Monthly Update From the Vice Provost for Research and Economic Development

  April 2017


From the Desk of Jim Rankin

Jim RankinU.S. Department of Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price recently suggested eliminating indirect cost reimbursements for federally funded research as a means of cutting spending while still giving universities the same amount of money for research. In light of that proposal, it’s important to understand what the payments are, and how eliminating them would affect research at the University of Arkansas.

There are two essential parts to a federal research grant: funds to cover direct costs, and funds to cover indirect costs.

Direct costs include scientific and research personnel, supplies, equipment and travel.

Indirect costs are reimbursements for building and maintaining labs; utilities such as power and heat; telecommunications, Internet access and data storage; security costs; administrative personnel needed to comply with federal research regulations, etc. Instead of being calculated for every one of the hundreds of federal grants we receive each year, indirect costs are paid as a negotiated percentage of each grant. It’s much more efficient that way.

For most of the federal grants we receive, the university’s negotiated indirect cost rate is 47.5 percent. So, for example, if we received a $500,000 NIH research grant, it would come with an additional $237,500 in indirect costs.

The university received about $9 million in indirect costs in fiscal 2016. That’s what we would stand to lose if indirect costs are eliminated. Universities can’t make that up with funds earmarked for direct costs, so to perform at the same level we’d have to find another way to pay indirect costs. Without recovering indirect costs, we might not be able to do the kind of robust research we do now. That would have a big impact on the University of Arkansas.


Deadline for Submitting to Discovery is May 2

Discovery, the undergraduate research journal of the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences, is inviting submissions for the Fall 2017 issue (Vol. 18).

Degree-seeking undergraduate students with a major or minor within Bumpers College conducting research in cooperation with a faculty mentor at the University of Arkansas are encouraged to submit their papers by May 2. Discovery offers students an opportunity to publish research accomplishments in a citable format, to develop skills needed in graduate school, to enhance the value of a bachelor's degree in the job market, and to prepare students overall for careers in the areas of food, agriculture, the environment, and human quality of life.

Please visit the Discovery Journal website featuring Instructions for authors, previous editions of Discovery and other helpful information at Students may submit a hard copy of the manuscript, including a short personal biography to Gail Halleck, Division of Agriculture Communications, 110 Agriculture Building, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Ark. 72701. Students can submit their electronic version via the website or directly to


New Lab Helps Scientists Study the Earth's Oldest Fossils, Minerals, Rocks

Lab manager Erik Pollock, left, and research scientist Barry Shaulis

A new lab at the University of Arkansas will help scientists better understand ore deposits in the earth’s crust, how fossils form and what they can tell us about the earth’s climate, and accurately date some of the planet’s oldest rocks, among other uses.

It’s called TRAIL, or trace element and radiogenic isotope laboratory. TRAIL is made up of three main pieces of equipment: two mass spectrometers that the university already owned, and a new laser ablation system that can burn holes as small as seven microns — about one-tenth the diameter of a strand of human hair — into samples. The resulting vapor is directed to the mass spectrometers, one of which can identify trace elements and the other of which is used to study isotopic ratios – the difference in atomic mass of two or more forms of the same element. These measurements can aid in dating the geologic processes that formed the Earth’s crust, help identify the source of economic ore deposits such as lead and tin, and are useful as a means of studying paleoclimate through the chemical composition of fossilized teeth. The combination of instrumentation is unique in the state; in fact, it’s one of only a handful of facilities in the nation capable of this kind of research.

Visit Research Frontiers for the full story on TRIAL.

 Research Spotlight

Study Challenges Conventional Wisdom About Diet and Oral Health

 Lab manager Erik Pollock, left, and research scientist Barry Shaulis

Findings from the first comprehensive study on the oral health of a population in transition from a foraging, wild-food diet to an agriculture-based diet indicate that oral health is affected not just by diet, but also by gender and behavior differences between men and women.
Peter Ungar, Distinguished Professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas, and Alyssa Crittenden, Lincy Assistant Professor of anthropology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, worked with New York dentist, John Sorrentino, on the research published recently in the journal PloS One.

“The transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture is routinely associated with a decline in oral health,” Ungar said, “because of increased consumption of carbohydrates and growth of bacterial colonies in dental plaque linked to the development of tooth decay.”

The team studied the oral health of the Hadza, a population in Tanzania that is in transition from a foraging, wild-food lifestyle to agricultural food consumption and identified several variables that could influence tooth decay and periodontal disease, from sex differences in diet to smoking habits.

Visit Research Frontiers for the full story on Ungar's work.



$598,656 from NASA to Simon Ang, professor of electrical engineering, for research on weather-resistant electronics packaging for extreme environment exploration.

$120,000 from the NextWatt LLC to Juan Balda, University Professor and head of the Department of Electrical Engineering, for research on flexible designs of the next generation of transformers.

$107,256 from the U.S. Geological Survey to Brian Haggard, professor of agricultural and biological engineering and director of the Arkansas Water Resources Center, for the State Water Resources Research Institute Program.

$60,000 from Medtronic, Inc. to Manuel Rossetti, professor of industrial engineering, for supply-chain analysis with healthcare manufacturing and distribution networks.

$31,000 from the National Science Foundation to Kusum Naithani, assistant professor of biological sciences, for the sustainable development of a tropical agroforestry program in the rural Borneo highlands.


National Lab Day, April 18 at the Reynolds Center, in honor of the Department of Energy’s research labs around the country. Breakout session topics include renewable energy and biofuels, bioscience and healthcare, and power technology and energy security. Register at

Amber Straughn, “From Galaxies to Life: NASA’s Search for Our Origins,” 6 p.m. April 25, Gearhart Hall Room 026. Straughn is a U of A alumna who now works as an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Flight Center. She researches how galaxies form and is helping develop the new James Webb Space Telescope. The event is free, RSVP to the Honors College.


Vice Provost for Research and Economic Development
205 Administration Building
1 University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, AR 72701

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