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First Transdisciplinary Research Academy Members Announced

The university recently introduced the first cohort of faculty members named to the research academy.

Written by Sally Logue Post

Jerzy Blawzdziewicz, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, introduces the engineering and biology team.

Texas Tech today (Jan. 27) announced the first cohort of faculty members named to the Transdisciplinary Research Academy.

The academy is designed to bring faculty members with diverse interests and from different disciplines together to explore questions that have a global impact and intersect with the strategic research themes of the university.

“The goal of the academy is to bring together teams of faculty who have diverse expertise and interests, and I believe the first members do that,” said Taylor Eighmy, Texas Tech vice president for research. “In these first academy members we see combinations of expertise that should produce big-picture thinking and novel solutions to global issues.”

The 34 academy members form nine teams that are expected to generate new research projects for potential funding, write white papers for agencies and foundations or develop curricula or programs that produce interaction across academic disciplines.

“Texas Tech is fortunate to have a broad array of research expertise,” said Guy Bailey, Texas Tech president. “The future of research is transdisciplinary. By combining our strengths from across different disciplines we bring new, innovative ideas to solve some of the most pressing issues facing society.”

The first academy team members and project areas are:

  • Engineering and Biology – Siva Vanapalli and Jerzy Blawzdziewicz, Whitacre College of Engineering and Kendra Rumbaugh, the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. The team is working on development of innovative research projects at the intersection of medical sciences, biology, engineering and physics.
  • Law and Society – Hans Hansen, Rawls College of Business Administration; Patrick Metze, School of Law and Jill Patterson, College of Arts and Sciences. Through the Center for Social Impact, the team will provide an informed voice for those who have been marginalized by politics, stereotypes or poor ethics. 
  • Food, Health, Cancer – Conrad Lyford and Erica Irlbeck, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources; Barbara Pence, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and Barent McCool, College of Human Sciences. The overall research interest of this team is in the effective delivery and marketing of food and health products from both public and private perspectives.
  • Technology and Aesthetics – William Westney, College of Visual and Performing Arts; Michael O’Boyle, College of Human Sciences and James Yang, Whitacre College of Engineering. This project integrates the fields of artistic performance, pedagogy, advanced technology and philosophy and will seeks to ascertain whether or to what extent, approaches that have seemed like potential “best practices” can now be verified by scientific means.
  • Illiteracy, Education and Community Development in Sierra Leone – Amy Parker and Amma Akrofi, College of Education and Kelly Phelan, College of Human Sciences. The project seeks to address the problems that industries such as petroleum, mining, hospitality and healthcare/health education have in hiring Sierra Leonean young adults by addressing the needs for contextually based “literacy on the job” training.
  • Water Cycles and Resources Science – Richard Zartman, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources; Juske Horita, College of Arts and Sciences and Ken Rainwater, Whitacre College of Engineering. The goal of the team is to advance the scientific understanding of the water-energy cycle within the atmosphere-surface-subsurface continuum on a regional scale in the Southern High Plains.
  • Environmental Impact on Developmental Issues in Plants – David Knaff, College of Arts and Sciences; Rao Kottapalli, Susan San Francisco, Jatindra Tripathy and Masoud Zabet, the Center for Biotechnology and Genomics; and Paxton Payton of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The goal of the group is to develop a model for integrating multiple layers of molecular, cellular and physiologic information to better understand these relationships as they relate to environmental and developmental challenges in biological systems. 
  • Symbiosis and Environment – Christopher Witmore, Bruce Clarke and Laura Beard, all of the College of Arts and Sciences. This proposal is to open a broad conversation concerning symbiotic relationships over the long term, with an emphasis on questions of microbial ecology and exchange, as they affect issues of companionship, nutrition and livelihood, and environmental sustainability.
  • Food Safety and Public Health – Todd Brashears, Mindy Brashears, Mark Miller, Chance Brooks, Guy Loneragan and Kendra Nightingale, all of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. This team works with the food industry, food producers, consumers and international partners to provide the world with a safer food supply.

Faculty members were nominated by their college deans and screened by a committee of deans, associate deans, Horn professors, faculty and members of the Office of the Vice President for Research staff.

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Office of the Vice President for Research

The Office of the Vice President for Research is dedicated to developing new technologies for a better world. From the study of the smallest nanoparticles to comprehensive wind power systems, from research in autism and addiction, to our pioneering work in STEM education, our researchers are finding ways to solve problems, improve lives and find new solutions to the world’s critical needs.

The office has launched its communications efforts on , and YouTube, in order to build and better connect with the research community.

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