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What do you call the kind of research culture that never stops exploring, never stops solving and never stops advancing? The kind of consequential scholarship that breaks new ground across a sweeping, multidisciplinary landscape and breaks through barriers across the globe? The kind of innovation that lives depend on, industry and government build on and communities thrive on? What do you call the unique commitment to discovery and drive for a better world you’ll find here at the University of Memphis? We call it UofMpact. Working with the federal government to strengthen our national security. Fighting the health threats of our time, including COVID-19, opioid addiction and AIDS. Taking a global leadership role in artificial intelligence to revolutionize how people learn. Expanding what’s possible in the field of mobile health. And engaging in international scholarship and collaboration to bring new possibilities to life. UofMpact is worldclass research and world-changing innovation. Read on. And see how the University of Memphis is making an impact like no other.

Dr. Jasbir Dhaliwal Executive Vice President, Division of Research & Innovation The University of Memphis



UofM creates unique programs, research and community partnerships to address some of the most pressing issues facing Memphis today, including poverty, health disparity and social equity.


Researchers explore a way to turn personal mobile health information into big data sharable to a large number of mHealth researchers in real time, without compromising privacy.


While the coronavirus commands the headlines, other public health threats persist. These UofM researchers remain focused on fighting two of the most formidable diseases of our time — opioid addiction and HIV.


The FedEx Institute of Technology optimizes University, corporate and community resources to fuel new technologies, patentable intellectual property and exciting new commercial enterprises committed to making the future a better place.


From teen support programs to public lactation facilities, the UofM is exploring ways to improve the health and welfare of infants, children and young adults.


The University of Memphis does not discriminate against students, employees or applicants for admission or employment on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, disability, age, status as a protected veteran, genetic information or any other legally protected class with respect to all employment, programs and activities sponsored by the University of Memphis. The following position has been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination and anti-harassment policies: Director for Institutional Equity/Title VI Coordinator, oie@memphis.edu, 156 Administration Building, 901.678.2713. The University of Memphis policy on nondiscrimination can be found at https://memphis.policytech.com/dotNet/documents/?docid=430. The University of Memphis. Magazine (USPS-662-550) is published four times a year by the Division of External Relations of the University of Memphis, 308 Administration Building, Memphis, TN 38152-3370. Periodical postage paid at Memphis, TN 38152. UOM419-FY2021/2M EM PRINTING



New research redefines the origin of language in infants, suggesting that we begin to produce speech-like vocalizations as soon as we are able to breathe.

The UofM is working with the departments of Defense and Homeland Security on cybersecurity, metal fatigue, software training and more.

With research that begins in rural agricultural top soil and ends some 300 feet below the city, University of Memphis researchers are working to protect the region’s drinking water aquifer.




Creating equity and encouraging diversity is key to meeting the growing scientific and engineering needs of our economy. That’s why the UofM is bringing more women and minorities into STEM studies and, ultimately, into the STEM workforce.


President | Dr. M. David Rudd Executive Vice President for Research & Innovation | Dr. Jasbir Dhaliwal Executive Vice President for University Relations | Tammy Hedges


The Institute for Intelligent Systems takes a global leadership role in harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to boost human learning in exciting new ways.


Cover inspired by the Mississippi River as it flows through Memphis.



UofM MASKS UP TO FIGHT THE PANDEMIC WITH SCIENCE The coronavirus pandemic has been a challenge for almost everyone. But for some researchers at the University of Memphis, it has also been an opportunity to understand and track the disease, to measure its effects and to be a part of the solution. The UofM is integral to the fight, and we have the grants to keep up the battle.

Dr. Enrica Ruggs


The University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) have established special SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 Collaborative Research Network (CORNET) grants to facilitate new collaborations between faculty at the two institutions. In the spirit of competition, collaborative research teams submitted 23 projects focused on gaining a better understanding of the virus and finding therapies to end the pandemic. Nine of those proposals earned the CORNET grants. Each funded project received $50,000 for a combined total of $450,000 in pilot funding for one year (see sidebar). Dr. Jasbir Dhaliwal, executive vice president for Research and Innovation at the UofM, said that collaborative efforts like CORNET are essential. “It is important that the faculty of the two primary research-based institutions of higher learning in our region are working together to solve urgent national challenges,” Dhaliwal said. “Such collaborative research also strengthens the deep science foundations of our local economy as we help grow the industries of the future.” This is the second CORNET funding opportunity established between the UofM and UTHSC. In 2019, the two institutions awarded a total of $100,000 UTHSC/UofM CORNET in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Research.

The Business End of COVID-19

In the Fogelman College of Business & Economics Center for Workplace Diversity and Inclusion, Dr. Enrica Ruggs and her team are using a grant from the National Science Foundation to study how COVID-19 has affected employees differently across


various levels of job structure, socio-economic status and race. “We are assessing attitudes, perceptions and health-related changes and how organizational responses to the disease have affected employee well-being,” Ruggs explained.

Unlocking the Value of Lockdowns

As a volunteer for the Memphis/Shelby County Joint COVID Task Force in the early weeks of the pandemic, Dr. Andrew Olney, professor in the Institute for Intelligent Systems and Department of Psychology, adapted a model developed by Imperial College of London and applied it to the 50 states and Shelby County. His model clearly showed that lockdown was a key intervention in keeping the reproduction rate of the virus below 1, and that without other interventions that were cumulatively as effective, the virus would continue to spread.

Dr. Andrew Olney


Award Winners “Determination of Inflammatory and Fibrotic Markers in SARS-CoV2 Infected Macrophages and Fibroblasts” Brandt Pence, PhD (UofM)

Dr. Linda Jarmulowicz

Theodore Cory, PharmD, PhD (UTHSC)

“Host Genes, Immune Response and Susceptibility/ Resistance to SARS-CoV2” Xiaohua Huang, PhD (UofM) Kui Li, PhD (UTHSC))

“Creating the UTHSC-University of Memphis COVID-19 Geographic Insights Collaborative” Esra Ozdenerol, PhD (UofM) David Schwartz, MD (UTHSC)

“Models of Lung Microenvironment to Explore COVID-19 Pathogenesis and Drug Development” Gary Bowlin, PhD (UofM)

Marko Radic, PhD (UTHSC)

“Aerosolization of Emitted Particles in Multiple Breathing, Speech and Singing Activities” Ranganathan Gopalakrishnan, PhD (UofM)

Low Tech, High Value

With the virus surges, communication between doctors, patients and patient families has become strained. Dr. Linda Jarmulowicz, dean of the University of Memphis School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, had a simple idea: create low-tech communication boards. The school’s Memphis Speech and Hearing Center charged graduate students with putting Jarmulowicz’s idea into action. They composed, printed and laminated the boards and delivered them to ICUs in the Memphis area. Each set of boards uses a variety of images and language to convey approximately 20 different messages that facilitate quick communication.

Social Distancing — There’s an App for That

Researchers at the UofM’s MD2K Center of Excellence, in collaboration with a local infectious disease expert, developed a free mobile app called mContain to reduce the community transmission of COVID-19. mContain uses location and Bluetooth technologies in smartphones to detect, count and display proximity encounters (within six feet for several minutes) with other app users.

Miriam van Mersbergen, PhD, CCC-SLP (UofM) Daniel Foti, PhD (UofM) Jeffrey Marchetta, PhD (UofM) John Hochstein, PhD (UofM) Sandra Stinnett, MD (UTHSC) M. Boyd Gillespie, MD, MSc, FACS (UTHSC)

“Identifying Areas of Geographical Inequalities in COVID-19 Morbidity and Mortality Through Mapping of Spread of Confirmed Cases and Deaths Across Disadvantaged Areas in Tennessee” Anzhelika Antipova, PhD (UofM)


“Clinical, Immunological and Viral Determinants of COVID-19 Disease Severity in Adults and Children” Yu Jiang, PhD (UofM)

Heather Smallwood, PhD (UTHSC) Nick Hysmith, MD (UTHSC); Colleen Jonsson, PhD (UTHSC)

“Nrf2 Small Molecule Modulation of COVID-19 Multi-organ Tissue Injury” Thomas Sutter, PhD (UofM)

Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, PhD (UTHSC)

“The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Racial, Gender, and Socioeconomic Disparities in Access to Care and Health Outcomes Among Patients with Ambulatory Care Sensitive Conditions” Aram Dobalian, PhD, JD, MPH (UofM) Satya Surbhi, PhD, MS, BPharm (UTHSC)



BRINGING IT HOME The city of Memphis, located on the bluffs of the mighty Mississippi River, is a city steeped in rich history, a hotbed for musical talent, and a mecca for both food lovers and distribution corporations. The culture of our city is as vibrant as the colorful murals that adorn our bridges and buildings. Here at the UofM, we’re excited about all the ways our work makes a difference nationally and internationally, but we are just as excited about the impact we make on our own Memphis area communities, which are too often plagued by poverty and inequity. By focusing our diverse research culture on the complex problems in our city, we are able to turn ideas into initiatives. Initiatives become empowerment and empowerment becomes real, tangible change that benefits everyone. “The Sound of Memphis” mural by artists Damon Lamarreed and Pugs Atomz


The Community of Research Scholars (CoRS)

The UofM’s local commitment is perhaps best represented by the Community of Research Scholars (CoRS), established in 2018. Through CoRS, faculty representing a variety of disciplines and approaches collaborate with each other and area organizations, to feed both their own research and the community’s hunger for solutions, especially in the areas of health and social justice. These collaborations result in some innovative approaches. For example, one CoRS project involved partnering with Memphis Public Library branch managers to collect health-related data. Another CoRS team partnered with Church Health, a local nonprofit health care provider for the working poor, to integrate preventive health education and horticultural training into its offerings. “Hephaestus” by artist Birdcap


Recent health-related CoRS work includes: »

Studying how exposures to chemicals and their interactions with non-chemical stressors and socioeconomic status cause environmental health disparities in vulnerable and/or disadvantaged populations at varying life stages


Measuring the influence of neighborhood environment on diseases and health behaviors in older Memphians



Developing innovative and effective research approaches to better understand HIV disparities Establishing an interdisciplinary research center focused on ethnic/ race disparities in health

In a city with a 27.8% poverty rate, studies and initiatives like these are important. Our minority-majority city is not just racially diverse, but also diverse in gender identity and sexual orientation, environmental conditions, educational opportunities and housing. That’s why many CoRS teams are focused on issues of social justice, including: »



Collaborating with local LGBTQ+ organizations such as OUTMemphis and developing plans to enhance and preserve cultural collections via oral histories Exploring social, environmental, economic and physical influences that determine the health and well-being of people and communities in the Mid-South Developing a comprehensive mentorship network to support women as students, faculty and staff across disciplines, ranks and colleges


Soliciting the perspectives of the homeless to increase an understanding of their barriers to sustained housing


Fostering ongoing collaboration to create an incubator for innovative ideas and the development of annual projects

CoRS Teams “Zulu Boy” mural was created as part of Paint Memphis 2018

Health, Spaces and Technology Research Team

Dr. Seok Won Jin (Social Work) in collaboration with Dr. Sachiko Terui (Communication Studies), Dr. Joy Goldsmith (Communication Studies), Dr. Andrew Tawfik (Education) Dr. Y’Esha Williams (Nursing) and Dr. Sohye Lee (Nursing)

Memphis Environmental Health Research Community

Dr. Angela Antipova (Geography), Dr. Pratik Banerjee (Microbiology, Food Science), Dr. Hoi Sing Chung (Nursing), Dr. Cheryl Goudie (Biology, Environmental Education), Dr. Wesley James (Sociology), Dr. Chunrong Jia (Environmental Health, Air Pollution), Dr. Joyce Jiang (Biostatistics) and Dr. Maryam Salehi (Environmental Engineering, Water Pollution)

HIV Disparities Group

Dr. Robin Lennon-Dearing (Social Work), Dr. Melissa Hirschi (Social Work), Dr. Laura Marks (Counseling Psychology), Dr. Matthew Thomann (Medical Anthropology), Dr. Brad Harrell (Nursing), Dr. Kenneth Ward (Public Health), Dr. Debra Bartelli (Public Health) and Dr. Leah Windsor (Institute for Intelligent Systems, Political Science)

Memphis Women Mentorship Network

Dr. Abby Parrill-Baker (Arts and Sciences), Dr. Marian Levy (Public Health), Dr. Deborah Tollefsen (Arts and Sciences), Dr. Helen Sable (Behavioral Neuroscience), Dr. Esra Ozdenerol (Earth Sciences), Dr. Melinda Jones (Honors College), Dr. Robin Poston (Graduate School), Dr. Kris-Stella Trump (Political Science), Dr. Dale Bowman (Mathematical Sciences and Statistics), Dr. Leigh Harrell-Williams (Counseling, Educational Psychology and Research), and Dr. Deranda Brewer Lewster (Behavioral Neuroscience)

University of Memphis Interdisciplinary Center for Public Health and Race

Dean Katharine Traylor Schaffzin (Law), in collaboration with Jacqueline Buford (Nursing), Dr. Elena Delavega (Social Work), Dr. Demetria Frank (Law), Dr. Latrice Pichon (Public Health), Katy Ramsey Mason (Law), Dr. Angela Oigbokie (Nursing) and Dr. Enrica Ruggs (Management)

Center for Social Justice and Healing

Dr. Idia Thurston (Psychology)in collaboration with Dr. Beverly Bond (History), Dr. Shelby Crosby (English), Dr. Sylverna Ford (University Libraries), Dr. Andre Johnson (Communication), Dr. Brian Kwoba (History), Dr. Artina McCain (Music), Dr. Ladrica MensonFurr (African American Studies), Dr. Steven Nelson (Education) and Dr. Terrance Tucker (English)

Mid-South LGBTQ+

Dr. Brigitte Billeaudeaux (University Libraries), Dr. Robby Byrd (Journalism and Strategic Media), Dr. Michael Medcalf (Theatre and Dance), Susan Nordstrom (Counseling, Educational Psychology and Research), Dr. Virginia Solomon (Art), Dr. Craig Stewart (Communication and Film), Dr. Matthew Thomann (Anthropology) and Dr. Cookie Woolner (History)

UofM Poverty Research Collaborative

Dr. Elena Delavega (Social Work), Dr. Debra Bartelli (Public Health), Dr. Bert Burraston (Criminology), Amy Campbell (Law), Dr. Ty Dooley (Public and Nonprofit Administration), Dr. Andrew Guthrie (City and Regional Planning), Dr. Melissa Hirschi (Social Work), Dr. Danielle Vance-McMullen (Public and Nonprofit Administration), Dr. Sharon Wrobel (Public and Nonprofit Administration), and Dr. Demetria Frank (Law) RE S E A R C H + I NNOVAT I ON | 7

ADDRESSING VITAL QUESTIONS THAT SHAPE OUR WORLD The Marcus W. Orr Center for the Humanities Named in honor of one of the University’s most beloved professors of history, the Marcus W. Orr Center for the Humanities (MOCH) leads and supports an array of initiatives aimed at broadening and deepening humanistic inquiry not only within the University of Memphis community but throughout the wider Mid-South. The center’s director, English professor Dr. Donal Harris, says the success of the center is due in part to the unique presentations it sponsors throughout the year. “We try to bring in scholars who are working on something that will be of interest to people who don’t necessarily spend the majority of their time on a college campus,” he said. Often, the result isn’t a talk or a presentation so much as it is an interactive experience.

“For example,” Harris explained, “the center brought in Bill Maxwell, who had just published a book about the FBI’s obsessive surveillance of African American writers and artists under J. Edgar Hoover. There were a number of community elders – ex-Black Panthers, Memphis Invaders and civil rights activists of all stripes – in the audience with first-hand knowledge of the topic, and for about 45 minutes the ‘lecture’ was these people sharing their stories.” In another instance, Silvia Glocer from the University of Buenos Aires gave a talk on Jewish musicians who were exiled to Argentina during World War II, and an audience member shared the story of her grandparents’ emigration to Buenos Aires in the 1940s.

“That kind of back-and-forth really brings history alive,” Harris said, “especially for the undergraduates in the room who maybe think of World War II or the 1960s as impossibly distant. But it also shows that humanities professors are doing work that is a vital part of people’s lives.” For the academic community, MOCH provides valuable support, from how-to workshops on academic publishing to intimate gatherings in which faculty and students have the opportunity to discuss their works in progress. Its Charles and Catherine Freeburg Fellowship program brings together humanities scholars who otherwise might work alone.

humanities is pretty solitary,” Harris said. “The Freeburg Fellowship is collaborative, bringing together five faculty members from different humanities departments along with two graduate students for a semester to share their research with one another. The conversations in those weekly meetings are fantastic because you get historians talking with philosophers and linguists talking with political scientists, and they are often studying similar issues from very different perspectives.” Each fall, the center rents out a local bar for “Humanities on Tap”, an informal forum in which fellows share their work.

“Unlike the hard sciences, which are often built around interdisciplinary research teams, research and writing in the Civil rights mural by artists Sarah Painter and Cosby Hayes


UofM’s Partnerships with the Urban Child Institute Improve Health and Equity for Urban Youth When Methodist Healthcare purchased the venerable nonprofit Memphis children’s hospital Le Bonheur in 1995, proceeds from the sale were used to form the Urban Child Institute (UCI), dedicated to promoting the education, health and well-being of young children in Shelby County. The UCI soon partnered with the University of Memphis, with its vast business, leadership training, nursing and other pertinent resources, to help carry out its mission.

Gary Shorb, the institute’s executive director, put it this way: “By partnering with University of Memphis, we have created an innovative model for change that harnesses the collective impact of academiccommunity partnerships to promote health and equity among urban children exposed to trauma. This collaborative approach will lead to structural change that fosters longterm health and equity for urban youth.” 8 | U NIVE R S I T Y OF M E M P HIS

Today, that partnership is multifaceted. Much of it is facilitated with funding from the UCI by the UofM’s Institute for Interdisciplinary Memphis Partnerships to Advance Community Transformation (iIMPACT), directed by Teresa Franklin.

Together the Urban Child Institute and iIMPACT are developing an integrated hub for academic-community partnerships that advance healthy childhood and family development while creating replicable models for other urban communities. iIMPACT’s broader mission is ambitious and focuses on three research domains: early intervention and child development, adverse childhood experiences and mental health, and the Interprofessional Community Health Clinic (see the accompanying sidebar). Another program associated with the UCI is the national nonprofit LENA.

LENA’s mission is to help communities accelerate language development in children, birth to age 3, in order to improve their cognitive, social and emotional health and to close opportunity gaps. Dr. Loretta Rudd, clinical associate professor in Child Development and Family Studies, had been spearheading the expansion of LENA programs in Memphis through grant writing and community organizing for several years when the Urban Child Institute approached her to see if the University was interested in taking the lead on the project to secure more funding. Her Urban Child Institute grant proposal provided new funding to implement LENA programs through 2020. The UofM now directly offers three LENA programs and oversees the four local LENA program groups.

iIMPACT Centers and Programs A variety of faculty-directed centers and programs across campus are affiliated with iIMPACT and are integral to fulfilling its mission.

“A Note for Hope” mural by artist Jeff Zimmermann

SMART Center



School Mental Health Access to Resources through Telehealth (SMART) is developed and managed by Dr. Susan Elswick. SMART provides training on best practices in telebehavioral health, develops opportunities to research the use of technology in practice, and offers direct services to the Tennessee’s most vulnerable populations.

The Center for the Advancement of Youth Development (CAYD) is managed and overseen by Dr. Gregory Washington. CAYD fills the gap for youth-serving organizations by providing their staff with opportunities to access high-quality training, evaluation and technical assistance without leaving the community. linic

The University of Memphis Behavior, Research, Education, Language and Learning Alliance (UMBRELLA) is developed and overseen by Dr. James Meindl. UMBRELLA is an interdisciplinary service program for young children diagnosed with autism.

BRAIN Center

The Medical-Legal Partnership

Building Resilience across Ages through Integrative Neuroscience (BRAIN) is developed and managed by Dr. Eraina Schauss. BRAIN is a transdisciplinary research collaborative with the aim of advancing evidencebased practice and policy through neuroscience-informed interventions.

The Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic is an interdisciplinary course at the UofM Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in which law students represent lowincome pediatric patients at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and their families.


Project Memphis (PM) is developed and overseen by Dr. Laura Casey. PM is a University-supported program through the Tennessee Early Intervention System which serves families of special needs children under age 3, children who are at risk, and children under age 6 with behavior problems.

The Coordinated Effort to Enhance Development (CEED) is envisioned and managed by Dr. Loretta Rudd. CEED is a multi-disciplinary approach to enhancing social and emotional development in young children. C

Interprofessional Community Health Clinic A health care and research collaboration among Applied Behavior Analysis, Counseling, Education Psychology, and Research, the Center for the Advancement of Youth Development, School of Social Work, Memphis Speech and Hearing Center and School of Public Health.

Project Memphis


Hooks Institute documentary filming on Ida B. Wells.


TOWARD AN INCLUSIVE WORLD The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change Founded in 1996 with funding from the State of Tennessee and the U.S. Congress, the Hooks Institute is an interdisciplinary center devoted to documenting and exploring seminal moments in American and civil rights history, and examining issues of human relations, social justice and socio-economic, racial, gender and other disparities. The institute is a prolific producer of documentary and short films. In fact, executive producers Daphene McFerren and Nathaniel Ball of the Hooks Institute are finishing up a film that has been five years in the making. The film is a full-length documentary on Ida B. Wells, the African American activist and journalist who spent her

formative years in Memphis and led an international anti-lynching crusade starting in 1882. Hooks is concerned about the future as much as the past. Their work includes today’s equity challenges, from restoring voting rights for those seeking to enter society after incarceration to increasing the retention, graduation rates and career readiness of African American males at the UofM. The Hooks Institute also produces a wide range of public programs on a variety of topics including policing, Black Lives Matter, art and history to foster greater understanding and empathy among Memphis citizens from all walks of life.

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SENSE & MEANING PROTECTING HEALTH, PROTECTING DATA mGuard Promises To Revolutionize Data Sharing Among Mobile Health Researchers Mobile health (mHealth for short) depends upon data — the more the better. Not just the data wearable devices collect and analyze for individual wears, but the bigger pool of wearable device data collected by the NIH Center of Excellence for Mobile Sensor Data-toKnowledge (MD2K), data that is shared among researchers who investigate a wide range of health and wellness issues. That kind of data comes with two major challenges, according to Dr. Lan Wang, chair and professor in the Department of Computer Science. Because wearable sensor data may expose privacy-sensitive information about a user, Wang says this data must only be accessed by authorized users. Currently, this access control is largely handled manually, which incurs high overhead and is subject to human errors. The other challenge is that in order to enable immediate intervention for certain medical conditions, researchers need to


be able to retrieve and process the sensor data in real time, which just isn’t supported yet. Wang has been awarded $825,000 by the National Science Foundation to address these challenges using a datasharing system she calls mGuard. mGuard is designed to use an alternative data-centric internet network architecture called Named Data Networking (NDN). NDN offers better support for security, mobility and scalable data sharing than the internet architecture currently in use. “In the NDN internet,” Wang explained, “every piece of data has a unique name, and users retrieve data by the names. The data can be stored anywhere and served by any device that has the data. In addition, every piece of data is signed by its creator and can be verified by anyone.” The mGuard system project will use NDN to automate fine-grained access control of confidential data to authorized researchers and provide realtime notifications when data is produced. Put simply, the MD2K center will be able to share its data securely and in real time with a large number of mHealth researchers.


Dr. Lan Wang works with students on name data networking prototype.

MD2K is working to make wearable sensors not only more sensitive and powerful — but also more meaningful — to users, doctors and researchers.

Wang believes the mGuard project, co-lead by MD2K director Dr. Santosh Kumar, will have far-reaching implications. “The data’s transformative potential will extend broadly across many types of digital interventions and many clinical domains,” she said, “resulting in a broad and deep technological and clinical impact. It will also help showcase the utility of NDN’s data-centric solutions, which will encourage researchers in other areas of data-intensive applications to explore this new direction of building highly scalable and secure cyberspace applications.” In the meantime, the mGuard design and development will offer undergraduate and graduate students concrete examples of data-driven scientific advancement and discovery as well as hands-on opportunities in developing data-centric security solutions. For someone who has been working on sensor-based mHealth projects for more than a decade, this one is somewhat of a milestone. “I have always been interested in applying NDN to mobile health, and now this project finally gives me a chance to do it,” Wang said.


The MD2K Center brings together top researchers in computer science, engineering, medicine, behavioral science and statistics. The researchers are drawn from 13 universities: Cornell Tech, Georgia Tech, Harvard, Northwestern, Ohio State, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC San Francisco, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the University of Memphis, the University of Michigan, the University of Utah and West Virginia University.

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FUELING mHEALTH INNOVATION MD2K ESTABLISHES FIRST NATIONAL BIOMEDICAL TECHNOLOGY RESOURCE CENTER FOCUSED ON MOBILE HEALTH Memphis (lead), Harvard University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Ohio State University, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF). According to Kumar, the center will conduct cutting-edge AI research to produce easily deployable wearables, apps for wearables and smartphones, and a companion cloud system. Dr. Santosh Kumar, professor and Lillian & Morrie Moss Chair of Excellence in the Department of Computer Science and director of the MD2K Center of Excellence, is a dynamo of mobile health research and innovation. He has a knack for keeping the funding moving as well. Already leading two major projects from the National Science Foundation (NSF), totaling $5.75 million (see sidebar) and being an investigator on 8 NSF and NIH grants led by his collaborators, Kumar was recently awarded $5.8 million from the NIH for the establishment of mDOT, a national biomedical technology resource center (BTRC). mDOT stands for the mHealth Center for Discovery, Optimization & Translation of Temporally-Precise Interventions. The first BTRC focused on mobile health, mDOT will be headquartered at the MD2K Center of Excellence, part of the University of Memphis FedEx Institute of Technology. The national multidisciplinary mDOT team consists of leading researchers in artificial intelligence (AI), mobile computing, wearable sensors, privacy and precision medicine from the University of


“mDOT’s innovative technology will enable patients to initiate and sustain the healthy lifestyle choices necessary to prevent and/ or successfully manage the growing burden of multiple chronic conditions,” Kumar said. To ensure mDOT’s innovative technology can be used by scientists to solve real-world problems, mDOT will be working closely with more than a dozen other federally-funded projects to engage in joint technology development, testing and large-scale, real-life deployment. To fuel mHealth technology innovation in the industry, mDOT will establish a new industry consortium to provide access to mDOT’s latest research and seek feedback to inform its ongoing research. The center will be administered by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB). “Researchers and industry innovators can leverage mDOT’s technological resources to create the next generation of mHealth technology which will be highly personalized for each user, transforming people’s health and wellness,” said Kumar.

GRANTED In addition to the $5.8 million mDOT grant, Kumar is leading two grants from the National Science Foundation. A $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation for “CIF21 DIBBS: EI: mProv: Provenance-based Data Analytics Cyberinfrastructure for High-frequency Mobile Sensor Data” in collaboration with UPenn, UCLA and UCSF. A $1.75 million grant from the National Science Foundation for “CRI: CI-EN: Collaborative Research: mResearch: A Platform for Reproducible and Extensible Mobile Sensor Big Data Research” in collaboration with Georgia Tech, UCLA, Ohio State and UMass Amherst.

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These UofM Professors May Be Early in Their Careers But Their Research Is Light Years Ahead Veteran researchers are essential to any robust research institution, but it is the junior faculty who often set the agenda for the future. At the UofM, strong junior faculty are receiving the support they need to realize their full potential as game changers. Here are some of the fresh faces at the UofM; these brilliant and dedicated research professionals have made their mark early and hold the promise of a fascinating and unlimited future in research and innovation. Some have received Venture Professorships from the University of Memphis Research Foundation. These professorships are awarded to junior faculty who have earned Early Career Awards from the National Science Foundation or other federal funding agencies.

Dr. Amber Jennings Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering

Recent Awards

Jennings was awarded nearly $500,000 by the U.S. Department of Defense Military Burn Research Program (MBRP) for her research “Acylated electrospun biopolymer membranes for burn wound coverage, infection prevention and pain relief.” She is a recipient of the Biomedical Engineering NSF Career Award for her study “Tethered Biofilm Dispersal Signals for Long-term Protection of Engineering Materials.” In addition, Jennings was awarded a two-year UMRF Ventures Professorship in 2020.

Jennings’ Work

When bacteria attach to surfaces, biofilms can form. These biofilms protect the bacteria from traditional antimicrobial treatments and helps them evade immune systems, making them serious health risks. Jennings is exploring the design of synthetic molecules that can disrupt these biofilms. “My hope is that this research leads to materials that can prevent or treat deadly infection – materials that we need now more than ever,” she said.


Dr. Ranganathan Gopalakrishnan

Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering

Recent Awards

Gopalakrishnan was recently awarded a $199,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and a $750,000 Mechanical Engineering DoE (Department of Energy) Early Career Award for his project “Thermodynamics and Transport Models of Strongly Coupled Dusty Plasmas.” He was also awarded a two-year UMRF Ventures Professorship in 2020.

Gopalakrishnan’s Work

Gopalakrishnan’s interests include the transport processes in gas-phase systems such as aerosols, dusty plasmas and ionized gases. His winning study focused on the nature of complex dusty plasmas, which are systems that consist of electrons, ions, neutral species and charged micro/nanometer-sized grains interacting with each other predominantly through electrical forces. Dusty plasmas include charged dust and grains in comets and planetary rings, as well as dust in interplanetary and interstellar space. Dusty plasmas are also formed in thermonuclear fusion reactors in the space between the hot fusion core and the confining walls during material ablation.

Dr. Nathan DeYonker

Assistant Professor, Chemistry

Recent Awards

DeYonker was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation for his project “CAREER: A Model-Building Platform for Rational, Reproducible and Rigorous Computational Enzymology.” It is the latest in several grants he has received from the NSF. He was also awarded a two-year UMRF Ventures Professorship in 2019.

DeYonker’s Work

DeYonker is director of the Computational Research on Materials Institute at the University of Memphis (CROMIUM). His recent work includes the systematic generation of computational enzyme models, studies in computational astrochemistry, and the use of quantum chemistry to examine thermodynamic properties and to propose mechanisms of complex inorganic and organometallic chemical reactions.

Dr. Thomas Watson

Assistant Professor, Computer Science

Recent Awards

Watson was awarded an NSF CAREER grant for his project “Structural Communication Complexity,” and as a result has also been awarded a two-year UMRF Ventures Professorship. Additional support includes an NSF CRII grant and an NSF graduate research fellowship.

Watson’s Work

Watson’s research focuses on computational complexity theory, especially on communication complexity and on the role of randomness in computation. His work has been published in top theory venues.

At the UofM, strong junior faculty are receiving the support they need to realize their full potential as game changers. Dr. Enrica Ruggs

Assistant Professor, Management

Recent Awards

Ruggs was recently awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation for her project “RAPID: Systemic Differences in Employee Outcomes from COVID-19 and the Effectiveness of Organizational Response.” She was also chosen by the Memphis Business Journal for its “Super Women 2020” honor list.

Ruggs’ Work

Ruggs is director of the Center for Workplace Diversity and Inclusion in the Fogelman College of Business & Economics. In her research, she examines individual, organizational and societal factors that influence inequity in the workplace. Her work focuses on the manifestation of subtle forms of discrimination and mistreatment toward employees with stigmatized identities, the outcomes of these behaviors, and strategies that individuals and organizations can engage in to combat and reduce discrimination.

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NOVEL MATERIALS CUTTING-EDGE APPLICATIONS The development and use of novel materials are the key to breakthroughs in science, technology and medicine, and UofM researchers are hard at work developing new and exciting materials that can lead to serious transformations.


Dr. Mohamed Laradji was recently awarded an NSF grant to support a project titled “Membrane-Mediated Interactions between Anisotropic Nanoparticles.” This project utilizes coarse-grained numerical simulations and theory to investigate effective interactions between anisotropic nanoparticles and their self-assembly, which are mediated by their adhesion on lipid membranes. The results of this project are important for the development of nanomaterials for a variety of biomedical applications such as biosensing, diagnostics, drug delivery, magnetic hyperthermia and photothermal therapy.


Cancer Diagnostics

Dr. Xiaohua Huang, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, and Dr. Thang Ba Hoang, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Materials Science, are using a grant from the NIH to develop a new way to diagnose cancer at different stages. “The ability to molecularly diagnose cancer at different stages will greatly improve clinical care, including diagnosing early cancer, identifying cancer subtypes, predicting prognosis, directing treatment and monitoring treatment response and cancer remission,” Huang said.

Her team is working to develop a single vesicle technology (SVT) based on surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) imaging to quantitatively analyze surface protein markers on exosomes, the nanoscale vesicles that are abundantly present in blood, and many other biological fluids such as saliva and urine. “By examining the expression profiles of a panel of cancer markers on individual exosomes in the plasma samples of breast cancer patients,” Huang explained, “specific exosome-based biomarkers informing early cancer stage and later advanced stages will be identified.” The SERS-SVT technique can identify and quantify the fraction of tumor exosomes directly in the blood plasma in the presence of a vast background of non-tumor exosomes. “This research has a strong potential for developing a new and highly sensitive liquid biopsy for cancer diagnostics and monitoring,” said Huang.

Experiment in Space

The latest project from Dr. Firouzeh Sabri, department chair and associate professor in Physics and Materials Science, “Impact of Radiation and Extreme Temperature on the Excitation/Emission of

Thermographic Phosphor Composites,” was selected for implementation on the International Space Station. This experiment seeks to investigate the effects of the environment outside of the Earth’s protective atmosphere on the decay rates and bandwidth of thermographic phosphor powders and composites. Phosphor thermometry is a versatile method of thermometry that uses the luminescent properties of phosphors to measure temperature. This precise, remote and instantaneous method of thermometry covers temperatures ranging from sub 0°C to 1400°C. “We have reasons to believe that the excitation/ emission characteristics might be impacted and ultimately shifted as a result of exposure to the radiation sources and intensities outside of the Earth’s atmosphere,” Sabri said. This experiment will serve as an accelerated aging analysis of the phosphors and their composites, and it will provide the fundamental and applied knowledge necessary to determine the feasibility of using these passive composites for temperature assessments in all applications related to space exploration.



When it comes to our research, we are laser-focused. But when it comes to the real impact of that research, we’re all over the map. From Germany to Honduras to the Czech Republic and beyond, University of Memphis faculty members are leading international research in a variety of fields and making a world of difference. Here are just a few examples of how we get around.

Keeping Scholarship Mobile

Since 2018, the UofM has enjoyed a unique research partnership with the Czech Academy of Sciences. Comprised of 54 research institutions, the CAS is responsible for leading research in the Czech Republic. Together, UofM researchers and their Czech counterparts are pursuing collaboration in bioscience, transportation, cybersecurity, sensors, big data, Egyptology, criminal justice, machine learning, financial infrastructure security, seismology, addiction and mobile health. The partnership leverages research funding on both sides of the Atlantic based on each partner’s strengths. Engaging in research far from home can be expensive. Fortunately, three UofM faculty members associated with this partnership were awarded grants recently through the Mobility Plus Project, which offers funding to help cover travelrelated expenses and living costs for international scholars pursuing cutting-edge research.


The Recipients:

Dr. Chuck Langston, UofM professor and director of the Center for Earthquake Research and Information (along with Dr. Jiří Málek, Institute of Rock Structure and Mechanics), for the project “Application of Rotational Seismology for Earthquake Early Warning and Monitoring.” Dr. Joel Bumgardner, UofM professor in Biomedical Engineering (along with Dr. Lucie Bacakova, Institute of Physiology), for the project “Novel Chitosan-based Angiogenic Nano-fibrous Scaffolds for Skin Tissue Engineering.” Dr. Ebrahim Asadi, UofM assistant professor in Mechanic Engineering (along with Dr. Danijela Rostohar, Czech Institute) for the project “Hybrid Additive Manufacturing and Laser Shot Peening Process for Quality Improvement of 3D Metal Printed Objects.”

Toward a More Equitable World

Inequality lurks in every part of the world. It can be traced throughout the social fabric from education to employment to political rights. Dr. Kris-Stella Trump, assistant professor of Political Science, has taken her passion for understanding these inequalities to the University of Konstanz in Germany, where she has been awarded a senior fellowship from their Cluster of Excellence, “The Politics of Inequality.” As a member of the cluster during fall 2020, she is studying how people perceive inequalities in society, how those perceptions lead to collective mobilization and how political actors respond. While at the University of Konstanz, she’s also been working on her book that examines perceptions of deservingness, attitudes toward redistribution and reactions to growing income inequality.

The Wright Award

Dr. Dursan Peksen, professor of Political Science, was awarded the Quincy Wright Distinguished Scholar Award from the International Studies Association. The award recognizes outstanding scholarship in international studies and a record of service to the International Studies Association-Midwest and other international affairs organizations.

Reconciling Environmental Tourism, Conservation and Cultural Heritage

Utila, Honduras, is a small island, but what is happening there is reflective of a problem that can be found in many other places. The island’s rising popularity as a tourist and environmentalist destination has had a profound effect on the traditional life and culture on the island. How can the local population’s connection to their traditions and culture be preserved in the face of such dramatic change? Dr. Keri Brondo, Department of Anthropology chair and professor, has been awarded a grant from the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration to help illuminate the possibilities. Her project “Our Voices: Bridging the Gap Between Conservation and Cultural Heritage on Utila, Honduras” develops K-12 environmental education programming that includes local voices to unite conservation efforts and the local cultural history of the island. With this funding, the project will give international awareness to Utila’s cause and educate future generations on its culture.

Peksen has published more than 50 journal articles and book chapters in such prestigious publications as European Journal of International Relations, International Interactions, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Peace Research and Journal of Politics and World Development. His work on economic sanctions, human rights and military interventions has been included in policy reports published under the United Nations and European Union. He is an editor for the journal International Studies Review, and previously served as an associate editor for the journal Foreign Policy Analysis. In addition, he has served as president of the Foreign Policy Analysis Section of the International Studies Association and president of the International Studies Association-Midwest.

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THE CRISES BEFORE THE PANDEMIC UofM Faculty Members Remain Committed to Fighting Opioid Addiction and HIV

In a year in which the coronavirus pandemic dominated the health landscape, other health crises like opioid abuse and HIV continued to play out. Staying focused on their missions, UofM researchers representing a broad range of academic disciplines have been hard at work fighting these devastating health threats.



Opioid abuse has profoundly affected many parts of the country, including the UofM’s home state of Tennessee. In fact, in 2017, Tennessee had the third highest opioid prescription rate in the country, 1.5 times greater than the average U.S. state rate. Projects led by UofM faculty aim to improve both access to care and the quality of that care.

Moving Mountains

As the opioid abuse crisis continues to cause havoc, there is an acute need for opioid use disorder treatment, especially in the Appalachian counties of East Tennessee. Yet, in this mountainous region, most needing treatment do not receive it. According to Dr. Satish Kedia, professor in the School of Public Health Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences, it would be hard to find families not directly or indirectly affected by the

opioid crisis and the re-emerging epidemic of methamphetamine in many of Tennessee’s rural Appalachian counties. “The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified this crisis among low-income rural families,” Kedia said. “This problem is further exacerbated by polysubstance use among Tennesseans. Over two-thirds of those who report abusing substances consume two or more substances, including alcohol, opioids, methamphetamine, marijuana or cocaine.”

Currently, Kedia oversees five federal research and evaluation projects focusing on opioid and other polysubstance use in middle and eastern Tennessee with more than $2 million in funding from federal agencies. Over the last two decades, Kedia has successfully supported his research with more than $12 million in research funding and has produced over 70 scientific publications on various public health issues.

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One of his current projects, funded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, White House and CDC through the Center for Drug Policy and Enforcement at the University of Baltimore, involves in-depth interviews with more than 200 clients, family members and other community stakeholders in 31 rural Appalachian counties which are designated High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTAs). This research is investigating the root causes of the opioid epidemic in Tennessee and how to effectively serve vulnerable populations that include the homeless, victims

of sexual abuse, ex-offenders and those who are low-income, uninsured or suffering from trauma. “Many of the service providers in our state do not accept these clients due to their criminal records, co-occurring mental illness or lack of insurance,” explained Kedia. “We have been using social marketing and an assertive outreach framework to disseminate information about treatment, which are unique approaches. Our outreach coordinators make contact with affected individuals and families in hard-to-reach counties, and

our recovery agencies provide comprehensive services.” For Kedia, it is rewarding work. “It is extremely gratifying to make a real difference in the lives of those dealing with addiction and myriad other challenges and to see them recover and be able to interact with their families and community stakeholders who are at the frontline of combating this ongoing crisis,” he said. “There is no better feeling than to see the families reunited and clients free from drug and criminal offences months and years after the treatment.”

HRSA Grants for Opioid Treatment Training Back on the UofM campus, two other opioid-centered efforts are taking shape, each supported by grants from the Health Resources and Services Administrations (HRSA) and focused on training future behavioral health services providers in substance abuse and opioid treatment. Three professors in psychology – Dr. Meghan McDevitt-Murphy (principal investigator), Dr. James Murphy and Dr. Frank Andrasik – received a $991,446 Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) grant from HRSA in partnership with area medical institutions. The grant will go toward helping clinical psychology doctoral students learn advanced therapy techniques for substance use disorders with an emphasis on opioid addiction. Undergraduates are benefiting from training as well. An interdisciplinary team representing Counseling, Educational Psychology, Criminal Justice and Social Work received an Opioid Workforce Expansion Program (OWEP) Paraprofessionals Award from HRSA worth $897,342. The money is being used to establish the Memphis Opioid Workforce Paraprofessional Expansion Program (MOW-PEP). According to principal investigator Dr. Melissa Hirschi, assistant professor 24 | U N IV ER S I T Y OF M E M PHIS

in Social Work, the program will expand the paraprofessional workforce with professionals who are ready, interested and able to help individuals and families impacted by opioid use and other substance use disorders. Students who successfully complete all program requirements receive $3,000 toward tuition and supplies. “Even with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, our first-year cohort has graduated 35 students so far,” Hirschi said. “Currently we have more than 40 students enrolled in year two, and we are still accepting applications. Students who have enrolled in the MOW-PEP program have come from disciplines across UofM: counseling, criminal justice, psychology, social work, professional and liberal studies and biology.” Hirschi believes that the growing issue of opioid use disorder is best addressed by a collective community working together to find better ways to support and address opioid use. “I hope that the MOW-PEP program will spark a passion for students to continue their training, education and work in this area, and also help those who may be impacted by this issue feel that there is hope.”  


UofM Researchers Work to Enhance Prevention and Care in an HIV Hotspot Recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the goal to end the domestic HIV epidemic within 10 years through the “Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE): A Plan for America” initiative. The Memphis metro area was identified as one of 48 hotspots with the highest number of new HIV diagnoses. It is only fitting, then, that UofM faculty would be at the forefront of efforts to enhance the availability and efficacy of HIV prevention and care. Dr. Robin Lennon-Dearing, associate professor in the School of Social Work, is using an NIH grant totaling $98,757 to identify the barriers to and facilitators of care and work toward the adoption of a community health worker intervention program that will improve viral suppression in health settings, especially in rural areas. “We are engaging both consumers and community leaders in HIV

care and treatment to improve viral suppression, especially in rural health settings,” Lennon-Dearing said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 1.1 million individuals in the U.S. are living with HIV. In 2018, the Memphis metro area had the fourth highest rate of new HIV diagnoses in the nation. Illustrating a stark disparity, while only half of the population is African American, 84% of people living with HIV (PLWH) in Shelby County are African American. The Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) initiative aims to identify strategies to significantly reduce the number of new HIV infections in the U.S. Dr. Latrice Pichon, associate professor in the School of Public Health, is a key partner in developing jurisdictional EHE plans for Shelby County. With CDC funding, Pichon is working

to provide situational analysis of Shelby County’s strengths, while also identifying needs and opportunities with respect to HIV prevention and care. Pichon’s approach to community-based participatory research strives to amplify perspectives from those most at risk for HIV and those disproportionately affected. The Memphis EHE collaborative’s work has recently been publicized at endhiv901.org, which provides a wealth of information on local resources, strategies and local partnerships that support PLWH. The End HIV 901 official plan will enhance the quality and performance of the HIV workforce, improve organizational structures, and support the enhancement of health care systems; thereby reducing health inequities for underserved priority populations in Memphis and Shelby County.

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AT THE INTERSECTION OF INDUSTRY AND ACADEMICS The UofM strives to create technologies that change the world. But for that to happen, technology must be nurtured, perfected and then placed in the right hands. The University and its Office of Technology Transfer successfully take the best ideas to market by creating incentives, supplying funding and licensing technologies to those who can make the most of them.

INCORPORATING IDEAS UofM Partners To Create Deep Science Postdoc Program Patents2Products The University of Memphis FedEx Institute of Technology and Epicenter, a nonprofit organization designed to support entrepreneurship in the greater Memphis area, have partnered to create a new program to help postdoc fellows start businesses utilizing patented intellectual property developed both in Memphis and across the United States. The Patents2Products Postdoc program creates a twoyear funded position for research entrepreneurs and provides them with the necessary tools for launching a successful startup. P2P Fellows are hired in a University position with the UofM and provided with a salary and state benefits for two years, plus funds for initial startup costs and licensing rights to intellectual property. Participants have access to the researchers and labs where the University intellectual property was developed and are provided office space in either the University Research Park or campus facility, as requested. The P2P Fellow positions are appointments to the FedEx Institute of Technology and also work closely with Epicenter mentors and advisors as they develop their company and business plans. Through the partnership with Epicenter, the fellows are made aware of channels for additional funding opportunities.


FEDEX INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY AWARDS SEED FUNDING As the applied research arm of the University, the FedEx Institute of Technology is committed to the commercialization of inventions developed by the world-class faculty and researchers at the UofM. The purpose of these tech grants is to enable the development of the most commercially promising technologies, whether applications, software or inventions. Fifteen projects were chosen for funding in the 2020 cycle.


Novel Design of Grid-Connected Solar Photovoltaic System – Dr. Mohd Hasan Ali


Method and System for Real-time Control of Defects Distribution and Characteristics in PowderBed Fusion Processes – Dr. Ebrahim Asadi


Geohealth Segment Locator – Dr. Esra Ozdenerol


My-Commencement.Com - An Enterprise Commencement Event Management System – Dr. Radesh Palakurthi


Multi-focal Light-sheet Structured Illumination Fluorescence Microscopy: Illumination Module, Method and Software for Obtaining Super-resolved Images with Optical-sectioning Capability – Dr. Chrysanthe Preza


Dual-Filtering Schemes for Learning Systems against Adversarial Attacks – Dr. Dipankar Dasgupta


Systems and Methods for Dispersion of Dry Powders – Dr. Ranga Gopalakrishnan



Compositions and Methods for Inhibiting Inflammation (Electrospun Template Composed of Polydioxanone (PDO) and/or Impregnated Substrates) – Dr. Ryan Hughes

In Situ Polymerization of Guanidinium-Based Ionic Covalent Organic Framework on Polyacrylonitrile Nanofibrous Web for Rapid and Selective Cr(VI) Oxoanions Removal from Water – Dr. Maryam Salehi


Eating Healthy Conveniently – Dr. Marie van der Merwe


Signac: Portable 3D Scanner – Dr. Eddie Jacobs



Fingerprint Detection: Qualitative and Chemical Recognition – Dr. Sanjay Mishra

Novel Methods and Devices for Auditory Rehabilitation for Interaural Asymmetry (ARIA) – Dr. Deborah Moncrieff


Portable/Wearable Device for Estimating the State of Environment from Multiple Sensors – Dr. Bonny Banerjee


Inkjet Printed Flexible and Stretchable Dry Impedimetric Electrodes – Dr. Bashir Morshed

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UofM Licenses Novel Technologies Developed by Faculty The Office of Technology Transfer, through the FedEx Institute of Technology, signed agreements to license four new technologies. These technologies include Engage, Green Living and Caregivers Support, developed by Dr. Susan Elswick, assistant professor in the School of Social Work; and Ultrasonic Dispersion of Cohesive Powders, invented and developed by Dr. Ranga Gopalakrishnan, assistant professor in Mechanical Engineering. Engage Technology is a cloudbased data collection system that offers real-time data collection capabilities and dynamic reporting opportunities for the user. The Engage system is a data collection tool that allows pedagogical practitioners to gather live data on any student in the classroom for up to three behaviors per student. Numbers can increase based on student needs.


Green Living Technology is an app that allows individuals to plot their green living activities and community concerns on a map so they will be geo-located. This allows for better planning and support of green living along with demonstrating to UofM students, faculty and the surrounding areas how to have sustainable green living practices. The technology is game-based, letting students and faculty receive points for practicing green living and reporting green living issues and activities. Caregivers Support Technology is a parenting app that answers the many questions parents have about common behaviors such as sleeping, eating and emotional regulation; all provided from a developmental and functionbased lens. This app is designed to assist caregivers in improving child behavior, developing healthy social/emotional literacy and enhancing the parent-child bond.

Engage, Green Living and Caregivers Support were licensed to Engage Data System LLC based in Cordova, Tenn., a cutting-edge data collection and reporting company. The fourth technology, Ultrasonic Dispersion of Cohesive Powders, was licensed to the University of Minnesota. The technology is related to aerosol science and technology, powder technology and spray-based additive manufacturing. It was developed to aid in generating aerosol particles (less than 10 microns in size) of sticky powders such as titanium dioxide and calcium phosphate at high concentration for long periods of time for spraycoating processes. The ultrasonic disperser mechanism was designed at low cost and is able to achieve superior concentration compared to commercially available products and designs.





Multilayer Additive Printed Circuit

Dr. Bashir Morshed


Mitigation of Adverse Effects of Geomagnetically Induced Currents on Transformers

Dr. Mohd Hasan Ali


Compositions and Methods for Enhancing Healing and Regeneration of Bone and Soft Tissue

Dr. Gary Bowlin Dr. Isaac Rodriguez Dr. Brenton Burger


Affect-sensitive Intelligent Tutoring System

Dr. Art Graesser Dr. Sidney D’Mello


Wireless Analog Passive Sensors

Dr. Bashir Morshed Dr. Sergi Consul-Pacareu


Mitigation of Adverse Effects of Geomagnetically Induced Currents on Transformers

Dr. Mohn Hasan Ali


Multi-user Permission Strategy to Access Sensitive Information, AKA Shared Trust

Dr. Dipankar Dasgupta Dr. Arunava Roy Dr. Debasis Ghosh


Compositions and Methods for Delivering an Agent to a Wound

Dr. Warren Haggard Dr. Scott Noel Dr. Joel Bumgardner

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Close-up of the THM Rapid Response system for monitoring THMs on site.


Dr. Michael Brown, director of Technical Services with Foundation Instruments and assistant professor of Chemistry in fall 2021.


Dr. Paul Simone (left) and Dr. Gary Emmert (right) with the HAA Rapid Response system for monitoring HAAs on site.


Breakthroughs in Chemical Analysis Lead to Commercial Success

It’s not uncommon for cutting-edge research at the University of Memphis to lead to commercially viable products, services and even companies. One such hightech spin-out from the UofM is Foundation Instruments, Inc. Formed in 2009, Foundation Instruments was founded by Dr. Gary Emmert, who is the associate dean of Natural Sciences and professor of Chemistry as well as the CEO of the company, and Dr. Paul Simone, associate professor and chair of Chemistry and director of Research and Development.


In 2016, Dr. Michael Brown joined the company as director of Technical Services, and he will join the Department of Chemistry in fall 2021 as an assistant professor. The company has been committed to helping superintendents of drinking water treatment plants improve the quality of their water by providing fully automated chemical analyzers that can monitor in realtime trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs) in drinking water plants and distribution systems.

The flagship products of Foundation Instruments are the Trihalomethanes Rapid Response (THM-RR) system (U.S. Patent No. 8,336,371), the Haloacetic Acids Rapid Response (HAARR) system (U.S. Patent No. 8,076,652) and the TotalTHMNOW (U.S. Patent No. 7,987,701). All three are licensed from the University of Memphis. The HAARR system was commercialized through a $900,000 National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research (NSF-SBIR) grant and Simone was the PI. Brown is currently the PI of a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences SBIR grant to commercialize the TotalTHM-NOW

and has been PI on $250,000 in SBIR funding. The THM-RR is capable of automated online analysis of both individual and Total THMs. The HAA-RR is the only online analysis system for both individual and Total HAAs, and the TotalTHM-NOW will be an affordable, online Total THMs analyzer for the majority of drinking water treatment plants. At Foundation Instruments, “We help utilities establish real-time monitoring programs so they can optimize treatment practices, save money, comply with regulations and provide high-quality drinking water to their customers,” said Emmert. The three UofM researchers have

worked together for more than 15 years and hold seven patents for their innovations.

UofM Research Building on Success

The FedEx Institute of Technology houses the Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) which works with faculty to invest in research with the potential for promising breakthroughs and inventions. The UofM celebrated the addition of eight new patents and 15 new technology grants, a testament to the commitment by and investment from the UofM FedEx Institute of Technology and the OTT to drive innovation in the Mid-South.

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TREASURY DEPARTMENT GRANT Financial markets have been transformed by the advent of the internet and understanding the interconnectedness and stability of our nation’s financial markets is of paramount importance. Memphis FinTech researchers are on the forefront of that quest. That’s why the Office of Financial Research (OFR) in the U.S. Department of the Treasury awarded an Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) award to the University. According to Dr. PK Jain, professor of finance in the Fogelman College of Business & Economics and principal investigator for the grant, his team will work with several financial regulatory agencies in Washington, D.C., stock and derivative exchanges in New York, New Jersey, Chicago and other leading global financial hubs, as well as microstructure academic experts throughout the nation, to build a greater understanding of financial infrastructure stability and cybersecurity in the cyber age. 32 | U NIV ER S I T Y OF M E M PHIS


Jain, an OFR Fellow, said having this opportunity to delve into frontier technologies in the financial markets will help crossdisciplinary faculty and students alike build leadership in the emerging area of FinTech. “It will bring added national visibility to our institution,” he said. UofM faculty have won IPA grants from other government agencies as well, including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, for their work in Financial Big Data Analytics.

DIVING DEEP: SEC The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) relies in part on University of Memphis researchers to determine the risks and benefits of algorithmic trading. The 2020 SEC Staff Report on Algorithmic Trading in U.S. Capital Markets highlights works from UofM faculty that have detailed the challenges of the regulatory environment in which such trades occur and the volatility of these markets. Dr. Allen Carrion, Dr. PK

Jain, Dr. Tom McInish and Dr. Konstantin Sokolov have influenced our national policy on trading and market structure directly (Carrion and Jain had worked at the SEC with Intergovernmental Personnel Act Grants) and indirectly through their continuing preeminent research publications. This work continues to strengthen the national reputation of the Fogelman College of Business & Economics as a thought leader in the finance sector.

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FUTURE-FOCUSED If you want to make the future brighter, there is no better place to start than the health and well-being of young people. At the University of Memphis, researchers are exploring ways to improve outcomes for at-risk youth, improve childhood health and create opportunities for young people to overcome disadvantages and control their destinies.

CIRCLE OF SUPPORT Substance Abuse Prevention Program Targeting Vulnerable Youth Is Making a Difference In the College of Health Sciences, Dr. Onyejebose Okwumabua and Dr. Theresa Okwumabua are spearheading a unique, ethnocentrically relevant substance abuse prevention program, targeting at-risk youth. The program utilizes the evidencebased “Let the Circle Be Unbroken (LCBU): Rites of

Passage” curriculum and training plan. With grant funding from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS), the program is being implemented with youth between the ages of 16 and 24 years at the Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks Job Corps Center (Memphis) to help them to successfully complete their training program while staying away from alcohol and other substances that can compromise their health and well-being. In evaluating the effectiveness of the intervention, Dr. Onyejebose Okwumabua observed that “although the center provided a standard substance use prevention service program, a significant proportion of the participants were separated from the program due to problems associated with substance use.” In supplementing the center’s standard prevention services with the weekly “LCBU Rites of Passage” activities and sessions, the Job Corps students experienced much more success. Today, the program is seeing success beyond Memphis. As noted by Dr. Theresa Okwumabua, “the scalability of the program has already been shown as it has been used in several communities.” It is the team’s hope that the “Let the Circle Be Unbroken: Rites of Passage” training program will continue to expand nationally. “It is an excellent tool for preventing youth from engaging in a host of health and compromising behaviors, including the abuse of alcohol and other drugs. For those who might be interested, program materials and training are available.”



Associate Professor Receives Grant To Fund Lactation Support Dr. Genae Strong, associate professor in the Loewenberg College of Nursing, was awarded $442,600 from the Tennessee Department of Health for her project “Loewenberg College of Nursing — Lactation Support Program.” Strong says that breastfeeding is well established as optimal nutrition for infants and transfers vast health benefits to both mom and infant. “However,” she said, “new moms struggle to continue breastfeeding as long as recommended or desired when returning to work or school.” Strong’s goal is to promote health by helping new families achieve their breastfeeding and lactation goals through education and support, policy and practice, environment and culture, and available resources.

breastfeed or pump so that new moms can maintain lactation as long as they desire. Policies have been revised and new practices are underway to help families get the support they need. Memphis.edu/ lactation offers a wealth of up-to-date information and resources related to campus policies, lactation room locations and contact information. “Additionally,” she explained, “we are in the process of developing a lactation certificate program aimed at increasing the number of clinical lactation care professionals available to our community.” “As with any authentic change, it takes time,” she said. “But we have garnered support using a top-down and bottom-up approach to key decisionmakers. The outpouring of support from the UofM campus community has made this work possible.” 

Designating lactation rooms on campus provides clean, safe and private places to


Promoting Infant Mental Health

When many of us think of infant care, we think about caring for an infant’s physical needs. But mental health is critical as well. Dr. Susan Elswick, associate professor in the School of Social Work, and Dr. Laura Taylor, assistant professor in Social Work, partnered with PorterLeath Children’s Center, a primary resource for Memphis’ at-risk children and families, to develop an infant mental health consultation program that can support the healthy social and emotional development of young children. They were awarded a $91,888 grant from the State of Tennessee to launch the project.

culturally-competent developmentallyappropriate and trauma-informed. “While healthy childhood social and emotional development is the targeted outcome of this program,” said Elswick, “the consultation model is all about improving the ability of early childhood educators and care staff to reflect, problem-solve and intervene on behalf of the children.” Elswick and her team will organize and manage training to help educators utilize assessment tools and will provide ongoing consultation with targeted childcare centers and primary care offices.

The program focuses on promoting practices that are relationship-based,

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University of Memphis Receives $9.4 million From HRSA To Advance Social Work, Nursing and Education

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has granted the UofM a total of $9.4 million to fund hundreds of scholarship opportunities over the next five years for disadvantaged students in the College of Education, the School of Social Work and the Loewenberg College of Nursing.

The grant was awarded to NeelyBarnes, along with School of Social Work faculty Dr. Elena Delavega, MSW coordinator and associate professor; Katie Norwood, instructor and MSW admissions coordinator; and Cherry Malone, MSW field director and clinical assistant professor.

Dr. Jasbir Dhaliwal, executive vice president for Research & Innovation, pointed out that in the context of COVID-19, nurses, social workers and counselors have been in high demand. “These scholarships will help the UofM meet the needs of our workforce,” he said. “These fields also have a big role to play in growing sponsored programs activity across campus, and the grants are reflective of an involved institutional culture comprised of faculty who are engaged and proactive about making an impact on our community.”

Support for “STRONG-RNs”

Here’s a quick look at where the money is going. Assistance for Master of Social Work (MSW) Students According to Dr. Susan NeelyBarnes, professor and chair of the School of Social Work, 73.2% of Master of Social Work (MSW) students at the UofM qualify as disadvantaged. To help, the HRSA has awarded the school $3.18 million for scholarships for up to 25 MSW students who meet the HRSA qualification of being disadvantaged. MSW students can qualify as disadvantaged if they are enrolled in the MSW program full-time and meet one of three criteria: have a family income below 200% of the poverty level, are the first person in their family to graduate from college, or graduated from a high school that meets U.S. Department of Education Title 1 criteria.


Some 61% of nursing students at the UofM come from disadvantaged backgrounds. To mitigate the effects of this reality, Dr. Eric Bailey, assistant dean in the Loewenberg College of Nursing, and his team have established Supporting the Retention of Next Generation Registered Nurses (STRONGRNs) using a $3.2 million HRSA grant. The program is designed to accomplish three goals: increase the retention of full-time students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including those who are members of racial or ethnic minority groups; provide more opportunities for clinical practice in primary care; and prepare an increased number of graduates for careers in medically underserved communities. “The program will enable those nursing school students from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue nursing and ultimately diversify the nursing workforce,” Bailey said. During the five-year grant period, scholarships will be awarded in an amount up to $18,000 for approximately 36 eligible full-time nursing students per year, for a total of 175 scholars to cover tuition, books and a living stipend.

Funding for Clinical Mental Health Counselors The Memphis Disadvantaged Student Scholarship (MDSS), led by Dr. Steven West, professor and chair of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Research, was awarded $2.98 million by the HRSA. According to West, MDSS will increase the number of master’s degree-trained clinical mental health counselors in Memphis and the MidSouth and will fund students in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC) master’s program. “It will provide tuition, fees and a stipend for up to 250 students from disadvantaged backgrounds over five years. In addition, the project will provide a peer tutoring program and distinct faculty mentoring,” West said. The increase in graduate-level training in CMHC will translate to increased clinical training placements in primary mental health care agencies in medically underserved communities in Memphis and the Mid-South.

BREATHING EASIER Researchers Work To Identify Markers in Babies That Predict Lung Function Later in Life A baby’s exposure to compounds in the womb, such as those from gestational smoking and vitamins, can lead to reduced lung function later in life. Dr. Wilfried Karmaus, professor in the Division of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Environmental Health in the School of Public Health, is working to identify markers at birth that will predict the likelihood of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, conditions that otherwise may not be obvious for many years. Karmaus’ project “Effect of Prenatal Compounds on Adult Lung Function via Neonatal DNA Methylation” is supported by a $3.2 million five-year award from the NIH. Using a birth cohort with three generations (grandparents, parents and children), Karmaus’ team is working to identify and replicate new epigenetic markers present at birth for specific genes that predict lung function, and then detect and validate novel prenatal metabolic, nutritional or toxic compounds that are associated with lung function via these neonatal epigenetic markers.

Karmaus said his study has the potential to change the way pulmonary diseases are managed. “Being able to predict whether a child is at risk for reduced lung function will empower parents and doctors to be proactive during pregnancy and early childhood, rather than waiting for the individual to develop lung function deficit and symptoms later in life,” he said. University of Memphis co-investigators are Dr. Hongmei Zhang, professor and director in the Division of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Environmental Health in the School of Public Health, and Dr. Su Chen, associate professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Collaborating institutions include both national and international researchers from Michigan State University, University of Bristol, University of Southampton, the Asthma and Allergy Research Center on the Isle of Wight and Hokkaido University.

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OUR BETTER NATURE The University of Memphis prides itself on research that is as diverse as life itself, and that includes studying the biodiversity of our planet. The Center of Biodiversity Research is conducting innovative, world-class research to expand knowledge and create sustainable management and conservation opportunities that enhance the vitality for our natural world.



Important Study Sheds Light on How the Brown Rat Took Over the World Fossil evidence indicates that the brown rat originated in northern China and Mongolia. But, of course, it didn’t stay there. Through the movement of humans, brown rats invaded Europe in the 1500s, followed by global spread via European imperialist activity during the 1600s-1800s. In an article published last year in the high-impact, peer-reviewed journal Genome Research, Dr. Emily Puckett, assistant professor in Biological Sciences, shed additional light on the global brown rat migration by reporting the results of her study “Brown Rat Demography Reveals Pre-commensal Structure in Eastern Asia Before Expansion Into Southeast Asia.” She analyzed 14 genomes representing seven previously identified evolutionary clusters, and tested alternative demographic models to infer patterns of range expansion, divergence

times and changes in effective population size for this globally important pest species. “Our results support the hypothesis that northern Asia was the ancestral range for brown rats,” said Puckett. “We suggest that southward human migration across China between the 800s-1550s AD resulted in the introduction of rats to Southeast Asia, from which they rapidly expanded via existing maritime trade routes.” The team also discovered that North America was colonized separately on both the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards, by evolutionary clusters of vastly different ages and genomic diversity levels. “Our results have stimulated discussions with zoo archeologists regarding the relationship between humans and rats, particularly relative to the spread of plague,” she said.

DISEASE TOLERANCE RESEARCH SPREADS TO THE UofM Grant Focuses on Animal Immune Systems Biological systems naturally fight disease in one of two ways: killing invading pathogens (resistance) or minimizing per-pathogen reductions in fitness (tolerance). Traditionally, research into animal diseases has focused on resistance. In contrast, Dr. Jim Adelman is pioneering research into the causes and consequences of tolerance. When Adelman joined the Department of Biological Sciences in fall 2019, he brought National Science Foundation support to explore how animal immune systems tolerate infections. By comparing distinct populations of a common North American songbird, his team investigates how tolerance arises at a continent-wide scale.

“Because a new pathogen emerged in house finches during the 1990s, this system provides an ideal way to study tolerance in wild animals,” Adelman said. In the 1990s, Mycoplasma gallisepticum, a bacterial pathogen of domestic poultry, jumped into house finches and started spreading across North America. “This allows us to compare populations with longer versus shorter histories with the pathogen, predicting that the finches have evolved tolerance over time.” Adelman and Dr. Amberleigh Henschen, a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Biological Sciences, have indeed found evidence consistent with this prediction. Moreover, their work has revealed a suite of immunerelated genes that likely promote tolerance.

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UofM Establishes Agriculture & Food Technologies Research Cluster As population and climate changes, so must the world’s approach to food production and related environmental challenges. That assertion is at the heart of the UofM’s newly established Agriculture & Food Technologies (Ag-Tech) Research Cluster, part of the FedEx Institute of Technology. “In fact,” said Dr. Duane McKenna, the cluster’s director, “the world’s population is estimated to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. This raises critical supply issues.” The cluster will engage in fundamental and applied research focused on improving innovation and efficiency in food production while protecting the environment. McKenna,


the William D. Hill Professor in Biology in the Department of Biological Sciences and founding director of the Center for Biodiversity Research, said this work will complement the research being done by the biodiversity center. “Agriculture is a $3.2 trillion industry that’s experiencing rapid change, driven in no small part by a growing awareness of its impacts on biodiversity and the biosphere,” he said. Ag-Tech cluster faculty include researchers with diverse interests spanning the biological sciences, chemistry, engineering, water resources, blockchain, logistics, nutrition and many more disciplines.


Sunflower Study Blooms in National Academy of Science Journal Sunflowers and their relatives make up one in every 10 flowering plant species. Some members of the sunflower family, like the Tennessee coneflower, are endangered; some, like dandelions, are weeds; and others, like echinacea, are used as medicinals. Many members of the family are economically important for agriculture, horticulture and industry; including artichoke, lettuce, gerbera daisies and chrysanthemums. Understanding the family tree of sunflowers will aid researchers in protecting rare species, combatting invasives, and discovering the natural benefits these plants have to offer.

We hope this study is the beginning of many collaborations and new research directions for the sunflower community.

Dr. Jennifer Mandel, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and assistant director for the Center for Biodiversity Research, has been studying sunflowers for years. Her publication in the prestigious PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America) titled “A Fully Resolved Backbone Phylogeny Reveals Numerous Dispersals and Explosive Diversifications Throughout the History of Asteraceae” takes a closer look at the genomic data of sunflowers. “The project started with a family tree of just 15 species, and this paper includes genomic data from more than 250 samples,” said Mandel. “It’s been a monumental effort to first obtain the DNA from all these species and then to generate and analyze the data for evolutionary studies.” In the study, funded by the National Science Foundation, Mandel and her colleagues used genomic data to reconstruct the family tree of sunflowers. Their work showed the family first originated near the end of the Cretaceous period about 80 million years ago when dinosaurs still walked the Earth. However, not until the Earth began to cool and habitats changed dramatically about 40 million years ago did the family begin to increase to the more than 25,000 species found today. The study was a collaboration among the University of Memphis, the Smithsonian Institute and Oklahoma State University. Co-authors included a research associate and graduate student in Mandel’s lab. Mandel said she is particularly proud to have collaborated with an excellent team of five female scientists and a Nepali graduate student. “We hope this study is the beginning of many collaborations and new research directions for the sunflower family,” she said. R E S E A R C H + I NNOVAT I ON | 41

ROOTING STEM IN RURAL AMERICA THE UofM’S CENTER FOR RESEARCH IN EDUCATIONAL POLICY PLAYS A PIVOTAL ROLE IN SMITHSONIAN SCIENCE EDUCATION CENTER EFFORTS NATIONWIDE As national education policy shifts, the Center for Research in Educational Policy (CREP) at the University of Memphis is conducting vital research and program evaluations to provide both schools and policy makers with up-to-date, relevant data they need to improve education in the twenty-first century. One key aspect of its mission is an ongoing relationship with the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC), which, according to CREP associate director Dan Strahl, has brought in almost $7 million to the University of Memphis through eight grants and contracts since 2010. Projects have been conducted in North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado.

CREP in Action

CREP is currently serving as a subawardee to the Smithsonian Science Education Center on a new $4.4 million five-year grant awarded to the SSEC by the U.S. Department of Education’s Education Innovation and Research program. The SSEC is bringing Smithsonian Science for the Classroom to more than 11,250 students in grades 3-5 in rural North Carolina and South Carolina in partnership with the North Carolina Science, Math and Technology Center and the South Carolina Coalition for Mathematics & Science. It’s CREP’s job to evaluate the effectiveness of the effort.

37 States

Although CREP has frequently collaborated as the third-party evaluator, it is the prime recipient of the ongoing LASER Focused OELA grant, where the SSEC serves as a sub-award partner. This unique relationship has worked to cement the center’s national reputation. “Our relationship with the SSEC has increased visibility not only with other sponsors, but also with federal funding agencies, What Works Clearinghouse, states and school districts,” Strahl said. “Better yet, it has given the center a valuable opportunity to bring our substantial skills and knowledge to bear to make a real difference in STEM-related education. And, of course, working with great partners always makes us better,” he said.

For project lead Dr. Christine Bertz, it’s an opportunity to do something she loves. “It’s always a privilege to work with the SSEC,” Bertz said, “and as someone whose degrees are in biology, I love STEM education work. This project is particularly exciting because this is our first opportunity to evaluate the SSEC’s newest curriculum, Smithsonian Science for the Classroom.” CREP’s evaluation process is comprehensive and rigorous, taking into account everything from improvements in student achievement to how the program meets the professional development needs of teachers. Bertz, Strahl and research assistant professor at CREP, co-PIs research associate professor Dr. Todd Zoblotsky are working to answer key questions using a combination of student test scores, teacher surveys, classroom observations, and teacher focus groups.

States shaded in dark blue are where CREP has conducted research and evaluations.


Ultimate Goals

“SSEC’s goal is to implement a high-quality intervention that improves teacher content knowledge, teacher pedagogical skill, curricular support, and student achievement in science, reading and math, especially for underserved students,” Bertz explained. “CREP’s goal is to determine whether it worked and why, to provide feedback to the SSEC that helps them continually improve their intervention, and to protect teacher and student privacy in the process.” “Ultimately, the hope is that this project will make it easier for students to successfully pursue

a career in STEM — especially students our system has let down in the past,” Bertz said. “That sort of impact doesn’t just have the potential to change students’ lives, but also the lives of their families, their communities, and society at large.” It’s a far-reaching institutional ambition, but it is also a personal one. “I distinctly remember things my third-grade science teacher said and did that affected the course of my career,” Bertz added. “Good teachers can change lives. That’s what I would hope for all students, and that’s what I hope work like this accomplishes.”

“CREP’s goal is to determine whether it worked and why, to provide feedback to the SSEC that helps them continually improve their intervention, and to protect teacher and student privacy in the process.”

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Baby Talk

Ground-breaking Research Redefines the Origin of Language in Infants It has been widely believed in pediatrics, developmental psychology, anthropology and primatology that human infants develop speech-like vocalizations from crying. But in a recent breakthrough paper published in Scientific Reports, the UofM’s Dr. D. Kimbrough Oller, professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and Plough Chair of Excellence, shows that this assumption is a far cry from what’s really going on in infant speech development. His study, “Preterm and Full-term Infant Vocalization and the Origin of Language,” shows that infants born prematurely and still in neonatal intensive care two months before their due dates produce hundreds of speech-like vocalizations every day, as soon as they are able to breathe on their own, independent from intubation. His article forms the basis for a new conception about the origin of language: that humans innately engage, as soon as they can breathe on their own, in active vocal exploration that 44 | U N IV ER S I T Y OF M E M PHIS

starts down the path toward language. Flexible vocalization in early infancy is necessary for all subsequent developments required by language. “Even in preemies recorded at 32 weeks gestational age, the rate of speech-like vocalizations is hundreds per day, while crying was found to occur at less than one-tenth that rate,” Oller said. “The study also reports longitudinal data from full-term infants from the first month through the end of the first year, demonstrating that speech-like vocalizations outnumbered cries throughout that time by a factor of about five.” Oller’s work is part of a collaboration between the University of Memphis and the Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, the teaching affiliate of Alpert Medical School at Brown University. It is based on random sampling and human coding of all-day recordings of infants in the hospital and at home. Other members of the UofM team include Dr. Dale Bowman, associate professor in Mathematical Sciences, and Dr. Eugene Buder, associate professor in the School of Communications Sciences and Disorders.

How Hearing Makes Us Feel

A Professor Studies the Emotional Effects of Hearing Loss and Restoration

About 30% of older adults have a hearing loss, and many use hearing aids. However, little research has been done to understand the emotional processing of patients who use them. According to Dr. Jani Johnson, assistant professor in the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, even mild to moderate hearing problems, typical of age-related hearing loss, can limit listeners’ abilities to recognize emotional content in speech and respond to sounds that other listeners find emotionally stimulating.

“This can have a profound effect on them psychologically, socially and emotionally,” Johnson said. “So can hearing restoration.” With funding from the Hearing Industry Research Consortium, Johnson is working to learn more about the emotional toll of hearing loss and how restoring hearing with hearing aids impacts the lives of patients. “I hope my research will help guide the development of hearing instrument technologies and treatment interventions that target emotion-based outcomes and ultimately increase hearing-related quality of life,” Johnson said.

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Harnessing Brain Noise A Professor Studies the Impact of Hearing Loss and Aging on the Brain

Cochlea (inner ear)

Normal nonlinearity

Bidelman directs the Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, where his team works to better understand the neural basis of auditory perception and cognition across the lifespan in both normal and clinical populations.

Brain response Strong


Hearing loss linear no distortion

Distortion (dBc)


study suggests that neural distortion produced by the auditory system might help doctors detect subtle changes in auditory function due to hearing loss before they arise in conventional audiological tests.

Distortion (dBc)

Dr. Gavin Bidelman, associate professor in the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, was awarded $296,259 from the National Institutes of Health for his project “Neuroimaging Biomarkers of Speech Processing Deficits in Mild Cognitive Impairment.” Another of his studies, “Brainstem Correlates of Cochlear Nonlinearity Measured via the Scalprecorded Frequency-following Response,” was a recent cover story in NeuroReport. That


Bidelman & Bhagat (2020)

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UofM Goes on the Offense to Win Department of Defense Grants From predicting performance of 3D-printed parts to enhancing the training of government workers, the UofM is helping the departments of Defense and Homeland Security keep America safe. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is a major supporter of research in all disciplines, and competition for its grants is intense among major research institutions. That’s why the UofM launched its own DoD Research Academy to give faculty the support they need to identify, apply for and win DoD support. “While the University of Memphis faculty have great success with the NSF and NIH,” Dr. Cody Behles explains, “the DoD is a largely untapped reservoir of potential funding for us and is key to growing our research capacity.” The University’s focus on DoD projects is already paying off.

Testing the Mettle of Metal

Additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, offers many advantages over traditional


manufacturing processes. It enables easy fabrication of metal parts with highly complex shapes and enables the integration of multiple parts without the need for welding or other joining processes. It also facilitates partson-demand, the on-site fabrication of replacement parts as needed. It’s no surprise, then, that the U.S. Department of Defense should want to explore the potential of this fabrication process.

sponsored by the Office of Naval Research.

That’s where two UofM researchers come in. Dr. Ali Fatemi, Ring Companies Endowed Professor and department chair of Mechanical Engineering, and Dr. Ebrahim Asadi, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Metal Additive Manufacturing Lab, were each selected for STTR (Small Business Tech Transfer Research) Phase 1 projects,

“Although additive manufacturing offers many advantages, it also introduces several challenges,” Fatemi said. “These include manufacturing process defects and residual stresses, causing distortion. Defects are of particular importance to fatigue performance because fatigue cracks often initiate from such defects and can eventually grow to fracture when subjected to repeated or cyclic load applications.”

Despite the high potential of AM technology, the fatigue life of AM components is often low compared to wrought components produced by conventional technology. For critical components, like those in airframe applications, developing a better understanding of fatigue performance is essential for further adoption of this technology.

Dr. Ebrahim Asadi (left) and Dr. Ali Fatemi (right) of Herff College of Engineering in the UofM’s new metal additive manufacturing lab. Asadi’s project involved developing a modeling tool to rapidly predict the surface finish of metal additively manufactured (AM) parts as a function of AM process parameters and to determine AM processing and path planning to achieve optimal surface finish. Fatemi’s project focused on creating a comprehensive toolset to predict fatigue life of flight-critical metallic components fabricated by additive manufacturing. Fatemi’s project was subsequently selected for Phase II funding.

A unique aspect of the STTR program is that it requires a partnership between small businesses and nonprofit research institutions. “The program requires a small business to formally collaborate with a research institution in Phase I and Phase II to bridge the gap between performance of basic science and commercialization of resulting innovations,” Asadi explained. For their projects, Fatemi and Asadi teamed up with


The equipment is an ultrasonic sieving machine made by a company named Gilsonic. It has several meshes varying from 15 µm to 60 µm placed in it. It is used to separate the metal powders with different sizes to identify size variations in the metal powders that are used for Metal Additive Manufacturing (MAM) in MAML. This information helps us to design the specific size variations of metal powders that result in a denser powder bed in the MAM machine. Denser powder bed leads to fewer defects and porosities in the additively manufactured components that in return means higher mechanical performance of the component.

Materials Resources, LLC, a leader in materials informatics. The company specializes in collecting and analyzing data about the quality of materials to help optimize design, manufacturing and business decisions. R E S E A R C H + I NNOVAT I ON | 49

Stepping Up

UofM’s STEP Receives Department of Homeland Security Under Secretary’s Award The Systems Testing Excellence Program (STEP) in the UofM’s FedEx Institute of Technology has worked with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on a number of fronts, from customizing training programs to conducting a major workforce skills and competencies study. The work has instilled confidence among DHS personnel and recently landed STEP an Under Secretary’s Award for science and technology from the DHS. Dr. Mark Gillenson, associate director of STEP and a professor in the Fogelman College of Business & Economics, has been instrumental in managing the effort. He believes the rigorous testing and evaluation protocols implemented by STEP are keys to success and play a big part in winning the award. “We are thrilled to partner with the Department of Homeland Security to help our nation create high-quality, state-of-the-art software systems that work,” Gillenson said. “DHS personnel have indicated the highest level of satisfaction with our training.” Founded in 2006 by Dr. Jasbir Dhaliwal, executive vice president for Research and Innovation, in partnership with FedEx, STEP is the country’s largest research-based academic research and training program in the important field of software testing. Several STEP programs, led by director of STEP Dr. Robin Poston, Graduate School dean and professor in the Department of Business and Information Technology, and Gillenson, have trained well over 1,000 software testing and software development professionals in Memphis-area companies. STEP has also conducted training programs for the U.S. Department of Defense.


Cyber Soldiers On a totally different DoD front, a joint effort of professors in the departments of Engineering Technology and Computer Science was awarded a grant to upgrade the technical training of the ROTC.

According to project lead Dr. James McGinnis, associate professor in Engineering Technology, the goal of this grant was to develop a technically sound ROTC program through the introduction of cyber security into the existing curriculum. “The grant,” he said, “will support the design, development and implementation of hands-on exercises based on the latest threats and social engineering attacks.” Once introduced into the existing ROTC curriculum, the exercises will train students to detect and predict evolving threats in the workplace and deploy the latest defense strategies and countermeasures. McGinnis noted that diversity is a priority. “Our project will also work to provide a support network for minority students within the program through advising, mentoring, networking, internships and more.” The project co-PI is Dr. Dipankar Dasgupta, William Hill Professor in Cybersecurity. Both professors are directors for the Center for Information Assurance. This grant was a part of that center’s mission to promote education and outreach in cyber security.

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THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE UofM Researchers Delve Deep Into One of the Region’s Most Vital Resources The Memphis area has some of the finest drinking water on the planet, thanks to the deep Memphis Sand aquifer, which stores an estimated 57 trillion gallons of water under Shelby County alone. Protecting the quality of this water is in everybody’s interest, and researchers at the University of Memphis are on top of it.

Aquifer Quest

UofM Center Works To Identify Groundwater Threats Dr. Brian Waldron, associate professor of the Department of Civil Engineering, is the director of the Center for Applied Earth Science and Engineering Research (CAESER). As such, he oversees a number of CAESER projects focused on water quality, including a $5 million, five-year contract with Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW) to conduct extensive research of issues affecting the area’s drinking water aquifer. Entering its third year, the study is focused on finding breaches in the protective clay layer above the aquifer, conducting subsurface mapping of the aquifer, and determining how water use patterns impact groundwater contamination around the

breaches. The aquifer lies, in part, 300 feet below the Wolf River. One aspect of the study has involved partnering with the Wolf River Conservancy to travel the river in canoes with seepage meters and measure the flow between the aquifer and the river to detect possible breaches under the river itself. “It’s important work,” said Waldron, “and we’re proud to have such a unique opportunity to help protect this invaluable resource.” Waldron noted that MLGW is paying for the study through a water rate increase, approved by the Memphis City Council. “It’s truly a community-wide commitment. We’re all in this together.”

Community Outreach

Education and outreach are also important components of the center’s projects. CAESER began working with West Tennessee farmers in 2019, building relationships and laying the groundwork to better understand the regional aquifer system. The University of Memphis Lambuth campus in Jackson, Tenn., acts as the base camp for CAESER’s many field excursions, building community awareness of the University’s presence in the area and desire to be a valued resource for citizens, elected officials and others. Field efforts focus on several areas around Milan, Tenn., where monitoring wells will be drilled and installed to help determine properties of the aquifer and investigate surface water-groundwater interaction. “CAESER’s aim,” Waldron said, “is to interact with the public and elected officials and educate them about their groundwater resources, the growing importance of groundwater in supporting agriculture in this region, and the potential for economic growth if this resource is managed correctly. These are all important pieces to the groundwater sustainability puzzle in West Tennessee.”


Agricultural Impact

As this work continues, Waldron has recently won a grant from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture to study farm irrigation practices, which may also affect the region’s water supply. “Agriculture relies heavily on groundwater to supplement rainfall for crop production,” explained Waldron. “Over the past decade, West Tennessee has seen a rapid increase in the number of installed irrigation wells, especially during and immediately after the 2012 drought experienced by the area. But groundwater is really a shared resource among agriculture, industry and municipal and private well owners. Therefore, water sustainability in the region is of utmost importance to the communities and economic development of the region.” CAESER played a key role in the development of the groundwater section in the State of Tennessee 2019 water plan called H20. “This current project,” Waldron said, “works to support five of the nine recommendations on groundwater from that plan.”

Study Goals »  Establishing an education curriculum that emphasizes the importance of groundwater in Tennessee » Establishing a monitoring well network to evaluate groundwater resource »  Better understanding groundwater use through irrigation »  Promoting best management practices that encourage conservation and sustainability of groundwater resources »  Determining recharge rates and avenues to key aquifers in West Tennessee

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From Farm to Tap

Multiple Studies by a UofM Researcher Seek To Improve and Protect Soil and Water Quality Dr. Maryam Salehi, assistant professor in Civil Engineering, is spearheading a number of important research initiatives to explore the intersection of pollutants, farmland and drinking water. Here are highlights of some of these studies.


Over the past few years, environmentalists and health professionals alike have increasingly focused their attention on microplastics and how they might affect human health and the health of our ecosystem. Microplastics are small pieces of plastic, no bigger than a sesame seed, that find their way into the environment. Much of it comes from the breakdown of larger plastic items. But some microplastics are the tiny manufactured polyethylene beads added to beauty products. Salehi and Dr. Farhad Jazaei, assistant professor in Civil Engineering, received a grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to learn more about the properties of microplastics in agricultural soil. The study, conducted in partnership with Agricenter International is titled “Microplastics Fate and Transport in Agricultural Soil System: Interrelation of Hydrodynamics, Chemistry and Material Sciences” and seeks to use a multidisciplinary approach to


broaden the knowledge about the fate of microplastics in farmland. According to Salehi, recent literature mostly quantifies the microplastics within the agricultural soil system and analyzes their disintegration by terrestrial organisms and microbial communities. “However,” she says, “our research will identify the interrelation between microplastics’ environmental degradation and its mobility within the agricultural soil.” The ultimate goal of the study is to help the public, farmers, industry stakeholders and policymakers better understand the sustainability and eventual fate of agricultural plastic products in the farmland. “The results will be illuminating for the plastic industries, as well as wastewater treatment plants and biosolid distributors, as it will show the possible long-term soil health impacts associated with implementation of their products,” she explained. “The hope is that policymakers will utilize this information to modify and

shape regulations and monitoring practices to sustain and improve a healthy and productive farm soil ecosystem. And farmers will be motivated to apply more efficient practices for the removal of plastic residuals after harvesting cycles and be more likely to engage in proper disposal or recycling.”

Industrial Runoff

In addition to her microplastics study, Salehi is investigating storm runoff contamination by industrial facilities to help further the U.S. Geological Survey’s mission to better understand how climate and landscape changes influence water resources. Specifically, she is looking at the impacts of storm water management practices on storm water quality. “This research will shed a light on the impacts of industrial activities on local creeks and streams and will inform state and federal regulatory decision making,” she said. While Salehi investigates how plastics affect soil and water, she is also investigating how lead in water deposits on plastic pipes.


Lead was among the principle concerns in Flint, Mich., and this poisonous environmental pollutant can be found in high concentrations in drinking water in many communities across the country. Lead in tap water, as was found in Flint, mainly originates from corrosion of lead pipes or fittings, but emerging evidence suggests that plastic polyethylene pipes in building plumbing (75% of new construction) could accumulate lead on their surface. “We do not fully understand how lead deposition on plastic pipes occurs, and learning more about this is critical to sustaining our public health,” Salehi explains. She and Dr. Shawn Brown, assistant professor in Biology, are using a grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate lead deposition onto and release from commonly used plastic potable water plumbing with an aim to better understand and control these processes and develop recommendations for healthier drinking water.

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UofM Professors Promote STEM Diversity to Meet the Needs of a Growing Workforce Achieving gender and racial equity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) isn’t just good for historically marginalized groups; it’s also good for the future of STEM itself. If STEM researchers come from a wider variety of backgrounds, research will be informed by a wider variety of perspectives and experiences, and solutions will be all the more robust. Two professors have recently received grants to help diversify STEM education at the University of Memphis and help bring more women and minorities to an ever-growing STEM workforce.


Seeking Equity Dr. Esra Ozdenerol, professor in Earth Sciences, believes the UofM needs to make a few changes in order to diversify STEM. “We need a strategic institutional investment in recruitment and retention activities, coordinated initiatives across the institution, and improvement of institutional processes to foster a culturally and gender-inclusive environment that promotes the advancement of STEM women faculty, especially underrepresented minorities,” Ozdenerol said. Her team has been awarded $1 million by the NSF ADVANCE program to implement a program Ozdenerol calls ASPIRED. “The goal of the National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE program is to systemically transform institutional practices and climate at universities and colleges in order to recruit, retain and promote women in science and engineering academic careers,” Ozdenerol said. “With ASPIRED, we plan to increase the representation and advancement of women in STEM careers at the UofM, thereby contributing to the development of a more diverse science and engineering workforce in the Mid-South and the nation.” Through the ASPIRED project, the UofM will adapt gender equity initiatives that have been tested and proven successful at other institutions. Recognizing that organizational change does not happen overnight, the NSF ADVANCE grant gives the University three years to adapt these programs and implement the changes that will lead to results. The ASPIRED team will be collecting and analyzing data throughout the project and will use internal and external evaluators to measure project’s progress. That team includes Dr. Firouzeh Sabri, Physics; Dr. Abby Parrill-Baker, Chemistry; Dr. Stephanie Ivey, Engineering; Dr. Amanda Rockinson-Szapkiw, Education; Dr. Carolyn Ransford Kaldon, CREP; Dr. Craig Stewart, Communication; and Jacob Allen, Theatre. ASPIRED will use multiple strategies to address four problems identified by STEM women faculty at the UofM: implicit bias, isolation,

ambiguity and inequality in career advancement, and poor work-life-family integration. Ozdenerol said there is a lot on the line. Although women comprise more than half the workforce, their STEM representation has gone in reverse. The trend is the same with minorities. This is at a time when STEM jobs are growing faster than any other U.S. sector. Available jobs in the field are set to increase 17% between 2014 and 2024, while non-STEM employment will grow just 12%.

The goal of the National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE program is to systemically transform institutional practices and climate at universities and colleges in order to recruit, retain and promote women in science and engineering academic careers. “Technology companies alone – led by giants like Facebook, Amazon and Apple – will need to fill more new jobs,” she said. “Two-thirds of these new hires will be STEM talent. Still, interest in this field is concentrated among White and Asian men, while the emerging workforce does not fit this demographic. In fact, nearly half of U.S. children are girls, and an increasing number are underrepresented minorities.“ But Ozdenerol is optimistic, especially with the ADVANCE grant in hand. “We look forward to making real change that can serve as an example for others in our region and across the country,” she said.

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Mentoring Underrepresented Minority Women Dr. Amanda Rockinson-Szapkiw, associate professor in the program of Instructional Design and Technology, was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in collaboration with the University of the District of Columbia for her two-year project “NSF HBCU-UP Broadening Participation Research Project: Virtual STEM Peer Mentorship Program.” A collaborative effort with two historically Black institutions, the University of the District of


Columbia and Bethune-Cookman University, the project extends a currently funded NSF pilot project and expands the development, implementation and evaluation of a virtual STEM peer mentorship program for underrepresented minority women (UMW) undergraduate students. “This project focuses on the development and efficacy evaluation of a Virtual STEM Peer Mentorship Program to assist UMW students in developing STEM knowledge, skills, and beliefs; and, ultimately to promote their STEM degree and career persistence. The overarching goal is to broaden the participation of UMW in STEM fields,” Rockinson-Szapkiw said.

UofM LANDS PROMINENT ASTROPHYSICIST Dr. Francisco Muller-Sanchez recently joined the UofM as an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Materials Science. He brought with him a passion for exploring the universe and its origins, especially the co-evolution of black holes and galaxies. He uses multi-wavelength data from the largest telescopes in the world and several NASA missions to measure the flow of material in the area surrounding an active galactic nucleus and in areas surrounding black holes and then compares the two. Muller-Sanchez, who received his PhD in Physics and Astronomy from the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich and worked at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, came from prior appointments at the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias in Spain, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Colorado, Boulder. Muller-Sanchez was the student of 2020 Nobel Prize winner Dr. Reinhard Genzel.

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Spotlight: The Institute for Intelligent Systems

Artificial Intelligence research and innovation at the University of Memphis is spearheaded by the Institute of Intelligent Systems, where researchers from many disciplines are seeking ways to improve machine learning in order to advance human learning and even to transform the education ecosystem as we know it. Over the past two decades, the IIS has brought in more than $100 million in external funding to conduct cutting-edge research that is making a global impact. Its researchers have published thousands of academic articles and mentored scores of PhDs.

system itself, one that is strong, continues to grow and is destined to last for decades to come. When and how did IIS get started? What was the original mission? Graesser: The IIS was informally launched in 1985 when a group of faculty in different departments had impromptu conversations on the nature of intelligence. What is the nature of intelligence in humans, animals, biology, social organizations and abstract information systems?

The dozen or so faculty and students had lunches in the A-Tan Chinese restaurant near campus How does such a research every Wednesday. We had a room powerhouse get started, how is with a round table, in the tradition its legacy being manifested, and of Chinese banquets, where we how might it impact society? discussed and debated on the Here, founder Dr. Art Graesser, nature of intelligence. The group emeritus professor of Psychology, included me (Psychology), Stan and director Dr. Alistair Windsor, Franklin (Computer Science), John associate professor of Mathematical Horgan (Philosophy) and Don Sciences, tell us about the origins Franceschetti (Physics). There of the IIS and how it has grown to were also other folks who ranged essentially become an intelligent from foreign language learning 60 | U N IV ER S I T Y OF M E M PHIS

to biology and business. The IIS fundamentally had a grassroots evolution. These lunches would continue for the next 15-20 years. In 1987, after numerous discussions with Stan Franklin, we submitted a formal document to the State of Tennessee to be recognized as an entity at the UofM, and we were eventually approved. How has it evolved since then? Graesser: Over the years we have evolved to encompass courses, graduate students, staff, IIS faculty members, budgets and so on. Windsor: Our interdisciplinary approach draws affiliates from a wide range of areas: Communication Sciences and Disorders, Psychology, English, Philosophy, Mathematics, Engineering, Public Health, Social Work and many others. Graesser: In the mid-1990s we were fortunate to receive some large grants to implement mechanisms of intelligence systems


in computer models and software. One prominent example was AutoTutor, one of my projects, an intelligent tutoring system that helps students learn about computer literacy or physics by holding a conversation in natural language with computer agents (virtual humans). Another system called IDA, and later LIDA (led by Stan Franklin), assigned Navy sailors to their next billet. These two grants opened the door to substantial external funding from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense and the Institute of Education Sciences. We became a national hub for developing computer environments that implement learning, language and discourse technologies. Some of these systems were sensitive to emotions in addition to cognition. By the turn of the millennium we were bringing in $3-5 million per year in grants and contracts. It’s been growing ever since, and the impact it now makes on a global scale is remarkable. How does the IIS compare to other AI centers?

By the turn of the millennium we were bringing in $3-5 million per year in grants and contracts. It’s been growing ever since, and the impact it now makes on a global scale is remarkable.

Windsor: We are much more focused on human-centric computing and, in particular, intelligent tutoring systems and educational data mining. The focus on discourse in our learning systems differentiates us from places building systems based on multiple choice or right/wrong answers. Tell us more about this focus on discourse. Windsor: Our discourse approach is founded on the Socratic teaching method but exploits the computer’s perfect recall of past behavior and ability to rapidly synthesize all this knowledge into a coherent model of the learner. With agent-based systems students are asked to participate in a situation combining a human student or human students with computergenerated students and possibly a computergenerated teacher. The human students discuss problems with the computer agents and listen to interactions between the computer agents. This mimics the way humans have evolved to learn. This method reduces the student’s anxiety since we can address misconceptions by having a computer student model them and a computer teacher address them. These discourses are particularly suited to scenario-based learning, now a mainstay of training from medical schools to colleges of education, but have also shown their ability to improve retention and transfer in such technical domains as algebra.

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Dr. Arthur Graesser

received $2.6 million of a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, in collaboration with Georgia State University, for his project “Understanding the Cognitive and Motivational Profiles of Struggling Adult Readers and Developing Effective and Engaging Literacy Programs to Address Their Literacy Learning Needs.”

Graesser: Absolutely. There have been dozens of systems that have been developed by IIS faculty beside me and Stan Franklin, including Xiangen Hu, Andrew Olney, Vasile Rus, Phil Pavlik and many others. There’s definitely a legacy. Today’s projects build on earlier developments, including the innovative DataWhys, created by Olney, which offers better ways to train scientists and the new Data Learner Institute (see “Teacher’s Aid”). Windsor: And then some earlier systems have continued to evolve, such as AutoTutor, which continues to show amazing learning gains. Graesser: One version is designed to help the 40-60 million struggling adult learners who don’t read deeply enough to get a decent job. There are 30 lessons with computer agents to teach comprehension skills (see adulted.autotutor.org). In a new $1.4 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (led by John Sabatini, previously at ETS), we are working with ProLiteracy (proliteracy.org) to have AutoTutor reach more than 1,000 adult literacy centers throughout the U.S. I also want to mention the nine-year partnership between the IIS and the U.S. Army in advancing the Generalized Intelligent Framework for Tutoring (GIFT, gifttutoring.org). Xiangen Hu is the leader on this IIS effort. GIFT develops open-source software that helps developers of intelligent tutoring systems build the


systems with faster speed and better quality. Each year, a book is published with 20-30 researchers on specific dimensions of ITS, such as learner modeling, training strategies, teams, data visualization or self-organizing systems. More than 200 researchers and thousands of developers have been part of the GIFT community. What about the teaching aspects of the IIS? Graesser: Many people assume that IIS is primarily involved in research. But we see ourselves equally involved in training students in 21st century skills such as collaborative problem-solving, communication, selfregulated learning, systems thinking and a concern for the ethical implications of our research. Our courses and weekly cognitive science seminar have exposed students to the hot new research and researchers in the world. But more fundamentally, students have been part of authentic research projects, collaborating with small groups of faculty, staff, postdocs and students to build computer learning environments, collect data from people, analyze data, write research reports, present at international conferences, and publish articles in journals and books. This prepares the students for jobs and placements in academia, business, nonprofit organizations and the government. Our students and postdocs have been very successful in getting jobs and advancing in their careers.

What do you think learning, both machine and human, will be like in 10 or 20 years? Windsor: The ability of computers to generate speech and inflection will approach human ability. We have computer-generated graphics now that are difficult to distinguish from reality. This offers huge opportunities for agent-based systems. Think of Alexa for learning. We have seen huge improvement in natural language processing in the last two years and we can only expect this area to improve in the next 10 years. The ability to understand and generate natural language is steadily increasing, though it remains a hard problem. Graesser: The agents will inspire collaboration, self-regulated learning and attention to emotions in addition to the tasks at hand. Also, the computer agent will track the learners’ performance, knowledge, skills, emotions and personality throughout their lives and offer recommendations after holding conversations with the learner on their life’s goals and potential opportunities. The IIS has already built a prototype of PAL3 (Personal Assistant for Lifelong Learning) on a Navy project in collaboration with the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California. What about challenges going forward? Windsor: Discussions about who controls our data and, in the educational context, the portability of data will become even more crucial. The IIS has been involved in both the SCORM and xAPI standards for learning data portability. Graesser: Yes. We need to solve the challenges of data sharing. Why is it that few people complain about Amazon tracking their preferences (with the system goal of selling products), but more folks have concerns about computers tracking their performance during learning and life (with the goal of helping them explore and achieve their goals)? There are complex ethical questions that need to be investigated.

Dr. Alistair Windsor became a faculty affiliate of the Institute for Intelligent Systems in 2012 and has served as its director since 2017.

Is there an easy way for the public to learn more or be involved in IIS? Windsor: Yes. IIS holds a Cognitive Science Seminar each week that’s open to the public. These events bring in major speakers from around the world and are held every Wednesday from 4-5 p.m. during the academic year. More information can be found at memphis.edu/iis.

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Al Gets Real |

Researchers Explore How to Imbue Deep Learning with Common Sense

In deep learning, computers often use Deep Neural Networks (DNNs) to layer data and machine learning algorithms to process that data and “learn” new skills. While humans bring with them background knowledge and common sense to learning something new, DNNs rely purely on the data they receive and not on background knowledge. This can lead to models that generalize poorly in real-world applications. That’s why Dr. Deepak Venugopal, assistant professor, and Dr. Vasile Rus, professor, of the Department of Computer Science are using a grant from the National Science Foundation to explore ways to incorporate background or common sense knowledge into the deep learning process. “It’s the foundation for next-generation machine learning algorithms,” Venugopal said.

Anatomy of Analysis

The goal is to combine DNNs with a symbolic AI model called Markov Logic Networks, which uses probabilistic logic and can encode complex background knowledge. The Markov Logic Networks will provide the DNNs with task-specific, interpretable background knowledge which will help them learn more efficiently and effectively. The team plans to demonstrate the realworld applicability of their techniques by using them to improve personalized learning in adaptive instructional systems. “This project will be a critical addition to the AI landscape, allowing us to incorporate richer background knowledge, intuitive psychology and common sense into machine learning models to tackle real world challenges,” Venugopal said.

MoFaCTS is Enhancing Comprehension and Retention for Anatomy and Physiology Students

Introductory anatomy and physiology courses are just the sort of challenges that trip up many community college students and prevent them from advancing in certificate or degree programs. The reason, according to Dr. Philip Pavlik, associate professor of Experimental Psychology, is that students often struggle to comprehend course texts or to connect concepts to a broader understanding of course content.

using a three-year $1.24 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences in collaboration with Southwest Tennessee Community College to further develop this online learning system.

To help them acquire knowledge better, Pavlik’s team is researching the use of adaptive practice to improve recall and understanding. At the center of this effort is their Mobile Fact and Concept Training System (MoFaCTS), a training program that has been evolving for some time. They are

“These exercises help students learn vocabulary and form mental representations of text content through testing-based practice with intelligent feedback,” he said.

According to Pavlik, MoFaCTS is designed to help increase student comprehension and retention of material through sequenced formative practice exercises.

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DataWhys: Enhancing Data Science Training The University of Memphis Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS) has secured a $3.4 million grant to create DataWhys, a tutor that will be integrated into professional data science software to support on-the-job data science training. The research team, led by Dr. Andrew Olney, professor in IIS and the Department of Psychology, believes DataWhys will address a big shortcoming in data scientist training. “While we know how to train people in statistics, programming and machine learning,” Olney pointed out, “we know very little about how to train people to integrate these disciplines in order to be effective data scientists.” In developing DataWhys, the team will advance understanding of how data science is learned and discover how to optimize that learning by identifying the most effective learning supports across a range of skill levels. The work will synthesize previous work in the related fields of statistics, programming and machine learning, each of which has used only a few of the learning supports and techniques that will be comprehensively investigated in this project. “It’s about understanding the deep prerequisite knowledge in these fields and how best to integrate them in an efficient training program for emerging data scientists,” Olney explained. To ensure and optimize the workforce relevance and usability of the training and to measure its impact in personal learning plans, the team has partnered with the data division of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Novartis as well as incorporated a summer internship for STEM majors from LeMoyne-Owen College.. The software and training materials developed by this grant will be freely shared to help train the next generation of data scientists. Co-PIs for this grant are Dr. Vasile Rus, professor in Computer Science; Dr. Scott Fleming, associate professor in Computer Science; Dr. Dale Bowman, associate professor in Mathematical Sciences; Dr. Andrew Tawfik, assistant professor in Instruction and Curriculum Leadership; and Dr. Natasha Sahr, senior principal biostatistician at Novartis.


Dr. Andrew Olney, professor in IIS and the Department of Psychology and principal investigator of DataWhys.

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A Fellowship-winning Professor Illuminates the Unique History of Memphis’ First Library Memphis’ first library wasn’t a public one. It was founded as the Cossitt Library in 1893 as a private philanthropic institution beholden to a board of trustees rather than to the city government or its citizens. It wasn’t until much later, explains Dr. Donal Harris, that the city took control of the Cossitt branches. Harris is a professor of English and director of the Marcus Orr Center for the Humanities at the UofM. “Memphis is unique among large metropolitan areas, even in the South, because it had no true public library until 1955,” Harris said. It would be many years later before it and other institutions became racially integrated. The 68 | U NIV E R S I T Y OF M E M PHIS

unusual history of the original library, still called the Cossitt branch by the Memphis Public Library, and its place in civil rights history attracted Harris and inspired an interactive project he calls “The Citizens of Cossitt,” which has won a prestigious fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Mellon Foundation. A collaboration between the University of Memphis and the Memphis Public Library (MPL), the project focuses on researching the history and reimagining the future of MPL’s first library. Guided by librarians at both institutions, the UofM research team will use MPL archives and special collections

to create public exhibitions and digital learning tools about the role of Cossitt Library in the city’s long civil rights history. Then, using public outreach surveys conducted by Cossitt staff, and in consultation with the UofM Benjamin Hooks Institute for Social Change, the project will develop training workshops and exhibition space for library patrons to produce their own physical and digital exhibitions about the library’s place in civic life. “‘Citizens of Cossitt’ provides the first systematic history of public libraries in Memphis,” Harris said.


New Support Program Helps UofM Authors Publish Their Work To encourage scholarship and growth of externally funded research in the areas of fine arts, humanities and social sciences, the Division of Research and Innovation has created a new research support program. Here are some of the most recent publications made possible by program funds, just a few of the or forthcoming works from UofM faculty. Beyond Conversation Collaboration and the Production of Writing


B E YO N D Conversation

“It is time to explore the limitations to our thinking about collaborative writing. William Duffy takes this on and offers a new theory—a viable theory—to help us continue thinking about collaborative writing, extending our view and also reviving attention to invention.”


Collaboration was an important area of study in writing for many years, but interest faded as scholars began to assume that those working within writing studies already “got it.” In Beyond Conversation, William Duffy revives the topic and connects it to the growing interest in collaboration within digital and materialist rhetoric to demonstrate that not only do the theory, pedagogy, and practice of collaboration need more study but there is also much to be learned from the doing of collaboration. While interrogating the institutional politics that circulate around debates about collaboration, this book offers a concise history of collaborative writing theory while proposing a new set of commonplaces for understanding the labor of coauthorship. Specifically, Beyond Conversation outlines an interactionist theory that explains collaboration as the rhetorical capacity that manifests in the discursive engagements coauthors enter into with the objects of their writing. Drawing on new materialist philosophies, post-qualitative inquiry, and interactionist rhetorical theory, Beyond Conversation challenges writing and literacy educators to recognize the pedagogical benefits of collaborative writing in the work they do both as writers and as teachers of writing.

No Future in This Country: The Prophetic Pessimism of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner

Chilean Cinema in the Twenty-FirstCentury World

Learner and User Experience Research: An Introduction for the Field of Learning Design & Technology

BConversation E YO N D Collaboration and the Production of Writing

WILLIAM DUFFY is associate professor of English and coordinator of the Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication Program at the University of Memphis. His scholarship has been published in Rhetoric Review, Composition Studies, College English, and Present Tense, as well as in various edited collections.

Cover photograph © Bashutskyy/Shutterstock.

William Duffy

William Duffy Utah State University Press, 2020 Collaboration was an important area of study in writing for many years, but interest faded as scholars began to assume that those working within writing studies already “got it.” In Beyond Conversation, Dr. William Duffy revives the topic and connects it to the growing interest in collaboration within digital and materialist rhetoric to demonstrate that not only do the theory, pedagogy and practice of collaboration need more study, but there is also much to be learned from the doing of collaboration. Duffy is associate professor of English and coordinator of the Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication Program. His scholarship has been published in Rhetoric Review, Composition Studies, College English and Present Tense, as well as in various edited collections.

Andre E. Johnson University Press of Mississippi, 2020 In this new history of the career of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner (1834–1915), Dr. Andre E. Johnson draws on the copious amount of material from Turner’s speeches, editorials, and open and private letters to demonstrate Turner’s rhetorical leadership during a period in which America defaulted on many of the rights and privileges gained for African Americans during Reconstruction. Unlike many of his contemporaries during this period, Turner did not opt to proclaim an optimistic view of race relations. Instead, Johnson argues that Turner adopted a prophetic persona of a pessimistic prophet who not only spoke truth to power, but in so doing, also challenged and pushed African Americans to believe in themselves. Johnson is an associate professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies in the Department of Communication and Film.

Vania Barraza Toledo, Editor Wayne State University Press, 2020 Funded by a grant from the UofM’s Division of Research and Innovation, Vania Barraza Toledo’s work brings together scholars from South and North America who focus on films from Chile since 2000. It is the first English-language book since the 1970s to explore this small, yet significant, Latin American cinema. The volume questions the concept of national cinemas by examining how Chilean film creates a dialogue with trends in genre-based, political and art house cinema around the world while remaining true to local identities. Toledo is a professor of Spanish and assistant editor for production for the journal Letras Hispanas. She has written more than 25 research articles on gender, literature and cinema.

Andrew Tawfik, Matthew Schmidt, Isa Jahnke, and Yvonne Earnshaw, Editors EdTech Books This open access, peerreviewed edited volume is focused on humancentered learning design that provides learners with experiences that intentionally propel them toward learning goals. Dr. Andrew Tawfik’s grantsupported book examines user experience (UX) and learner experience (LX) from the perspectives of usability and UX theory, phases and processes, methods and best practices. It contributes to the emerging, transdisciplinary and complex field of learning experience design in digital environments or online settings. The diversity and breadth of perspectives presented serve as a topographical sketch of the emerging focus area of LX and represent an opportunity to build upon this work in the future. Tawfik is an assistant professor in Instruction and Curriculum Leadership. R E S E A R C H + I NNOVAT I ON | 69

Still Life: Collected Music for Cello & Guitar by Stephen Goss

Disturbing Spirits Mental Illness, Trauma, and Treatment in Modern Syria and Lebanon

Shakespeare’s Queer Analytics: Distant Reading and Collaborative Intimacy in Love’s Martyr

Persistence through Peril: Episodes of College Life and Academic Endurance in the Civil War South


Shakespeare’s Queer Analytics

Patterson/Sutton Duo Parma Records, 2020 Still Life, performed by the Patterson/Sutton Duo, is a collection of works composed by Stephen Goss and is the result of Dr. Kimberly Patterson’s commitment to commissioning and discovering new chamber music works specifically for cello and guitar. The Patterson/Sutton Duo is one of the highest profile cello and guitar duos in the world. They were featured artists at the 2016 Guitar Foundation of America Convention and have an ongoing relationship with The Juilliard School as Juilliard Global Visiting Artists concertizing throughout Vietnam, Hungary, Slovakia and Ireland. The Patterson/ Sutton Duo has been featured on Performance Today/American Public Media, Radio New Zealand, and Fine Music Radio South Africa, among many media outlets. Patterson is assistant professor of Cello and a member of the Ceruti Quartet.

Distant Reading and Collaborative Intimacy in Love’s Martyr

Don Rodrigues

Beverly A. Tsacoyianis Notre Dame Press, 2021 The concept of mental health treatment in wartorn Middle Eastern nations is painfully understudied. In Disturbing Spirits, Dr. Beverly A. Tsacoyianis blends social, cultural and medical history research methods with approaches in disability and trauma studies to demonstrate that the history of mental illness in Syria and Lebanon since the 1890s is embedded in disparate – but not necessarily mutually exclusive – ideas about legitimate healing. Tsacoyianis examines the encounters between Western psychiatry and local practices, and argues that the attempt to implement “modern” cosmopolitan biomedicine for the last 120 years has largely failed – in part because of political instability and political traumas and in part because of narrow definitions of modern medicine that excluded spirituality and locally meaningful cultural practices. Tsacoyianis is an associate professor in the Department of History.


Don Rodrigues Bloomsbury Publishing, Arden Shakespeare Studies, 2021 Dr. Don Rodrigues’ new book provides an original and muchneeded methodological intervention in computational attribution studies focused on Shakespeare’s participation in Robert Chester’s Love’s Martyr (1601). It integrates the insights of queer theory while developing a compelling account of how collaborative textual production occurred in a non-dramatic context during the early modern period. In the process, this book articulates what it calls queer analytics: an approach to literary analysis that posits that queer and computational methods not only intersect in practice, but also share similar interpretive strategies, highlighting patterns that more traditional readings overlook or ignore. Rodrigues is an assistant professor in the Department of English.

Eric Platt and Holly Foster, Editors University Press of Mississippi To date, most texts regarding higher education in the Civil War South focus on the widespread closure of academies. In contrast, Dr. Eric Platt’s Persistence through Peril: Episodes of College Life and Academic Endurance in the Civil War South brings to life several case histories of Southern colleges and universities that persisted through the perilous war years. Contributors tell these stories via the lived experiences of students, community members, professors, and administrators as they strove to keep their institutions going. Through detailed archival research, the essays illustrate how some Southern colleges and universities endured the deadliest internal conflict in US history. Platt is associate professor of higher and adult education and chair of the Department of Leadership at the University of Memphis.

ACCOLADES Dr. Allen Carrion

Dr. Max Paquette

Dr. Allen Carrion, assistant professor of Department of Finance, received a one-year appointment to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission as an academic consultant.

Dr. Max Paquette, associate professor in the College of Health Sciences received American College of Sports Medicine fellowship (2020), an elite member status for long-term professional members who have provided significant service to ACSM. Paquette was also awarded the 2020 Tennessee Science Educator of the Year for Higher Education by the Tennessee Science Teachers Association.

Dr. Aram Dobalian Dr. Aram Dobalian, professor and director of the Division of Health Systems Management and Policy, was appointed a member of National Academy of Medicine Committee on Best Practices for Assessing Mortality and Morbidity Following Large-Scale Disasters in April 2019.

Dr. Kathryn Howell Dr. Kathryn Howell, associate professor in Psychology, recently began a three-year appointment to the American Psychological Association Committee on Children, Youth and Families.

Dr. Stephanie Ivey Dr. Stephanie Ivey, associate dean for research in the Herff College of Engineering and professor of Civil Engineering, was named the 2020 Wilbur S. Smith Distinguished Transportation Educator Award recipient by the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE). This award is ITE’s highest academic honor and recognizes a person who has made an outstanding contribution to the transportation profession by relating academic studies to the actual practice of transportation.  

Dr. Irena Lasiecka Dr. Irena Lasiecka, Distinguished University Professor and chair of the Department of Mathematical Sciences, was selected to be an Eisenbud Professor in the program “Mathematical Problems in Fluid Dynamics” to be held at the University of California, Berkeley, during the spring 2021 semester. She also made history when she was honored with the 2019 Richard E. Bellman Control Heritage Award, the first to go to a woman in the award’s 40-year existence.

Dr. Chrysanthe Preza Dr. Chrysanthe Preza, Kanuri Professor and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, was recently elected as a Fellow of the Society by the board of directors of the Optical Society (OSA). As an OSA Fellow, Preza joins a distinguished group of members who have served the society and the optics and photonics community. The number of Fellows is limited by the society’s bylaws to be no more than 10% of the total OSA membership, and the number elected each year is limited to approximately .5% of the current membership total.

Dr. Jamin Speer Dr. Jamin Speer, associate professor in Department of Economics, was appointed a Research Fellow of the IZA (Furschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit) Institute for Labor Economics, which is associated with the University of Bonn.

Dr. Sarah Warren Dr. Sarah Warren, assistant professor in the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, is the recipient of the 2020 Distinguished Early Career Professional Certificate from the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association. 

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$40.8M $29.7M





$4.89M DoEd

$25.22M $6.76M NIH










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Profile for University of Memphis

University of Memphis 2021 Research + Innovation Magazine  

Research at the University of Memphis is making an impact on a local, national and international level. The research culture at the Universi...

University of Memphis 2021 Research + Innovation Magazine  

Research at the University of Memphis is making an impact on a local, national and international level. The research culture at the Universi...