2023 Research Projects and Media News

Dursun Peksen GrantDursun Peksen Receives Nearly $800K Grant From National Science Foundation

July 20, 2023 — Dr. Peksen, a professor of political science at the University of Memphis, has received a $795,576 grant from the National Science Foundation for his project, “Government-imposed Restrictions on International Economic Relations.”

The three-year project will put together a new cross-national dataset on international sanctions by the United States, European Union and the United Nations from 1992-2022. Peksen will serve as the co-PI with Timothy Peterson of Arizona State University.

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Mississippi Delta homeEvaluations of Health and Educational Interventions

In July 2023, the Center for Community Research and Evaluation (CCRE), directed by sociology professor Dr. Wesley James, received a three-year, $2.2 million award from regional partner Delta Health Alliance (DHA). The award, “Evaluation of Health and Educational Interventions”, continues a long partnership between CCRE and DHA. Since 2015, CCRE social scientists have worked closely with DHA to improve health care, educational, and economic outcomes in the Mississippi Delta.   

DHA has over 30 programs across the lifespan that collectively aim to reduce health and socioeconomic disparities in a historically disadvantaged region. CCRE has served as the primary external evaluation team supporting DHA’s programming. After collaboratively developing assessment tools and data collection strategies, CCRE researchers lead external evaluations that help DHA measure and quantify their programs’ impact, which can be leveraged for additional funding, as well as identify areas of program improvement. Evaluation reporting feeds into DHA’s results-based accountability model, which ensures that programming decisions are data-driven and lead to measurable impact. 

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Dr. Lasiecka at ECMI Conference photoLasiecka Delivers Plenary at International ECMI Conference
The European Consortium for Mathematics in Industry (ECMI) conferences aim to enforce the interaction between academy and industry, leading to innovations in both fields.

Dr. Irena Lasiecka, distinguished university professor and the chair of the Department of Mathematical Sciences, has delivered a plenary lecture at the 22nd ECMI [European Consortium of Mathematics and Industry] conference on Industrial and Applied Mathematics, 26-30 June, Wroclaw, Poland. Her talk entitled, “Can we control a flutter in flow-structure interactions?” was one of the nine plenary talks with over 350 participants at the conference (see the poster) and the ECMI2023 website (https://ecmi2023.org/). During the conference, she was also recognized as the laureate of the Steinhaus Prize in Mathematics awarded by the Polish Society of Mathematics. For more information, contact Lasiecka at lasiecka@memphis.edu.

Conference Summary  |  Full Media Release


Black Holes ResearchUnderstanding Black Holes in Galaxies

Dr. Francisco Müller-Sánchez, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Materials Science, has been awarded over $250,000 in grants from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the James Webb Space Telescope to continue his research on galaxy formation and evolution.

Müller-Sánchez’s research interest ranges from the physical properties of active galactic nuclei (AGN) and nuclear star clusters to the role of supermassive black holes (SMBHs) in galaxy evolution. There may be more monstrous black holes in the universe than previously thought. Muller-Sanchez states, “Continuing to focus on galaxy mergers and the cosmic evolution of the relations between the central black hole and its host galaxy is very important.”  Working on physics and astronomy to better understand that all galaxies in the universe have a supermassive black hole at the center.  Some recent results suggest that black holes strongly influence the physical processes occurring in galaxies. UofM Media Release >>

Earthquake ResearchEarthquake Research with Worldwide Impacts

Dr. Eunseo Choi, associate professor in the Center for Earthquake Research and Information (CERI), has received funding for his project, "Viscoelastic numerical modeling of crustal deformation in the Korean Peninsula after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake," as part of a collaboration with the Korea Institute of Geoscience And Mineral resources (KIGAM) of South Korea.

In this 3-year project, the research team seeks to characterize the post-seismic deformations in South Korea by analyzing the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) data. The 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake of Mw (a released energy-based magnitude scale) 9.0 caused detectable surface deformations in a wide region in East Asia, including South Korea. They derive a velocity field from the GNSS data and analyze its spatial and temporal variations and then construct numerical models that simulate time-dependent displacements due to a slip model for the Tohoku earthquake. By comparing the observed post-seismic deformation fields with the modeled ones, the team will be able to infer the rheological properties of the crust and the lithosphere in the KP. Those properties can be further related to the past and future seismicity of South Korea. Full Details >>

Dasgupta and Parish receive Fulbright ScholarshipsUniversity of Memphis' Dasgupta & Parish Receive Fulbright U.S. Scholar Awards for 2023-24

June 6, 2023 — The University of Memphis is pleased to announce that Prof. Dipankar Dasgupta and Dr. Ryan Parish have received Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program awards in Computer Science to Iceland for a semester and in Archaeology to Chile, respectively, during the 2023-24 academic year from the U.S. Department of State and the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Dasgupta’s Fulbright Iceland-National Science Foundation (NSF) Distinguished Scholar Award in Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure is one of the most prestigious appointments in the Fulbright Scholar Program. This is awarded to a senior academic scholar who has significant research achievements and educational experience in their discipline or area of expertise. Distinguished Scholars are expected to actively engage host country institutions in a spirit of promoting mutual understanding and sharing knowledge.

“I expect that my visit to Iceland will facilitate collaborative research in critical areas of national interest, bring international visibility and advance UofM’s initiatives on Global programs, research and outreach,” said Dasgupta.

Parish will be conducting collaborative research on ancient hunter-gatherer groups in the Andes Mountains in addition to teaching graduate archaeology students at the Universidad del Tarapaca.

“The Fulbright Award is a fantastic opportunity to join my South American colleagues in conducting collaborative research, experiencing new landscapes, enjoying a unique culture and sharing these memories with my wife and children,” said Parish. “The methods and techniques I will teach them will allow future researchers to analyze stone tools and study resource selection, use and distribution along the coast and into the Atacama Desert.” Full Details on the Award >>

Soybeans, Charcoal Rot and SolutionsSoybeans, Charcoal Rot and Solutions

Dr. Shawn Brown, assistant professor of Biological Sciences, was recently awarded a renewal grant from the Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board to investigate a major soybean pathogen toward the development of alternative soybean breeding targets. This project, “Impacts of charcoal rot (Macrophomina phaseolina) epidemiology on drought resistant soybean cellular metabolism and accompanying tissue microbiome for identifying alternative breeding targets under increasing environmental stress,” is in collaboration with Mississippi State University.

One of the major concerns for soybean producers is yield loss due to plant disease. One of the most problematic diseases of soybean is charcoal stem rot, caused by the fungal plant pathogen Macrophomina phaseolina(MP). This pathogen is directly responsible for yield losses of over 40 million bushels annually in the Unites States. Read UofM Release >>

Gambling Addiction ResearchNew review finds the benefits of a widely-used treatment for gambling problems may be overstated

29 June, 2023 - Lead author Dr. Rory Pfund of the University of Memphis suggests that some of the shortcomings of the 29 gambling studies can be blamed on the overall lack of funding for gambling research across several countries. For example, in the US: “No US federal agency funds programs to address gambling disorder. Total state funds for gambling treatment centers and program evaluations were limited to $14 million in 2016. That amount is about 4,000 times smaller than the $550 million of federal funds available for alcohol research and about 13,000 times smaller than the $1.8 billion available for drug research in 2022.” Read Article >>

PTSD ResearchPost-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Research on blood-based biomarkers for diagnosing PTSD

Led by PI Dr. Francis Doyle at Harvard University and in collaboration with researchers at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) and the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), Dr. Bernie Daigle, associate professor in the department of Biological Sciences and Computer Science, was recently awarded funding (as a subcontractor to Harvard) from the U.S. Army Research Office for his project, "Robust PTSD diagnosis through refinement of candidate biomarker panels.”

This funding will support ongoing efforts in the Daigle Lab at the University of Memphis to identify blood-based biomarkers for the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a debilitating condition which develops in some individuals following trauma exposure, often causing flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety. It is one of the most common psychiatric disorders, with a lifetime occurrence rate of 6-7% in the United States. Impact Newsletter >>

Dr. Xiaolei Huang, Machine LearningNSF Funds Research for Improved Modeling

Dr. Xiaolei Huang, assistant professor in Computer Science, has received a CRII award from the National Science Foundation for his project "CRII: III: Metadata-guided Imbalance-Modeling for Robust Computational Healthcare." 

The project focuses on the idea that imbalance naturally exists in health data from text messages to electronic health records, which dampens the reliability, robustness, and trustworthiness of building computational healthcare models. This project proposes novel learning strategies that guide imbalance modeling by metadata and incorporate the varied imbalance patterns to promote model robustness. This project will examine and evaluate the proposed framework on a variety of health data by 1) new settings on different metadata factors and 2) effects and sensitivities of metadata factors for imbalance learning. Specific deliverables include developing a novel meta-learning toolkit with broad utility and educational activities to train the next-generation computational healthcare workforce. UofM Article >>

Dr. Lan Wang Secure Accessibility and CommunicationsWang’s Research to Drive Secure Accessibility and Communications
Peraton Labs Inc. with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency funds Mission-Integrated Network Control

May - Dr. Lan Wang, department chair and Dunavant Professor in the Department of Computer Science,has received a grant from the Mission-Integrated Network Control (MINC) program sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Peraton Labs is the prime contractor of the contract.

As outlined on the DARPA site, the objective of the MINC program is to ensure that critical data finds a path to the right user at the right time in highly contested, highly dynamic communication environments using secure control of any available communication or networking resources (communications, compute, or storage capabilities). Full Details >>

Dr. Terrence Tucker named 2023 Alumnus of the Year, University of Kentucky Department of EnglishTerrence Tucker named 2023 Alumnus of the Year by the University of Kentucky Department of English

May 10, 2023 — Dr. Terrence Tucker has been named the 2023 Alumnus of the Year by the University of Kentucky Department of English at its 42nd Annual Awards Day.

“Thank you all very much, to Dr. (Jill) Rappoport, the faculty and the staff for everything,” said Tucker. “As a chair, I know that you can’t really run a department without an incredible staff. I want to say a big thank you to the staff for everything that you have done. Thank you to the students for being excellent. Thanks to the parents and guardians for their support system because you can’t really graduate and really progress to a degree by yourself. You need a lot of help.”

Tucker, who is a full professor of African American literature and the first African American chair of the Department of English at the University of Memphis, earned his B.A. from LSU and earned his MA (2002) and PhD (2006) from the University of Kentucky. From UK, he received the Lyman T. Johnson Fellowship, named in honor of the man who helped desegregate the University of Kentucky.

“I appreciate the Lyman T. Johnson Fellowship because I would not have been able to go to graduate school and complete graduate school without being a Lyman T. Johnson Fellow,” said Tucker. “I am very thankful to everyone who built that program and continue to maintain that program. It is such an important and critical way to encourage students to come and help students progress.” More Information >>

Marcus WickerMarcus Wicker selected as prestigious Harvard Radcliffe Institute 2023-24 Fellow

May 18, 2023 — Dr. Marcus Wicker, poet and associate professor of English at the University of Memphis, was named a member of Harvard Radcliffe Institute’s 2023-24 class of fellows, a cohort whose projects contend with the urgent, the beautiful and the vast: from reckoning with the challenges of climate change to creating digital models of iconic Italian violins to detecting distant galaxies.

A Radcliffe fellowship offers scholars in the humanities, sciences, social sciences and arts – as well as writers, journalists and other distinguished professionals – a rare chance to pursue ambitious projects for a full year in a vibrant interdisciplinary setting amid the resources of Harvard. The 2023-24 fellows represent only 3.3% of the many applications that Radcliffe received. Full Details >>

Re-designation as Natl Ctr of Excellence in Cyber Defense by NSANational Security Agency & U.S. Department of Defense re-designate the UofM as a National Center of Excellence in Cyber Defense

May 22, 2023 — The University of Memphis has been re-designated as a National Center of Excellence in Cyber Defense by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Awarded through the 2027 academic year, the Center for Information Assurance (CFIA) has had this designation honor since 2014. The Center is directed by Dr. Dipankar Dasgupta while associate directors include Dr. Hasan Ali, Dr. Myounggyu Won and Dr. Kan Yang.

Dasgupta was presented this designation in recognition of significant contributions in meeting the national demand for information assurance and cyber defense education by developing a growing number of professionals with information assurance and cyber defense expertise in various disciplines and ultimately contributing to the protection of the national information infrastructure.

Dr. James WhelanIs Legal Sports Betting a Gateway to More Gambling Addictions?

April - Katie Couric Media interviewed Dr. James Whelan, director of The Institute for Gambling Education and Research and The University of Memphis Gambling Clinic, an outpatient treatment center for those struggling with gambling addiction. In this interview Whelan explains why we gamble, why some people become problem gamblers, what is the responsibility of sports leagues now that sports betting is legal is so many states, the argument over whether or not gambling is considered an addiction, and why so few problem gamblers get the help they need. He also addresses the easy access to gambling on phones and the issues this brings, what is “responsible gambling?” and the nuances of differences between addictions to substances vs gambling addiction and the stigmatization of gambling.

“Expanding general awareness of gambling problems is key to the mission of our team and essential to effectively helping those who experience harms," states Whelan. View full interview here >>

For more information on the clinic or his research, contact Whelan at jwhelan@memphis.edu.

Dr. Gayle BeckSociety of Clinical Psychology Awards UofM Professor
Faculty member selected for contributions to the field

April - Dr. J. Gayle Beck, Lillian and Morrie Moss Chair of Excellence in Clinical Psychotherapy in the Department of Psychology, has been notified that the Board of Directors of the Society of Clinical Psychology voted to select her as the 2023 recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Clinical Psychology Award from the Society of Clinical Psychology, Division 12 of the American Psychological Association (APA). More on the Award >>

Memphis, TN BridgeThe Mississippi River and the Environment
Urban-Rural Systems Research Coordination Network

March - The Mississippi River basin experiences a variety of challenges, from flooding to urban sprawl to nutrient runoff. A team of researchers will examine how these issues connect to affect the environmental conditions of cities, suburban areas and rural areas — and the people living there.

The UofM Design Collaborative is a partner in the Urban-Rural Systems Research Coordination Network, which received a $500,000 National Science Foundation grant from the Dynamics of Integrated Socio-Environmental Systems program to launch a five-year study. This multi-university is led by Dr. Ulrike Passe, professor of Architecture at Iowa State University. Mr. Andy Kitsinger and Dr. Charles Santo in the Department of City and Regional Planning will lead the Memphis team. Researchers will focus on five metropolitan areas within the Mississippi basin — Minneapolis/St. Paul; Davenport; St. Louis; Memphis; and Baton Rouge, Louisiana — and their satellite communities and adjacent rural areas. UofM Press Release >>

Dr. Francisco Muller-SanchezFrancisco Muller-Sanchez & ALMA Scientists Find Pair of Black Holes Dining Together in Nearby Galaxy Merger

Jan. 10, 2023 — While studying a nearby pair of merging galaxies using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) — an international observatory co-operated by the U.S. National Science Foundation’s National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) — the University of Memphis’ Dr. Francisco Muller-Sanchez and other scientists discovered two supermassive black holes growing simultaneously near the center of the newly coalescing galaxy.

These super-hungry giants are the closest together that scientists have ever observed in multiple wavelengths. What’s more, the new research reveals that binary black holes and the galaxy mergers that create them may be surprisingly commonplace in the Universe. The results of the new research were published today in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and presented in a press conference at the 241st meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Seattle, Wash.

“Through our observations with extremely high spatial resolution, we were able to show that the galaxy UGC 4211 hosts not one - as previously assumed from observations with low spatial resolution - but two supermassive black holes,” said Muller-Sanchez, UofM assistant professor, Department of Physics and Materials Science. “Furthermore, their separation is less than 750 light-years. This means that they are located in a region that corresponds to less than one hundredth of the total size of the galaxy. Up until now, such a concentration of two accreting supermassive black holes had never been discovered in the universe with multi-wavelength observations.