University of Memphis Magazine
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Summer 11 Features


100 years and going strong
Sporting an attitude
These times they are a-changin'

Legend of the fall

The Columns: Alumni Review
Club and Chapter News
"Tigers Around Town" make
splashy debut

In Memoriam

The Columns: Alumni Review
A gallery of presidents, from past to present
Centennial reflections
Looking back: Centennial timeline

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U of M remains on research fast track

Researchers such as Orges Furxhi have helped the U of M to a higher research tier.
Researchers such as Orges Furxhi have helped the U of M to a higher research tier.
In remote mountains of eastern Chile, University of Memphis geologist Robert Smalley ponders data from the devastating earthquake of 2010 that registered as one of the largest tremors of all time, information that will be used to predict future quakes. Thousands of miles away, archaeologist Lorelei Corcoran combs through a tomb in Egypt that may rank as the most important find since King Tut’s was unearthed. Closer to home, engineering professors Joel Bumgardner and Warren Haggard are perfecting an antibiotic delivery system that will save lives on battlefields.

In the past two decades, the U of M has become one of the nation’s top research institutions after opening in 1912 as a school that solely trained teachers. How did the U of M get there?

In the 1960s, Tennessee legislators designated the newly named Memphis State University as the second graduate research university in the state.

“That was part of the plan in terms of how this University was to grow,” said Ralph Faudree, provost for the U of M. “After that occurred, there were different hiring patterns at the University.”

A goal of U of M President Thomas Carpenter when he arrived in 1980 was to make the University one of the top research centers in the nation by the end of the century.

Carpenter aggressively approached the goal by adding the Centers of Excellence and Chairs of Excellence programs in the mid-1980s. These are designed to attract top researchers and faculty. They focus on such diverse areas as psychological and communication disorders, law, accounting, real estate, ancient Egyptian studies, teacher education and earthquake information.

“All of those have a research base and bring in external funding and support,” Faudree said. “That was also a factor in changing the University to a research institution.”

The U of M has 26 Chairs of Excellence, the most in the state.

Collaboration among departments, which current President Shirley Raines has emphasized, has become front and center at the U of M. The FedEx Institute of Technology, considered the top research center in the Mid-South, has aided in this collaboration with an interdisciplinary research approach since it opened in 2004.

Computer science professor Stan Franklin said students remain a focal point.

“We’ve gone to research, but we haven’t given up on the teaching, and we do a better job with that than any other place I know,” he said.

In 2006, the U of M became one of only 62 colleges and universities in the nation and two in Tennessee to be designated with the Carnegie Foundation’s new classification of “Community Engaged” universities. The U of M is grouped in the “Curricular Engagement and Outreach Partnerships” classification, the highest of the three levels.

The U of M has garnered publicity in other ways. The Center for Earthquake Research and Information is routinely called upon by agencies worldwide to provide guidance after earthquakes. Computer science professor Santosh Kumar was recently named one of 10 up-and-coming researchers in the nation for his work in wireless technology by Popular Science. Psychology professor Art Graesser and his collaborators have attracted international attention for their work in artificial intelligence, including an artificial tutoring device that can carry on conversations with students.

Some of the more important research milestones include: 1976, opening of the first shared, core research facility, the Integrated Microscopy Center; 1994, the U of M is designated as a Carnegie Foundation Doctoral Granting Research University I; 2007, U of M surpasses $50 million in annual research awards while establishing the Office of Technology Transfer; and 2010, Memphis Research Consortium is established.

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Last Updated: 1/23/12