Monthly Update From the Vice Provost for Research and Economic Development

February 2017


From the Desk of Jim Rankin

Jim RankinWelcome to the new Catalyst. We’ve changed a few things to make the monthly newsletter of the Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Economic Development more focused on research opportunities, events, training and news relevant to research. Send us your comments, events and news items, and check the VPRED’s Announcements page for the latest updates.

Speaking of new developments, I recently returned from a trip to the Italian embassy in Washington, D.C., where I met with 35 representatives of universities across Italy. The embassy and the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities invited Curt Rom, associate dean for International Education, and myself, along with personnel from other U.S. colleges and universities, to explore areas of collaborative research. As a next step, the group will develop a database of possible projects based on the research strengths of all involved. Stay tuned.


Spiegel, Sides named directors of new VPRED offices

Frederick Spiegel and Cynthia Sides

Frederick Spiegel and Cynthia Sides have been named directors of the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Office of Industry Engagement, respectively. Both offices are new initiatives aimed at broadening research opportunities at the university and creating ways for industry to work with students to the benefit of both.

Spiegel, a distinguished professor in the Biological Sciences department, joined the university in 1982 and has served in many capacities, including as chair and vice-chair of the department. Spiegel will edit Inquiry, the university’s undergraduate research journal, coordinate summer research programs, and work with academic units to incorporate research into undergraduate curriculum.

“I would like to see the university, through this office, develop undergraduate research as one track along which students can complete their curricula,” he said. “This is not something that can be done overnight, and I hope to engage interested parties in a discussion of ideas that presently work and ideas for novel approaches to make research by undergraduates something for which the University of Arkansas becomes recognized as a national leader.”

Sides, a native Arkansan who received her Ph.D. in chemistry/biochemistry from the University of Arkansas in 2007, will serve as the main contact between administration and industries throughout the state and region.

Sides is also the Associate Director of the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. She has been with the Vice Provost for Research and Economic Development’s office since 2013. Her new role continues her work developing ties between industry and academia, creating entrepreneurial opportunities for STEM students and helping researchers commercialize their work.

“This office is a resource,” she said. “I want it to be the place where companies can reach out and say, ‘We need assistance.’ And I can say, ‘What can I help you with?’ As a land grant and flagship institution, that is part of our mission.”


Seed Funding for Arts and Humanities Projects

The Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Economic Development (VPRED) is offering $25,000 to fund research, scholarly, and/or creative activity in the arts and humanities. Tenured and tenure-track faculty from all University of Arkansas (UA) colleges and schools are eligible. Funded projects are intended to enrich the research and professional growth of the faculty member and the university, and result in new opportunities for research or other creative endeavors. Particular emphasis will be given to projects in those areas for which the opportunity for external funding is limited.


 Research Spotlight

Transportation Center Receives $1.4 Million

Barge on a river.With a new $1.4 million award from the U.S. Department of Transportation, researchers at the University of Arkansas and their collaborators at five other institutions have renewed the status of the Maritime Transportation Research and Education Center, or MarTREC, as a Tier 1 University Transportation Center.




$1.5 million from the National Institutes of Health to Feng Wang, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, to develop efficient and accurate force fields for computer-aided drug design.

$700,000 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation to Stefan Kilyanek, assistant professor of inorganic chemistry, to further his work on developing sustainable biomass-derived fuels through the deoxydehydration of polyols.

$623,296 from the University of California, San Diego, to Donald Catanzaro, research assistant professor for biological sciences, for the development of an integrated tabletop platform for rapid detection of excessively drug resistant tuberculosis in clinical samples.

$338,868 from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to Michael Thomsen, professor and undergraduate coordinator for agricultural economics and agri business, as part of a $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for the development of a Center for Childhood Obesity Prevention.

$250,000 from the Arkansas Department of Education to Shelley Aschliman, executive director of the Arkansas Teachers Corps, for the 2016-2017 continuation of the program.


Research Over Easy, 7:45-9 a.m. March 1, Arkansas Union, rooms 507-508. Join Dr. Jim Rankin and his staff for breakfast and an opportunity to discuss a variety of topics related to the research enterprise. Registration is required and attendance is limited to 25 faculty members.

Research Experience for Undergraduates. The university has received funding from the National Science Foundation for seven REU programs, giving students hands-on, research experience in STEM fields during the summer. Each program can accommodate approximately 10 students. Application deadline is March 15.Apply online.

SEC Academic Conference, March 27-28, Mississippi State University, Starkville, Miss. This annual conference is focused on increasing research collaboration among SEC universities. The topic for 2017 is “The Future of Water: Regional Collaboration on Shared Climate, Coastlines, and Watersheds.”Registration required.



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

Check our Announcements page for the latest VPRED news and updates on funding opportunities. The Limited Submissions page has information on how to apply for grants when funding agencies limit the number proposals from each institution. Interested in a particular type of funding opportunity? Check the Distribution Lists page and sign up for subject-specific email notices from our office.

Send your story ideas and suggestions for Catalyst to Bob Whitby,

University Relations - Davis Hall, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701 - 479-575-5555