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Research-intensive Environment for Students

Jorge Roman in class

Research and scholarship are important components of a UNT student's education. Jorge Roman, a senior Honors College student majoring in biology, has worked in UNT's Sleep and Health Research Lab — experience that will help him in his future career as a doctor and researcher.

Photo by: Jonathan Reynolds

For Jorge Roman to become a doctor and medical researcher, he must be determined, work hard and have plenty of hands-on experience. Roman comes by the first two naturally and, thanks to his research-intensive studies at UNT, the Honors College student has logged plenty of hours in the lab.

Roman has taken advantage of UNT's research-driven environment, where research and scholarship are essential components of a student's education, at every level and in many disciplines. UNT's faculty meld teaching and research, giving students like Roman deeper insight into their subject matter and opportunities to learn by doing.

"I've learned all about research working in the lab," says Roman, a senior majoring in biology who has worked for nearly two years in UNT's Sleep and Health Research Lab, created and run by Daniel Taylor, associate professor of psychology. "It fits in with what I want to do, which is practice medicine and conduct research."

Starting as early as freshmen, UNT students can conduct high-level research in a variety of fields. They gain experience for their future careers, taking part in conferences and publishing their work in journals. UNT's undergraduates are getting more opportunities to conduct sophisticated research early, while graduate students work side-by-side with faculty mentors, making discoveries and developing new technologies in fields ranging from engineering to education.

"Having an education built around research forces students to think critically and creatively. They learn to figure out problems and find new solutions, which will ensure that UNT students become the leading entrepreneurs and innovators of future generations," says Vish Prasad, vice president of research and economic development.

Research has long been the focus in UNT's graduate programs, and the university is funneling even more support into graduate student research through more competitive stipends, fellowships and conference travel.

And in the past few years, UNT has created more opportunities for undergraduates to incorporate research into their studies. The university has established programs such as the Undergraduate Research Initiative program, the Honors College research track and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Science Education Alliance. The Office of Research and Economic Development is offering more Undergraduate Research Fellowships to support work in a faculty member's laboratory or research team.

"UNT is focused on growing as a major public research university offering the best educational experience in Texas. We can't achieve that unless our students receive an education where they learn from leading researchers and scholars and are taught how to probe for answers on their own," says Warren Burggren, provost and vice president for academic affairs. "Research and education are fundamental to what we do."

UNT's commitment to the next generation of scholars is paying off. And for Roman, a first-generation college student and an Emerald Eagle Scholar, having the chance to learn from a distinguished researcher well-known in his field has brought research and psychology to life. Taylor teaches Roman the basics, then allows him to explore and discover on his own — which reinforces Roman's analytical and scientific skills in ways books can't.

"I've gotten hands-on training in insomnia research," Roman says. "I've hooked up EKGs and EEGs and helped with data analysis in several studies. I'm so much further along on my career path than I would be without this experience."

Roman hopes it will serve him well when he attends medical school. He's on a temporary hiatus from the lab while studying for the MCAT and working at a local hospital.

Hear more about Roman and the Honors College.

Sustainability and Research

Green is taking on a whole new meaning at UNT as the university builds on its commitment to sustainable energy research and adheres to green building practices in new cutting-edge ways. And UNT continues to enhance its strong reputation as a leader in green research through new partnerships in government and industry.

Net-Zero Energy and Groundbreaking Work

UNT is leading the way and fast becoming a hub for collaborations in net-zero energy research, studying sustainable energy technologies that allow building systems to have a net-zero consumption of energy.

Faculty and staff at the net zero energy house

UNT plans to use the American House, a 3,200-square-foot net-zero energy house built in Beijing and displayed during the 2008 Olympics, as a research facility for American and Chinese faculty and students.

In fall 2011, the university began moving forward with research and promotion of green building technologies through a new partnership with China. UNT has partnered with Future House Real Estate Co. Ltd., an industrial research institution in Beijing, to expand the university's role as a global leader in net-zero energy.

Through this new partnership, UNT researchers hope to form the consortium U.S.-China Network and Demonstration Partnership for NZE Research to bring together U.S. and Chinese industry and academia leaders to conduct net-zero energy research.

"This project is a forward thinking U.S.-China research collaborative that takes advantage of UNT's strengths and pairs it with top institutions in China," says Warren Burggren, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

"It really reflects the quality of our faculty and their ideas, plus it creates unique research abroad opportunities for UNT students."

The new agreement also extends UNT's involvement with the American House, a 3,200-square-foot net-zero energy house that was built in Beijing and displayed during the 2008 Olympic Games. Yong Tao, chair of UNT's Department of Mechanical and Energy Engineering, under the leadership of Vish Prasad, vice president for research and economic development, oversaw the design and construction of the American House. UNT plans to use the house as a research facility for American and Chinese faculty and students, Tao says.

The Chinese agreement along with two new Discovery Park research facilities will help support UNT's Renewable Energy and Conservation research cluster, one of 15 interdisciplinary research groups addressing complex scientific, technological, environmental and societal problems.

A new state-of-the-art Zero Energy Research Laboratory is under construction at Discovery Park, UNT's 300-acre research campus, and is slated to open this spring. The 1,200-square-foot lab will be powered by solar energy and other alternative energy sources such as wind to allow a wide range of zero-energy building research.

"Students and faculty will use the lab as a testing ground for present and future sustainable technologies, as well as energy efficiency strategies," Tao says. "It will contribute to the global education and research infrastructure for collaborative initiatives in sustainable buildings."

A new greenhouse complex under construction at Discovery Park also will support groundbreaking work in the Renewable Energy and Conservation and Renewable Bioproducts research clusters. The complex, expected to be completed in 2012, will initially be built with two greenhouses and over time expand up to 10 greenhouses. Research will include plant metabolic engineering and work with cotton and other plants in the study of biofuels, bioenergy and bioproducts, as well as oil production and higher-energy feed stock.

Wind Turbines

Three wind turbines will feed the electrical grid that powers UNT's new football stadium thanks to a $2 million grant from the State Energy Conservation Office. The installation and operation of the wind turbines in early 2012 made UNT's Apogee Stadium the first collegiate stadium designed to incorporate onsite renewable energy.

Three wind turbines at UNT's Apogee Stadium

A $2 million grant from the State Energy Conservation Office funded wind turbines to feed the electrical grid that powers UNT's new Apogee Stadium.

Photo by: Jonathan Reynolds

A web-based monitoring system for the wind turbines provides details on energy production, carbon reduction statistics and empirical data, allowing the turbines to be used for educational and research purposes.

"The efforts by the staff members of the UNT System and the university to meet the requirements of the Department of Energy and the State Energy Conservation Office to win the grant for these turbines underscores our commitment to creating a carbon-neutral campus," says V. Lane Rawlins, president of UNT. "Our university has a long legacy of environmental research and sustainability and we're proud to be the first university in Texas to install wind turbines on campus."

The turbines also will help reduce the carbon footprint of Mean Green Village, the area of campus surrounding the new stadium. It is estimated that the three community-scaled turbines will offset energy consumption by about 6 percent and eliminate 356 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted annually.

"The turbines will reduce UNT's carbon emissions as well as energy costs," says Raynard Kearbey, UNT System associate vice chancellor for system facilities. "Our reduction of carbon emissions through the reduced use of fossil fuels will benefit the entire North Texas region for generations to come."

LEED Certification

UNT also is leading the charge in incorporating green practices into the design of its facilities.

The U.S. Green Building Council has recognized Apogee Stadium and UNT's Life Sciences Complex with varying levels of its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, an internationally recognized green building certification system developed in 2000.

UNT's Apogee Stadium earned LEED Platinum certification in October 2011, making it the first newly constructed collegiate football stadium in the nation to achieve the highest level of LEED certification. The stadium was awarded LEED Platinum for incorporating many sustainable principles such as using building materials produced or manufactured locally in its construction and diverting construction waste materials from the landfill to recycling plants.

"UNT is a leader in environmental research and sustainability, and the fact that we have the first LEED Platinum football stadium is an example of our commitment and our plans for the future," Rawlins says.

The Life Sciences Complex, which opened in October 2010, received LEED Gold certification from the council in early 2011. Recently, UNT's new Business Leadership Building also received gold-level certification.

In addition, other campus buildings have been recognized for their green design. In March 2011, Crumley Hall became the first residential building in Texas to earn the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's prestigious ENERGY STAR, a national symbol for protecting the environment through superior energy efficiency.

"Environmentally responsible buildings mean healthier buildings with better air quality. And the sustainable features pay for themselves through their efficiencies within eight years," Rawlins says. "These accomplishments strongly underscore our commitment to sustainability."

Departments

President's Note

Transformative research and education

Initiatives

Student research and sustainability

Awards

Timoshenko Medal, ACS awards, international leadership

News Briefs

I-Corps, black holes, new clusters, Lone Star Professor

Faculty Researchers

Experts in engineering, computer science, poetry, environmental studies, instrumental studies

Student Researchers

Mercury legislation, math algorithms, library education, media ethics, neuroscience, consumer behavior

Faculty Books

Politics, natural language processing, sociology

End Note

Research momentum and support

Web page last updated or revised: March 15, 2012
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