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.
|Researchers such as Orges Furxhi have helped the U of M to a higher research tier.
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
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.