Innovation and Collaboration Fund

2018
Awarded projects

A story in Research

The Innovation and Collaboration Fund invests in University of Arkansas faculty in the early stages of their research projects. It is focused on  rewarding bold thinking and risk taking, launching discovery and creative initiatives to advance the university’s signature research areas.

The university knows there are few funding avenues for early stage research from external competitive programs and wants to ensure our faculty have a chance to further develop their intellectual and creative potential at U of A. We invest $1 million a year in interdisciplinary faculty through the Innovation and Collaboration Fund.

Projects

Faculty

Departments

2018 Awardees

The following projects received funding from the Innovation and Collaboration Fund, a subset of the Chancellor’s Fund, in 2018:

Toward Efficient and Broadband Terahertz Sources with Ultrathin Black Phosphorus

Toward Efficient and Broadband Terahertz Sources with Ultrathin Black Phosphorus

  • Hugh Churchill
  • Magda El-Shenawee
  • Miaoqing Huang

J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences

Terahertz beams can penetrate through non-metallic objects, and at the same time, many substances have a characteristic terahertz absorption fingerprint that allows the substance to be identified and its concentration quantified. Therefore, terahertz technologies have disruptive potential in many applications, including but not limited to medical imaging, security, navigation, analysis of artwork, and agricultural diagnostics. What prevents these technologies from reaching widespread commercialization is the lack of an efficient and broadband terahertz source. The semiconductor black phosphorus has many attributes that suggest it can become the leading material for terahertz generation, but it is not yet known precisely how electrons in black phosphorus behave at terahertz frequencies or what kind of performance can be expected in real black phosphorus terahertz devices. To answer these questions, we propose an interdisciplinary collaboration to measure the response of ultrathin black phosphorus at terahertz frequencies, to construct models for the behavior and efficiency of black phosphorus terahertz sources, and to harness advanced computational hardware to evaluate and iterate accurate models within a tractable period of time. The outcomes of this collaboration will be to establish precise estimates for black phosphorus terahertz source performance and design, to train undergraduate and graduate students, to enhance competitiveness for external funding in a high-growth research area, and given the wide range of terahertz technology applications, the potential to expand this new collaboration to a broad community of Arkansas research and business interests.

Advancing UA Women: A Pilot Study

Advancing UA Women: A Pilot Study

  • Shauna Morimoto
  • Yvette Murphy-Erby
  • Kim Needy
  • Anne O’Leary-Kelly
  • Jennifer Taylor
  • Anna Zajicek

J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences

This proposal seeks $134,000 in seed funding over a two-year period to develop the required self-study (SS) data, understandings, and research base to prepare and submit a successful NSF ADVANCE Institutional Transformation (IT) Grant. The focus of the ADVANCE program, and this proposal, is to address the significant underrepresentation of women faculty in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, particularly in upper ranks, and in academic administrative positions. ADVANCE grants provide up to $3 million over five years and require the use of data obtained from an intensive, institutional self-study and an associated literature review. Grantees are required to use the data and associated literature to accomplish several goals. First, to develop systemic and strategic approaches to increase the representation and advancement of women [from all backgrounds] in academic STEM careers. Second, to develop innovative and sustainable ways to promote gender equity that involves both men and women in the STEM academic workforce. Finally, to contribute to the research knowledge base on gender equity and the Intersection of gender and other identities in STEM academic careers. The primary focus of this Chancellor Fund proposal is to conduct the required self-study and to address concerns raised by reviewers of a previously submitted ADVANCE proposal that received positive reviews but required additional refinement for funding. The self-study will use COACHE, other institutional data, and focus groups/community meetings to serve as the basis of an extensively revised proposal. To strengthen our ADVANCE application and to accomplish the work in accordance with our Institutional priority toward interdisciplinary collaboration, we have assembled a five member interdisciplinary team to complete the proposed work. If awarded, the proposed project will contribute toward the following three UA guiding priorities: (1) commitment as a research institution; (2) development of a culture and climate that reflects research excellence, faculty excellence, and, (3) diversity and inclusion. In addition, the proposed project will yield important feedback to the UA community on how to address the goals outlined in the ADVANCE grant, position our team to create a competitive ADVANCE proposal, and allow our team to develop and submit several peer-reviewed manuscripts. Finally, the proposed project also allows the team to engage one graduate student in a rich research experience.

Arkansas Stories of Place and Belonging

Arkansas Stories of Place and Belonging

  • Kathryn Sloan, History
  • George Sabo, Archaeological Survey & Anthropology
  • Dave Fredrick, Tesseract and Classics
  • Eric Funkhouser, Philosophy
  • Sean Teuton, English
  • Bob Cochran, Center of Arkansas Regional Studies & English
  • Kim Sexton, Architecture

J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences

Arkansas Stories of Place and Belonging is an innovative public scholarship and engagement series that brings together scholar-experts, students, and the general public to engage in informed conversations about the region’s fascinating history of human interaction. Utilizing objects and places as focal points to narrate compelling stories of the movement of humans and ideas across centuries, Arkansas Stories illuminates the story of what makes up our common heritage. Likewise the series gives voice to the thousands of diverse peoples who left their imprint on our land, our culture, and our ideas. The series will be produced by an interdisciplinary group of humanities scholars representing the disciplines of archaeology, anthropology, immersive storytelling, English, literature, architecture, and history. Engaging and collaborating with the public in this humanistic endeavor promotes the university’s land grant mission to deliver a liberal education. The series will also promote research and teaching collaboration that engages students in some of the most compelling themes of our time: migration, cultural change, belongingness, citizenship, and what it means to engage in civil discourse.

Identifying Signaling Pathways Responsible for Treatment Resistance of Triple Negative Breast Cancer Breast Metastases

Identifying Signaling Pathways Responsible for Treatment Resistance of Triple Negative Breast Cancer Breast Metastases 

  • Tameka Jennings
  • Narasimhan Rajaram

J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences

Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) breast tumors metastasize primarily to the brain. These metastasized cells are inherently resistant to radiation therapy. The lack of treatment options for TNBC, a disease that disproportionately affects African-American women, presents a serious health and economic challenge. Preliminary data generated by the laboratory of Dr. Tameka A. Jennings has uncovered a potentially novel mechanism that may explain the treatment resistance of TNBC breast cancer metastases. Specifically, triple negative breast cancer cells genetically engineered to overexpress the protein – angiopoietin like protein 4 (ANGPLT4) – resulted in more brain metastases than TNBC cells that express normal amounts of ANGPL T4 in mice. Although a novel finding, Dr. Jennings does not have adequate data to publish in a peer reviewed journal or to submit an NIH proposal or the expertise to advance the project. Awarding of the Chancellor’s funds will provide the additional financial support to generate additional data that will lead to publications and the development of a competitive NIH R15 proposal thereby ensuring that the University’s junior faculty excel in research, which is one of the University’s guiding priorities. The funds will facilitate a collaboration with Dr. Narasimhan Rajaram, an Assistant Professor in the University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, whose expertise in metastatic breast cancer metabolism and radiation will accelerate research and discovery, which is one of the University’s guiding priorities. The proposed project characterizes a novel ANG PL T4 pathway, by which ANGPLT4 modulates vascular co-option and glycolysis, resulting in the growth of TNBC brain tumors that are resistant to radiation therapy. The proposed project identifies vascular co-option and glycolysis as the mechanisms for ANGPLT4-driven radiation therapy resistant brain metastases, and ANGPLT4 as a potential therapeutic target to prevent or manage ANGPTL4-dependent TNBC brain metastases. The PI, Dr. Jennings, will genetically engineer TNBC cells to express fluorescently-labeled ANGPLT4 for use in cell culture and mouse studies. In addition to standard biological assays to evaluate the metabolic and metastatic profiles of these cells that will be performed in the PI’s lab, co-I Dr. Rajaram will perform high-resolution optical metabolic imaging of these cells in animals. This project implements six of the eight University’s guiding priorities. First the project will increase diversity and inclusion amongst research faculty as Dr. Jennings, a Clinical Assistant Professor, is the sole African American faculty member in the University’s Department of Biological Sciences. The award will initiate a new collaboration between junior faculty in Biological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering. The project is innovative and will advance the University’s mission to increase research and discovery because ANGPLT4 has not been linked to radioresistant TNBC breast cancer brain metastasis. The project will also ensure faculty excellence because upon execution the project will increase the skillset of the PI and Co-PI and lead to the publication of one review article, one research article and the development of an NIH R15 grant application. This project will advance student success and increase diversity and inclusion at the University of Arkansas by implementing one on one mentoring of an African American female undergraduate honors student and an African American female Master’s student. The students will actively engage in the proposed research by working with Drs. Jennings and Rajaram to plan and execute experiments. The students will participate in lab meetings overseen by Drs. Jennings and Rajaram. Drs. Jennings and Rajaram will recruit the Master’s student to enhance the University’s effort to strengthen graduate education by the recruitment and retention of talented graduate students. The Master’s student will present data generated by the project at a national cancer meeting which will give the student an opportunity to network for future employment.

 

Monitoring the delivery of hyper-stable growth factors to skin wounds through label-free multiphoton microscopy

Monitoring the delivery of hyper-stable growth factors to skin wounds through label-free multiphoton microscopy

  • Kyle P. Quinn (Biomedical Engineering)
  • Jingyi Chen (Chemistry and Biochemistry)
  • T.K.S. Kumar (Chemistry and Biochemistry)

This proposal brings researchers in Chemistry and Biomedical Engineering together for an interdisciplinary collaborative project to develop novel wound healing therapies and diagnostics. Non-healing skin ulcers, are a deadly, billion-dollar problem in the US, and there is a great need for new therapies and improved diagnostic technologies. Our project centers around the delivery and optical monitoring of a new hyper-stable form of fibroblast growth factor developed by Dr. Kumar, which has excellent potential as a therapeutic agent for promoting skin wound healing. The project also leverages Dr. Chen’s expertise in developing tunable “smart” materials, which will be used for the controlled release of growth factors into the wound. Dr. Quinn’s expertise in animal models of wound healing and quantitative optical diagnostics will be leveraged to evaluate the efficacy and sustained delivery of the hyper-stable growth factor into skin wounds. The expected outcomes of this project are the development and characterization of a new growth factor therapy for wound healing, as well as the development of a new set of optical biomarkers for evaluating the dosing and delivery of wound healing biologics that builds upon Dr. Quinn’s current NIH-funded research. The data generated are expected to enable competitive multi-Pl grant submissions to the National Institutes of Health and Department of Defense with the 2-year project period.

Shedding new light on septin-mediated plant invasion using super-resolution fluorescence microscopy

Shedding new light on septin-mediated plant invasion using super-resolution fluorescence microscopy

  • Dr. Martin J. Egan
  • Dr. Yong Wang

Agriculture Experiment Station

Rice blast disease destroys 10-30% of the world’s annual rice harvest, which is enough food to feed 60 million people, and therefore poses a major threat to global food security. Rice blast disease is caused by the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae (M. oryzae), and currently controlled using a limited range of fungicides. However, it is expected that the current fungicides will become ineffective due to pathogen adaptation and resistance development. Therefore, there is an urgent need to identify new classes of fungicides to combat rice blast disease, which is difficult and stagnated without a detailed mechanistic understanding of the disease. To establish infections, M. oryzae forms a specialized infection cell called an appressorium, which is used to mechanically rupture the rice leaf cuticle. Recently it was discovered that this process is dependent on the timely formation of a ring structure at the base of the appressorium, assembled from four core septin proteins, which are a family of small GTP-binding proteins that serve as cellular building blocks to make higher-order structures and spatially co-ordinate various aspects of cellular development. However, little is understood about how septins organize as a ring, how they act as a scaffold for other cytoskeletal filaments, and how the formation of septin-ring at the base of appressorium is regulated. Here, we propose combining faculty expertise in biophysics, molecular plant pathology, and quantitative proteomics to gain fundamental new insight into how higher-order septin structures assemble in the right place and at the right time in fungal cells, to initiate the rice blast disease. The rationale is that, as rice plants lack septins, chemical disruption of the septin assembly pathway could provide a novel means of controlling rice blast, and other crop diseases caused by fungi. Using super-resolution fluorescence microscopy, we will, for the first time, resolve the nanoscale organization of the septin and cellular cytoskeletons during key stages of appressorium formation, therein gaining invaluable new perspective into their organizational dynamics. At the same time, we will use an innovative proximity-dependent proteomics approach to identify novel proteins that interact with septins and regulate their assembly behavior inside of fungal cells, therein gaining key insight into this important pathway. Lastly, we will functionally characterize these candidate interacting proteins, and using super-resolution imaging, determine their effect on the nanoscale organization and dynamics of septin proteins during infection-related development. We anticipate that the outcomes of this Chancellor’s Fund proposal will help foster a long-term and sustainable multidisciplinary collaboration between the Principal Investigators, and will significantly enhance the research and discovery mission of the University of Arkansas.

Investigation on the role of chloroplasts in plant resistance to aphids

Investigation on the role of chloroplasts in plant resistance to aphids

  • Fiona Goggin
  • Gisela Erf
  • John Gauch
  • Matt McIntosh

Agricultural Experiment Station

Aphids are a large group of insects that feed on plant sap, and nearly every major world crop is attacked by at least one species of aphid. Developing crop varieties that are resistant to aphids is one of the most effective, economical, and environmentally safe strategies to manage aphid crop pests. However, options for enhancing aphid resistance in crops are limited by the fact that we have relatively limited understanding of how plants defend themselves against aphids on the cellular, molecular, and physiological levels. The proposed project would bring together an interdisciplinary team of researchers to study the role of chloroplasts in plant defenses against aphids. Chloroplasts are structures within plant cells that are specialized to carry out photosynthesis, but they are also known to play important roles in signaling and defense against plant pathogens. In plants, they are the primary source of singlet oxygen, a potent reactive oxygen species that can contribute to plant defensive signaling. Recent evidence indicates that, in response to pathogens and other stresses, chloroplasts also form projections called stromules that can transfer proteins and reactive oxygen species to the nucleus. It is thought that chloroplasts act as sensors to detect damage by pathogens, and that stromules aid in transmitting signals to the nucleus that can modify gene expression and promote defenses against these attackers. Unpublished data from the Goggin lab suggests that chloroplasts may play a role in plant defenses against aphids as well. In this project, we propose an interdisciplinary collaboration to investigate the contribution of chloroplast signaling—-particularly singlet oxygen accumulation and stromule formation—in plant-aphid interactions. The Goggin lab will collaborate with the McIntosh laboratory in the Department of Chemistry to synthesize a probe for direct detection of singlet oxygen (DanePy). Singlet oxygen is challenging to detect because it is fleeting molecule that is biologically active at extremely low concentrations, and heretofore we have estimated it abundance only indirectly, through methods that could possibly be influenced by other reactive oxygen species as well. The probe synthesized by the McIntosh lab would allow us to unambiguously confirm the presence of singlet oxygen, and to determine if plant genotypes that are resistant to aphids accumulate higher levels of this reactive oxygen species in response to aphids. Through collaboration with Dr. Gauch in Computer Science, the Goggin lab will also determine if stromules form in response to aphid infestation, and if their abundance varies between plant genotypes that are known to be resistant or susceptible to aphids. The Goggin lab will utilize confocal microscopy to observe chloroplasts in aphid-resistant and susceptible genotypes with and without aphid infestation, and Dr. Gauch will develop computer learning approaches to count the abundance of stromules in these samples. This automated image analysis approach will not only reduce labor, but also increase the objectivity of our data collection process. In addition, the Goggin lab will collaborate with the Erf lab in Poultry Science to determine if flow cytometry can be applied to detect and count chloroplasts that have formed stromules. If this approach is successful, it would not only help characterize stromule formation in response to aphids, but it would also be an important methodological advance for the entire community of plant scientists who study chloroplast signaling. In summary, this project will establish three new interdisciplinary collaborations, bringing together expertise in entomology (Goggin), synthetic chemistry (McIntosh), computer image analysis (Gauch), flow cytometry and immunology (Erf) to address a question (does chloroplast signaling modulate plant defenses against aphids?) that is both scientifically novel and agriculturally important. By exploring the applications of flow cytometry to the study of stromules, the project also has the potential to yield transformative methodological advances.

International Exchange and the Future of Fulbright Internationalism Abstract

 International Exchange and the Future of Fulbright Internationalism

  • Laurence Hare
  • Larry Foley
  • Jared Phillips
  • Randall Dixon
  • Lori Birrell
  • Alessandro Brogi

J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences

“International Exchange and the Future of Fulbright Internationalism” is a collaborative investigation of the history, impact, and potential future of the Fulbright Exchange Program. Currently, little comprehensive research is available on the broader impact of international exchange, even as such data is urgently needed to direct policy and support such cultural diplomacy initiatives as national priorities. The University of Arkansas, which was the institutional home of J. William Fulbright, is the ideal location to launch such a collaborative initiative first because of the resources already available on campus and second because of the number of campus experts whose research connects to the Fulbright legacy. This project thus seeks to establish a comprehensive set of resources for research into the Fulbright Program specifically, and more broadly into the impact of international educational and intellectual exchange on foreign affairs, domestic education and scholarship, and the process of globalization. The investigation is concerned with these issues on both a national and international scale but is particularly interested in understanding their impact on the state of Arkansas and the surrounding region. During the proposed grant period, the project aims to make available a new set of textual, visual, and digital resources in order to generate a set of interconnected research and creative products drawn from the Departments of History and Journalism, the International Studies Program, the Pryor Center for Arkansas Visual and Oral History, and the University Libraries. The products of this project will include an expanded archival collection including documents from Fulbright Commissions across the world, an online database detailing international exchange activities in Arkansas, an online collection of interviews with Arkansas Fulbright students and scholars, two monographs exploring respectively Fulbright’s role in a uniquely Southern cosmopolitan vision of the world and the reception of Fulbright internationalism in Europe, and a documentary film recounting the history of the Fulbright Exchange and detailing the experience of being a Fulbright exchange participant. As a whole, the project will serve to establish a research agenda for the study of international exchange, answer salient questions in the field, facilitate future research, raise public awareness of the impact of the Fulbright Program, and provide a means of recruiting future students and scholars to participate in this and other international exchanges. The project team is seeking funding for a two-year period from 2018 to 2020, with the goal of providing a set of outcomes that will inform a planned public symposium marking the 75th anniversary of the Fulbright Exchange Program in 2021.

Advancing Sustainable Wood Design and Technologies through Collaborative Engagement

Advancing Sustainable Wood Design and Technologies through Collaborative Engagement

  • Tahar Messadi
  • Michelle Berry
  • Kim Furlong
  • Richard Welcher
  • John Pijanowski
  • Frank Jacobus
  • Peter MacKeith
    (Fay Jones School of Architecture)

The aim of this proposal is to pilot test an interdisciplinary education of a cluster of courses instructed through innovative teaching practices dedicated to advancing cutting-edge timber and wood technologies. This bold, new and transformative project will be housed in the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, led by faculty from multiple departments, centers and units within the University System, enhanced by expertise from industry, and serves as a major economic leverage of Arkansas’ abundant forest resources. Seed funding from this grant will create new research opportunities and preliminary data to enable the pilot’s distinct and diverse team of UA investigators to demonstrate proof-of-concept for external sources of support while contributing to the evolution of the UA’s strategic plan by directly addressing four of its guiding priorities. The project’s evidence-based curriculum will exemplify best teaching practices applied in the cluster model of interdisciplinary collaboration. A systematic protocol of quantitative and qualitative assessment techniques will be deployed to evaluate the effectiveness of the pilot’s pedagogy, the application and feasibility of this model, and its viability for a post-professional graduate curriculum. Products of the project will be disseminated to peer institutions, faculty and external support sources, and will leverage future funding investment from private and public sources, including wood industries and agencies at the local and national level, the State of Arkansas, the Department of Education, the National Science Foundation Graduate Education Division, the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

 

Healthy Eating Active Lives Collaboration Center

Healthy Eating Active Lives Collaboration Center

  • Sabrina Trudo
  • Janie Hipp
  • Erin Parker
    (Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences)

Development of the Healthy Eating for Active Lives Collaboration Center: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Collaborative Research and Community Engagement Abstract Research activities related to food, nutrition, and health have sprouted across the university in multiple units, but with minimal opportunity to communicate between researchers. A variety of organizations have similarly sprouted across the state to combat health and nutrition issues, such as obesity, and several in the business sector in Northwest Arkansas are already eager to improve the health of Arkansans. These efforts across the state reflect strong desires to help, which should be applauded; but despite all these efforts, Arkansas continues to have high rates of obesity and other health disparities. Other food and health issues also significantly affect Arkansas, such as food insecurity and high rates of chronic diseases among many population groups in the state. However, the fragmented nature of the food and nutrition-related research across campus and lack of a campus entity actively promoting our strengths and expertise in this area make it difficult for potential community partners to recognize the strength, expertise, and resources available at the flagship university in the state. Thus, mutually beneficial and innovative opportunities are missed to collaborate across campus and with the community to compete effectively nationally for extramural funding. This indicates that a more coordinated and focused effort is needed; the many groups need to communicate and coordinate with one another. We propose to develop the Healthy Eating Active Lives Collaboration Center, a food, nutrition, and healthy living center of excellence at the University of Arkansas to promote and coordinate best practices in combating food, nutrition, and health related issues for maximizing statewide impact. Initially, with a multi-disciplinary team, we will organize a governing board to develop the charter for the center, which would include the mission statement, operating guidelines, and health priority areas. Then, to facilitate innovative multi-disciplinary collaborations, this center will: 1) create a professional website for university researchers to upload profiles regarding expertise and resources; for community partners to access and register for news notifications; and for community and university partners to find new ways to collaborate across research projects, community activities, and innovation opportunities; 2) develop an annual symposium for researchers and community partners interested in food, nutrition, and health to network and present their efforts in research, community engagement, and translating research into communities; and 3) fundraise to cover costs of the center and generate seed funding for research to be awarded through a proposal process that emphasizes cross-discipline and cross-sector collaboration. The goal is to become a self-funded center within two years and then, within three to four years, to be able to award grants that stimulate innovative collaboration in tackling critical food, nutrition, and health issues at the community level through a re-granting process to stimulate community-led incubation of new ideas and activities. Development of the center will ensure that university faculty can prepare themselves to meet future opportunities in the interdisciplinary areas of health and wellness, health and food policy, and food systems. It will also ensure that university faculty engage in new research and innovation that will position the university to step into new national and regional leadership. Aligning the university internally in ways to meet emerging interdisciplinary areas in national topics of food availability, food security, and health innovation will encourage and support university researchers to continue growth on behalf of the university in areas in which they have already developed significant individual national reputations.