Volume 20 - 2011
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 Honors Faculty

UNT faculty members were honored in November at the annual UNT Research Reception and Awards Ceremony hosted by the Office of Research and Economic Development.

Jeffry A. Kelber, Regents Professor of chemistry, received the Competitive Funding Award, given to the researcher with the highest amount of newly awarded competitive research funding during the previous fiscal year. Kelber, known worldwide for research in semiconductors and atomic-level chemistry and surface science, was selected by the Semiconductor Research Corp. to establish and direct the Center for Electronic Materials Processing and Integration.

Pamela Padilla, associate professor of biology, received the Early Career Award for Research and Creativity, given for outstanding research accomplishments in a faculty member's first 10 years. Her innovative research in oxygen deprivation has applications in health issues including cardiovascular dysfunction, blood loss due to trauma, pulmonary dysfunction and solid tumor progression.

Dee Ray, professor of counseling and director of the Child and Family Resource Clinic, received the Teacher Scholar Award, honoring a mid-career faculty member with excellence in research or creative productivity and teaching. She is recognized as a leading scholar in the field of child-centered play therapy, adult-child relationships and counselor education.

Bruce Bond, Regents Professor of English, received the Creative Impact Award, for the faculty member whose work in the literary or creative arts has had the greatest societal impact. His seven full-length poetry books have garnered international recognition, and he has received more than two dozen awards, with nominations for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, the Pushcart and National Book Award in Poetry.

Wes Borden, Distinguished Research Professor of Chemistry and inaugural Robert A. Welch Chair of Chemistry, won the Research Leadership Award for the veteran faculty member who has made substantial contributions and achieved national and international recognition. Borden is recognized as one of the world's leading experts in computational organic chemistry and molecular orbital theory. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member of the inaugural class of fellows of the American Chemical Society, and the 2010 recipient of the ACS James Flack Norris Award in Physical Organic Chemistry.

The research office also presented a Special Recognition for Technology Development, recognizing research discoveries that spawn technological developments through the sale or licensing of patent rights. The certificate was given to Kent Chapman, professor of biochemistry, who has multiple patents issued or pending for work including enhancing the quality of cotton, increasing the production of useful plant fibers and genetically controlling lipid accumulation in plants.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

student handling test tubes in lab

UNT undergraduates conduct research in a Classroom Research Laboratory, supported by a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Photo by Jonathan Reynolds

UNT will expand research opportunities for undergraduates and help transfer students with a new $1.3 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. UNT was among 50 universities nationwide — chosen from 200 — that were awarded a total of $70 million from HHMI in an effort to strengthen science education.

A portion of the grant will be used to bring community college students to campus each summer. First-year students will learn academic success skills and research methods, and second-year students will work with faculty on research projects.

Also, UNT undergraduate students will participate in research such as characterization of bacterial proteins of unknown function in a new Classroom Research Laboratory as part of their biology courses. The grant supports juniors and seniors to work in a biology or biochemistry lab with faculty and graduate students.

This is UNT's second grant from HHMI. In 2009, the university received support from the institute's Science Education Alliance, bringing lab research to beginning biology students. Lee Hughes, assistant professor of biology, is UNT's HHMI program director.

Autonomous Robots

Graduate student Sravani Gottipati directing robots

Engineering researchers are working to equip robots to communicate with each other through a network of wireless sensors in a project funded by NASA.

Photo by Gary Payne

Engineering researchers in the Autonomous Systems Laboratory at Discovery Park are working to build a network of wireless sensors that would equip robots to communicate with each other, work that would help NASA collect unprecedented data on the moon, Mars and in space.

Led by Kamesh Namuduri, associate professor of electrical engineering, the group is programming robots to communicate with each other, make decisions and retain knowledge obtained by other robots — autonomy that could increase the capabilities of space missions.

In the research, four multi-colored robots controlled by computers maneuver around a ring, each with a tiny camera attached. Researchers will transfer the algorithms they create to larger outdoor robots on a simulated planetary surface. They will eventually be tested on lunar and Mars terrain models at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The project is funded by Phase One of the NASA Ralph Steckler Space Grant Colonization Research and Technology Development Opportunity. See a video of the UNT robots in action at www.unt.edu/untresearch. >>

Emergency Response

map showing locations of emergency centers

Faculty are researching a regional response plan to provide health services during bio-emergencies. The traffic scenario above helps determine optimal locations for service clinics.

Courtesy of Armin Mikler

Two UNT researchers — Armin R. Mikler, associate professor of computer science and engineering, and Chetan Tiwari, assistant professor of geography — received a National Institutes of Health Stimulus grant to research the development of a regional response plan that can provide necessary health services to a population in the event of bioemergencies.

From 40,000 applicants for the award in 2010, the UNT team was one of 400 accepted. Through the project, "A Computational Framework for Assessing the Feasibility of Bio-Emergency Response Plans," the team plans to develop a response plan based on the establishment and placement of service clinics throughout a given region. The clinics would serve as points of distribution, dispensing medication in emergency scenarios.

The team will use computational methods to combine and assess data from multiple sources — information that will help in analyzing existing response plans and determining optimal locations for the clinics. The researchers will use existing collaborative relationships with public health experts throughout the planning process.

Shropshire Research

Shropshire Music Foundation volunteers

The Shropshire Music Foundation includes teen volunteers who help children in Kosovo learn music. UNT researchers are documenting the program's impact on children affected by war.

Courtesy of Jennifer Callahan

For more than a decade, the Shropshire Music Foundation has provided musical instruments and instruction to children in war-torn countries. UNT's Terri Sundberg, associate professor of flute, and Jennifer Callahan, associate professor of psychology, were awarded an interdisciplinary UNT Research Initiation Grant to investigate the effectiveness of the foundation's program on the social, emotional and psychological health of children affected by war.

Preliminary data indicates the program has demonstrated a significant long-term positive impact on the children, including significantly higher secondary education graduation rates and college enrollment. Sundberg, Callahan and Camilo Ruggero, assistant professor of psychology, are conducting the first systematic inquiry into the foundation's programming, based on data gathered from a summer trip to Kosovo. Their initial study will document more precisely the program's impact on the children's social, emotional and psychological resiliency.

NSF Research Training Group

Funded by a five-year, $1.5 million National Science Foundation grant, a new NSF Research Training Group in logic and dynamics in UNT's Department of Mathematics will address fundamental questions about the intrinsic complexity of problems in mathematics. The objective is to develop a complexity theory for both mathematical systems and complex physical systems, such as those arising in astronomy and nuclear physics, and to encourage more people to pursue careers in the field.

The program will work to increase the number of undergraduate and advanced degrees in mathematics, as well as the number of women and ethnic minority mathematics students, by providing scholarships, paid research projects, annual conferences, research seminars and teaching workshops, says Su Gao, professor of mathematics and project coordinator.

Gao says the group is poised to make a significant impact on the training of the work force in mathematical sciences in the region.

Peace Studies

UNT's peace studies program established the Castleberry Peace Institute in collaboration with the nonprofit organization Peacemakers Inc. in summer 2010. With a primary mission of peace science research, the new institute will focus on international studies of human rights, transitional justice, civil conflict and resolution, and peace duration, while supporting Peacemakers' programs on peace education in elementary and secondary schools, a lecture and symposium series, scholarships and study abroad programs.

Current peace studies research includes the work of Cullen Hendrix and Idean Salehyan, assistant professors of political science, who are studying the links between climate change and political instability in Africa. Preliminary results show that social conflicts in Africa increase as rainfall either becomes extremely scarce or extremely abundant. The project is funded with part of a Department of Defense grant awarded to the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin.

Other UNT peace studies research focuses on correlates of war, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and democratic political culture in Latin America, funded by the National Science Foundation and U.S. Agency for International Development.

Rural Librarians

The Department of Library and Information Sciences has begun a three-year project with rural libraries with a $1.6 million grant from the Robert and Ruby Priddy Charitable Trust to address the roles of rural libraries in Texas as community resources and gathering places.

The project, "Promoting and Enhancing the Advance­ment of Rural Libraries," pays tuition for UNT students enrolled in the College of Information's Certificate of Advanced Study program with an emphasis in rural librarianship, says Yunfei Du, assistant professor of library and information sciences and principal investigator of the project.

Scholarship recipients will support an outreach coordinator in assisting library staff with outreach plans in about 105 libraries in small Northwest Texas towns. The librarians will create customized community outreach plans for partnerships with local governing agencies, civic organizations, community leaders and others.

Handicrafts in U.S.-Vietnam Relations

Jennifer Way, associate professor of art history, is conducting the first-ever research project about the political and cultural significance of making, circulating, exhibiting and consuming handicrafts as part of U.S.-Vietnam relations during a period marked by an intensification in Cold War diplomacy. Her research will focus on the period between the end of the first Indochina War, when the French departed Vietnam in 1954, and the early 1960s, when the Vietnam War began.

Way received a Terra Foundation for American Art Senior Fellow award at the Smithsonian American Art Museum to support research in 2011 for her book project, Politics of the Handmade: The Significance of Southeast Asian Handi­craft for America, ca. 1955-1961. Her work also is funded by a Craft Research Fund Project Grant from the Center for Craft, Creativity and Design and a Research Award from the Design History Society.

Mining Historical Newspapers

Greenville Morning Herald front page

A National Endowment for the Humanities grant supports researchers developing search models for digitized historical newspapers.

Courtesy of the Portal to Texas History

Andrew Torget, assistant professor of history, and Rada Mihalcea, associate professor of computer science, are working to develop search models combining text-mining and geospatial mapping to help scholars research large-scale collections of digitized historical newspapers. In mapping language patterns from the newspapers, the research will map ideas, conversations and movement of concepts from one newspaper to another, Torget says.

The project is funded by a start-up grant from the Office of Digital Humanities, a division of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and will use digitized texts from the NEH-funded Chronicling America, the national digital newspaper archive project.

Contributing to the research are UNT's Mark Phillips, assistant dean of libraries for digital library services, and Stanford University's Bill Lane Center for the Study of the American West and its Spatial History Lab. UNT has digitized more than 200,000 pages of historical newspapers as the lead institution for Texas on the Chronicling America project.

New Business Leadership Building

UNT's Business Leadership Building rendering

UNT's Business Leadership Building, expected to open by fall 2011, was designed to enhance learning and promote interdisciplinary research.

Courtesy of Polshek Partnership Architects

UNT's new $70 million Business Leadership Building, which broke ground in December 2009, is expected to open by fall 2011. The 180,000-square-foot building will contain state-of-the-art technology in all classrooms and labs, with cloud computing serving as the main computing platform and tablet computers available for students in each of the two dozen classrooms.

In addition to providing learning spaces for programs at all degree levels, the four-story structure will include spaces designed for research and interaction with the business community. The facility, which will contain more than 220 offices for faculty, staff and doctoral students, will house all of the college's faculty on the same floor to promote interdisciplinary research.

Hackerman Grants

The Norman Hackerman Advanced Research Program awarded funds to two UNT projects last spring. The competitive peer-reviewed grant program was created by the Texas Legislature to provide support to faculty members and students in Texas higher education institutions for basic research.

In "Adding Value to Sparse LiDAR Elevation Data," Bill Buckles, professor of computer science and engineering, and Kamesh Namuduri, associate professor of electrical engineering, are working to fuse LiDAR data with visual images to build large-scale 3-D maps for potential use with construction projects or in disaster management and other areas that require the quick collection of topographic data. LiDAR (light detection and ranging) is a laser-based instrument currently used to produce elevation maps for flood plains.

In the second project, "Hybrid Nano­composite High-k Dielectric Flexible Films for Semi­conductor Applications," Oliver Chyan, principal investigator and professor of chemistry, is collaborating with researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Houston to evaluate a new technological approach to developing high-quality, flexible materials with high dielectric constants to improve the performance of organic semiconductors. This could ultimately lead to more advanced, inexpensive electronics.

Effects of Historic Preservation

As part of her research on historic properties, Kimberly Winson-Geideman, assistant professor of real estate, is studying how historic preservation policies and initiatives impact property value. She is conducting a case study of Savannah, Ga., and says examining the costs and benefits of historic preservation efforts provides important policy information for cities and other communities that struggle with revitalizing and sustaining historic neighborhoods. She is expanding this line of research into the areas of housing affordability and heritage tourism.

Winson-Geideman and her co-authors received the 2009 best paper award sponsored by the Appraisal Institute for "The Impact of Age on the Value of Historic Homes in a Nationally Designated Historic District," presented at the American Real Estate Society meeting in Monterey, Calif.

Their findings show that there is a point at which the actual age of historic properties positively affects value, and that studies of historic properties should delineate between actual age and effective age — which includes rehabilitation and renovation investment — to properly capture the depreciating effect of age on value. She says, for example, a 100-year-old property that was recently renovated may have an effective age of just a few years, depending on when the renovation took place.

Media Ethics

Researchers in the Mayborn School of Journalism studied the world media's response to the death of a bobsledder at the 2010 Winter Olympics and received recognition from the Media Ethics Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication at its national conference.

Mitch Land, interim dean of the school and director of the Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism, Koji Fuse, assistant professor, and Susan Zavoina, associate professor, found that U.S. and Canadian media were harshly criticized by other world media, including European media, for repeatedly showing the bobsledder crashing and suffering a fatal head injury, sometimes in slow motion.

Their report, incorporating Land's media ethics Point-of-Decision Pyramid Model, discusses the cross-cultural applications of how non-Western philosophical foundations, such as Confucianism from Asia, could have been applied to the coverage instead of a Western philosophical approach. A Western approach, such as utilitarianism, focuses more on journalists' rights to tell the truth and freedom of expression than on their responsibility to respect the rights of the audience.

A second edition of Land's 2006 book, Contemporary Media Ethics: A Practical Guide for Students, Scholars and Professionals in the Globalized World, will apply the pyramid model to introduce non-utilitarian philosophical perspectives for analyzing complex ethical dilemmas in the media.

Artist-in-Residence and Faculty Fellows

Jake Heggie

Composer Jake Heggie is the 2010-11 artist-in-residence for UNT's Institute for the Advancement of the Arts. He is coaching composition and voice students and working on a commission from UNT with the working title "Ahab Symphony."

Photo by Jonathan Reynolds

Jake Heggie, composer of the nationally acclaimed opera Moby-Dick, is serving as the artist-in-residence for UNT's Institute for the Advancement of the Arts for the 2010-11 academic year. During their stays, the artists pursue their own creative work and interact with students, faculty and the community through programs, classes and performances.

Heggie is coaching composition and voice students and working on a commission from UNT to compose a major work for orchestra, chorus and soloist to further explore his interest in Moby-Dick. The UNT Symphony Orchestra and Grand Chorus will premiere the composition, which has a working title of "Ahab Symphony," in April 2012 on campus. Internationally renowned tenor Richard Croft, UNT professor of music, is slated to perform in the solo role of Ahab.

The 2010-11 faculty fellows for the Institute for the Advancement of the Arts are David Bithell, assistant professor of music, who is working on a composition for the New York-based new music ensemble Yarn/Wire; Bruce Bond, Regents Professor of English, who is writing a full-length book of poems provisionally titled The Fire Breather; and Lesli Robertson, lecturer in art, who is traveling to Uganda to continue her research on bark cloth from the mutuba tree. The fellows are granted release from other faculty duties for a semester to work on creative projects full time.

Fitness Study

UNT faculty members directed the “Texas Youth Fitness Study,” resulting in a supplement to the September 2010 issue of Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. The study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, reports on the reliability and validity of data collected by Texas schools in state-mandated annual assessments of the physical fitness of third- through 12th-graders.

Professor Scott Martin and Regents Professor James Morrow in the Department of Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation co-edited the supplement, which highlights several key findings. The study showed that higher physical fitness test achievement is related to higher state academic test scores and higher attendance.

International Competition

Tian Yang Liu

UNT student Tian Yang Liu earned honorable mention at the inaugural Bradetich Foundation International Double Bass Solo Competition at UNT.

Photo by Jack Unzicker

The inaugural Bradetich Foundation International Double Bass Solo Competition brought 20 double bassists from around the world to UNT in June 2010. Foundation and competition founder Jeff Bradetich, Regents Professor of double bass, says the event will help double bassists earn long-needed appreciation as solo instrumentalists.

Winning the top prize — $10,000 and a New York debut in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall — was Artem Chirkov of Russia. Namgyun Kim of Korea clinched the second-place prize of $5,000, and Rex Surany of New Jersey won the $2,500 third-place prize. All three earned CD recording and distribution, concerts and master classes, and four years of career development.

Metallic Glasses

Altering the microstructure of metallic glasses so they can be used in commercial applications is the goal of Narendra Dahotre, professor and chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, in a project funded by the National Science Foundation. The objective of the three-year research project is to develop a new class of metallic glasses by increasing their strength and energy efficiency using laser-based technology. Possible applications include replacing steel cores in electric transformers with the metallic glasses for higher efficiencies. The project is a collaborative effort with Sandip Harimkar of Oklahoma State University.

Dahotre was named to the 2010 Class of Fellows of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. He also is a fellow of ASM International, the American Society of Mechanical Engi­neers, the Indian Insti­tute of Metals and the Ameri­can Association for the Advancement of Science.

Colon Cancer Screening

More than 130,000 people each year are diagnosed with colon cancer, resulting in some 50,000 deaths. Colonoscopies help detect polyps, the precursor lesions of cancer, but the procedure is far from perfect. JungHwan Oh, assistant professor in computer science and engineering, is developing software to improve colonoscopies so polyps can be better detected and lives saved. Oh's work is in collaboration with researchers at the Mayo Clinic and Iowa State University. They previously developed a prototype that provides a recording of the procedure in addition to a live image, which is now in use in some hospitals, including the Mayo Clinic.

With postdoctoral and graduate students, Oh is working on software that would automatically detect polyps. He also is working on an automated system that would alert the doctor to problems. Oh's funding includes a new grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Education Grant

Lyndal Bullock, Regents Professor of educational psychology, received a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support graduate students aspiring to work with adolescents with emotional and behavioral difficulties. The award was part of a federal initiative to help prepare special education personnel to improve services and results for children with disabilities. Bullock was one of three grant recipients in Texas.

He has brought in more than $12 million of federal funding during his career at UNT and was recognized in 2010 by the Council for Exceptional Children for his lifelong dedication to special education.


President's Note

World-class research and education


Newest cutting-edge research facilities


NSF CAREER award, Powe award, Fulbrights

News Briefs

NASA robots, emergency response, peace studies

Faculty Researchers

Experts in jazz, environmental ethics, information science, computational chemistry, education

Student Researchers

Studying heart defects, 3-D learning, cancer treatments, homelessness, aviation safety

Faculty Books

Architecture, radio, the Middle East

End Note

Expanding research activity

Web page last updated or revised: January 11, 2011
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