UT Arlington, UNT earn elite research designation

UT Arlington attains elite research status

The University of Texas at Arlington was named Monday to the elite group of R-1: Doctoral Universities - Highest Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the definitive list for the top doctoral researc
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The University of Texas at Arlington was named Monday to the elite group of R-1: Doctoral Universities - Highest Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the definitive list for the top doctoral researc

In their quests to be named top research universities, UT Arlington and UNT took a major leap this week.

The University of Texas at Arlington and the University of North Texas in Denton were named Monday as doctoral universities with “highest” research activity by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, putting them on a list of 115 top U.S. universities that includes Harvard, MIT and Johns Hopkins.

The achievement is seen as perhaps the biggest step in the growth of a research university and marks a key milestone in UTA’s and UNT’s quest for national prominence, including Tier One status.

The Carnegie Classification analyzes data from all U.S. postsecondary institutions and evaluates research activity for doctoral universities in making its assessments, which are released every five years. UT Dallas and Texas Tech also made the list.

“This is a tremendous validation of UTA’s emergence as a preeminent university on the national stage,” UTA President Vistasp Karbhari said in a statement. “Being ranked as a Research 1 university places us truly among the best of the best.”

For UNT, the process of earning the distinction was about “staying true to our roots as an institution focused on creativity as expressed through our research, scholarship and educational activities,” President Neal Smatresk said in a statement.

Thriving research universities foster economic development by infusing their regions with technology, knowledge and talent.

Duane Dimos, UTA vice president for research

Carnegie’s assignment to categories of “highest,” “higher” and “moderate” research activity is based on research-and-development expenditures in science and engineering and in other fields; science and engineering research staff including postdoctoral candidates and nonfaculty staff with doctorates; and doctoral conferrals in humanities and social sciences, STEM fields and other areas like business, education, public policy and social work, according to UT Arlington.

“It is quite an accomplishment,” Raymund Paredes, commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, told The Texas Tribune. “It is obviously an indication that our emerging research universities are in fact emerging and becoming top research universities.”

There is no universally accepted standard for what overall “Tier One” means, the Tribune reported, but in general, schools are expected to bring in at least $100 million a year in research grants, plus have selective admissions and high-quality faculty. Another common measuring stick is membership in the prestigious invitation-only American Association of Universities. UT Austin, Texas A&M and Rice are widely considered to be Tier One, the Tribune reported, and the University of Houston also claims that designation based on its top Carnegie ranking, though it isn’t a member of AAU.

UTA reached the threshold of 216 doctoral degrees conferred for the second year in a row in 2015, attaining another criterion in the quest to not only be classified as a national R-1 university but also to be ranked as Tier One in Texas.

Tier One universities attract top students and faculty, drive innovation and technology through high-level research and scholarship, and contribute significantly to the region and state through intellectual capital and economic development.

Tom McCoy, UNT’s vice president for research and economic development

UTA is recruiting 50 new faculty members in the colleges of engineering; business; architecture, planning and public affairs; education; science; liberal arts; and nursing and health innovation, with more openings to be posted this fall.

Last year, the university started down the path of its UTA Strategic Plan 2020 and carried out other steps to advance its mission, reputation and community service. Among those, plans were unveiled that call for a 200,000-square-foot Science and Engineering Innovation Research building, with groundbreaking expected in October.

UTA has “achieved and exceeded many of the metrics by which the nation’s most prestigious universities are measured, and we are well on our way to surpassing our near-term goal of $100 million in annual research expenditures,” Karbhari said.

UNT, meanwhile, introduced four Institutes of Research Excellence in October. It is also renovating its Science Research Building and other facilities to create more space for innovative work across campus.

UNT has been aggressively hiring more research-active faculty, many of whom come with strong funding, to create a more vigorous research culture. For instance, the Denton university said it now has 10 National Science Foundation Career Award winners and another on the way. The award is given to rising stars who have distinguished themselves in research and scholarship.

Earning R-1 status from Carnegie “reflects our commitment to excellence in our education and research mission and the quality of our students and graduates,” Smatresk said. “[It] is an important step in our journey — but it’s not the end.”

This report includes material from The Texas Tribune.

Patrick M. Walker: 817-390-7423, @patrickmwalker1

Big things brewing at UTA

New faces

The anticipated new hires this spring and fall are in addition to prominent hires made over the last year and a half. Those include: physicist David Nygren (National Academy of Sciences); Kenneth Reifsnider (National Academy of Engineering); Marco Brotto, the George W. and Hazel M. Jay Professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation; Mark Haykowsky, Moritz Chair of Geriatric Nursing Research in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation; College of Liberal Arts Dean Paul Wong; Nursing and Health Innovation Dean Anne Bavier; Vice President for Research Duane Dimos (National Academy of Inventors); and Dean of the College of Science Morteza Khaledi.

New money

Some of the notable recent grants awarded to UTA researchers:

$1.24 million from the Office of Naval Research to Michael Cho, chairman of the department of bioengineering, to determine how shock waves injure the brains of soldiers in battle;

$1.1 million from the National Institutes of Health to Michael Brothers, an associate professor of kinesiology, to develop what are believed to be the first formal protocols for effective and safe use of cold therapy, and a state-of-the-art cryotherapy device that can stimulate blood flow to keep tissue healthy and minimize potential side effects.

$2 million from the National Institutes of Health to Heng Huang, a professor in the computer science and engineering department, to investigate the possibility of predicting whether a person is predisposed to develop Alzheimer’s disease by analyzing complex genomics data.

$1 million from NASA to Purnendu “Sandy” Dasgupta, UTA’s Hamish Small Chair in Ion Analysis of Chemistry and Biochemistry, to further the search for amino acids, the so-called building blocks of life, in space.

Source: UT Arlington