The University of North Texas is set to invest at least $25 million in multidisciplinary collaborative research in a sweeping effort to strengthen Texas' economy and create solutions to address today's most pressing needs.
The initiative, which begins this year with the development of six collaborative clusters, will enhance and expand the innovative research already in progress at UNT by bringing together faculty from across colleges and disciplines to work together, exchange ideas and explore solutions.
In another key component of the investment, the university will hire several new faculty members, including many senior-level researchers with national and international reputations.
"We're focusing our investment in areas that will produce results," Provost Wendy K. Wilkins says. "UNT will be the leader in these areas, and we're confident enough of our ability to succeed that we are willing to invest millions of dollars."
Among the clusters' wide-ranging and high-profile initiatives, researchers will discover more effective ways to treat conditions such as autism, cancer and heart disease; develop more durable materials for jet engines; investigate molecular plant signals that could lead to innovations in areas such as agriculture and medicine; and explore new ways to support and improve environmental sustainability.
By investing in known areas of excellence, UNT will use its existing research efforts to stimulate further growth and build nationally and internationally recognized research programs. The first six clusters are:
Two additional areas of interdisciplinary research will receive seed funding to encourage further development:
"We are very committed to expanding UNT's research contributions," says Vishwanath "Vish" Prasad, vice president for research and economic development.
"This initiative will attract premier research faculty to UNT and allow us to dramatically improve our already significant contributions to advances in knowledge as well as our research funding."
When research meets entrepreneurship, the economy grows and communities benefit. To inspire growth within the Texas economy, the University of North Texas is developing a 290-acre research park located about 4 miles from its campus in Denton, where nearly 35,000 students are working to build their futures.
Fully developed, Discovery Park will be home to an array of laboratories, centers and offices dedicated to research and development. It also will house incubator space and companies resulting from the development of prototypes and research and development activities. And, it could be home to corporate headquarters for companies seeking partnership with university talent. To support this activity, the park may feature food, recreation, conference center and childcare facilities.
"The park will provide its future partners with access to the intellectual talent of the university's faculty and students, who conduct both basic and applied research," says Harold Strong, who became director of Discovery Park and technology transfer in fall 2008 after leaving Texas A&M's research park to join the UNT research team. "Through the commercialization of research, the U.S. economy will grow, and through active, forward-looking research and development, the United States will remain competitive in the global marketplace."
Today, Discovery Park is home to UNT's College of Engineering and College of Information, Library Science and Technologies, as well as several research laboratories and centers, including the federally funded Center for Advanced Research and Technology and Institute for Science and Engineering Simulation.
Professors from engineering, biology, physics and chemistry use CART's 28 cutting-edge instruments to test and analyze materials from the micro to atomic level. Researchers work across disciplines and with colleagues at other universities, at corporations and in the government to develop and improve technology. In addition to the faculty who rely on CART, nearly 100 students have been trained to use the equipment.
Establishing the center, which was created in 2004 and has received $15 million in federal funds, was a critical first phase in the development of Discovery Park. The center has attracted outstanding faculty, researchers and students to UNT.
To ensure that CART and other research centers within the park expand, Strong was hired to lead the strategic development of the park by providing clear guidelines for the physical development of the 290 acres, the efficient protection and transfer of intellectual property, and the support of incubation opportunities.
"UNT is a thriving university in one of the nation's largest metropolitan areas," Strong says. "We have a significant array of faculty and student talent and are poised to partner with established corporations and start-up companies seeking research and development opportunities."
Importantly, the research and development-focused partnerships at the park will provide UNT students with relevant hands-on laboratory experience, while simultaneously helping to grow the economy in Denton and throughout Texas.
Today, UNT is poised to become an even stronger partner in the growth of the Texas and U.S. economies. And the university will do more than ever before to help meet society's most pressing needs.
UNT's 11 schools and colleges are headed by talented scholars whose leadership is founded in their own accomplishments at expanding the body of knowledge through research and creative activities. In 2008, UNT named three new deans to its leadership ranks.
Costas Tsatsoulis, a highly accomplished researcher, left his position as chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Kansas in August to lead the UNT College of Engineering.
In addition to publishing more than 100 refereed papers and a book, he has been awarded more than $4.3 million as principal investigator on research grants and contracts from federal, industry and state organizations, including NASA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Institutes of Health. As a co-investigator, he has been awarded more than $13.5 million in research funding. He conducts research in multiagent systems, case-based reasoning, machine learning and intelligent image analysis.
Jerry R. Thomas became dean of UNT's College of Education in August. Formerly professor and chair of the Department of Kinesiology at Iowa State University, he conducts research on motor development that examines cognitive factors, expertise and gender differences in children's motor skills. Thomas has written more than 200 research and professional publications, books and book chapters. His best-selling graduate textbook, Research Methods in Physical Activity, currently in its 5th edition, is widely used in the U.S. and has been translated into six other languages.
UNT was founded in 1890 as a teacher training institute and, today, UNT's College of Education is among Texas' top producers of education professionals and leads the way in preparing talented math and science teachers for America's classrooms.
The College of Business is now led by O. Finley Graves, former professor, chair of the Department of Accounting and senior associate dean in the college. Graves' research interests lie in the areas of international accounting, the development of accounting thought and the social context of accounting. In addition to publishing several books, he has published articles in top journals, including ABACUS; the Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal; Accounting and Business Research; the International Journal of Accounting; and the Journal of Accounting Education.
He is a CPA licensed in the state of Mississippi and was a staff accountant with Coopers & Lybrand (now PricewaterhouseCoopers) before launching his teaching career in accounting. UNT will open a new, state-of-the-art Business Leadership Building in 2010 and Graves is leading the $70 million initiative.
UNT created a new college in 2008 when it combined the School of Library and Information Sciences with an academic department in the College of Education — the Department of Learning Technologies. Together, the two are the College of Information, Library Science and Technologies.
Herman Totten, who was the SLIS dean, serves as dean of the new college.
His research interests focus on management of libraries and information agencies, diversity issues as they relate to management of library and information agencies, and reading activities of all age groups.
A life member of the American Library Association, Totten was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve on the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science.
Emerging strengths, expanding expertise
Research funding, Discovery Park, new deans
Honors for research and creativity
Solutions and scholarship across disciplines
Experts in conducting, Latino political behavior, tinnitus, materials science
Projects in education, science, social science, art, business, music
Poetry, justice, Aztec history and more
A growing research agenda
Web page last updated or revised: February 2, 2009
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