Report on Research 2013-2014

FROM THE VICE PRESIDENT FOR RESEARCH

Dr_Juan_M_SanchezScholarship is a vital part of The University of Texas at Austin’s mission to the people of Texas. Moreover, we believe that the undergraduate and graduate students of the university can receive an education of the first class only if the research conducted at this university is also of the first class.

Dr. Juan M. Sanchez
Vice President for Research

 

 

 

2013-2014 RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

RESEARCH RESOURCES

Magnum Photos CollectionThe Magnum Photos collection, which contains nearly 200,000 press prints of images taken by world-renowned Magnum photographers, has been donated to the Harry Ransom Center.  The collection, more than 1,300 boxes of photographic materials, has been integrated into the university's curriculum, accessed by students and scholars and promoted through a variety of lectures, seminars and fellowships.

The most comprehensive system for developing sustainable landscapes, the SITES v2 Rating System, has been released by the Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™) program for use by landscape architects, designers, engineers, architects, developers, policymakers and others who work in land design and development.  SITES v2 resulted from a collaboration among the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the United States Botanic Garden and the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has awarded a $2.4 million grant to the University to expand its Freshman Research Initiative, a program that gives students the opportunity to take part in advanced research projects early in their academic careers.  Each year the Freshman Research Initiative in the College of Natural Sciences offers about 800 first-year students the opportunity to earn course credit while doing original, publishable research in the sciences.  With this grant, the research initiative will expand to admit students who transfer in to the college from other parts of the university and from other institutions, as well as create opportunities for students to continue doing research beyond their initial two years.

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) deployed Maverick, a powerful, high-performance visualization and data analytics resource for the open science and engineering community.

 

INNOVATION AND ENTERPRISE

UT Austin ranked fifth worldwide for U.S. patents granted to universitites in 2013.  The list, based on data obtained from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, recognizes the important role patents play in university research.

President Barack Obama and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) announced the establishmentof the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDI), a new $320 million research collaboration that includes The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering.  The Digital Lab will serve as the nation’s flagship research institute for digital manufacturing, applying cutting-edge technologies to reduce time and cost of manufacturing, strengthen the capabilities of the U.S. supply chain and reduce acquisition costs for DOD. The lab will both develop and demonstrate digital manufacturing technologies and deploy and commercialize these technologies across key manufacturing industries.

The Global Venture Labs Investment Competition (Global VLIC), the longest-running investment competition for graduate student entrepreneurs, took place at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center at The University of Texas at Austin.  Often referred to as the "Super Bowl of world business plan competitions," this year’s Global VLIC featured 38 teams from 12 countries that gained admittance by either winning a qualifying U.S. or international competition or via the new open berth system.

 

NATURAL SCIENCES AND ENGINEERING

Singing Mouse
Alston's singing mouse. Photo by Bret Pasch.

Biologists discovered that two species of singing mice that live deep in the mountain cloud forests of Costa Rica and Panama set their boundaries by emitting high-pitched trills.  The findings show for the first time that communication is being used to create geographic boundaries between species, with the smaller mouse species steering clear of its larger cousin.

Astronomers have discovered the most distant galaxy ever found. The galaxy is seen as it was at a time just 700 million years after the Big Bang.

Engineers have built the smallest, fastest and longest-running tiny synthetic motor to date. The team’s nanomotor is an important step toward developing miniature machines that could one day move through the body to administer insulin for diabetics when needed, or target and treat cancer cells without harming good cells.

Physicists have devised a new method for enriching a group of the world’s most expensive chemical commodities, stable isotopes, which are vital to medical imaging and nuclear power.  A less expensive, domestic source of stable isotopes could ensure continuation of current applications while opening up opportunities for new medical therapies and fundamental scientific research.

Engineers have built the first-ever circulator for sound, proving that the fundamental symmetry with which acoustic waves travel through air between two points in space can be broken by a compact and simple device.  The scientific knowledge gained may lead to advances in noise control, new acoustic equipment for sonars and sound communication systems, and improved compact components for acoustic imaging and sensing.

Nutritional scientists have demonstrated that resveratrol — which is abundantly available in red wine and also found in grapes, peanuts and berries — can ease some of the negative effects on the immune system caused by a diet high in fat.

 

SOCIAL SCIENCES AND THE ARTS

Bipedal walking
Comparison of the skeletons of three bipedal mammals:
an Egyptian jerboa, an eastern gray kangaroo and a human.

Anthropologists confirmed a direct link between upright two-legged (bipedal) walking and the position of the foramen magnum, a hole in the base of the skull that transmits the spinal cord.  The findings validate foramen magnum position as a diagnostic tool for fossil research and sheds further insight into human evolution.

Public health researchers have found that adults are less physically active — and more obese — in counties where summers are hot, especially if they are also humid or rainy.  The study also found that adults are less active and more obese in counties where winters are especially cold, cloudy and dark.

Anthropologists have established a definitive genetic link between the earliest Americans and modern Native Americans.  The findings have major implications for our understanding of the origins of the Western Hemisphere’s first people and their relationship to contemporary Native Americans.

Constitutional scholars created Constitute, a free online resource that offers a growing set of constitutional texts that users can compare systematically across a broad set of topics. The website launched at the United Nations General Assembly with the goal of assisting those in countries revising or replacing their constitutions.

In a study on regret surrounding sexual activity, psychology researchers found a stark contrast in remorse between men and women, potentially shedding light on the evolutionary history of human nature.

Psychologists showed that daily online testing boosts college performance and reduces achievement gaps.   With a new teaching platform called TOWER (Texas Online World of Educational Research), the researchers are transforming the way students learn. The findings show the customized online teaching model leads to improved test scores and attendance for all students. But students of low socioeconomic status are benefiting the most.

Communication researchers have introduced a new assessment that could reduce learning disorder misdiagnoses among bilingual children.  The Bilingual English-Spanish Assessment (BESA) will help speech-language pathologists differentiate limited exposure to English from underlying language impairments among children.

 

2013-2014 AWARD WINNERS

J. Tinsley OdenDr. J. Tinsley Oden, director of the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES), was awarded Japan’s Honda Prize for his role in establishing the field of computational mechanics, which enabled the development of computer simulation technology used broadly throughout industry and academia.

 

 

 

 

  Allen J. Bard with Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz  
Fermi Award winner Allen J. Bard with Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.

President Obama named Dr. Allen J. Bard as a recipient of the Enrico Fermi Award, one of the government's oldest and most prestigious awards for scientific achievement.  The award was conferred upon Bard for international leadership in electrochemical science and technology, for advances in photo electrochemistry and photocatalytic materials, processes, and devices, and for discovery and development of electrochemical methods including electrogenerated chemiluminescence and scanning electrochemical microscopy.

 

Robert L. Talbert

Dr. Robert L. Talbert, a professor of pharmacy, has been named the 2014 recipient of the Robert K. Chalmers Distinguished Pharmacy Educator Award presented by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP).  The award is the highest recognition of outstanding contributions to pharmacy education awarded to a pharmacy academician.

 

 

 

 

 

Eric PiankaDr. Eric Pianka, an evolutionary ecologist in the College of Natural Sciences, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  Pianka, the Denton A. Cooley Centennial Professor of Zoology at UT Austin, specializes in the evolutionary ecology of lizards. Currently, he is tying up his life’s work preserving his massive data set for future generations of evolutionary ecologists.  One of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies, the academy is also a leading center for independent policy research. Members contribute to academy publications and studies of science and technology policy, energy and global security, social policy and American institutions, and the humanities, arts and education.

 

 

Four faculty members from the Cockrell School of Engineering have been selected to receive Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Awards totaling $1.8 million from the National Science Foundation.  The awards will fund engineering research that has the potential to push the wearable electronics market forward, provide statistical insight into the world’s river deltas, reduce network congestion and develop more efficient materials for flexible electronics. This year’s recipients are Dr. Nanshu Lu, Dr. Evdokia Nikolova, Dr. Paola Passalacqua and Dr. Yaguo Wang.

 

Three faculty members at The University of Texas at Austin have been elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)Dr. Ron Elber, professor in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Natural Sciences, Dr. Mia K. Markey, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering, and Dr. William H. Press, professor in the Departments of Computer Science and Integrative Biology in the College of Natural Sciences.

 

FUNDING NUMBERS

Research expenditures at The University of Texas at Austin have averaged $618 million over the past four years.  Most of the funding comes from federal research agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense.

Research Expenditures by Fiscal Year

2013-2014 Research Funding by Source