UNT Research Magazine 2017

Page 1



Securing Our Future page 12 Building Efficiency page 36 Evolving the Bioeconomy page 40


Think it.

INNOVATION is in you. What’s your idea, your dream, your vision? UNT will help you shape it — and achieve it. Transportation to Arctic Studies. Logistics to Linguistics. Arts AND Sciences — Collaborating for Your Future.

TABLE OF CONTENTS 12 | CYBERSECURITY Government and industry leaders search for better ways to secure industry, individuals and the world.

16 | RESTORING PRAIRIES Researchers and students use the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area (LLELA) to restore the Blackland Prairie ecosystem.

22 | INNOVATOR AWARDS New ideas. New devices. New processes. New methods. Innovation is all these. Meet UNT’s first class of Innovator Award winners.



DESIGN THINKING When researchers combine their expertise in various disciplines to solve a problem, they find more practical answers than if they work alone. Their solutions transcend any one field, and the team of problem solvers can adapt them to fit needs for multiple industries. This practice pushes University of North Texas researchers beyond invention to innovation.

Researchers explore materials and manufacturing solutions for industry and keeping soldiers safe.

40 | BIOBASED INNOVATION Faculty partner with industry to build a sustainable economy with nature-imagined solutions for medicine, agriculture and energy.

44 | MEET THE DEAN UNT’s College of Business Dean Marilyn Wiley trained with NASA, loves ’60s rock ‘n’ roll and understands on-demand service economy.


2 ........... . VICE PRESIDENT’S LETTER 4 .. ........................ TRENDING @ UNT 18 .......... 10 INNOVATORS TO WATCH 34 ..... ALUMNI INNOVATORS @ WORK



RESEARCH OFFICE Vice President for Research and Innovation Tom McCoy Associate Vice President for Research and Innovation David Schultz Associate Vice President for Innovation and Commercialization Michael Rondelli

URCM Vice President for University Relations, Communications and Marketing Deborah Leliaert Associate Vice President for University Relations, Communications and Marketing Kelley Reese



ast year, UNT became part of an elite group of research institutions and is now classified as an R1 Doctoral University with the highest research activity, according to the Carnegie Classification. What’s just as notable are the breakthroughs resulting from work done through our Institutes of Research Excellence, where collaboration is driving innovation. This kind of collaboration — our researchers working together across disciplines, with other universities and industry partners — is the key to making new discoveries and creating solutions that will improve our world and sustain our future. We’re also strengthening our research enterprise and culture by investing in our people, programs and spaces. These investments foster an environment for innovative research, scholarship and creativity that help our faculty to make important advances in health, agriculture, energy use and more. This year alone, our researchers made game-changing discoveries in the fight against breast cancer and in materials design. Learn more on pages 4 and 36, respectively. Research partnerships will continue the growth of innovation at UNT. We’re adding high-impact faculty, investing in graduate education and building our research profile to give our students world-class experiences and an education worthy of the next generation of researchers. All of this is taking place in our newly renamed research division, the Office of Research and Innovation, which includes the new Office of Innovation and Commercialization. This signals a new emphasis in increasing our reach across campus, and our support of innovation that can occur in any department, in any classroom, in any setting. Here at UNT there is momentum to grow and evolve, and we’re fostering innovation.

Tom McCoy Vice President for Research and Innovation tom.mccoy@unt.edu


Photographers Michael Clements Ahna Hubnik Gary Payne Angilee Wilkerson Writers Monique Bird Ernestine Bousquet Jessica DeLeón Nancy Kolsti Tanya O’Neil Courtney Taylor Margarita Venegas Meredith Moriak Wright Online Communications Brian Kucharski Stephen McMinn Catherine Parkinson Project Traffic Erica Blount Spring Atwater

Editors Julie Elliott Payne Randena Hulstrand Matthew Zabel




UNT Research is published for the Office of the Vice Presi­dent for Research and Innovation by the Division of University Relations, Communications and Marketing, University of North Texas. The research office can be reached at 1155 Union Circle #310979, Denton, Texas 76203-5017, 940-369-7487. Articles may be reprinted in their entirety with acknowledgment unless they are published in UNT Research by permission of another source. Requests for photographs or illustrations should be addressed to the editors at URCM, University of North Texas, 1155 Union Circle #311070, Denton, Texas 76203-5017, 940-565-2108. The University of North Texas does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, political affiliation, disability, marital status, ancestry, genetic information, citizenship, or veteran status in its application and admission process, educational programs and activities, employment policies and use of university facilities. Direct questions or concerns to the equal opportunity office, 940-565-2759, or the dean of students, 940-565-2648. TTY access is available at 940-369-8652. AA/EOE/ADA The UNT System and the University of North Texas are the owners of all of their trademarks, service marks, trade names, slogans, graphic images and photography and they may not be used without permission. © 2017 UNT


Designers Nola Kemp Kevin Edger Ciera Schibi

URCM 01/17 (17-184)

THINK: WATER QUALITY The quality of water matters. Declining quality poses challenges in meeting drinking water standards. UNT understands water quality. From aquatic ecology to watershed management, UNT has provided solutions for water issues to the North Texas region, state and throughout the country for more than 80 years. UNT is driving water resiliency and seeking water security for our future.




UNT biology and chemistry researchers have made breakthrough discoveries to advance the detection and treatment of cancer. Biologist Ron Mittler and researchers from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem mutated a protein found in breast cancer cells, discovering that the new protein nearly stops tumors from developing further. Then, the team discovered that the diabetes drug, Pioglitazone, can mimic this same mutation, recreating what they have done in the lab. “We can take women who have this cancer and try to treat them with the drug that is already on the market,” says


Mittler, a professor and researcher in UNT’s BioDiscovery Institute. Chemist Francis D’Souza, a Distinguished Research Professor, and researchers at the Polish Academy of Sciences are creating a chemical sensor device that could detect cancer in its early stages, giving patients their best opportunity for recovery. D’Souza developed a chemosensor, a thin film of a polymer that detects molecules of neopterin, a chemical compound found in human body fluids. Neopterin is produced by the immune system and an increased presence in the body is often a sign of a medical problem.

“This new approach involves developing special recognizing materials prepared by molecu­‑ lar imprinting technology,” D’Souza says. “It involves creating 3-D cavities within the polymer for selective binding and subsequent detection of the target cancer biomarker.” The polymer film is in the testing stage in Poland. So far, researchers say that it only recognizes the biomarker neopterin, meaning only a minimal risk of a false positive test. Researchers hope the medical community can use the technology in a few years.

BEYOND PAINT, METAL AND CERAMICS Materials scientist Marcus Young, below right, is investi‑ gating a secret underneath the final layer of paint on Alessandro Allori’s Portrait of Grand Duchess Bianca Capello de Medici with Her Son. The

CRUDE OIL HARMS MAHIMAHI HEARTS A team of UNT biologists confirmed that exposure to crude oil or components of crude oil causes a negative cardiac effect in Mahi-Mahi. As cardiac function goes down, Mahi-Mahi have a more difficult time swimming, eating and reproducing. With funding from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, biologists Dane Crossley, Aaron Roberts and Warren Burggren are investigating the effects of oil

portrait, which was painted more than 500 years ago, is one piece of a story about a controversial royal family, and is being treated and studied by Paintings Conservation Fellow Laura Hartman in the Dallas Museum of Art’s visible conservation studio. The face of the child in the painting appears to have been repainted at some point over an earlier younger face. Young and students in

UNT’s College of Engineering are using advanced materials characterization to look underneath the portrait’s final layer. He also is using the FabLab in the College of Visual Arts and Design to explore how 3-D printing technologies can create reproductions of famous sculptures, and he is learning how silver-plated metal objects in the DMA’s collection were created and can be conserved. Young and his students are using a dual beam ultra-high resolution field emission scanning electron microscope with a focused ion beam in UNT’s Center for Advanced Research and Technology to create a micron space, smaller than the width of a human hair, to look inside each metal object and learn about its processing history.

on water and fish species in the Gulf of Mexico. Crossley, an associate professor, is evaluating how oil impacts the heart and subsequent ability of juvenile fish to swim, eat and reproduce. Burggren, a professor, is evaluating the cardiovascular impact of exposure to components of oil in the very early life stages of Mahi-Mahi and Red Drum. Roberts, an associate professor, is researching the chemical breakdown, toxicology and interactions of sunlight and oil in the upper water column of the Gulf of Mexico, where many embryos for various species live.

Red Drum experience different effects than MahiMahi, and the team is working to determine how genetics may play a role in the way different species experience different reactions to oil exposure. The team received $2.7 million in 2015 for the three-year project.







Kent Chapman, above, Regents Professor of biological sciences, is working to find ways to produce oil in plant tissues other than seeds and fruits, such as leaves. The end goal is to produce this type of oil for sustainable applications for fuels, chemicals and other products. His research is made possible from a $650,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science that he’ll use to study the cellular storage of lipids in plants, specifically the cellular machinery that regulates how lipids are packed inside of cells. “What’s exciting about this project is that so many other things can come out of the study that you hadn’t anticipated,” he says. “That’s why people say basic science is the fuel for innovation, because new principles can be discovered.”

A UNT historian’s research supports the idea that the nation and region of origin of one’s ancestors contributes to the risk of developing — or not developing — certain medical conditions. Constance Hilliard, professor of history, discovered that West African women living in regions infested by tsetse flies, which attack cattle and prevent dairy farming, have a much lower rate of postmenopausal hip fractures caused by osteoporosis than their East African peers, who live in regions with dairy farming. The West African women’s diets are lower in calcium, which prevents bone loss that leads to osteoporosis. The research was published in the BoneKEy edition of Nature. She says the medical community “needs to look at hereditary history and not put all races in a few categories.”


For his research in helping to improve student learning through technology, UNT’s College of Information Dean Kinshuk, below, earned the 2016 Distinguished Development Award by the Association for Education Communications and Technology (AECT). The international honor was awarded based on his accomplishments in studying adaptive learning and dynamic student profiling. “The research in adaptive learning and dynamic student profiling will hopefully attract many more researchers to contribute toward the success of students’ learning,” Kinshuk says. The AECT is a professional association of thousands of educators and others whose activities are directed toward improving instruction through technology.


To better determine links between brain morphology and psychopathy, psychologist Craig Neumann developed mathematical models of brain gray matter volume for the entire paralimbic system — brain regions that are associated with

the processing of emotions and behavior. It is the first study to mathematically model data of the entire brain, not just from one region. Neumann and his team mapped the brains of 254 male inmates from medium to maximum-security correctional facilities in New Mexico, after first assessing them for psychopathic personality. While all of the inmates had varying degrees of psychopathic traits, 28 were at or above the minimum score for extreme psychopathy, says Neumann, who says that the personality

disposition can range from low to high, such as low to severe hypertension. The results, published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, indicate that those with psychopathic traits have decreased gray matter in their entire paralimbic system. “Gray matter is significantly related to intelligence, emotion and cognitive abilities and brain mapping of those with other mental disorders, such as depression, likewise show reduced gray matter,” Neumann says. “Severe trauma also alters aspects of brain volume.”



Rendering of the Science Research Building, the $15.5 million renovation opened in January 2017.


Some researchers in UNT’s BioDiscovery Institute moved to new space in the recently renovated Science Research Building in January 2017, allowing researchers to work together more collaboratively. Designers planned the 7,224-square-foot space on the first floor with an open concept, including four large labs that can be divided into as many as eight smaller labs depending on researchers’ needs.



Richard Dixon, director of the BioDiscovery Institute and Distinguished Research Professor of biology at UNT, says the new space will foster the exchange of ideas. “These flex labs will allow for more multidisciplinary, collaborative work,” Dixon says. “This is the type of space we need to attract new faculty researchers.” The $15.5 million project also includes 4,356 square feet of support space surrounding the labs, flexible enough to be converted into more lab space later, if needed. The first floor includes a cold room, office space, and other areas to support graduate students, research and collaboration. The open concept labs will provide opportunities to use new research technologies and offer ample power, data and

Wi-Fi connectivity to aid in research. The conference room is equipped with a flat panel display and technology to foster collaboration. The building adds to a growing research footprint on UNT’s 900-acre campus and will help researchers continue to push the boundaries of science, technology and creativity while providing students hands-on experience to ready them for their future careers. UNT’s BioDiscovery Institute includes 15 researchers who work on biobased materials, biopolymers, bioactive small molecules, mass spectrometry and plant metabolic engineering.


PREPARING FOR DISASTER AMONG MOST VULNERABLE UNT researchers are learning how to help Native American communities — a historically underrepresented population in the field of emergency preparedness research in the U.S. — better prepare for and rebound from disasters. Gary Webb, professor and chair of emergency management and disaster science, and Nicole Dash, associate professor of sociology and associate dean in UNT’s College of Public Affairs and Community Service, are using interviews and GIS analyses to identify the natural and technological hazards the population faces. They are studying the existing emergency management structures in those communities and assessing the challenges they face in implementing emergency planning initiatives.

Joseph Klein, Distinguished Teaching Professor of music composition, is working on an ambitious composition, An Unaware Cosmos, which in its most expansive form will require 70 musicians distributed across 24 ensembles, each performing its own distinctive music. The piece applies a modular approach to musical form where the individual pieces or “modules” — composed for various chamber ensembles of one to five instruments each — are played concurrently, rather than sequentially, allowing for the resulting music to be fragmented, dislocated, suspended, disrupted, and penetrated in unpredictable ways. “An Unaware Cosmos was conceived as a celebration of humankind’s quest for knowledge through skepticism and critical inquiry, as well as a rebuke of the tribalism, superstition and sophistry that continue to characterize much of our society,” Klein says. The composition pays homage to free thinkers such as Thomas Jefferson, Bertrand Russell, Charles Darwin, Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking. Among other issues, the work addresses non-linear models of time and the human desire to impose structure, order and inherent meaning on the universe. Klein plans to complete the work in 2017, and it will be presented in its entirety at UNT the following year.

For its efforts in helping to educate students about the importance of conserving water, UNT’s Science Education Research Lab earned the 2016 Texas Environmental Excellence Award from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. In partnership with the city of Dallas, educators from the lab developed and taught water conservation lessons to more than 97,000 students since 2006. After reviewing water bills by specific neighborhoods, researchers found that education translated into water savings of more than 500 gallons per month. “This demonstrates the difference individuals can make in saving water,” says Ruthanne “Rudi” Thompson, below, director of the lab and associate professor of biology.







Alexandra Ponette-González, assistant professor of geography, above, is studying whether some oak trees can serve as urban air filters for the environment. Post oak, blackjack oak and live oak trees in full foliage may provide more benefits for humans than blocking winds and casting shade on hot, sunny days. Their leaves and branches also may improve air quality by capturing fine particles, eventually delivering them to the ground when the leaves drop or in rain, she says. Ponette-González received a $475,167 National Science Foundation CAREER award for a five-year analysis of the effectiveness of these oak species in capturing black carbon emitted by diesel engines and wood burning in urban areas. Black carbon particles absorb solar radiation and have adverse effects on human health when inhaled.

UNT’s Jim McNatt Institute for Logistics Research ( JMI) is helping Trinity Logistics executives determine how to distribute domestically manufactured ASME propane tanks from sister company Trinity Containers in the most time- and cost-saving way possible. Undergraduate student and former Trinity Logistics intern Megan Vassh used large-scale data analysis to optimize the company’s distribution plan. Jim Corrigan, president of Trinity Logistics and a member of the JMI advisory board, says Vassh’s work has “tangible value that can contribute to the bottom line. It has given us direction to move forward.” Now, she’s using the institute’s advanced 3-D modeling and simulation tools to validate her proposals and to generate complex, what-if predictions.


Thomas Scharf, below, professor of materials science and engineering, has been elected to the board of directors for the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE) for his leadership in the field. Scharf ’s research interests include physical and chemical vapor deposition of ceramic and metallic thin films for moving mechanical assemblies, atomic layer deposition of nanocrystalline solid lubricant thin films for rolling element bearings, micro- and nano-tribology studies of solid lubricants and hard coatings, and more. He has earned funding from industry and organizations, including the National Science Foundation, Air Force Research Laboratory, Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the American Chemical Society. He is an associate editor for STLE’s journal Tribology Transactions.



North Texas State University, now UNT, conferred its first doctorate in the sciences in 1967 when Linda Truitt Creagh, right, earned her Ph.D. in chemistry. Studying under her father, Price Truitt, she used a new tool, a nuclear magnetic resonance instrument, to study physical organic chemistry in new ways. She used this technology to look more closely at triazoles, simple compounds that consist of carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen. “It helped us understand the mechanisms of how these compounds react, how the

reactions actually happen,� Creagh says. After earning her degree, she worked as a research chemist for Texas Instruments. There, her team helped advance the liquid crystal display (LCD) technology, which the company first introduced in wristwatches. Later, she worked for Xerox in Dallas on ink jets for some of the early ink-jet printers before joining a spinoff company, Spectra, which manufactures ink-jet printers used in industrial and commercial printing. Fuji Film later bought that company, and it became FujiFilm Dimatix. She retired in 2008.

Chemistry students mix chemicals in the lab in this undated photo.

Linda Truitt Creagh, 1967



THINK: SECURITY Government and industry leaders are searching for better ways to secure industry, individuals — and our world. BY: TANYA O’NEIL & COURTNEY TAYLOR


dentity theft that wipes out accounts. A system disruption that shuts down water systems or power plants. A terrorist attack on our city, state or nation. These are some of the more obvious security risks. No one is immune. And no longer is it a matter of if. It is a matter of when. With a constantly growing number of high-profile cybersecurity data breaches, it is no wonder more and more individuals have grown wary. At last count, 91 percent of American adults say that consumers have lost control over how personal information is collected and used by companies, according to the Pew Research Center. And 76 percent of chief information security officers say attacks on infrastructure are growing more sophisticated, according to the 2015 Report on Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure in the Americas. These security issues are not just an IT problem. The impact can range from the security of water supplies and power plants to an individual’s personal information to data related to our national security — and everything in between. “Our computing systems cannot just be secure — they should be unfailingly trust-


worthy,” Microsoft founder Bill Gates told the World Economic Forum.“We should be able to rely on them as we in the developed world rely on electricity or a telephone service today.”


Significant work is being done across local, state and national government agencies, industry and universities to fast track security solutions that will help prevent attacks and, more importantly, develop solutions and strategies to employ when an attack occurs so that mission critical operations are not compromised. National Science Foundation Director France A. Córdova recently noted in a speech at the Texas Research Summit that research by Ram Dantu, professor of computer science and engineering at the University of North Texas, in Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) security is an example of how cybersecurity research has led to products, services, startups and innovative solutions in the marketplace. Dantu’s work through the center also was instrumental in the National Security Agency and U.S. Department of Homeland





“Cyber investigation is where everything is. It’s where students are going to get jobs. We want to make sure when they get out, they’re trained to do it.” — Scott Belshaw Director of UNT’s Cyber Lab

Security designating UNT as a National Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research in 2015. “This research also has led to a number of new companies: VoIPshield Systems, Sipera Systems, Kagoor Networks (which was acquired by Juniper Networks, a leading networking company with 2014 revenues nearly $5 billion) and Kayote Networks,” Córdova says. UNT’s Center for Information and Computer Security is a hub for interdisciplinary programs and research that focuses on network security and human behavior in relation to cybersecurity. “Cybersecurity research at UNT spans several colleges and departments, including business, criminal justice and engineering. UNT researchers focus strongly on network security and human behavior in relation to cybersecurity. UNT also is the only institution in the U.S. to receive National Science Foundation funding for a Scholarship for Service program exclusive to doctoral students studying cybersecurity,” says Dantu, director of the center and recent recipient of the Outstanding Advocate award from D CEO magazine and the Information Systems Security Association. He emerged a leader for innovative research using smartphone technology, VoIP security and cybersecurity to help people and organizations safely store information.




Smartphone adoption — and an overall reliance on hand-held devices — has grown exponentially in the U.S. Today, for example, 68 percent of adults own smartphones, up from only 35 percent in 2011, according to the Pew Research Center. Smartphones and other hand-held devices are among the largest growing security risks going forward. Not everyone who has a cellphone or other mobile device is on the up and up. That’s why UNT’s Department of Criminal Justice is opening a digital forensics lab at the UNT New College at Frisco. The off-site instructional facility will house the area’s only cyber laboratory solely dedicated to analyzing data from devices used in criminal activities. “What we’ve found is that cellphone analysis is a major need for the North Texas region’s law enforcement,” says Scott Belshaw, associate professor of criminal justice at UNT and cyber lab director. “There’s such a massive backlog. Think about crimes involving cellphones — law enforcement needs the information in them, and they need it fast. Our goal is to connect with as many police departments and federal agencies as possible to accelerate investigation processes.” As technology has advanced over the past few decades, the amount of sensitive data from governments, businesses and

SPECIAL REPORT: SECURING INFRASTRUCTURE UNT is putting “security” at the top of its education offerings. From cybersecurity engineering to logistics modeling and predictive analytics to digital forensics, UNT offers students and business access to leading-edge technologies and labs.

individuals stored in digital systems and online has skyrocketed. UNT faculty lead innovative research into how organizations can effectively and safely store information, and develop policies to help avoid mishaps from cyberattacks and human errors. Construction of the cyber lab was made possible by UNT alumnus Steven Holmes who donated $350,000 for its creation. He says he wanted to fund the project because it will impact all of the North Texas region and facilitate an investigational need to help solve crimes. “What they are trying to do is link up as many police departments and federal agencies as possible,” Holmes says.“This is an important issue that people don’t give enough attention to.” Belshaw hopes to have the cyber lab up and running this year and is excited to teach UNT criminal justice students skills that will help them have a competitive edge in the workforce. “Cyber investigation is where everything is,” Belshaw says. “It’s where students are going to get jobs. We want to make sure when they get out, they’re trained to do it.”

Any discussion of infrastructure in the 21st century must include SECURITY. The assessment must include safety evaluation of both physical and digital infrastructure. And when discussing “infrastructure,” all public and private physical assets must be examined — oil and gas pipelines to water pipes, roads and bridges to public gathering spaces. Digital infrastructure touches all of these physical assets, as well as direct data assets. Digital infrastructure encompasses the electronic management of virtually all physical assets, as well as “cyber” and the much discussed, growing concerns related to cybersecurity.

THINK: EMBEDDED Not only is security a basic need and requirement of people and companies, it is a primary determinant in today’s world for location, or relocation — personal and corporate. Safe water matters. Safe data matters. Safe roads and bridges matter. Infrastructure security is critical to decision-making. It is becoming increasingly clear that there is a serious determination to organize and execute upon large “infrastructure improvement” projects throughout the U.S. At a time when technology presents so many solutions, it is important to keep “security” top-ofmind, and that it be embedded in project planning INFRASTRUCTURE SECURITY CANNOT BE AN AFTERTHOUGHT.

THINK: PREDICTIVE Regardless of the idea, asset or investment, it is becoming increasingly diffi-

cult to keep up with technology — this is more than evident in the sphere of security. And time that is disappearing with the pace of technology development. It is therefore incumbent upon those who must provide security — for humans or business assets — that NEW METHODOLOGIES be employed for the purposes of PREDICTIVE PLANNING. Predictive planning requires predictive modeling and analytics. Business has been using these tools with increasing success over the last few years. There is no better, more critical area for use of predictive modeling than security.

THINK: FUTURE The onslaught of security issues — known and mostly unknown — must give rise to an increased amount of PREDICTIVE PLANNING and DIGITAL FORENSICS to keep up with the pace of technology. The future is now — as it relates to the deployment of infrastructure security solutions, AND the creation of predictive modeling and related analytics that work to predict future issues. When INFRASTRUCTURE quite literally “supports” the world’s people and economy, it is critically important that INFRASTRUCTURE SECURITY be front and center.

THINK: PRAIRIE RESTORATION Before the pioneer movement, healthy prairies dominated the North Texas region. The grass species and many of the wildflowers that grew alongside them have become extremely rare in North Central Texas. And today, most of the original 12 million acres of the rich Blackland Prairie ecosystem is largely gone. UNT researchers and their dedicated students work year-round at the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area (LLELA) — an incredible field lab — researching and restoring these sensitive ecosystems.





INNOVATOR: Ermir Bejo, doctoral student

INNOVATOR: Erica Doty, senior

FIELD: Music ADMIRES: Too many people to name one. INNOVATION: Musical composition. Bejo composed Opus 4 for solo piano, earning the prestigious ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Award. WHAT’S NEXT: Apply for a post-doctoral program and teach.



FIELD: Mechanical engineering ADMIRES: Mom, who taught her a great work ethic. INNOVATION: Motorcycle parts. As an intern at the Harley-Davidson headquarters, Doty helped design parts with an eye for function and style. WHAT’S NEXT: Work in the airspace industry on military aircraft, rockets and missiles.




INNOVATOR: Megan Fitch, master’s student

INNOVATOR: Prateek Kalakuntla, second-year TAMS student

INNOVATOR: Jennifer Horner Miller, doctoral student

FIELD: Biological sciences

FIELD: Chemistry

FIELD: Learning technologies

ADMIRES: Amie Lund, assistant professor of biological sciences, an academic visionary who played an integral part in her project.

ADMIRES: His fellow finalists in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology.

ADMIRES: Leaders and scholars who encourage originality, creativity, cooperation, hard work and determination.

INNOVATION: Air pollution and health. In her thesis, Fitch finds compelling evidence to suggest that wood smoke and vehicle exhaust affect intestinal bacteria and overall health. WHAT’S NEXT: Pursue a Ph.D. at Trinity College in Ireland or go directly into her field work in environmental science.

INNOVATION: Sensing mercury. Kalakuntla developed methods for sensing and removing mercury and other toxic heavy metals from water. WHAT’S NEXT: Continue education and conduct biomedical research at a university like Stanford.

INNOVATION: Social media connections. Miller led multiple NASA Makerspace and social media events around the nation and is interested in connecting K-12 educators and students across the nation via social media platforms. WHAT’S NEXT: Continue research exploring Makerspace activities and the perceptions of integrating technologies with science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics.






INNOVATOR: Obi Ogbanufe, doctoral student

INNOVATOR: Jonathan Roosa, junior

INNOVATOR: Jacob Sampson, senior

FIELD: Information technology and decision sciences

FIELD: Computer science

FIELD: Radio, television and film

ADMIRES: Mark Thompson, lecturer of computer science and engineering.

ADMIRES: Andrew B. Harris, professor of theater, gave a lot of attention to his work, as well as motivation.

ADMIRES: Dan Kim, professor of information technology and decision sciences, who challenges her to be a better researcher. INNOVATION: Security risk management and information assurance. Ogbanufe is researching tools to help manage the risks online. WHAT’S NEXT: Continue research work and teach.


INNOVATION: Web application. Living out a dream to help advance space exploration, Roosa developed an application to help NASA track maintenance and operations projects for the International Space Station. WHAT’S NEXT: Work for NASA.


INNOVATION: Playwriting. Sampson presented his play, The Essay, to theater faculty halfway around the world during a two-week residency at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, Czech Republic. WHAT’S NEXT: Continue writing for theater and eventually pursue writing for television and movies.



INNOVATOR: Nydia Sánchez, doctoral student

INNOVATOR: Jack Zhang, second-year TAMS student

FIELD: Higher education

FIELD: Application development

ADMIRES: Mother, because she helped all five children go to college, despite never having gone to college herself.

ADMIRES: Dad, because he’s really wise and always knows how to fix problems.

INNOVATION: Cultivating a “college-going culture.” By studying the Gates Millenium Scholars Program along the U.S.-Mexico border, Sánchez is documenting how students, families and educators can work together to encourage higher education.

INNOVATION: Student success. In creating Skybound Prep, Zhang has provided access to quality and affordable SAT tutoring.

WHAT’S NEXT: Begin a post-doctoral research fellowship with the goal of becoming a faculty member.

WHAT’S NEXT: Continue studies in computer science and business administration at the University of California, Berkley.



INNOVATOR AWARDS New ideas. New devices. New processes. New methods. INNOVATION is all of these. Different from invention, innovation is not focused on creating a new product. More often, innovation is centered in creativity. It involves taking a creative approach to something known, something done, and giving it new life — thus, a new audience or a new market. The emphasis on innovation at UNT transcends any one area of study, or department, or school. It breaks down walls and silos, allowing for creativity across multiple disciplines — thus dynamic outcomes. The UNT Office of Research and Innovation is pleased to introduce and present the inaugural UNT INNOVATOR AWARDS. UNT believes strongly that great ideas can come from anyone, anywhere. We know, too, that it takes special people to bring innovation to light. UNT is proud to introduce you to some special people — our award winners, innovators all.

The 2016 UNT Innovator Award winners accepted their honors during a reception in November.

Guido Verbeck, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, is working on numerous market-centric technologies. A key development is his work to condense the size of mass spectrometry equipment and customize it to numerous industry applications. He and his team have reduced the weight of the equipment to about 15 pounds, a practical weight for environmental researchers, law enforcement officials and other professionals.

UNT’s Office of Research and Innovation also is pleased to recognize innovation from the UNT staff. Peter Palacios, a geographic information systems (GIS) manager for UNT Facilities, has led the development of software to map facilities and utilities. The application is flexible enough to also report maintenance data about interior space. The data could be useful for facilities, risk management, emergency responders, space management leaders and others.

Derek Nelson, who just completed his third semester as a biology doctoral student, performs open-heart surgery on fish in the Gulf of Mexico. His work measures the health of aquatic life, while monitoring crude oil impacts. Working with faculty mentor Dane Crossley, professor of biology, Nelson implants sensors on the fishes’ hearts to monitor cardiac function such as heart rate, stroke volume, contractility and other aspects of the heart.

Christopher Kennedy, senior biology major, has worked to reproduce a naturally occurring mutant gene in cotton that produces more oil. The oil has a variety of potential industrial uses. Now Kennedy hopes to help cross-breed the plants with a goal of increasing the oil production of cotton, which will increases its value. He is considering enrolling in graduate school or seeking a “crop innovation” job in the agricultural industry.




THINKING When researchers combine their expertise in various disciplines to solve a problem, they find more practical answers than if they work alone. Their solutions transcend any one field, and the team of problem solvers can adapt to industry needs. UNT is at the forefront of collaboration — looking at the world in new ways, and pushing progress beyond invention to innovation. BY: MATTHEW ZABEL


oday’s successful innovators must examine problems from multiple angles. They must be practical, rational, creative and empathetic. They must employ expertise from fields outside their own. They must be “design thinkers.” Design thinking fosters practical, creative problem solving that offers multiple applications. It is a form of solutions-based, or solutions-focused, thinking with the broad goal of creating a better future, instead of solving one specific problem. By considering the present and future together, problem solvers can explore the parameters of the problem and possible solutions simultaneously. General Electric demonstrated this dynamic well in a recent advertising campaign pointing out that its workforce is increasingly shifting from manual labor to technical skilled labor. The company emphasized that it has moved beyond looking for ways to improve — or invent — single products for a world where its innovations could yield a myriad of new and improved products and technologies. The world abounds with products that are the result of this new thinking. Ford Motor Company also embraced the idea over the years, partnering with companies like Proctor & Gamble, Nike, Heinz and Coca-Cola. These research collaborations have led to new soy-based products and many



new bioplastic materials that are now used in many aspects of the company’s vehicles. “Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success,” writes Tim Brown, president and CEO of Ideo, an international design and consulting firm. This type of creativity requires a new mindset.


Reaching a mindset that leverages the design thinking process begins with education. In his book, Designerly Ways of Knowing, Nigel Cross describes the three cultures of education: first, a science culture, second, a humanities culture — both of which have been generally accepted. But a third, a design culture (and for a time, technology) — was largely ignored and undefined for many years. While the sciences bring objectivity, rationality and neutrality, the humanities offer subjectivity, imagination and commitment. Cross, in his work, describes the lesser known, “design culture” as one of practicality, ingenuity, empathy and a concern for appropriateness. “This ‘material culture’ of design is, after all, the culture…of the designer, doer and

maker,” Cross writes. Design thinking isn’t limited to the physical sciences. Many social sciences and services benefit from this same layered, multifaceted approach to research. Design thinking connects science and design — including technology — to human response and engagement, and social outcomes. For example, ever-evolving social media sites and applications are rapidly changing human interactions in dating and people’s self-esteem. To better understand these changes, University of North Texas researchers Jessica Strubel, an assistant professor of merchandising, and Trent Petrie, a professor of psychology, found their diverse expertise, yet similar interest in body image, highly valuable in their collaborative study of the social application, Tinder, and its effects on men and women. “Consumer behavior includes the consumption of social media such as mobile dating sites,” Strubel says. “Trent brings his counseling background to the research, and I bring the consumer behavior component, which gives us a well-rounded approach.” Another collaborative effort example that employed a design thinking approach was led by Laura Siebeneck, an associate professor of emergency management.

Siebeneck studies the human response to hazards and disasters and seeks to learn how to help people respond and recover effectively after natural disasters. Beginning in early 2017, she will work with civil engineers, computer scientists and communications experts to understand people’s decisions to return home and rebuild after a hurricane. “In disaster response and recovery, evacuation and return is complex. Issues faced include those related to shelter, food, infrastructure and lingering hazards. Support must be coordinated across multiple disciplines to create the most effective, efficient and human response,” Siebeneck says. “Multiple perspectives increase the base of knowledge from which a credible solution can be created.”


Design thinking drives collaboration. Working in silos — literally or figuratively — reduces the higher output that can be generated through shared spaces. Chicago-based Gensler, a company known for its architecture, design and other services, offers a shining example of design thinking at work. The company looks for ways to design spaces that encourage collaboration.

“Design thinking is a humancentered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” — Tim Brown President and CEO of Ideo



RAJIV MISHRA Director of UNT’s Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Processes Institute (AMMPI)

COLLABORATION: The Key to Big Breakthroughs in the 21st Century

Innovation is a key mantra of building bold visions of the 21st century. It is different from “invention,” which most often is associated with an individual discovery. This was certainly true in the early 20th century. As engineered systems and technology evolved to a higher level of complexity and the missions became bolder (landing a man on the moon!), collaborative efforts emerged as the pathway to big dreams.

TEAM LIFT As we strive for new missions — from materials genome to a futuristic journey to Mars — the complexity of challenges requires a team approach. We are all familiar with the term ‘team lift.’ While most of us cannot move a 200 pound table individually, four of us can easily. “Team lift” supports the pursuit of grand challenges — creating systems and products that are better, more affordable and have higher functionality.

IDEAS. PEOPLE. RESOURCES. The three pillars of innovation are: ideas, people and resources. From small start-ups to large enterprises, we see this play out. A start-up begins with ideas; its growth depends on assembling the right people and resources. Large industry locates facilities to areas that support ideation and human resource needs and provide access to markets. Even the federal agencies have embraced the collaborative model. The National Science Foundation’s Industry-University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC) program is an ex-

cellent example of an academic-industry national laboratory partnership, with exceptional leveraging of funds and resources. Ideas, people and resources.

COLLABORATION IS A WINNING STRATEGY In this competitive, global economy, COLLABORATION is the key, and collaboration is a key strategy. Companies reaching across industries to find new solutions, new angles and new distribution channels are winning. Companies embracing universities as “partners” for product and service development are winning. “Winning” is about staying relevant, and collaboration is a winning strategy that leads to continuous enhancement of deliverables, keeping all relevant. Collaboration has become even more relevant in recent years — the “Maker Culture” movement has made front-and-center the ideas and ideals of people working together, openly and transparently. It is the youth of this maker movement who are creating a paradigm shift

in how we work together. There are new dynamics in the “working” place, and the outcomes are ever-evolving — even somewhat surprising. “Success” looks different to these young makers, and we should pay attention.

WORKING TOGETHER IS SUCCESS In the words of Henry Ford, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” In my role as director of UNT’s Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Processes Institute (AMMPI), I have seen first-hand successful collaborations. AMMPI has brought together more than 25 faculty members from six different departments across the UNT campus — working together. Collaboration is elevating our collective ability to develop market-centric, timely solutions. Collaboration is truly the key. Rajiv Mishra is the director of the Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Processes Institute (AMMPI) at the University of North Texas.

To model Gensler’s example, UNT facilities designers created one such space with flexible labs in the recently remodeled Science Research Building. This space is used by the university’s BioDiscovery Institute (BDI), one of four Institutes of Research Excellence launched in 2015 to bring together key researchers from multiple fields. The modular labs allow for flexibility, and by their proximity to each other, allow researchers to move easily between labs to consult with each other and expand their work — and thinking. At UNT’s Discovery Park, the North Texas region’s largest research park, researchers from an array of engineering disciplines collaboratively test ideas in shared lab spaces like the Center for Advanced Research and Technology (CART). “Researchers are continually pressed harder to work together, and they simply can’t do this effectively when they work in their own labs, spread out across a large campus,” says Rajiv Mishra, director of UNT’s Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Processes Institute (AMMPI). “No researcher has all the equipment needed. When you have a larger space with different types of equipment, you can share both resources and ideas to improve your results.” As researchers model this culture for their students, the university offers up unique spaces to its students to encourage them to apply the same thought processes and explore these methods to better prepare them for their future careers. The Factory, part of UNT’s Willis Library, is made for design thinkers and makers. In this UNT space, students of all levels have the opportunity to work together and innovate. With equipment like 3-D printers, 3-D scanners, photography, die cutting and dozens of other tools, The Factory helps students put their ideas to work. UNT is embracing design thinking and bringing it into its everyday culture — invigorating faculty, students and staff. UNT is planning to open Collab Lab, an environ-

ment designed for students from different “No researcher has all the disciplines to come together and create — equipment needed. When innovate. This type of space and support of you have a larger space collaboration, innovation and design thinkwith different types of ing, will keep UNT students competitive in a dynamic marketplace. Co-working spaces, equipment, you can share industry mentoring and state-of-the-art both resources and ideas to technology will be combined to allow stuimprove your results.” dents to create “impact” ideas. Having a space in which to innovate is only a part of — Rajiv Mishra this design thinking strategy, because real in- Director of UNT’s Advanced Materials and novation — and innovators — exhibit cre- Manufacturing Processes Institute (AMMPI) ativity in “how” they create, how they work and how they think.


Bringing science, humanities, design and technology together to inform ideas is key to unleashing anyone’s true potential. The intersection of collaboration and the growing do-it-yourself culture creates opportunities for new ideas, methods and solutions in our diverse, creative and tech-savvy generation. A new generation of innovators is reimagining everything from health care to human services, transportation to defense, and using cloud computing, personal devices, behavioral analysis, personalized market surveying, and analytics — together. A design thinking approach coupled with collaboration in a high-demand, hightouch world is required in today’s competitive marketplace. Attaching these same methodologies is a different, and more comprehensive way of thinking about customers and launching products and services, and it is a different way of working. The “cloud” offers a new innovative space. Today’s “smart” devices can share, analyze and process massive amounts of data from almost anywhere. Cars can communicate with each other to avoid collisions. Thermostats, lights and door locks can be controlled from thousands of miles away with a smartphone, and Internet-connected trash bins can help optimize collection routes. To support the educational needs of



busy students and professionals in the North Texas region, UNT has established a network of off-site instructional locations throughout the region. Offerings at each location are tailored to the workforce needs of the surrounding area. For example, at the New College at Frisco, students can study marketing analytics, business and game development in classrooms equipped with state-of-the-art technology. Or, they can prepare for a career in sport or recreation management just a short distance away from the headquarters of five different professional sports teams. A unique platform for collaboration is created across multiple disciplines. This is what industry is seeking. “UNT’s New College concept of ‘learning beyond walls’ builds on the partnership principle by infusing higher education with industry engagement,” says Dave Quinn, vice president of the Frisco Economic De-



velopment Corporation. “Making that connection creates graduates who know how to collaborate, innovate and become the problem-solvers of tomorrow. This path to success also is an asset when recruiting new companies to Frisco.”


UNT chemist Guido Verbeck holds multiple patents for mass spectrometry instruments. He is working across multiple disciplines at UNT, supporting innovation in areas including environmental science and arts technology. “When you investigate what others are doing, you often find out somebody has a problem that you solved a long time ago — they just don’t know it,” says Verbeck, who was recently awarded UNT’s inaugural Faculty Innovator Award for 2016

MICHAEL RONDELLI Associate Vice President in the Office of Research and Economic Development

(see page 22).“Cross-discipline communication and collaboration is a catalyst for more, and improved solutions.” Verbeck reconfigured a mass spectrometer that he originally developed to detect vacuum leaks in industrial environments. In doing so, he is able to detect air particles, hazardous materials, cancer cells, illegal drug factories and more. “Often in research you have a problem and you work toward a solution,” he says.“As a tool builder, you have to look at it the other way, too. People created a hammer to drive a nail. But once they built the hammer, they figured out more things to do with it than just drive a nail.”

“Idea integration across disciplines creates amazing opportunities for solving problems and for conducting applied research.”

— Kris Chesky UNT professor of music and a co-director of the Texas Center for Performing Arts Health

lished in 2014. UNT and UNT Health Science Center at Fort Worth wanted to work together to address occupational health problems that plague performing artists. At the center, UNT researchers — in music, arts and medicine — partner to continuously seek out, treat and prevent injuries that plague musicians and dancers. Bringing together disciplines like music, medicine, engineering, psychology and public health has led to treatments for focal dystonia, tendonitis, shoulder injuries, muscle pain, hearing loss and other injuries. Many artists have been able to continue performing without causing further injury. “Idea integration across disciplines creates amazing opportunities for solving CASE STUDY: COLLABORATIVE TREATMENT problems and for conducting applied reThe Texas Center for Performing Arts search,” says Kris Chesky, a UNT professor Health was created in 1999 and re-estab- of music and co-director of the center.


There is an emerging and growing maker culture. It leans heavily on the idea of “constructivism”— learning through doing, with a great deal of discovery through the tangible creation of products. Craftsmen once used this teaching style to ensure that their craft continued by recruiting apprentices. Today’s apprentice takes this “method” approach even further. With the maker culture movement relying heavily on openness and a spirit of sharing, any one apprentice may in fact be gaining cross-purpose skills. Sharing and open source work is accelerating the learning process and each maker’s progress. These innovative makers learn through the process. They create. They test. They analyze their work, and they repeat the process, seeking to learn from each failure as much as they learn from success.



“Design research begins by examining situations as they might evolve in the future rather than situations that have already transpired. It’s a future-focused way to connect creativity and innovation.”


Michael Gibson, a faculty researcher for the Design Research Collaborative in UNT’s College of Visual Arts and Design, says that research in and around design thinking moves beyond interdisciplinary study to an even more robust, transdisciplinary study. “Interdisciplinary study means people from different disciplines are working togeth— Michael Gibson er and sharing their skills and expertise with UNT professor of communication design each other,” he says. “Transdisciplinary study means that your knowledge has changed in that process because you gained some understandings from outside your discipline you didn’t have before.” Gibson recently led a team that included experts from information technology, anthropology, psychology and design to revamp the design and functionality of the Texas Veterans Portal website to improve services and information for veterans. He indicated that input from veterans and experts from all those different disciplines proved critical. The collaborative process isn’t always comfortable, he says, but “it forces you to get to a point of common language and common understanding.”


It is widely accepted that collaborative research projects generally produce better outcomes than solo efforts. Industry leaders often have relied upon university researchers for the basic discoveries that serve as the foundation for many types of innovation and product development. With universities working more collaboratively with internal and external partners, researchers working with them have assumed more significant roles in applied research. Interaction between disciplines such as engineering and design, computer science



SPECIAL REPORT: THE MAKER CULTURE UNT is supporting and leading the maker culture through programming and facilities, engaging students with other students and with faculty. When visiting UNT, you can experience the maker culture across campus from The Factory at the UNT Libraries to the Digital Fabrication Lab (FabLab) in UNT’s Art Building, and beyond.

and logistics, biology and geography, political science and economics, helps people consider different ideas and perspectives in ways that can lead to better, more sustainable solutions for the future. According to Gibson, design thinking is easily misunderstood. “There is no special kind of barbecue sauce that you can just pour over a situation — design thinking does not operate according to any pre-set formulas, and its outcomes are not predictable,” he says. “Design research begins by examining situations as they might evolve in the future rather than situations that have already transpired. It’s a future-focused way to connect creativity and innovation.”


Gibson also says that design thinking relies on researchers’ abilities to learn from each other and to remain open to change as the research evolves. “We’re interested in trying to transform situations in social issues or public policy or economics or technology that involve real situations that affect real people in the real world,” he says. Academia can contribute to this dynamic and innovative approach to problem solving and help shape an outcome-based, ideadriven generation. Through evolving research and education methodologies — and by fully embracing it internally — universities are becoming laboratories for innovation. Collaboration is the key. UNT is embracing discovery and innovation through interdisciplinary collaboration. By design, UNT is driving new projects, programs and solutions.

Much discussion, review and research has been devoted to makerspace. While interesting, it misses the bigger point.

MAKER CULTURE Maker culture is a more “complete” term in an effort to define a movement that is underway in America and around the world. The “buzz” over the last few years has been about “makerspace.” In fact, a defined “space” directly competes with the intentions of those involved in the maker movement. Discussion around “space” also short changes the broad and farreaching opportunity related to makers. “Makers” do not want to be confined to a space, or to a teaching, or to a structure. Makers want the freedom to engage, to create, to build, and to ideate without boundaries. Boundaries to makers are socially-contrived spaces, or places. It is the desire of a maker to demonstrate the “free flow of ideas,” quite literally. The maker desires the opportunity and ability to operate — and create — in a constant “free flow.’” Maker culture emphasizes learning through doing.

WHAT IT IS NOT Maker culture — and makers — are NOT about starting a business; in fact, discussions about, or assignments of, the term “entrepreneur” are outdated and resisted by the maker community. Makers may, or may not, be “entrepreneurs;” they are all: CREATIVE DOERS.

Recognizing, embracing and supporting this culture encourages people from ALL walks of life to create, to innovate, to build — to be productive citizens. The maker culture is transforming innovation, culture and education. And while higher education has begun to embrace it and the needs of the culture — including the build-out of collaboration labs and related spaces — it is incumbent upon institutions of higher learning to fully embrace the “movement,” and the changes that must occur in education and instruction to challenge and engage students, and perhaps more importantly, they must embrace the movement in order to remain relevant. Over the last decade, educators at all levels have been concerned about students’ disengagement. The maker culture offers a more participatory approach to learning; it is therefore believed to have the potential to bring “life to learning,” and thus be more relevant to students of this growing maker culture. “Accessing the means” is the need of the maker. The landscape must evolve to focus on this dynamic. Those businesses and institutions that do not fully embrace, accommodate, or provide “the means” for this growing, multi-disciplinary culture face uncertain futures.

FUTURE CERTAIN The maker culture. Maker cities. Makers. This movement is here to stay. And encouraged, this culture and its growing number of makers will create relevant and competitive future economy, industries and jobs.




As an epidemiologist for the National Cancer Institute near Washington, D.C., Heather Bowles is developing methods to better characterize dynamic lifestyle exposures and the role of physical activity in cancer prevention and survival. Bowles majored in kinesiology in UNT’s College of Education, where she was part of the Developing Scholars Mentor Program. She earned her Ph.D. in epidemiology at the University of South Carolina and interned for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. After completing postdoctorate work in Australia, she joined the National Cancer Institute in 2008.


USING LIGHT TO CONTROL BRAIN CELLS Edward Boyden, associate professor of media arts and sciences at MIT, coinvented optogenetics, which uses light to control brain cells. The goal is to allow scientists to turn off cells that trigger epileptic seizures or turn on cells that lessen the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. His research earned him a 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator Award and the Carnegie Prize in Mind and Brain Sciences. After attending UNT’s Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science, Boyden earned degrees in electrical engineering, computer science, and physics from MIT, a master’s in engineering from MIT and a Ph.D. in neurosciences from Stanford University.





Fascinated by the potential to help create new discoveries from materials, Nonso Chetuya knew he wanted to be a materials scientist at 15. Now as a quality assurance engineer at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Grand Prairie, Chetuya is a working on making high-precision, high-altitude missiles safer for the military. His team looks to see if any parts of a missile could jeopardize a mission, makes a failure analysis and then figures out how to make it work better. Chetuya credits his UNT experience for giving him skills that set him apart as an expert less than one year on the job. As an undergraduate student in the material science and engineering program, he worked with Witold Brostow, Regents Professor, on senior-level lab work as a freshman.

Since opening Doss Audiology and Hearing Center, the first and only audiology clinic in Schertz, outside of San Antonio in 2013, Phallon Doss has served more than 3,000 patients. And as the educational audiologist for the local school district, she provides students with hearing tests and maintains hearing aids for those who are hearing impaired. As a student in UNT’s Department of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, she worked as a hearing aid technician at the Speech and Hearing Center and conducted research with Amyn Amlani, then an associate professor in the department, investigating links between people’s perception of loudness and the shape of their ear canals.

As director of the Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center in Nashville, Tennessee, behavior analyst Pablo Juárez has partnered with state agencies to deliver diagnostic and early intervention services to children with autism and families in rural and lowincome areas. Juárez is principal investigator of institute-funded programs totaling $13.3 million and helps lead projects that include diagnostic and clinical evaluations, early childhood intervention, applied behavioral analysis, school-based consultation and community training. He says his UNT degree in applied behavior analysis and experiences in student organizations helped to develop his leadership skills.




THINK: NEXTGEN MATERIALS Industry is searching for materials and manufacturing solutions that bring more efficient and competitive products, and UNT scientists are leading the creation, application and characterization of new materials for the 21st century. BY: TANYA O’NEIL


very major technology breakthrough is directly related to significant advances in materials for manufacturing. Steel led to steam engines, silicon drove computer and smartphone innovations, while titanium alloys have allowed jet engines and spacecraft to take flight. And materials like DuPont™ Kevlar®, for example, have been used to keep our military, police and security officers safe by making clothing, accessories and equipment ballistic, cut and stab resistant. As materials get tapped for particular products and manufacturing, it’s crucial to continue to investigate not only new sustainable materials, but to gain a better understanding of the limitations and possibilities of current materials and manufacturing strategies used. “The future innovations of the 21st century — essential for society and the economy — depend on the intelligent use of materials,” says Raymond Brennan, a materials engineer at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL). “To move industry forward, we must explore modern

day materials science from all angles for development of novel material solutions.”


Developing materials that are most effective, reliable, earth-friendly and cost-effective are key to keeping our military safe. “Materials science is just as important to our national security,” says Jeffrey Zabinski, senior research scientist for materials science for the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and a Board of Advisors member for the Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Processes Institute (AMMPI) at the University of North Texas. “With the globalization of technology and the marketplace, it is challenging to steer discovery and innovation to meet our unique and demanding requirements.” In order to provide the latest advances for the military, researchers are dedicating efforts to ensure that innovation meets protection. For example, the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center continues to invest millions to improve the vehicle armor that protects troops from small-arms fire



“Our results will have a profound impact on how materials are designed for high-temperature applications such as power plants and engines.”

— Rajiv Mishra UNT’s Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Processes Institute (AMMPI) director

and explosive devices. Universities are pitching in by inventing new life-saving materials that are cost efficient and even more effective while also exploring ways to advance existing materials. Other examples of advances include looking at additive manufacturing, better known as 3-D printing, as an affordable option but also looking closely at how armor reacts to the environment — temperatures, humidity and terrain — for finding the most durable and sustainable option. The defense industry is rapidly expanding the use of 3-D printing to make parts and tools for more sophisticated military equipment, with potential for parts for ships and airplanes in the future. Beyond military uses, 3-D printing will transform industries from the medical field such as creating implants for reconstructive surgery to customized circuits for the electronics industry. To pursue the sustainable materials of the future and develop more innovative processes, today’s scientists must continually challenge past assumptions. Rajiv Mishra, AMMPI director and a professor of materials science and engineering, and a team of researchers at UNT conducted experimental research about creep deformation and developed a divergent alloy that is able to achieve and retain high strength and creep resistance even at high temperatures.



“Nanocrystalline alloys are inherently unstable at high temperature, but we found a way to get them stable and that is a major breakthrough,” Mishra says. “Our results will have a profound impact on how materials are designed for high-temperature applications such as power plants and engines.”


Creating the kinds of materials needed for tomorrow requires intense collaboration and cross-disciplinary work. Most recently, UNT’s AMMPI researchers joined forces with three other universities to collaborate on a $20 million grant from the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) for a project aimed at keeping soldiers safe. UNT’s portion of the project includes examining body and vehicle armor to understand how current failures take place so they can create stronger, more durable armor. “ARL is creating a transformative global science and technology ecosystem by linking government, academia and business to share the best and brightest people, ideas and facilities in forward-reaching research areas of strategic importance to the Army,” says Philip Perconti, acting director in the ARL. And universities are an excellent place to conduct the fundamental research that industries need so they can do the work


UNT is part of a new cooperative agreement established by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. Researchers with UNT’s Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Processes Institute (AMMPI) will work with experts from three other universities and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) to come up with better ways to keep soldiers safe.


the market demands, such as creating more sustainable products.


UNT researchers are advancing the field internationally to revolutionize the way products are made. They are not only searching for new materials, but investigating how to better understand the limitations and possibilities of current materials strategies used in manufacturing. “We recognize the evolving science associated with materials of all types, and we strongly believe that an integrated design approach to manufacturing will create much-needed, high-throughput techniques in materials genomics and computational materials discovery and design,” Mishra says. “UNT’s use of genomics in materials is a leading-edge development. Working with the ARL on military-use products paves the way for breakthrough technologies and the creation of nextgen materials for industry and consumer use.”

UNT will look at the materials used in body and vehicle armor to understand how current materials fail so that they can explore new ways to improve those materials to make them stronger, more durable and cost efficient. UNT’s portion of the project includes examining body and vehicle armor to understand how current failures take place so that they can collaborate on creating stronger, more durable armor to ultimately save the lives of military personnel.

FUNDING? $20 million grant from the ARL

WHO? Rajiv Mishra, AMMPI’s director and a professor of materials science and engineering, will lead the UNT team. Several UNT faculty members will participate on the project alongside researchers from Temple University, the University of Southern California and the University of Southern Mississippi.

APPROACH? The UNT researchers will use high-tech equipment to show exactly what the impact is like. The high-speed camera captures images so fast that it can show failure precesses that start at the smallest scale and fastest stage of ballistics impact. The early testing of the armor materials will be done inside the institute, as well the design and early testing of the new and improved materials.

OUTCOME? The two-year project aims to create a new class of stronger, more durable protective personal equipment for U.S. military personnel. UNT hopes to create stronger and better materials for body and vehicle armor for soldiers. Once they do, their materials will be sent to the ARL for further testing.




THINK: BIOBASED SOLUTIONS Building a sustainable future and economy with nature-imagined solutions is driving collaborations across unlikely industry platforms and creating partnerships that are innovative — and future-focused. BY: TANYA O’NEIL


rom the cosmetics industry to the medical field to agriculture to energy production, the growing and evolving bioeconomy touches a wide variety of industries set on providing biobased products and solutions for today’s world. And by 2017, USDA-Nexant Renewable Chemicals Market Assessment projections indicate that the growing opportunities through biobased products will amount to $775 million of value added per year for renewable chemicals with capital investment of $2.4 billion. By 2022, the value added potential is estimated at $3 billion per year with $6 billion capital. “Materials used to be manufactured solely by nature, and we took what we were given — hide, silk, wood, bone and stone. Eventually, people learned to fire slurried sand into pots and hammer iron from the Earth. Throughout history, our progress as a people has been date-stamped by the types of materials we used — the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Plastic Age, and now, some would say, the Age of Silicon,” says co-founder of the Biomimicry Institute Janine Benyus in her book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. “With each epoch of civilization, we seem to have distanced ourselves further from life-derived materials and from the lessons they teach us.”


Treating disease, creating new materials for cosmetics and developing cleaner technologies are just a few of the ways a better understanding of plants — and what they are capable of — is leading researchers to provide solutions to everyday needs. Research is expected to provide health benefits for many battling cardiovascular disease, cancer and even Alzheimer’s disease thanks to a team of researchers collaborating from the BioDiscovery Institute at the University of North Texas. UNT biology faculty researchers Chenggang Liu, Xiaoqiang Wang, Vladimir Shulaev and Richard Dixon, director of UNT’s BioDiscovery Institute, were recently included in Nature Plants highlighting their major discovery. Many people know that tannins in plants have health benefits and impact the taste of fruits and drinks like tea and wine. But it’s not been understood how plants actually put them together — until now. “This is one of the most exciting discoveries of my career,” says Dixon, a world-renowned specialist in plant biochemistry and Distinguished Research Professor of biology at UNT. “I’ve worked for 35 years on how plants make natural products, and now, we’ve answered a question that has



been bothering people for years.” UNT researchers studied the gene leucoanthocyanidin reductase, or LAR. It was previously thought that LAR only helped make the building blocks of tannins, but the UNT research team learned instead that the gene plays an unexpected role in determining how the building blocks of tannins multiply to form long chains. When those building blocks, called epicatechin, are linked in longer chains, they become insoluble, and lose astringency. However, smaller, more solu-

ble tannins can offer humans more health benefits. Understanding how this process works has major scientific implications. “This is one of the biggest breakthroughs ever in tannin research,” Dixon says. “We can now work to improve the taste and astringency of many fruits and beverages. This technology can even help with a major source of pollution — methane production from cattle. And tannins have been associated with reduced risks of cardiovascular disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, and we now can use this

information to try to boost those health benefits.”


According to a report by BIO, the world’s largest biotechnology industry association, industrial biotechnology companies are pursuing renewable chemicals and biobased materials because they can be commercialized at production manufacturing scale and at low volumes. Dixon says, “The findings and work we’ve done for health applications crosses


While many people know the health benefits and taste impact tannins have on fruits and drinks like tea and wine, no one ever knew how plants put them together — until now. Researchers with UNT’s BioDiscovery Institute (BDI) have made a breakthrough discovery in how the building blocks of tannins multiply.

WHAT? UNT’s team discovered that the gene leucoanthocyanidin reductase, or LAR, plays an unexpected role in determining how the building blocks of tannins multiply to form long chains. The longer the chain the stronger the plant, but shorter chains can often offer more health benefits to humans.



“I’ve worked for 35 years on how plants make natural products, and now, we’ve answered a question that has been bothering people for many years.” — Richard Dixon Director of UNT’s BioDiscovery Institute (BDI)

over to discovery and development of food and beverage enhancements, as well as supporting engineering of tannins as biobased products to improve the quality of forages and thereby reduce global methane emissions.” Biobased products also provide environmental benefits, stable costs and novel properties in comparison to fossil fuel-derived chemicals. “The biobased economy is alive and well; it is not just about biofuels development,” says Brent Erickson, executive vice

president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section. “BIO’s new report released on renewable chemical biorefineries illustrates the range of technologies currently undergoing commercialization in the industrial biotechnology space. Analysts predict rapid expansion of renewable chemical sales based on existing and planned production capacity.”



UNT biology faculty researchers Chenggang Liu, Xiaoqiang Wang, Vladimir Shulaev and Richard Dixon, director of UNT’s BDI, were recently included in Nature Plants highlighting their recent major discovery.

Now the researchers are working to see if they can change tannins in alfalfa in a way that would reduce gas in cows. On top of being better for the cows, it would cut down on a major source of greenhouse gas.



The researchers isolated genes of mutant plants where the LAR gene had been knocked out. They found in those plants, the amount of soluble tannins virtually disappeared and insoluble tannins increased. That’s when they discovered LAR has to do with the length of the tannin chains, not putting the chains together.

UNT researchers are the first ever to discover how tannins are put together. This can lead to improved health by helping to reduce risks of cardiovascular disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as more research and the creation of healthier and tastier fruits and drinks like wine and tea.







“Get over it,” from the Eagles’ song. There is no future in dwelling on a failure or blaming someone else. Learn from it and move on.


I started my career as a management trainee at NASA and was a test subject in the zero-gravity airplane. I have been weightless for more than an hour, in 30-second increments.


Raising our freshman retention rate by 13 percentage points.


The rise of the on-demand service economy. The nature of work has changed, and employees are rethinking both job security and commitment.


Business is moving toward an innovation economy. Success will depend on creativity and the willingness to take risks. Big data and analytics are a major force. Students will have to be prepared to sort through vast amounts of information to uncover patterns, identify solutions and reach actionable conclusions. Our goal is to train critical thinkers who can identify a problem, use analytical tools to develop and critique potential solutions and effectively articulate and defend their answers. This way, graduates will be prepared for any job — even those jobs we cannot yet imagine.


The Eagles, Lyle Lovett, anything by Brahms, Puccini opera and any ’60s rock.


Tex-Mex; the more jalapeños, the better.

[Your idea here.]

INNOVATION is in you. What’s your idea, your dream, your vision? UNT will help you shape it — and achieve it.

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.