Volume 19 - 2010
UNT - University of North Texas - Discover the Power of Ideas

Science, Scholarship &
the Arts at the University of North Texas

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UNT Expands Its Research Impact

As one of Texas’ seven emerging research universities, UNT has set its sights on becoming a top national research — or tier one — university. To get there, UNT is building on its strengths as a comprehensive institution with global reach and investing millions in its faculty, graduate students, academic programs and research facilities.

UNT President Gretchen M. Bataille

President Gretchen M. Bataille (left) watches as Texas Gov. Rick Perry signs into law a program to help emerging research universities like UNT.

Photo courtesy of UTD

UNT has made dramatic gains toward its goal in just the last few years and continues to remain strong in its long-held areas of excellence. It consistently awards nearly 200 new doctoral degrees annually, and this fall’s 11 percent growth in graduate students — with a 25 percent climb in engineering students alone — will significantly increase the university’s impact on the advancement of knowledge and the development of industry and communities.

UNT also added more than 350 new faculty members since 2007. They join peers who are winning prestigious national competitions for research and creative activities.

And importantly, UNT’s funded research expenditures and awards are each up more than 60 percent in the last two years. To spur additional growth, the university has invested significantly in new and upgraded research facilities, including a new $2.2 million high-performance computing facility that is among the premier facilities of its kind.

“Thanks to vision and strategic planning, UNT is becoming known as much for science and engineering as for music, arts and education,” President Gretchen M. Bataille says. “To ensure the university continues to meet its goals, we are being innovative in how we invest in programs that support students, attract first-rate faculty, make funded research possible and keep scholarship and creative activities across the board vibrant. We are well positioned to become a national research university because we have a strong foundation on which to build.”

A New State Program

UNT will continue to pick up steam, aided by Texas’ new program to help its seven emerging research universities become the next generation of national research universities.

Defined in House Bill 51, the program is funneling much-needed resources and support to the seven institutions, starting with an initiative that matches the gifts a university receives in support of research. With roughly $2.9 million in eligible gifts so far, UNT received about $800,000 in matching funds in the first year.

The legislation also included the voter-approved National Research University Fund, which provides a dedicated source of funding — about $500 million to start — to further support the emerging research universities once each institution meets certain qualifications.

“With the slow economy nationwide and most states cutting their budgets and investments in education, Texas is unique in creating new programs to help its institutions excel and build national and international reputations,” says Vishwanath “Vish” Prasad, vice president for research and economic development. “The matching program will immediately help UNT expand its research base, while the National Research University Fund will boost UNT’s externally funded research program in coming years.”

Supporting Research

Building on a $25 million commitment announced last year to support collaborative research clusters, UNT developed two additional research groups in fall 2009, bringing the number of active clusters to seven. One of the new additions expands research to develop Earth-friendly products for use in materials, packaging and construction; the other is based on UNT’s sub-Antarctic biocultural research in Chile.

Discovery Park, UNT’s nearly 290-acre research facility, features a unique combination of high-powered microscopes. The facilities give UNT’s nanotechnology research a competitive edge, says Raj Banerjee, associate professor of materials science and engineering and director of UNT’s Institute for Science and Engineering Simulation. UNT faculty researchers at ISES are working in partnership with the U.S. Air Force to develop ways to slow the deformation of aircraft engines.

Nowhere else in the region will researchers and industry find the space, expert knowledge, research capability and economic development potential that Discovery Park offers, Prasad says.

UNT also has a host of new or improved facilities in the works across campus. They include a nanofabrication facility and an incubator, as well as the soon-to-open Life Sciences Complex and the future Business Leadership Building.

Biology laboratory

UNT is investing in graduate education as well as its faculty, academic programs and research facilities.

Photo by: Jonathan Reynolds

“UNT provides a research environment that offers the latest technology,” Prasad says. “And with each new or improved facility, we are expanding our impact.”

Fostering a Strong Faculty

The key to growing as an emerging research university is UNT’s exceptional faculty. To ensure the university has the highest quality faculty members, the university committed to growing its faculty base and bringing in those who already are established in their research fields.

“Our ability to attract top faculty who come to UNT as recognized experts with established and well-funded research proves that we are rising to the top of people’s lists,” Provost Wendy K. Wilkins says. “But it’s only one part of the equation. We also must help young researchers become leaders in their fields.”

UNT is providing its junior faculty with seed money for research projects that will help them leverage outside dollars. And the university is enhancing the quality and competitiveness of graduate education to support the next generation of faculty and researchers. The centerpiece includes a $6 million investment in graduate education during the last four years. In the last year alone, $2.5 million went toward more competitive stipends and more tuition fellowships.

Building Collaborations

UNT’s inherently collaborative nature, both on and off campus, is helping the university become a top research institution, Prasad says.

In addition to collaborative efforts such as research clusters, UNT is leading a National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center to pioneer research revolutionizing how complex information is gathered, shared and used. One of about 40 NSF centers, the Net-Centric Software and Systems Center includes two other universities and about a dozen high-tech companies. UNT researchers also lead or contribute to many consortia of researchers nationwide that are pursuing cutting-edge research.

The university’s collaborations reach far and wide. UNT has well established partnerships in Chile, Mexico, Turkey and Thailand. The university now is exploring research partnerships with Thailand’s national research universities and the National Institute of Development Administration. And, UNT has signed agreements with leading institutions in China and India such as Tsinghua University in Beijing and the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore to expand its global collaborations in research.

UNT’s collaborations with the City of Knowledge in Monterrey, Mexico, will allow the scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs to work jointly in technology development and commercialization. In addition, faculty have met with their counterparts in Africa, Korea, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Vietnam and nearly every European nation.

UNT’s impact is growing. For instance, the university’s strong partnership with the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México now includes an agreement to provide seed money to explore joint research and faculty and student exchange opportunities in science and engineering.

“When you are working to become a national research university, you do not start doing things differently. Instead, you build upon the strong base that has been developed,” Prasad says. “UNT’s strength lies in being comprehensive and collaborative.”

UNT Welcomes New Senior Researchers

With its commitment to invest $25 million in collaborative research, the University of North Texas is adding even more leading scientists and high-profile researchers to its intellectual base.

"UNT is committed to having the highest quality faculty and is working to bring in even more senior faculty who are established in their research fields,” Provost Wendy K. Wilkins says. “And the premier faculty members we are attracting are allowing us to dramatically improve our already significant contributions in research and creative activities.”

UNT’s new faculty members in 2009-10 include senior-level researchers with national and international reputations.

Gaile S. Cannella, professor of teacher education and administration and Velma E. Schmidt Endowed Chair, was a research professor of critical and qualitative research methodologies at Tulane University.

Narendra Dahotre, professor and chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, taught at the University of Tennessee Space Institute and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He has served as an investigator on 37 projects with total funding of more than $4 million, holds 15 U.S. patents and has a patent pending.

Lisbeth Dixon-Krauss, associate dean of teacher education in the College of Education and professor of teacher education and administration, chaired the curriculum and instruction department at Florida International University, where she secured more than $5 million in funding. Her publications have been translated into Chinese and requested by scholars around the world.

Don Finn, professor and chair of the Department of Accounting, was the Garrison/Wilson Chair in Accounting and director of the accounting doctoral program at the University of Arkansas. He has published in the field’s leading journals and served as editor of Behavioral Research in Accounting.

Martin Halbert, dean of the university libraries and associate professor of library and information sciences, who joins UNT from Emory University, has served as the principal investigator for projects totaling $6.1 million. He is president of MetaArchive Cooperative, an international consortium preserving digital archives in partnership with the Library of Congress.

Kuruvilla John, associate dean of research and graduate studies in the College of Engineering and professor of mechanical and energy engineering, taught in the Department of Environmental Engineering at Texas A&M University at Kingsville. He has been an investigator on nearly $18 million in sponsored research and external contracts.

Nancy Nelson, professor and chair of the Department of Teacher Education and Administration, chaired the curriculum and instruction department at Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi and previously was the Le Blanc Endowed Professor of Education at Louisiana State University. Her publications include The Constructivist Metaphor: Reading, Writing and the Making of Meaning.

David Stout, professor of composition studies who joins UNT from the College of Santa Fe, is one of the world’s leading performers exploring real-time cross-synthesis of sound and image.

Abbas Tashakkori, professor and chair of the Department of Educational Psychology, is among the best-known authors on mixed methods in the research process. He taught at LSU before joining Florida International University, where he was associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Education. He is a founding editor of the Journal of Mixed Methods Research.

Marilyn Wiley, senior associate dean in the College of Business and professor of finance, insurance, real estate and law, was senior associate dean and Adams Professor of Finance at Florida Atlantic University. Her research includes a widely cited study on information and volatility in futures markets in the Journal of Finance, the premier journal in the field.

Terry Barrett, associate professor of art education and art history, was a professor in Ohio State University’s Department of Art Education, one of the top three programs in the nation. His books include Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images, which is in its fourth edition.

Robert M. Citino, associate professor of history, served as the Charles Boal Ewing Visiting Professor at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point. He received the Paul Birdsall Prize in 2005 for the best book in European military and strategic history and has appeared on The History Channel. He is the author of eight books and in 2007 was named the “No. 1 Professor in the U.S." by ratemyprofessor.com, an online student rating service.

Govind S. Iyer, associate professor of accounting, taught at Arizona State University and LSU and is a certified public accountant. He has published in the Journal of American Taxation Association and the Managerial Auditing Journal, among others, and is a co-editor for Advances in Accounting.

Katherine Thomas, associate professor of kinesiology, health promotion and recreation, taught at Arizona State University and Iowa State University. She is the author of the best-selling textbook Physical Education Methods for Elementary Teachers.


President's Note

"Leading the pack" for innovative changes


National research status, new senior faculty


Top engineers, chemists, Fulbright specialists

News Briefs

New clusters, plant defense, Nature research

Faculty Researchers

Experts in children’s issues, bioinformatics, interactive performing, mesoscale technology

Student Researchers

Exploring tribal archives, corporate fraud, nanoscale circuits, international politics

Faculty Books

Spanish language media, math, Arab art

End Note

Investing in research

Web page last updated or revised: January 27, 2010
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