RESEARCH & INNOVATION 2020 Snapshot
TIER ONE OUR WAY The University of North Texas is a catalyst for discovery and innovation. During FY2019, UNT was reaffirmed as a Tier One research university by the Carnegie Classification — a recognition that speaks to the quality and impact of research. Considering the campus is full of cutting-edge thinkers, this comes as little surprise, but it’s a tremendous achievement all the same and one that only 131 other elite research institutions in the nation share. Not only has the university’s interdisciplinary approach to research garnered national attention, so has its commitment to shaping the future. More faculty than ever are engaged in funded research, and collaborations with national laboratories and industry are on the rise. The recent opening of the university’s Center for Agile and Adaptive Additive Manufacturing (CAAAM), thanks to $10 million funded by the 86th Texas Legislature, and the new Biomedical Engineering Building are indicative of growth in emerging areas of research. Together, faculty, research staff and student researchers are pushing the boundaries of science and technology. They are bringing solutions-based research to industry and the marketplace while creating a pipeline for technology transfer and industry partnerships.
NEW FOCUS An interdisciplinary approach to innovation has cemented UNT’s status as a Tier One research university. That, together with efforts to support faculty research successes are guiding an even bolder and brighter future. UNT’s Division of Research and Innovation is dedicated to expanding the research enterprise at the university by helping faculty and student researchers push the boundaries of their fields. This past year, the university garnered record amounts of research funding and licensing revenue, but it’s only the beginning. With the August 2019 arrival of Mark McLellan, the university’s new vice president of research and innovation, UNT is advancing its goal to become a recognized National Research University. To better support research success, implementation of several new initiatives are helping to create efficiencies and more effectively support faculty to find solutions and expand UNT’s research impact on the world around us. A new unit, Research Commercial Agreements, has been created to make it easier for faculty to pursue innovation by consolidating the functions of reviewing contract language and negotiation in addition to handling licensing for all research-related activities at UNT. Additionally, UNT is offering faculty research development, including a major new grantsmanship training program designed to help faculty achieve higher success in obtaining research funding. As part of a new D.C. Faculty Fellows Program, UNT took 20 recently hired faculty to Washington, D.C. in February to visit program managers at agencies that make the decisions about science funding. “These initiatives are part of a focused strategy to advance UNT’s research standing,” McLellan says, “by helping our faculty members’ dreams come alive as they address some of society’s biggest problems.”
2 02 0 R E S E A R C H S N A P S H OT
SPONSORED PROJECT AWARDS
$78.7M FY 19 TOTAL RESEARCH EXPENDITURES (Includes faculty salaries dedicated to research)
NEW SPONSORED PROGRAM PROPOSALS SUBMITTED
COLLEGE OF SCIENCE - $10,401,580 COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING - $10,257,732 COLLEGE OF HEALTH & PUBLIC SERVICE - $2,304,625 COLLEGE OF EDUCATION - $1,814,991 COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS & SOCIAL SCIENCES - $1,356,893 COLLEGE OF INFORMATION - $1,047,128 COLLEGE OF BUSINESS - $229,479 COLLEGE OF MERCHANDISING, HOSPITALITY & TOURISM - $160,609 COLLEGE OF MUSIC - $40,000 COLLEGE OF VISUAL ARTS & DESIGN - $25,000 OTHERS - $2,554,714
THE IMPACT OF INNOVATION UNT makes significant strides in bringing collaborative research discoveries to light as marketable products and commercialized intellectual property.
UNT is committed to helping shepherd innovative research solutions from the lab to the marketplace, and this past year marked a banner year for technology commercialization on campus. Revenues from UNT technology licensed for commercialization reached a record level, and faculty filed 44 disclosures of new inventions and intellectual property with commercial potential in 2019, up from seven in 2015. More importantly, the culture of innovation at UNT is changing. UNT researchers are looking at the work in their laboratories in new and creative ways, and technology created on campus is catching the eye of companies and potential investors. One of the aims of technology commercialization is to generate revenues for both faculty and the university, but more important is how the innovations are making an impact on local, state, national and global environments. “We want the technology to impact lives, ” says Michael Rondelli, associate vice president for research commercial agreements. The newly created unit of Research Commercial Agreements within the Division of Research and Innovation has set its sights on increasing the efficiency and effectiveness in processing both grant funding and commercial licensing, providing better service and growing the research enterprise at the university. The new group, led by Rondelli, has implemented a new streamlined system for processing contracts aimed at assisting faculty and making working with UNT easier for outside entities. “Our office is responsible for the way the university interacts with business for both research and commercialization. We do this through rapid turnaround of contracts and licenses while providing transparent communication of contract status and issues to all interested parties. ” Rondelli says. “Commercialization
requires that faculty trust we can shepherd their work from research results to technologies that impact lives.” Recent successes include Guido Verbeck, chemistry professor, (pictured above with graduate student Garrett Smith) who has disclosed 14 inventions to UNT, five of which have been issued patents and three of which have been licensed to companies. One of the licenses is to Frisco-based InspectIR for a portable opioid breathalyzer technology. In the fall of 2019, UNT entered into a new collaboration with LaCore Labs, including a $1 million gift, a lease to a new analytical chemistry lab at UNT’s Inspire Park facility, LaCore’s buildout of that leased space into a full analytical chemistry lab, a five-year sponsored research project with Verbeck’s lab, a license to technology developed by Verbeck, and research and internship opportunities for students that lead to positions with LaCore. Additionally, Oliver Chyan, chemistry professor, in 2019 received $157,000 in his share of license royalties — the largest royalty distribution to date at UNT — for a method to detect flaws in microchip design. His new wafer characterization technology revolutionizes how chips are designed and will lead to smaller chips with faster computing times. Sheldon Shi, professor of mechanical and energy engineering, developed a patented cost-effective method to rapidly clean oil spills and contamination in water using magnetized activated carbon made from biomass and a magnetized collection device. The technology has the potential to make a tremendous impact on the toxic cleanup industry and has been licensed to EnviroMAC Solutions, a startup company formed for the commercialization of this new environmental product. “We have seen campus embrace the process and strive to drive impact for our communities,” Rondelli says.
2 02 0 R E S E A R C H S N A P S H OT
INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH At UNT, multidisciplinary meetings of the minds — both in-house and across industry and institutions — long have been an essential component of UNT’s scholarly culture. Now, that interdisciplinary imprint is informing the university’s innovation mindset more than ever.
URBAN WATER FUTURES Researchers from across the institution — including biology, philosophy, urban planning and geography, among others — are expanding their efforts in urban water, developing and identifying solutions for policymakers, municipalities and stakeholders throughout the state. Their work spans topics from toxicity to environmental impacts to access, as well as social justice issues that are connected to urban water centers. By approaching this topic from a variety of different angles, UNT can make a significant difference not just in the North Texas region, but in many other regions as an example of how to deal innovatively with water issues in an urban setting.
APPLIED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE UNT’s approach to artificial intelligence — which involves collaborations among faculty from colleges such as business, engineering and information who are exploring subjects including machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision, data analytics, big data and system integration — has the potential to connect and engage diverse academic, corporate and government stakeholders across the state. In doing so, UNT hopes to develop a one-stop shop for businesses looking to solve problems using artificial intelligence.
INTEGRATED INTELLIGENT MOBILITY SYSTEMS The university is encouraging integrated intelligent mobility systems, such as connected and autonomous vehicle research, spanning a number of disciplines including engineering, business, science, information, and health and public service. Researchers and students are working collaboratively on the complexities inherent in the field, including the technology itself, the data collection that helps drive its development, and the planning, policy and business practices necessary to support it.
BUILDING ON STRENGTHS Researchers are working together across disciplines to make new discoveries and create innovative solutions that will improve the world and sustain the future. From interdisciplinary centers such as UNTâ€™s newly formed Center for Agile and Adaptive Additive Manufacturing (CAAAM) to the xREZ Art and Science Lab, UNT is harnessing its strengths to grow its research enterprise. Using CAAAM as a model, UNT is making more coordinated efforts to leverage existing assets and faculty expertise to position Texas as a global leader in the interdisciplinary research areas of applied artificial intelligence, urban water and integrated intelligent mobility systems. Many of the faculty involved also are part of UNTâ€™s Institutes of Research Excellence. By focusing on these key areas, UNT is drawing upon its unique strengths to address key growth areas and solve significant problems facing our state and nation. Researchers in these areas are exploring new ways of working across disciplines and forming collaborations to help address these emerging areas of research.
2 02 0 R E S E A R C H S N A P S H OT
INNOVATING THROUGH PRESTIGIOUS NSF CAREER AWARDS Ifana Mahbub, assistant professor of electrical engineering, earned a $500,000 National Science Foundation Early Career Development Program (CAREER) grant to develop a wireless recording, stimulation and power system that will allow medical researchers in real time to study and possibly treat brain diseases such as Parkinsonâ€™s and Alzheimerâ€™s without bulky recorders and power sources. Mahbub was one of four researchers this year, a record number for UNT, who received CAREER Awards in the 2020-2025 award cycle. Oliviero Andreussi, assistant professor of physics, was awarded a $600,000 grant for his project to develop and apply new computational tools for the characterization of chemical processes at solid-liquid interfaces that control the operation of devices such as batteries, fuel cells and sensing devices. Alexis Palmer, assistant professor of linguistics, will receive $400,000 for her integrated research and education program designed to improve access to language technologies for a wider range of languages. She is attempting to remove barriers to creating natural language processing tools for endangered languages. Nam Trang, assistant professor of mathematics, was awarded $400,000 for his research into the development of the Core Model Induction, which uses set theory to construct mathematical models that extend existing mathematical theories.
INSTITUTES OF RESEARCH EXCELLENCE UNT’s Institutes of Research Excellence bring together a critical mass of faculty collaborating on projects designed to create a stronger platform for interdisciplinary research and partnerships with industry to create solutions that further contribute to the North Texas region’s creative economy.
ADVANCED ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE (AERI) AERI features a thriving interdisciplinary research team exploring fascinating questions about our environment using basic and applied research to find solutions to complex problems, such as the sustainability of urban water. Studies include a range of topics from environmental health to applied ecology to science education. From 2016 to 2019, AERI scholars published more than 200 peerreviewed papers and received several million dollars in grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative and various other public and private sector entities. AERI is led by Aaron P. Roberts, professor of biological sciences. 940-369-5555 // aeri.unt.edu // 1155 Union Circle #310559, Denton, Texas 76203-5017
ADVANCED MATERIALS AND MANUFACTURING PROCESSES INSTITUTE (AMMPI) AMMPI researchers engage with industries all over the world to research, design, process and test nextgeneration materials for the aerospace, automotive and energy sectors. A diverse group of faculty focuses on structural and functional materials, computational tools and advanced manufacturing processes. Since its formation in 2015, AMMPI has received $26 million in grants and awards from agencies such as the National Science Foundation, Army Research Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Defense, as well as private companies. AMMPI is led by Rajiv Mishra, University Distinguished Research Professor of materials science and engineering. 940-369-8438 // ammpi.unt.edu // UNT Discovery Park Annex, 3940 N. Elm St., Denton, Texas 76207-7102
BIODISCOVERY INSTITUTE (BDI) BDI delivers research solutions to underpin the use of plants, forest products and other biomass for the production of biopolymers, new bio-based materials for construction and transportation, biofuels, and bioactive small molecules with applications in agriculture and health care. In the most recent 18 months of operation, researchers in the institute took in more than $5.6 million in new federal, nonprofit and corporate funding, and currently lead 24 additional projects supported by $13.4 million in external funding. BDI researchers are supported by grants and contracts from the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Science Foundation and several companies in the ag-biotechnology industry space. BDI is led by Kent D. Chapman, Regents Professor of biochemistry. 940-565-2491 // bdi.unt.edu // 1155 Union Circle #305220, Denton, Texas 76203-5017
JIM MCNATT INSTITUTE FOR LOGISTICS RESEARCH (JMI) JMI’s research team provides the capability to develop effective solutions to complex problems confronting public and private organizations. Specialties include business logistics, economics, information technology, geographic information systems, transportation and operations research. Since its formation in 2015, JMI has received several large grants and awards from corporations and government agencies, including the Texas Department of Transportation. JMI also leads the North American Strategy for Competitiveness (NASCO) University Consortium. JMI is led by Terry Pohlen, professor of logistics and senior associate dean of the G. Brint Ryan College of Business. 940-369-8666 // logisticsresearch.unt.edu // 1155 Union Circle #311396, Denton, Texas 76203-5017
2 02 0 R E S E A R C H S N A P S H OT
INNOVATIVE SPACES: ARTS AND SCIENCES As a hub of creativity and innovation in all forms, UNT is championing the art-meets-science approach to increase collaboration and discovery. UNT is part of the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru), a partnership and alliance committed to fostering the role of arts and design in research universities. In 2019, UNT opened a new four-story Art Building that contains extensive research and studio space. In addition to traditional art studios, the building — one of the most technologically advanced art facilities in the world — is equipped with 3D printers, plasma and waterjet cutters, fiber processing equipment, digital looms and augmented reality studios.
xREZ ART + SCIENCE LAB The xREZ Art and Science lab is a unique blending of creative studio and research lab with a focus on new discoveries at the intersection of arts, sciences and humanities. Their visionary team, composed of students and faculty in such diverse fields as new media art, computer science and anthropology, collaborate across disciplines by developing emerging technologies, new knowledge, public engagement and cross-sector partnerships. The lab in the Art Building allows for research in virtual and augmented reality, big data visualization and sonification, human-computer interaction and artificial intelligence.
M.F.A. LABORATORIES UNT’s Department of Studio Art seeks to inspire creativity, to foster critical thinking and to help students develop the competencies necessary for effective leadership roles in art. The Master of Fine Arts degree offers concentrations in ceramics, drawing and painting, metalsmithing and jewelry, new media art, photography, printmaking and sculpture. Facilities include specialized studios, computer labs, classrooms and galleries.
DIGITAL AND TEXTILE FABRICATION LABS UNT’s Digital Fabrication Lab (dFabLab) spans the length of the east corridor of the Art Building. The continuous four-room lab, which includes plasma and waterjet cutters and 3D scanners and printers, is an open resource for undergraduate and graduate students to use the latest digital fabrication tools to produce their work. The Textile Fabrication Lab emphasizes the integration of textile processes into cross-disciplinary applications. The laboratory includes fiber processing equipment, flat-bed knitting machines, sewing machines and digital looms.
NEW BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING BUILDING OPENS In August 2019, UNT opened its new $12.6 million Biomedical Engineering Building where glass-walled, open-concept labs and classrooms create a transparent and collaborative environment for cutting-edge research and learning. Biomedical engineering is one of the fastest-growing programs at UNT, increasing more than five-fold since its first class in 2014. The 26,250-square-foot building located on UNTâ€™s Discovery Park campus provides faculty and students with modern classrooms, research labs, facilities for microscopy, cell culture and optics, as well as teaching labs and a senior design lab. Inside research labs, faculty investigate exoskeleton technology that may someday help people with limited mobility, and develop nanotechnology and optics to diagnose cancer and biopolymers and flexible bioelectronics that may help doctors deliver medications and manage illnesses. The new facilities have allowed UNT to recruit new faculty and students to the biomedical engineering program. Four new full-time faculty joined the department last fall, bringing with them a range of expertise from neuroelectronics to electrophysiology. 2 02 0 R E S E A R C H S N A P S H OT
Division of Research and Innovation 1155 Union Circle #310979, Denton, Texas 76203-5017
“With UNT’s innovative research strengths — both in the STEM fields and also in the areas of social sciences, humanities and the arts — we are poised to build on our Carnegie-ranked Tier One status to progress toward national prominence as a leading research university.” — Mark McLellan, Vice President for Research and Innovation
Learn more about partnering with UNT at research.unt.edu.
UNT Research & Innovation Snapshot 2020