Monthly Update From the Vice Provost for Research and Economic Development


Fritsch, Stahle Named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Ingrid Fritsch (left), professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and David Stahle, Distinguished Professor of geosciences. Photos by University Relations

University of Arkansas faculty members Ingrid Fritsch and David Stahle have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The honor is bestowed by peers in recognition of work deemed scientifically or socially significant.

Fritsch, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, was nominated for contributions in the field of magnetohydrodynamically-coupled electrochemistry and the development of microband electrodes. In 2014, Fritsch was named a Fellow by the National Academy of Inventors.

Stahle, a Distinguished Professor of geosciences in Fulbright College, received the award for his contributions to the field of geography, particularly for his use of dendrochronology, the study of tree rings, to study past climates and for his conservation efforts for ancient forests.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, founded in 1848, is the world’s largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal Science. It includes 254 affiliated societies and academies of science and serves 10 million individuals.




Moore Foundation's International Marine Microbiology Initiative Selects Biologists, Awards Grant 

A scanning electron micrograph of the marine diatom Triceratium. Copyright Elizabeth Ruck

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has selected two University of Arkansas researchers to participate in an international $8 million initiative to accelerate development of experimental model systems in marine microbial ecology.

Andrew J. Alverson and Jeffrey A. Lewis, assistant professors in the Department of Biological Sciences, will use a $164,204 grant from the foundation to study diatoms, one of the world’s most diverse groups of microalgae.

With an estimated 200,000 species, diatoms represent one of the most diverse lineages in the “tree of life.” Diatoms are prolific photosynthesizers, responsible for one-fifth of the world’s oxygen, and are a key primary producer for ocean food webs.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s Marine Microbiology Initiative taps into the efforts of more than 100 scientists across 33 institutions with a broad range of expertise to collectively tackle the challenge of developing methods to bring experimental model systems to the ocean.

“The overall goal of our project is to expand the number of diatom species that can be genetically transformed,” Lewis said. “Transformation is the genetic alteration of a cell resulting from the uptake of DNA, and is a key first step in the development of model genetic organisms.”



Biologists Continue to Document Elusive Northern Saw-whet Owls in Arkansas

Mitchell Pruitt holds a northern saw-whet owl that was captured and banded this fall in Madison County. Photo courtesy Mitchell Pruitt

For the second consecutive fall, Mitchell Pruitt, an Honors College student, and Kimberly Smith, Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences, have captured and banded northern saw-whet owls at the Ozark Natural Science Center in Madison County, continuing their research on migratory patterns of these elusive, tiny owls.

Pruitt and Smith captured and documented two adult females in 2014. This fall they captured, banded and released 22 northern saw-whets, which have been rarely seen in Arkansas since the mid-1950s. In one night they captured five of the pint-sized owls, which can fit in the palm of a hand. In another, they captured four. One of the last owls they captured was their first male, which was interesting because it was thought that male northern saw-whets don’t travel this far south in the winter.

“In doing this research, we hope to get an idea for how many migrate through our area and when, as well as simply show that they are, in fact, migrating through,” Pruitt said. “Despite multiple research stations working with the species in Canada and the northern United States, the owl’s movements remain largely a mystery.”




Physicist Chronicles Einstein's Scientific Achievements in New Book

Albert Einstein becomes an American citizen in 1940.

Daniel Kennefick, associate professor of physics and leading Albert Einstein scholar, has co-authored a new book on the scientist known as the “Father of Relativity.”

An Einstein Encyclopedia coincides with the centennial anniversary of Einstein’s famous discovery in November 2015, the theory of general relativity.

Kennefick coauthored the book with fellow Einstein experts Alice Calaprice, who has written several books on Einstein, and Robert Schulmann, former director of the Einstein Papers Project. The trio used their knowledge gained on the scientist during their work on the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein.

“The book is an accessible but authoritative guide to Einstein’s life, family and work,” said Kennefick, who serves as scientific editor of the Einstein Papers Project at the California Institute of Technology.

Kennefick wrote the section of the book focused on Einstein’s scientific achievements, including the Nobel Prize in physics in 1921. He began studying Einstein as a graduate student at Cal Tech.




Vice Provost for Research and Economic Development
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The Office of Vice Provost for Research and Economic Development has added several electronic distribution lists relating to subjects of interest to the University of Arkansas research community. More information about the types of lists and registering for them can be found here.

The following is a sampling of the top grants awarded to faculty and staff in November, with the principal investigator, the award amount and the sponsor. An asterisk (*) indicates the continuation of a previous award.

  • Alan Mantooth, $12,226,504, U.S. Department of Energy
  • Min Zou, $1,264,012, National Science Foundation
  • Patrick J. Wolf, $1,071,919, The Walton Family Foundation
  • Julie Carrier, $403,408, National Science Foundation
  • Min Zou, $380,586, National Science Foundation
  • Christophe Bobda, $288,414, U.S. Office of Naval Research