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Scientists to get $75,000 grants; Arkansas Research Alliance adds 6 to Fellows Program

by Michael R. Wickline | December 14, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.
Kassandra Salazar (left), a sophomore at the University of Arkansas from Rogers, speaks Tuesday, April 5, 2016, to a group of 11th-grade students from Heritage High School in Rogers as they walk past Old Main while on a tour of the university campus in Fayetteville.

Five researchers at state universities are each getting $75,000 grants from the Arkansas Research Alliance under its program to support world-class researchers whose work strengthens the state's competitiveness, officials said Thursday.

The grants are through the alliance's Fellows Program, started in 2014.

In addition, a researcher at the National Center for Toxicological Research is being recognized through this Fellows Program, but he's not getting a $75,000 grant because the center is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration lab that's ineligible for state funding, said Jerry Adams, the alliance's president and chief executive.

"These talented scientists give Arkansas incredible advantages in the areas of research and discovery, and we know the influence [that] science and science-based research can have on the economy," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said at a news conference in the governor's conference room at the state Capitol.

Asked what a $75,000 grant would mean for some researchers who have secured millions of dollars, Adams said the "large money" comes from federal grants from agencies ranging from the National Science Foundation to the National Institutes of Health and "most of it is restricted."

"You would be surprised that some of these strategic research leaders can be stuck and they can be stuck for the lack of [a postdoctoral researcher and] they can be stuck because they can't send people out to do certain things, so ... we have learned that targeted research dollars at this level can have a catalytic effect," he said.

Founded in 2008, the alliance is a nonprofit organization governed by a board of trustees made up of chancellors from Arkansas' research universities and chief executive officers from across the state, the alliance said in a news release. The alliance described itself as a public-private partnership that invests in research that stimulates innovation, encourages collaboration and strengthens economic opportunity.

The alliance receives between $1.1 million and $1.3 million a year through the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Adams said.

The six researchers recognized are:

• Nitin Agarwal, a distinguished professor in the Information Science Department at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and founding director of the Collaboration of Social Media and Online Behavioral Studies at UALR.

Agarwal collaborates in several research projects financed with more than $10 million from federal agencies ranging from the National Science Foundation to the Department of Homeland Security with direct funding of more than $4.5 million to UALR, said UALR Chancellor Andrew Rogerson.

• Jingyi Chen, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

Since joining UA in 2010, Chen has raised at least $1.3 million in direct funding for the work in her lab, in addition to the funds that she has helped bring in through her work with her colleagues, said UA Chancellor Joe Steinmetz. The UA patent committee already has pursued six patent applications of Chen's work, he said.

• Mansour Mortzavi, a professor and vice chancellor for research, innovation and economic development at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Mortzavi has participated in several multimillion-dollar research projects and has received major grants from federal agencies ranging from the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research to the NASA, said UAPB Chancellor Lawrence Alexander.

• Xiuzhen Huang, a professor of computer science at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro who founded the Joint Translational Research Lab on the campuses of ASU and St. Bernards Medical Center's Internal Medical Residency Program.

• Clint Kilts, a professor of psychiatry and founding director of the Brain Imaging Research Center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

• Steven Foley, deputy director of the Microbiology Division at the National Center for Toxicological Research and supervisory research microbiologist.

These six increase the total number of fellows to 20, said alliance spokesman Jeremy Harper.

Beyond the Fellows Program, the alliance also has a companion program, called the Scholars Program created in 2010, to help recruit strategic researchers to Arkansas, said Adams. Each scholar gets $500,000 over a three-year period. The program has nine scholars, Harper said.

Metro on 12/14/2018

Print Headline: Scientists to get $75,000 grants; Arkansas Research Alliance adds 6 to Fellows Program

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