, with applications to molecular biology and biochemistry that will advance research within the pharmaceutical and toxicology industries.
  • Knowledge Discovery from Massive Digital Information Sources: This cluster will conduct applied research to develop innovative technologies, tools, and services for analyzing, processing, storing, and managing massive amounts of Web-published information -- from text and images to video and audio -- to facilitate scientific and scholarly research and education.
  • Multi-scale Surface Science and Engineering: The engineering of surfaces from the atomic- to macro-length scales will contribute to the discovery of new science and engineered products critical for current and next-generation applications. The applications range from chemical-mechanical polishing of copper in the microelectronics industry to novel high temperature coatings to resist oxidation, wear and fracture in jet engine components. This cluster will focus on both basic and applied research in this area.
  • Renewable Energy and Conservation: Next generation renewable energy and energy conservation system solutions are critical for energy security and continued leadership in technology development. This cluster will conduct research in three unique areas:
    • distributed renewable power generations
    • smart grid transmission
    • building energy conservation

UNT also has approved initial investments for five additional areas deemed strategic for their seminal contributions and potential to expand:

  • STEM Research and Education
  • Forensic and Investigative Science and Technology
  • Advanced Bio-Sensor Technology
  • Computational Life Sciences and Complex Bio-Environmental Systems
  • Logistics

In addition, the research scopes of two existing clusters, Signaling Mechanisms in Plants and Renewable Bioproducts, are being expanded.

"This expansion of interdisciplinary research clusters is a strategically vital step in transforming research at UNT," Provost Warren Burggren says. "Together with the ongoing efforts of our existing research programs across campus, these new clusters signal an ongoing commitment to achieving the status of a major research university."

These new strategic areas of research will engage existing faculty from the:

It is expected that many new hires will have joint appointments across departments as well as across the colleges.

"In the face of tough financial times, UNT remains committed to building its research clusters, and devoting as much resources as possible while remaining fiscally sound and responsible," says Vish Prasad, vice president for research and economic development. "The cluster program provides us with an opportunity to attract world-class researchers with strong funding records to UNT. These researchers not only bring external funds to the institution but a network of connections and mentorship that benefit junior faculty and graduate students, thereby creating a culture of research and learning at the university."

In 2008, UNT launched Phase I of the research cluster initiative to advance research, strengthen the state's economy and develop technology vital to addressing today's most pressing needs. Seven clusters were formed. With two years' momentum behind them, these clusters have helped UNT actively conduct groundbreaking research, recruit high caliber faculty and students, building labs, secure state-of-the art equipment and technical support, and establish innovative partnerships both within and outside the university.

"Education plays a key role in maintaining a healthy state economy," Prasad says. "Texas is fortunate to have an active, diverse base of research across its state. The cluster concept will extend beyond UNT by creating vital partnerships with other Texas institutions, industries and agencies as well as with global partners to collectively challenge, inspire and transform the work we do for a better tomorrow."

Visit the UNT research cluster website to learn more about the Phase I clusters, their projects and participants:

  • Bio/Nano-Photonics
  • Developmental Physiology and Genetics
  • Initiative for Advanced Research in Technology and the Arts
  • Materials Modeling
  • Renewable Bioproducts
  • Signaling Mechanisms in Plants
  • Sub-Antarctic Ecosystems and Biocultural Conservation

Buddy Price with UNT News Service can be reached at Buddy.price@unt.edu.

Read other stories in this issue:

January 2011

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