Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday (Aug. 3) joined members of the Arkansas Research Alliance (ARA) at the State Capitol to announce five new fellows for a statewide, public-private program began nearly a decade ago to attract and keep world-class researchers and scientists in Arkansas.
The announcement brings the ARA Academy of Scholars and Fellows to 23 researchers across the state who will specifically support university study that fuels innovation, encourages collaboration, and strengthens economic opportunity.
Gov. Hutchinson told a roomful of business leaders and university officials that the new research fellows will be an incredible asset to the state in the area of scientific research and progress.
“I look around the room and I see people who are devoted both to education, but also to the importance of research,” the governor said. “And I would also express my particular thanks to the companies in the private sector who have been so supportive of the alliance that makes this possible.”
The research alliance was founded in 2008 and current consist of 21 board members, including the five chancellors from the state’s research university and 16 business leaders. The alliance’s goal is to recruit, recognize and leverage university research for the greatest economic impact where Arkansas possesses core competencies. In 2015, the ARA Academy of Scholars and Fellows was created to recognize exception researchers across the state.
The ARA Scholars program recruits talent to the state’s research universities, while the ARA Fellows program recognizes researchers already working at one of those colleges, including Arkansas State University, University of Arkansas, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
Each ARA Scholar recruited to Arkansas receives a three-year grant for $500,000. Under the ARA Fellows program research talent already working on campuses at one of the five research universities or at the federal Food and Drug Administration’s National Center for Toxicological Research in Jefferson receives a 3-year grant for $75,000.
Sonja Hubbard, CEO of Texarkana-based E-Z Mart Stores and ARA chairman, said the public-private partnership has helped recruit superior research talent to Arkansas.
“There are truly industry and business leaders from around the state that see the importance of this, and contribute their time and money to help fund this organization,” Hubbard said.
Following are this year’s ARA Fellows.
• Dr. Laurent Bellaiche: Distinguished Professor at the University of Arkansas’ Department of Physics and Institute for Nanoscience and Engineering.
Bellaiche joined the university in 1999, and has masters of science and PhD degrees from the University of Paris. Dr. Bellaiche’ s research centers around the goal to significantly enhance the current understanding of many different kinds of materials – including ferroelectronics, multiferroics, solid solutions, nanostructures – by discovering new phenomena and identifying their microscopic origins.
• Dr. Tansel Karabacak: Professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Karabacak, who recently received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to improve low-carbon fuel cells for mass transit, joined the UALR staff in 2006 after earning his doctorate in 2003 from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Karabacak’s research focuses on the properties and applications of nanostructured and think film materials. He has also conducted pioneering work on glancing angled deposited nanostructures, also known as GLAD.
• Dr. Rebecca Lochmann: Interim chair and director of the Aquaculture/Fisheries (AQFI) Center at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB).
She received her bachelor’s degree in zoology from Louisiana State University in 1981, and her doctorate from Texas A&M University in 1999. Lochmann’s research evaluates the efficacy of alternative dietary protein and lip sources, prebiotics and probiotics, and other feed additives on the growth, health, product quality and reproductive performance of baitfish, catfish, largemouth bass and hybrid striped bass and tilapia. She joined the UAPB staff in 1993.
• Dr. Merle Paule: Director of the Division of Neurotoxicology and senior biomedical research scientist at NCTR.
He received his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and doctorate in pharmacology and toxicology at the University of California at Davis. Paule has played a role in developing an automated system for monitoring multiple complex brain functions in nonhuman primates, children and rodents. He joined the NCTR staff in 1983.
• Dr. Mark Smeltzer: Professor at the UAMS’ Department of Microbiology and Immunology and director for the university’s Center for Microbial Pathogenesis and Host Inflammatory Responses.
He obtained his bachelor’s degree from Washburn University and his doctorate from Kansas State University. Smeltzer’s research focuses on infections caused by the bacterial pathogen Staphylococcus aureus. With a particular emphasis on those infections involving bone and indwelling orthopedic devices.