In the News

Featured Researcher: Firouzeh SabriDr Sabri

Connections, February 2013

Dr. Firouzeh Sabri, assistant professor of physics, began the aerogel research laboratory in the Department of Physics in 2007. Aerogels are highly porous, incredibly light weight solid materials with unique and modifiable properties that have demonstrated superior thermal, electrical, and acoustic insulation capabilities. They show great promise for future applications in a variety of industries such as  medical devices, fuel, and automotive. One of Dr. Sabri’s current research projects is to develop a device that uses electrical stimulation and aerogel materials to specifically guide the reattachment of severed ends of damaged nerves. Early studies show that this aerogel material can be used as an implanted device because it is not rejected by the body. The device, once fully completed, will enable repair of nerves across large gaps.  Dr Sabri’s other funded research focuses on the thermal insulation capabilities of aerogels, as well taking advantage of the high internal surface area of aerogels for designing smart materials. She has a Ph.D. degree from the University of Cambridge, Cavendish Laboratory. Her career has taken her from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California to the National Institutes of Health, and to the University of Florida before she joined the University of Memphis. She is a recipient of the ORS (Orthopedic Research Society) award, Nuffield Foundation award, and APS Hildred Blewett award. Dr. Sabri is the director of MemphisCRESH (College Research Experience for Students in High School).



Dr. HuGrant Awarded for Intelligent Tutoring System

Connections, February 2013

Dr. Xiangen Hu is an internationally-recognized leader in artificial intelligence-based intelligent tutoring systems. He is the principal investigator on several recent grants on which he collaborates with other University of Memphis faculty in Psychology and Computer Science. He is a professor in the Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS) which is housed in the FedEx Institute.

One of these grants, for $1.5M is titled "Shareable Knowledge Object Portable Environment for Intelligent Tutoring (SKOPE-IT)". One of only four awards nationally for the Office of Naval Research STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) challenge, this project will integrate IIS tutoring technologies to produce a robust learning technology that will incorporate many learning technologies developed by IIS. The new system will be a web-based intelligent tutoring system. This system will be able to translate existing content (content from text books or lecture notes, for example), into software that can drive the interactions of an animated agent (aka "talking head") with the human student. Previously, this translation from text to computer tutor required a significant amount of time and tedious work. The system will be modular and based on the shareable knowledge object concept. The SCO was developed at the U of M and allows this technology to act as a platform for creating learning modules that can be threaded together and reused by future learning systems.



Max Louwerse Leads Study of Language and Maps

Connections, November 2012

In an article recently published in the journal Cognitive Science (“Representing spatial structure through maps and language: Lord of the Rings encodes the spatial structure of Middle Earth”) U of M researchers demonstrated that using the text of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, a computer can predict the authentic longitude and latitude of the 32 fictional cities in Middle Earth. With his colleagues, Max Louwerse, lead author of these studies and professor in the Department of Psychology and the Institute for Intelligent Systems also tested whether the computer’s geographical predictions were on par with human predictions. Using the fictional text, the researchers conducted an experiment to determine whether humans rely on language or maps or both for their geographical knowledge. 

One group of participants who had never read Lord of the Rings was asked to study the map of Middle Earth for 20 minutes and then mark the locations of the 32 cities on a blank map. Another group who had read the books was given a blank map and asked to draw the locations of the 32 cities on the map. The geographical estimates of both groups were very good. Louwerse explained that the computer got its information only from the text, using the idea that if words co-occur in the text, they co-occur geographically. If humans do something similar, the estimates of participants in the book-reading group are expected to correlate more with the computer estimates than with the actual map coordinates, and the estimates of the participants of the map-reading group are expected to correlate more with the actual coordinates in Middle Earth than the computer estimates. This is indeed what the experiment showed, participant text-based estimates correlated best with computer estimates, participant map-based estimates correlated best with the map predictions.

The findings tell something about how the human mind works. Language encodes lots of information in a very subtle way. Computer models are able to extract such information. The experiments suggest that these subtle encodings are used by language users in understanding language and the world around them. The findings benefit research in cognitive science, computer science, linguistics, engineering, and geography. This study, together with studies that predict geographical locations in the US, China, Middle East, using newspaper articles in English, Chinese and Arabic, have led to a research project funded by the CIA.



License Agreement Granted for U of M-Developed Water Testing Device

UofM News, March 2012

Foundation Instruments, Inc. and the University of Memphis Research Foundation (UMRF) have signed an exclusive license agreement for novel technologies that will enable more rapid and less expensive testing for cancer-causing impurities in drinking water supplies. Read more..



Research institutions drive development

The Commercial Appeal, March 2012

To be competitive globally, many U.S. companies, from startups to Fortune 500 firms, rely on new technologies invented by our nation's universities to fuel their next-generation products. In 2010 alone, technologies from U.S. universities and research institutes have been turned into 657 new products and 651 new startup companies.

A specific example illustrates the power of university research in the development of innovative products. In the 1980s, Dr. Thomas Maren, a professor at the University of Florida, discovered a new drug that solved a significant problem: protecting patients from vision loss caused by glaucoma. Read more…



Infusion DeviceInfusion device gets $1.47 million Army grant

Memphis Business Journal, January 2012

A partnership between University of Memphis and University of Tennessee Health Science Center professors has resulted in a $1.47 million grant from the U.S. Army and the birth of a new company.

Infusense, a company launched by Ed Chaum, professor of retinal disease with UTHSC, and Erno Lindner, a professor of biomedical engineering at U of M, is working to create an automated delivery system for Propofol, a powerful anesthesia used in more than 70 million surgeries and procedures around the country every year. Read more…

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