News and Impact

For the Division of Research and Innovation, success is a measurable goal. We are committed to seeing the University of Memphis achieve R1 Carnegie Classification by 2023; in support of this objective, we are pleased to provide measurable impacts and evidence of the world-class research conducted every day on our campus. In the spirit of transparency, we provide metrics and data that showcase our progress and the efforts of our faculty, students, and administration in achieving this goal.


UofM Research in the News


UofM Receives $3.4 Million NSF Research Grant to Improve Training in Data Science

The University of Memphis has been awarded a $3,439,035 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for research in learning data science with adaptive learning for future workforce development.

"In the last three years, the demand for data scientists has increased by a factor of 10 in key markets," said Dr. Andrew Olney, principal investigator for the study and professor in the Department of Psychology and the Institute for Intelligent Systems. "If this trend continues, data scientists will be more sought after than software developers in just a few years.

"The problem we face is that while we know how to train people in statistics, programming and machine learning, we know very little about how to train people to integrate these disciplines in order to be effective data scientists. Our grant work will focus on understanding the deep prerequisite knowledge in these fields and how to integrate them in an efficient training program for emerging data scientists across all levels.Our program will leverage adaptive learning technologies and be embedded in the tools data scientists use every day so that workers can learn on the job."

The grant funding will also support summer internships for STEM majors (science, technology,engineering and math) from LeMoyne-Owen College as well as the development of training programs for industry partners.

"More important than the economic multiplier impact of having federal funds expended locally, this award, together with others we have received in the last few months,helps position the University and its Institute of Intelligent Systems as a national leader in data analytics," said Dr. Jasbir Dhaliwal, executive vice president for Research and Innovation. "It's an exciting time for researchers on campus as we continue our march toward the top tier of research institutions in the country."


Silicon Valley Startup Licenses Adaptive Multi-factor Authentication System Patent from UofM

The University of Memphis Research Foundation (UMRF) has signed an agreement to license a U.S. patent for an Adaptive Multi-factor Authentication System invented and developed by a team led by Dr. Dipankar Dasgupta, professor of Computer Science and director of the Center for Information Assurance (CfIA).

The patent is licensed to i2Chain, a San Francisco area cybersecurity startup, which plans to evolve adaptive authentication for its own applications as well as offer the technology as a service to other identity providers.

Ajay Jotwani, co-founder and CEO of i2Chain, is upbeat about engaging the University of Memphis's industry-leading cybersecurity research expertise.

"Digitalization and new privacy laws are forcing companies to enact creative and proven solutions to secure their identity and information," Jotwani said. "This invention allows us to improve the identity defense as well as build research collaboration with Dr. Dasgupta and the Center for Information Assurance at the UofM."

Founded in May 2018, i2Chain focuses on securing information and identity using immutable ledger, access rights and advanced cryptography to empower companies as they securely share and transact identity and information.

"The future of business is defined by creating cybersecurity solutions that use innovative research-driven solutions to reduce a nearly constant stream of data breaches, hacking and cyber threats," said Dasgupta. "Our partnership with i2Chain is a great opportunity to help a rising leader in the cybersecurity landscape accelerate its growth while mitigating the threats faced by businesses of every size."

"The Adaptive-MFA significantly enhances i2Chain's capability to defend identity and enable secure information sharing," adds Sanjay Jain, co-founder and CTO. "In addition,this patent is an indispensable invention in the process of continuous and biometricidentity validation."


Biology Professor Publishes Article on Genomic Basis of Insect Biodiversity in National Academy of Sciences Journal

Dr. Duane McKenna, William Hill Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Memphis, has authored a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). His article "The Evolution and Genomic Basis of Beetle Diversity" details how ancient horizontal transfers of microbial genes to beetle genomes set the stage for beetle diversification.

Beetles, with more than 400,000 species, arguably comprise the most diverse group of animals on Earth. Most beetle species are herbivores and feed on plants. Consequently,some species are pests of agriculture or forestry, or play important roles as pollinatorsor decomposers. In this study, funded in part by the U.S. National Science Foundation,McKenna and his colleagues used genomic data of an unprecedented scale to reconstruct the family tree of beetles and trace the evolution of beetle genes enabling herbivory.

Their analyses resolved the beetle family tree and dated the origin of beetles to more than 300 million years ago, before the first dinosaurs. Moreover, they showed that beetle genes encoding plant cell wall-degrading enzymes were obtained from bacteria and fungi via ancient horizontal gene transfers and were key to the diversification of herbivorous beetles. These genes enabled efficient digestion of plant tissues,facilitating uniquely specialized plant-feeding habits such as wood boring and leaf mining. Their findings underscore the intimacy and complexity of the relationships between insects, plants and microorganisms, and provide a compelling answer to the question of why there are so many beetle species. Their work will aid researchers in combating invasive beetle species, protecting beetles that perform important ecosystem services and understanding how beetles digest wood and other plant tissues.

This paper is the result of a collaboration between the McKenna Lab and researchers from Australia, Austria, China, Germany, Russia and the U.S. (USDA and Oregon State University), working at the leading edge of large-scale genomic data generation, analysis and integration. University of Memphis co-authors included two postdocs, a graduate student and an undergraduate student in McKenna's lab. McKenna is director of the UofM Center for Biodiversity Research and co-director of the Agriculture and Food Technologies Research Cluster at the UofM FedEx Institute of Technology.


UofM and UTHSC Researchers Receive 2019 CORNET Award for Studies on Brain Exploration in Adolescents

Dr. Eraina Schauss, director and founder of the Brain Center at the University of Memphis, and Dr. Khyobeni Mozhui, associate professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC),are recipients of the 2019 UTHSC/UofM CORNET Award in Adverse Childhood Experiences(ACEs) Research for their project "A Combined Environment and Epigenetics Study (ACES):Impact of Neuro feedback Therapy on the Health and Behavior of Adolescents." The research team will receive a total of $100,000 being provided by the research leadership at UTHSC (Dr. Steve Goodman) and the UofM (Dr. Jasbir Dhaliwal).

Schauss and Mozhui will examine the EEG brain wave patterns and functioning of adolescents who have been exposed to adverse childhood events (ACEs) and investigate the impact of neuro feedback training. ACEs are traumatic events before the age of 18, and include various types of abuse and neglect as well as parental mental illness, substance use,divorce, incarceration and domestic violence. The pair is researching whether their innovative brain training can improve physical health, decrease mental health symptoms,improve cognitive functioning and reduce the risk of unfavorable social, emotional and developmental health outcomes in those affected adolescents.

Schauss and Mozhui will enlist the efforts of a team of UTHSC researchers to test levels of environmental toxicants and observe epigenetic and other predetermined biomarkers for their influence on resilience and susceptibility to traumatic childhood experiences.The research team will also investigate to what extent biomarkers can be used to predict successful outcomes for these adolescents. Their work will contribute to nationwide efforts surrounding the impact that ACEs have and their toll on mental and physical health. 

"This is the first of what I hope will be many research collaborations between UTHSC and the UofM which are stimulated by CORNET awards," says Dr. Steven R. Goodman, vice chancellor for Research at UTHSC and founder of the CORNET Awards program. "Our collaborations on the very important and timely subject of ACEs began with the generous support from the State of Tennessee through a $2 million award to the Memphis Research Consortium.There has been wonderful progress made by many UTHSC and UofM investigators. We are helping to continue this momentum with this CORNET Award."

Launched in 2016, the CORNET Awards were created to foster collaborative partnerships between researchers across the City of Memphis, the State of Tennessee, with various academic institutions regionally and globally, and with industry partners. To date,the CORNET Awards program has provided more than $1.7 million in funding to teams of researchers, giving rise to over $14.2 million in extramural funding.

"This collaboration between UTHSC and the UofM is one example of two world-class institutions working together to grow research capabilities and opens the door to future opportunities," says Dr. Jasbir Dhaliwal, executive vice president for Research and Innovation at the UofM and executive director of the FedEx Institute of Technology. "Programs like the CORNET Award showcase stellar research talent, and universities partnering together provides opportunities that benefit not only researchers, but stakeholders at large."


UMRF Ventures Funds Four New Professorships: Honors faculty with achievements in sponsored research

UMRF Ventures, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the University of Memphis Research Foundation (UMRF), has awarded four UMRF Ventures Professorships to the University of Memphis. These awards represent UMRF's first dividend investment.

The inaugural recipients, Dr. Anita Boykins, associate professor in the Loewenberg College of Nursing; Dr. Brian Waldron, associate professor in Civil Engineering; Dr. Nate DeYonker, assistant professor in Chemistry; and Dr. Susan Neely-Barnes, professor and chair in Social Work, will hold the UMRF Professorship for two years and will support their research and sponsored programs activities. The honorees were recently awarded these during the fall general faculty meeting held in August.
For more information on UMRF Ventures, visit their website.


University of Memphis Licenses Four New Research Technologies

The Office of Technology Transfer, through the FedEx Institute of Technology, has signed agreements to license four new technologies. These technologies include Engage, Green Living and Caregivers Support, developed by Dr. Susan Elswick, assistant professor in the School of Social Work; and Ultrasonic Dispersion of Cohesive Powders, invented and developed by Dr. Ranga Gopalakrishnan, assistant professor in Mechanical Engineering.

Engage Technology is a cloud-based data collection system that offers real-time data collection capabilities and dynamic reporting opportunities for the user. The Engage system is a data collection tool that allows pedagogical practitioners to gather live data on any student in the classroom for up to three behaviors per student. Numbers can increase based on student needs.

Green Living Technology is an app that allows individuals to plot their green living activities and community concerns on a map so they will be geo-located. This allows for better planning and support of green living along with demonstrating to UofM students, faculty and the surrounding areas how to have sustainable green living practices. The technology is game-based, letting students and faculty receive points for practicing green living and reporting green living issues and activities.

Caregivers Support Technology is a parenting app that answers the many questions parents have about common behaviors such as sleeping, eating and emotional regulation, all provided from a developmental and function-based lens. This app is designed to assists caregivers in improving child behavior, developing healthy social/emotional literacy and enhancing the parent-child bond.
Engage, Green Living and Caregivers Support were licensed to Engage Data System LLC based in Cordova, Tenn. Engage Data Systems is a cutting-edge data collection and reporting company.

The fourth technology, Ultrasonic Dispersion of Cohesive Powders, was licensed to the University of Minnesota. The technology is related to aerosol science and technology, powder technology and spray-based additive manufacturing. It was developed to aid in generating aerosol particles (less than 10 microns in size) of sticky powders such as titanium dioxide and calcium phosphate at high concentration for long periods of time for spray-coating processes. The ultrasonic disperser mechanism was designed at low cost and is able to achieve superior concentration compared to commercially available products and designs.
For more information on these technology license agreements, contact Hai Trieu at hhtrieu@memphis.edu.

Mary Ann Dawson | mdawson@memphis.edu




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