Celebrating the Natural Sciences

A false-color micrograph of Pygsuia biforma. Scale bar – 2 µm. Image credit: Matthew W. Brown et al / Proc. R. Soc. B.

A false-color micrograph of Pygsuia biforma. Scale bar – 2 µm. Image credit: Matthew W. Brown et al / Proc. R. Soc. B.

by Aubrey Godwin

The accomplishments of our students, faculty, staff and alumni are an important focus of the Fulbright Review. Fulbright College is comprised of four distinct areas, the fine arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Each issue of the Fulbright Review dedicates a story within the Successes section to some of the year's highlights within a particular area. The Summer issue features successes in the natural sciences.

The natural sciences welcomed seven new tenure-track faculty members last fall. Jeffery Lewis and Timothy Evans joined the department of biological sciences, Adriana Potra, Mohamed Aly and Song Feng joined the department of geosciences, Lance Miller joined the department of mathematical sciences and Pradeep Kumar joined the department of physics.

Ten faculty members were honored with CAREER awards from the National Science Foundation, including Ingrid Fritsch, Colin Heyes, Julie Stenken, Susanne Striegler and Feng Wang in chemistry and biochemistry, Greg Dumond in geosciences, Luca Caponga mathematical sciences, and Laurent Bellaiche, Lin Oliver, Jak Chakhalian and Paul Thibado in physics.

Fulbright College partnered with the College of Engineering and University of Arkansas Global Campus to lead an initiative to increase the number of STEM graduates with the state’s two-year colleges.

The departments of biological sciences, chemistry and biochemistry, and physics hosted the 2013 Conference for Arkansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence, which featured Michael F. Summers of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as keynote speaker.

Department of Biological Sciences

  • Jeffrey Silberman

    Associate professor Jeffrey Silberman and alumnus Matt Brown discovered and characterized a new organism. They named their discovery Pygsuia Biforma.

    Photos: Jeff Silberman, professor of biological sciences
    Pygsuia Biforma.jpg A false-color micrograph of Pygsuia biforma. Scale bar – 2 µm. Image credit: Matthew W. Brown et al / Proc. R. Soc. B.
  • Steve Stephenson

    Visiting professor Steve Stephenson, spent two weeks in Vietnam on a Fulbright Specialist Award. His visit included presenting seminars, holding workshops and developing potential research opportunities. Stephenson was also featured in a PBS Newshour science article.

    Photo: Tran Thi My Hanh (left to right), Thida Win Ko Ko, Steve Stephenson and Barbara Stephenson
  • Dmytro Leontyev

    Dmytro Leontyev, an associate professor in the department of biotechnology of Kharkiv State Zooveterinary Academy in Ukraine, spent the 2013-14 academic year studying slime molds at the University of Arkansas as a Senior Fulbright Scholar.

  • Rebecca Mickol

    Doctoral student Rebecca Mickol found evidence in her research that suggests methanogens—among the simplest and oldest organisms on Earth—could survive on Mars.

    Photo: Methanogens contained in these test tubes, which also contained growth nutrients, sand and water, survived when subjected to Martian freeze-thaw cycles at the University of Arkansas.
  • Andrew J. Alverson

    Assistant professor Andrew J. Alverson was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation for genomic sequencing of diverse microalgae.

    Photo: A scanning electron micrograph of the marine diatom, Triceratium, one of the species that will be studied under the National Science Foundation grant. Copyright Elizabeth Ruck
  • J.D. Willson

    Assistant professor J.D. Willson addressed students and the public as a featured scholar for the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service Speaker Series. Willson was also featured in a Discovery News article about Burmese pythons in Florida.

    Photos: J.D. Willson and attendees at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service (photos by Jacob Slaton)
  • Cassandra Marnocha

    Student Cassandra Marnocha conducted research in Kärkevagge, a valley north of the Arctic Circle. Her research focused on minerals found in rock coatings that have also been identified on Mars.

    Photo: A stromatolite on a large basalt clast from the Copper Harbor Formation on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan. Gallagher says this formation is thought to have originated from river deposits. If so, a stromatolite here would be suggestive of life in a terrestrial setting. Credit: Timothy Gallagher
  • Sturgis

    Undergraduate students Kassidy Joyner, Will Pohlman and Arhita Dasgupta were named Sturgis Fellows.

  • Wilson Guillory

    Honors College Fellow Wilson Guillory was selected for a summer internship at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

    Photo: Honors biology major Wilson Guillory
  • Michael Douglas and Marlis Douglas

    Professors Michael Douglas and Marlis Douglas participated in the fourth International Symposium on “Alien Species in the Holarctic (= Northern Hemisphere)” organized by the Russian Academy of Sciences.

    Photos: (left) Michael Douglas (right) Marlis Douglas
  • Mikaila Wilson

    Undergraduate student Mikaila Wilson competed in the 2013 Miss Arkansas Scholarship Pageant.

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

  • Feng Wang

    A research team led by associate professor Feng Wang identified that water, when chilled to a very low temperature, transforms into a new form of liquid. The researchers performed a simulation in supercooled water and confirmed a “liquid-liquid” phase transition at 207 Kelvins, or 87 degrees below zero on the Fahrenheit scale.

  • Charles L. Wilkins

    Distinguished professor Charles L. Wilkins was awarded the 2013 American Chemical Society Division of Analytical Chemistry Award in Chemical Instrumentation.

    Photo: Award presentation by Cindy Larive to Charles Wilkins
  • Susanne Striegler

    The National Science Foundation awarded associate professor Susanne Striegler a three-year grant to further develop water-soluble microgels with immobilized transitional metal complexes as catalysts for glycosylation reactions.

  • Nan Zheng

    Assistant professor Nan Zheng was given the National Science Foundation‘s Faculty Early Career Development Program award to further his research in chemical reactions sparked by visible light.

  • Paul Adams

    Associate professor Paul Adams received the 2013 Presidential Award for Excellence in STEM Research and Mentoring by the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers.

  • Kolawole Ayinuola

    Doctoral candidate Kolawole Ayinuola was awarded a Love of Learning Award by the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi.

  • Randy Cabrera

    Doctoral student Randy Cabrera was a member of one of six teams from the University of Arkansas that advanced to the finals of the 14th annual Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup Collegiate Business Competition.

    Photo: Carol Reeves, associate vice provost for entrepreneurship at the University of Arkansas (far left), is joined by students on 2014 U of A business plan competition teams.
  • Keaton Piper

    Keaton Piper was featured in the September 2013 issue of Inquiry: The University of Arkansas Undergraduate Research Journal.

    Keaton Piper developed and examined whether low-cost titanate nanofiber-bioscaffolds compensate for the longstanding problem of implantable biomaterial's poor stability and versatility.

Department of Geosciences

  • Ozark Hall

    The department came home last fall when University of Arkansas rededicated Ozark Hall, which also houses the Honors College and the Graduate School.

  • Tom Paradise

    Professor Tom Paradise presented Solving Mysteries in the Valley of the Crescent Moon: Two Decades of research in Petra, Jordan and gave the audience a sneak peek at the NOVA series Paradise is doing about Petra, which will be shown on PBS.

    Photo: (left) Tom Paradise (right) Petra
  • Christopher Liner

    Professor Christopher Liner was elected to lead the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, serving consecutive one-year terms as president-elect (2013-14), president (2014-15) and past-president (2015-16) of the organization.

  • David Stahle and Jordan Burns

    Distinguished professor David Stahle and graduate student Jordan Burns have discovered an important relationship between periods of drought and famine in agricultural regions of central Mexico and typhus epidemics. Their findings were published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal that tracks and analyzes disease trends.

    Photo: Jordan Burns and Rodolfo Acuna at the Zocalo, the central square in the heart of historic downtown Mexico City.
  • David Stahle

    Stahle’s research on core-sampling of old growth cypress was featured in the media for bringing understanding to the importance of preserving the Lowcountry (a geographic and cultural region along South Carolina's coast) ecosystem.

    Photo: For more than a decade, Distinguished Professor David Stahle has taken core samples from trees and examined the chronology of their rings to help explain the societal impact of drought and other climate changes.
  • Song Feng

    Assistant professor Song Feng led an international research team that calculated that the spread of plant species in nearly half the world’s land areas could be affected by predicted global warming by the end of the century.

  • Tree Ring Lab

    The Arkansas Famous and Historic Tree Program recognized the historical significance of several noteworthy trees that were cored and dated by the university’s Tree Ring Lab. The trees were discovered to be more than 1,000 years old.

    Photo: courtesy of David Stahle's research website
  • Devon Energy Corp

    The department hosted employees from Devon Energy Corp. to talk with students about potential internship and career opportunities.

Department of Mathematical Sciences

  • Shannon W. Dingman and Bernard L. Madison

    Associate professor Shannon W. Dingman and professor Bernard L. Madison were honored with the Steen Award by the Board of the National Numeracy Network for their article “Quantitative Reasoning in the Contemporary World, 1: The Course and Its Challenge,” which covers course development, pedagogy, student population served and assessment.

    Photo: (left) Shannon Digman (rihgt) Bernard Madison
  • 39th annual Spring Lecture Series

    The department hosted its 39th annual Spring Lecture Series. Alexander Nagel of the University of Wisconsin delivered a series of five lectures on Multiparameter Geometry and Analysis.

  • Raymond Walter

    Distinguished doctoral fellow Raymond Walter was featured in Quest Magazine for his academic accomplishments while battling Duchene muscular dystrophy.

  • John Ryan

    Professor John Ryan was appointed external examiner for a mathematics Ph.D. thesis at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia.

Department of Physics

  • Robert L. Byer

    Robert L. Byer, professor of the school of humanities and sciences at Stanford, presented “50 Years of Lasers: Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century” as the 2014 Robert D. Maurer Distinguished Lecturer.

    Photo: (left) Robert L. (right) Byer Robert D. Maurer
  • Woodrow Shew

    The National Science Foundation awarded Woodrow Shew a three-year grant for a collaborative research project with biophysicist Ralf Wessel at Washington University in St. Louis. The scientists and their research teams will investigate how turtle brains process visual information.

  • Jak Chakhalian

    The Institute of Physics in the Chinese Academy of Sciences awarded professor Jak Chakhalian with a senior foreign visiting professorship. Chakhalian began his three-month professorship at the institute’s State Key Laboratory for Surface Physics in Beijing in June.

  • Jian Liu

    Chakhalian and his former doctoral student Jian Liu developed a tool that allows them to control and engineer the novel behavior of the nanomaterial on an atomic scale. The finding makes it possible for researchers to design new classes of material for the next generation of electronic devices.

    Photo: Jian Liu, Ph.D.student
  • Joseph Herzog

    Visiting professor Joseph Herzog and his colleagues demonstrated the capability of measuring temperature changes in very small 3-D regions of space by using the interaction between light and charge fluctuations in metal nanostructures called plasmon’s.

  • Laurent Bellaiche

    Research professor Sergey Prosandeev and distinguished professor Laurent Bellaiche produced research showing that behavior could be predicted and understood in thin films made of materials called relaxors, which can be used in electronic devices.

    Photo: Laurent Bellaiche
  • Yurong Yang

    New analysis by Bellaiche and research assistant professor Yurong Yang revealed a novel magnetoelectric effect that makes it possible to control magnetism with an electric field.

    Photo: Yurong Yang
  • Peng Xu and Paul Thibado

    A study led by research associate Peng Xu found that platinum nanoparticles limit their size and organize into specific patterns when bonded to freestanding graphene. The research was conducted in professor Paul Thibado’s lab. Thibado oversaw the research, which also included graduate students Matthew L. Ackerman, Steven D. Barber, Dejun Qi and James Kevin Schoelz and scholars from Missouri State University, the University of Antwerp and Shanghai University China.

    Photos: (left) Peng Xu (right) Paul Thibado
  • Salvador Barraza-Lopez

    An international research group led by assistant professor Salvador Barraza-Lopez studied graphene’s properties using a new mathematical framework to make extremely accurate characterizations of the two-dimensional material’s shape. The groups’ findings were published in the journal ACS Nano.

  • Daniel Kennefick

    Assistant professor Daniel Kennefick published “Three and a Half Principles: The Origins of Modern Relativity,” a chapter in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Physics that discusses Albert Einstein’s theories of relativity.

  • Julia Kennefick, Benjamin Davis and Amanda Schillingk

    Graduate students Benjamin Davis and Amanda Schilling traveled with assistant professor Julia Kennefick to the Kitt Peak National Observatory to observe growing black holes in the centers of nearby spiral galaxies.

    Photos: (from left) Julia Kennefick, Benjamin Davis and Amanda Schilling

Aubrey Godwin

About the author

Aubrey Godwin is a sophomore in the Walter J. Lemke Department of Journalism news/editorial sequence. She is serving as a communications intern in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences for the Summer 2014 session.