Five state re­searchers to re­ceive $75,000 grants from al­liance

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - MICHAEL R. WICKLINE

Five re­searchers in Arkansas will each re­ceive $75,000 grants over three years un­der the Arkansas Re­search Al­liance’s fel­lows pro­gram to rec­og­nize univer­sity re­search lead­ers, of­fi­cials said Thurs­day.

The re­search al­liance is a pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship that says it in­vests in and con­cen­trates on re­search that stim­u­lates in­no­va­tion, en­cour­ages col­lab­o­ra­tion and strength­ens op­por­tu­nity.

“This is a good ex­am­ple of the pri­vate sec­tor part­ner­ing with the state to en­hance re­search in this state with our higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions that are work­ing to­gether,” Gov. Asa Hutchin­son said at news con­fer­ence in the governor’s con­fer­ence room.

Lau­rence Alexan­der, chan­cel­lor at the Univer­sity of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, said one of the re­search al­liance’s five new fel­lows is Re­becca Lochmann, in­terim chair­man and di­rec­tor of the Aqua­cul­ture and Fish­eries Cen­ter of Ex­cel­lence at UAPB.

“Early on, Dr. Lochmann fo­cused on es­tab­lish­ing nu­tri­ent re­quire­ments and feed­ing regimes for golden shin­ers and other bait­fish species be­cause of Arkansas’ No. 1 rank­ing in bait­fish pro­duc­tion,” he said. “When the U.S. cat­fish in­dus­try was chal­lenged with com­pe­ti­tion from for­eign im­ports and high feed costs, Dr. Lochmann redi­rected her re­search to­ward cost-ef­fec­tive al­ter­na­tive feed in­gre­di­ents to help farm­ers main­tain their prof­itabil­ity.”

Asked whether the grant is con­sid­ered small in re­search cir­cles, Lochmann said the grant is to­tally un­ex­pected be­cause she didn’t ap­ply for it, “so any­thing ex­tra is al­ways good.”

“We’re at a point with our fund­ing cy­cles that I’ll prob­a­bly put it to­ward a grad­u­ate stu­dent or a per­son to­ward a post-[doc­tor­ate] and try to bring in match­ing funds. But it is a very nice bonus and that’s the way I look at it and it’s also an honor,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials for these in­sti­tu­tions, the al­liance’s four other new fel­lows are:

■ Lau­rent Bel­laiche, a dis­tin­guished pro­fes­sor in the Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville’s depart­ment of physics and In­sti­tute for Nanoscience and En­gi­neer­ing. His group car­ries out re­search in the field of com­pu­ta­tional con­densed mat­ter physics.

■ Tansel Karaba­cak, pro­fes­sor of physics and astron­omy at the Univer­sity of Arkansas at Lit­tle Rock. His re­search fo­cuses on the prop­er­ties and ap­pli­ca­tions of nanos­truc­tured and thin film ma­te­ri­als. ■ Merle G. Paule, di­rec­tor of the Divi­sion of Neu­ro­tox­i­col­ogy and a se­nior bio­med­i­cal re­search sci­en­tist at the Na­tional Cen­ter for Tox­i­co­log­i­cal Re­search — a U.S. Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion lab in Jef­fer­son County. Paule has played a role in de­vel­op­ing an au­to­mated sys­tem for mon­i­tor­ing mul­ti­ple com­plex brain func­tions in chil­dren, non­hu­man pri­mates and ro­dents. ■ Mark Smeltzer, pro­fes­sor in the depart­ment of mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy and im­munol­ogy and di­rec­tor of Cen­ter for Mi­cro­bial Patho­gen­e­sis and Host In­flam­ma­tory Re­sponses at the Univer­sity of Arkansas for Med­i­cal Sci­ences.

His re­search fo­cuses on in­fec­tions caused by the bac­te­rial pathogen Staphy­lo­coc­cus au­reus with a par­tic­u­lar em­pha­sis on those in­fec­tions in­volv­ing or­tho­pe­dic de­vices. He also serves as the pro­gram di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter of Bio­med­i­cal Re­search Ex­cel­lence that’s funded with an $11 mil­lion grant from the U.S. In­sti­tute of Gen­eral Med­i­cal Sci­ences to pro­mote the ca­reers of new in­ves­ti­ga­tors and build the in­fec­tious re­search ca­pac­ity at UAMS and across the na­tion.

These five new fel­lows in­crease the re­search al­liance’s ranks of fel­lows to 14, ac­cord­ing to the al­liance.

The al­liance also has a schol­ars pro­gram that started in 2010 to help the state’s re­search uni­ver­si­ties re­cruit su­pe­rior tal­ent, said al­liance board Chair­man Sonja Hub­bard, who also is chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of E-Z Mart Stores Inc. The al­liance’s board of direc­tors in­cludes busi­ness lead­ers who con­trib­ute their time and money to help fund the al­liance, she said.

Since fis­cal 2010, the state has pro­vided $8.3 mil­lion to the re­search al­liance, in­clud­ing $1.1 mil­lion in fis­cal 2017, ac­cord­ing to state Depart­ment of Fi­nance and Ad­min­is­tra­tion spokesman Scott Hardin. Ac­cord­ing to the al­liance’s lat­est avail­able tax re­turn, the al­liance re­ceived govern­ment grants of $1.21 mil­lion, $521,026 from FDA con­tracts and $265,000 from mem­ber­ship dues. The al­liance had to­tal ex­penses of $1.6 mil­lion in 2014.

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