Arkansas Research Alliance unveils research scholars

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 78 views 

These scholars have a little more than a high school diploma.

The Arkansas Research Alliance (ARA) introduced its first two ARA Scholars at a capitol press conference on Wednesday (July 7).

The initiative is a major shift in recruiting research-oriented entrepreneurial endeavors to Arkansas, according to this report from The ARA, a collaboration of business leaders, research institutions and entrepreneurs, was created after the 2007 legislative session. Its mission has been to jump-start the state’s efforts to expand research at various academic institutions in Arkansas and to find ways to grow that research into commercial applications centered around high-wage job creation.

Built on a successful program in Georgia, the ARA announced two new scholars, both of whom will be seeded with $500,000 from the state.

Dr. Ranil Wickramasinghe will join the faculty of the University of Arkansas from Colorado State University. He is considered an authority in the fields of sustainability bioenergy and purification of pharmaceutical products. Wickramasinghe will work at the UA center on sustainable agriculture and bioenergy management.

"We are very pleased to welcome Dr. Wickramasinghe to our faculty," UA Chancellor David Gearheart said in a statement. "His expertise and academic research strengths will advance our programs in highly relevant fields."

Dr. Daohong Zhou is a medical researcher considered an expert in the field of stem cell and cancer research. He joins the faculty of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences from South Carolina and will take a leading role in establishing a new research program of personalized health research sciences in Arkansas, according to the ARA.

"Dr. Zhou is an accomplished scientist with a strong international reputation in the field of radiation biology," UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn said in a statement. "We have high expectations for Dr. Zhou and his staff and anticipate that they will strengthen a developing research group focused on radiation-induced tissue energy."

The ARA scholars program opens a new frontier for economic development in Arkansas. The initiative allows Arkansas to aggressively pursue researchers in fields that could lead to commercialization and job creation. Georgia’s research alliance is given credit for helping start 150 companies and creating 5,500 high-wage jobs.

Arkansas hopes to emulate that success.

"The scholars program is fundamental to the ARA because job-creating research is a cornerstone of our core value: economic progress," said Entergy Arkansas President Hugh McDonald, chairman of the ARA board.

Jerry Adams, ARA President and CEO and a former Acxiom executive, said in the coming months the group hopes to launch a conference through the Rockefeller Institute to bring more collaborative bodies together to discuss additional research initiatives. Not only is ARA focused on bringing out-of-state recruits with promising research to Arkansas, but it is working to identify home-grown talent as well.

ARA has identified 9 strategic focus areas that combine state resources and potential recruiting opportunities for the future. They are:
• Enterprise Systems Computing
• Distributed Energy Network Systems
• Optics and Photonics
• Nano-related Materials and Applications
• Sustainable Agriculture and Bioenergy Management
• Food Processing and Safety
• Personalized Health Research Sciences
• Behavioral Research for Chronic Disease Management
• Obesity and Nutrition