December 2012

Researcher Lands NSF, NASA Grants

Daniel Lessner, assistant professor of biological sciences


Daniel Lessner, assistant professor of biological sciences, studies methanogens, ancient anaerobic microorganisms that live in extreme environments, including the human gut. In these organisms, he looks at RNA polymerase, a protein that “reads” DNA and produces RNA, which contains codes to build proteins.

This process is found in most of the things we think of as “living.”

It’s important to understand how these ancient microscopic creatures work, and Lessner has been able to secure a total of $1.2 million in current funding as a principal investigator of methanogens. He received a three-year, $613,796 grant from the National Science Foundation that started in September 2011 and a four-year, $670,633 grant from NASA in April. He’s also a co-investigator on a three-year, $435,196 NASA grant to study methanogens and whether they could survive on Mars.

“I do feel very fortunate in this funding climate,” said Lessner, who came to the University of Arkansas in 2008 after six years as a postdoctoral fellow at Pennsylvania State University. “Our success in receiving these grants has to do with the significance of the projects and the questions we are trying to address, and also the importance and utility of our model. We have done a good job demonstrating that we have the expertise, the facilities and the capabilities of carrying out what we hope to be a significant project that will provide meaningful results.”

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Staffing Changes

Jeff Amerine

October and November saw several major staff changes under the office of vice provost of research and economic development.

Jeff Amerine became director of technology licensing for the university on Nov. 19. The office will now be known as Technology Ventures.

The office, under the supervision of the vice provost for research and economic development, works in cooperation with the University of Arkansas’s office of research support and sponsored programs and the University of Arkansas Technology Development Foundation.

The university and Division of Agriculture had shared the office since 2006. Officials at both the university and the division decided to separate the office into two entities.

“A serial entrepreneur, Jeff Amerine continues to implement effective strategies and methods that will lead to commercialization of the U of A’s world-class research,” said Jim Rankin, vice provost for research and economic development.

Dennis W. Brewer, who had served as associate vice provost for research and director of research support and sponsored programs, was appointed associate vice chancellor for information technology and director of information technology services, effective October 22. He had been serving as interim director of ITS since July 1. Brewer will report to both the provost and vice chancellor for finance and administration in his permanent post.

Cynthia Sagers was appointed interim associate vice provost for research and economic development, effective Nov. 12. Sagers, who will retain her faculty status in the department of biological sciences, will help promote faculty in research positions by identifying funding opportunities and working with them to develop grant proposals, among other things.

Jacobs publishes 'Opening Doors'

Lynn Jacobs, University of Arkansas

Art historian Lynn Jacobs looks at triptychs as “paintings with doors.”

Her study of triptychs produced in present-day Belgium and the Netherlands during the 15th through the 17th centuries examines the relation between artistic format and meaning.

In her book Opening Doors: The Early Netherlandish Triptych Reinterpreted, Jacobs analyzes the meanings that arise from the thresholds and boundaries of the triptych format, while focusing on the implications of divisions and interconnections within the pieces. Her research was funded by a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as financial support from the University of Arkansas and grants from the Fulbright College.

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RazorGrant Training

The office of research and sponsored programs is now working live in its new RazorGrant electronic routing and approval system. RazorGrant electronic routing and approval allows the researcher to electronically route their proposal information to the appropriate department chair and dean for digital signature. RazorGrant training has begun with the College of Engineering and the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.

To ensure successful use of RazorGrant routing and approval, the research and sponsored programs team will provide training. You will want to include all research faculty and staff who may assist with proposal development or review. Once your department and department chair have been trained, your department will be officially live with RazorGrant routing and approval for future proposal submissions.

More about the training


Researcher Lands NSF, NASA Grants

VPRED Staff Changes

Jacobs Publishes 'Opening Doors'

RazorGrant Training


Ungar Named Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science

Researchers Develop Effective Thermal Energy Storage System

At Supreme Court: Open Mouth Means Closed Mind


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Grant Award Winners

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

* Vasundara V. Varadan, $658,477, Arkansas Science and Technology Authority
* Alan Mantooth, $473,336, Arkansas Science and Technology Authority
* Kenneth L. Korth, $385,840, Arkansas Science and Technology Authority
* Daniel Lessner, $193,164, National Science Foundation
* Jeanne C. Miller, George Washington University, $157,721


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The Arkansas Catalyst is an initiative of the office of the vice provost for research and economic development with support from the office of university relations & Information Technology Services.