Division of Research and Innovation Newsletter

Every month the Division of Research and Innovation publishes a newsletter that highlights the high impact research, cutting edge innovations, and exciting opportunities across the University of Memphis. Check out the past newsletters below. Click here to sign up for the newsletter.

NOVEMBER  2020 Newsletter

COVID-19: Research Guidance and Updates


UofM Research Led Team Evaluates Adoption and Impact of Autonomous Delivery Robots
Inter-University Collaboration Examines COVID-19 Impacts

Drs. Sabya Mishra (Director of C-TIER) and Mihalis Golias have received support from USDOT and the Freight Research Mobility Institute (FMRI) UTC to explore autonomous delivery solutions with a specific focus on solutions driven by the challenges of COVID-19. The tremendous potential of technology-driven innovations to address the inefficiencies in last-mile deliveries has prompted e-commerce companies, retail chains, logistic providers and technology start-ups to invest in autonomous delivery robots (ADRs). The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the need for contactless deliveries that avoid the risk of person-to-person infection has made it clear that autonomous robot deliveries have many advantages.

 In their study, the research team will model how ADR vehicles are likely to evolve in order to evaluate delivery robot adoption rates, and trade-offs. Everything from the costs associated with these new types of deliveries, the built-environment challenges that they must face needs to be considered in order to provide guidance to the industries that seek to utilize these solutions. The work will examine user acceptance and perception of ADR, testing of autonomous delivery robot acceptance and demand, and develop an urban logistics optimization model to minimizing logistics operating costs.

 Dr. E. Kaisar with Florida Atlantic University and Dr. M.A. Figliozzi with Portland State University are the partners on this effort.

 For more details, please contact Prof. S. Mishra at smishra3@memphis.edu


Waldron Leads USDA Contract
Grows Federal Engagement of UofM Research Effort


The Center for Applied Earth Science and Engineering Research (CAESER) is among the most productive research centers at the University of Memphis with over $5 million in the last three years. Over the years, they have cultivated successful partnerships with MLGW, USGS, and other organizations that are committed to sustaining the health of the Memphis aquifer system and wider Mississippi embayment. Now CAESER is embarking on a new chapter as they begin to pursue federal grants to expand their work and impact beyond the Memphis region. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has awarded funding to Drs. Brian Waldron and Stephanie Ivey to help improve efficacy of incentive programs designed to encourage farmers to adopt conservation practices through education and outreach. The group will specifically target historically underserved farming communities in West Tennessee and surrounding regions.

The University of Memphis is committed to growing the impact of our faculty research on the agriculture in West Tennessee. The University of Memphis is the only comprehensive research institution in West Tennessee, and agriculture and food science has the largest impact on the economy of the region. Creating solutions that benefit these communities is in the long-term interest of the University, and growing CAESER's research capacity in that space is critical.


Scholarly Impact Metrics: Google Scholar

The University of Memphis is home to a tremendous community of research scholars. While securing external research funding and growing research capacity are the chief goals of the Division of Research and Innovation, we recognize that measuring scholarly impact cannot be done through grant success alone. Below is a summary of those faculty who are cited most often according to Google Scholar.

Citation Impact Summary - UofM Faculty with highest citation counts:

• Art Graesser - Professor of Psychology and Institute for Intelligent Systems, (60,368 citations)
• Gayle Beck, Professor of Psychology (33,795 citations)
• Xiaohua Huang, Professor of Chemistry (28,914 citations)
• Shaun Gallagher, Professor of Philosophy (28,890 citations)
• Jim Gurney, Dean and 
Professor of Epidemiology (24,515 citations)
• Gary Bowlin, Professor of Biomedical Engineering (18,709 citations)
• Dipankar Dasgupta, Professor of Computer Science (17,894 citations
• Kim Oller, Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders (15,760 citations)
• Ali Fatemi, Chair and Professor of Mechanical Engineering (14,441 citations)
• Frank Andraisik, Professor of Psychology (12,470 citations)

Junior faculty with highest citations:
• Brandt Pence, Assistant Professor College of Health Studies (6,288 citations)
• Kan Yang, Assistant Professor of Computer Science (4,326 citations)
• Thang Hoang, Assistant Professor of Physics (4,002 citations)
• Deepak Venugopal, Assistant Professor of Computer Science (2,529 citations)
• Jim Adelman, Assistant Professor of Biology (1,739 citations

Google scholar profiles are setup by faculty members. Only those faculty who have set up profiles appear in the list and emeritus faculty and research staff were not included in the lists above. Note, not all citation indices measure citations the same way and modest variations can exist between platforms and indices. If you need help creating a google scholar profile, email researchdev@memphis.edu.


UofM's Vardaman Research on Successful Succession Planning Featured in Harvard Business Review
One of many top-ranked papers in the Management department published in 2020

Dr. James Vardaman, holder of the Chair of Excellence in Management in the Fogelman College of Business, was recently featured in the Harvard Business Review for a paper he co-wrote with Dr. Will Tabor, professor at Belhaven University in Jackson, MS. The paper focuses on succession planning challenges for family businesses and techniques for a successful transition. The leadership succession from one family member to another is one of the most difficult challenges for family-owned businesses. Nonfamily employees, who are vital to firm success, may view family successors as unqualified or the beneficiary of nepotism. Gaining buy-in for the next generation of leadership is thus essential for maintaining morale and motivation within the firm. In order to gain insights on how to foster such buy-in, Vardaman and Tabor reviewed 30 years of family business studies. Their findings suggest nonfamily employees actually prefer a familial successor, because nonfamily employees of family businesses often enjoy the family-like culture and atmosphere in the firm. Through their research, they identified three ways family businesses can foster confidence and acceptance for a successor. Read the full article here >>

 "Dr. Vardaman's research is great example of the high quality and relevant scholarship being done by Fogelman faculty," noted Dr. Damon Fleming, dean of the Fogelman College of Business and Economics. "This work is among the 18 A+ and A ranked articles that are published or accepted for publication in 2020 by faculty in the Management Department."


UofM FedEx Institute of Technology Launches New Tech Startup
First of six to launch over the next year

Nuvelus Inc., an innovative biotechnology company that seeks to heal and transform damaged skin caused by inflammation, disease and environmental stress is dedicated to building a novel solution to treat the body's largest organ – the skin. Nuvelus is the first startup to come out of The University of Memphis FedEx Institute of Technology's new Patent2Products (P2P) Program and, over the next year, five more companies will be launched as part of this initiative.

Nuvelus' patent-pending technology utilizes a topical approach to deliver ingredients required to facilitate healing and rejuvenation of the skin. The technology works directly on the immune system, the main culprit in recruiting the cellular components to the site in need of repair. Nuvelus has discovered an intricate link between the immune system and skin. This allows for the treatment of a wide variety of skin-related ailments through the application of their product. These conditions include psoriasis, rosacea, eczema, acne, sunburn, lupus and arthritis.

For more information on this company, visit: www.Nuvelus.com.


CERI's Goebel to have Research Published on Potentially Induced Seismicity in California
To be featured in Seismological Research Letters

Dr. Thomas Goebel, assistant professor in the Center for Earthquake Research and Information, and his paper on potentially induced earthquake activity in California close to the San Andreas fault was recently accepted for publication in the Seismological Research Letters. The paper, "More than 40 years of potentially induced seismicity close to the San Andreas fault in San Ardo, central California" was co-written by Dr. Manoochehr Shiraei, associate professor of Geosciences at Virginia Tech, and focuses on how human induced earthquakes have been a serious issue in the central and eastern United States for example in Oklahoma and Kansas and now also in Texas. Earthquake rates have increased by a factor of 50 in some places. Different sub-surface operations such as hydraulic fracturing have been used to increase energy production from geothermal and hydrocarbon reservoirs. Tectonic faults underneath these reservoirs are often precariously balanced and perturbations to the natural tectonic system can have devasting effects, which again was exemplified by the recent magnitude 5.4 geothermally induced earthquake in Pohang, South Korea and the magnitude 5.0 earthquake that shook west Texas in March 2020.

California was thought to be largely free of such unnatural earthquakes, meaning that oilfield operations and tectonic faults apparently coexisted without any issues. However, the research now shows that human induced earthquakes in California can be masked by frequently occurring natural events. Goebel and Shirzaei investigated earthquakes associated with oilfield operations in San Ardo which began in the early 1950s. The largest potentially induced events occurred in 1955 (magnitude 5.2) and 1985 (magnitude 4.5) and earthquake activity persists until present day. They analyzed satellite radar-images acquired by the Sentinel-1A/B satellites between 2016 and 2020 and found that the surface above the oilfield experienced consistent uplift of up to 1.5 cm/yr. This uplift is a clear indication of fluid pressure imbalance in parts of the oilfield which may exert stresses on the surrounding tectonic system. Fluid injection and earthquakes in San Ardo are statistically correlated over more than 40 years with correlation coefficients of up to 0.71. Surprisingly, earthquake activity extends out to 24 km from the oilfield. Such large distances are similar to the large spatial footprint of injection in Oklahoma. The observations in central California revealed several conditions that elevate injection-induced seismic hazard namely (1) fluid injection operations directly above crystalline basement rocks, (2) high-rate, field-wide injection into permeable zones, and (3) the presence of tectonically stressed faults. These criteria may help guide fluid-injection operations and safer energy production in the future.

For more information on this paper, contact Goebel at thgoebel@memphis.edu


Research shows insects evolved acoustic communication more than 300 million years ago
UofM professor's research published in Nature Communications

Sound-making and hearing mechanisms appeared surprisingly early in the evolution of the insect order Orthoptera (katydids, crickets, grasshoppers, and relatives), according to research published by an international team of researchers in the journal Nature Communications. The team included Dr. Duane McKenna, William Hill Professor of Biology, director of the University of Memphis Center for Biodiversity Research and FedEx Institute of Technology Fellow in the Agriculture and Food Technologies Research Cluster; and Dr. Seunggwan Shin, a postdoctoral researcher in the McKenna Lab who is now an assistant professor at Seoul National University in South Korea.
Insects are the most diverse group of animals on Earth that communicate acoustically, even outnumbering the many mammal and bird species that use this mode of communication. The order Orthoptera contains approximately 16,000 species which use acoustic communication. However, unlike mammals and birds, they use various specialized mechanisms on their wings or legs and abdomens to create and hear sounds.

McKenna and Shin helped reconstruct the Orthoptera family tree and the evolution of hearing and singing in Orthoptera using large-scale DNA data. They worked closely with colleagues worldwide, including Dr. Hojun Song at Texas A&M University, a specialist on Orthoptera, who led the project. According to McKenna "This work involved one of the largest analyses of DNA data ever undertaken for a group of insects, and is notable for having illuminated the ancient origins of singing and hearing, and the otherwise remarkable evolutionary history of the charismatic insect order Orthoptera." Their paper "Phylogenomic analysis sheds light on the evolutionary pathways towards acoustic communication in Orthoptera" showed that certain Orthoptera have been communicating to find mates, avoid predators, and navigate, for more than 300 million years—since well before the first dinosaurs.

Their research was funded in-part by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), and by the 1,000 Insect Transcriptome Evolution Project. McKenna and Shin will continue to collaborate with Song through a recently awarded 5-year NSF grant seeking to further characterize the evolution of hearing and singing in this ecologically and economically significant group of insects.

For more information on this research, contact McKenna at dmckenna@memphis.edu.