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Academic News 2022


Merten and Chestnut Address SciX Conference

Dr. Jonathan Merten

Dr. Jonathan Merten (left), associate professor of chemistry, and undergraduate researcher Shealyn Chestnut spoke at SciX. Merten presented two talks (with five undergraduate co-authors), “Probing LIP-Atmosphere Interaction with Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy,” and “A Critical Comparison of Laser-Ablation Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy Paradigms.” Chestnut presented her research as a poster, “Mass and Morphology of Yttrium Plasma as Function of Ablation Energy.” Their work came out of Merten’s National Science Foundation funding.

NSF Invites Izadyar to be Project Reviewer

dr. Anahita Izadyar

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has asked Dr. Anahita Izadyar, associate professor of chemistry, to serve as a reviewer for its Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) in 2023. NSF reviewers use their experience and knowledge to provide helpful advice to NSF program officers on specific grant proposals and to offer constructive comments to grant applicants. Izadyar will review projects involving chemical catalysis and several related fields.


Kennon and Carroll Present on Eclipse Studies

Dr. Tillman Kennon (left) and Dr. Ross Carroll (right)

Dr. Tillman Kennon (left), professor of science education, and Dr. Ross Carroll (right), associate professor of physics, gave an invited talk at the National Council of Space Grant Directors' Southeast Regional Meeting in Puerto Rico. They discussed Arkansas BalloonSAT's mission to observe the 2017 total solar eclipse from the upper atmosphere and presented an outlook for the April 8, 2024, total solar eclipse coming to Arkansas.

Merten Talks on Research Involving Students

Dr. Jonathan Merten

Dr. Jonathan Merten, associate professor of chemistry, gave an invited talk about his National Science Foundation-funded work at LIBS2022, an international conference in Bari, Italy. The talk was titled “Death of a LIP-Influence of Reactive Gas on Persistence of Ground State Vapor.” Co-authors on the talk included students and graduates in chemistry, Erin Nicholas, Shawnda Ethridge and Shealyn Chestnut, and in biology, Hannah Bariola and Marybeth Foster.

Zhou Receives Grant from Arkansas Breast Cancer Research Program

Dr. Guolei Zhou

Dr. Guolei Zhou, professor of cell biology, is conducting his research with support recently awarded by the Arkansas Breast Cancer Research Program. The program approved a grant of $50,000 for his research, “CAP1 Mediates cAMP Signals in the Cell Type-Specific Regulation of Breast Cancer Cell Proliferation.”

McKay is Consulting on Grain Transport Issues

Dr. Tanja McKay

Dr. Tanja McKay, professor of entomology and interim associate chair, biological sciences, is part of a team working with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to study their food aid supply chain as it pertains to grain protection. They are examining new bag technologies and best practices for fumigation of grains, such as rice and sorghum, as it moves from the United States by train, truck or cargo ship, and ending in ports in Djibouti, South Africa and Yemen.

Medina-Bolivar to Lead Doctoral Programs

Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolivar

Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolivar, professor of plant metabolic engineering, is the new director of the doctoral programs in environmental sciences and molecular biosciences. He will meet regularly with Dr. Jennifer Bouldin, dean, Sciences and Mathematics, who announced the appointment. One of the most productive researchers at A-State, Medina-Bolivar joined the Arkansas Biosciences Institute faculty in 2005. The Arkansas Research Alliance named him as an ARA Fellow last year.

Merten and Student Work on NSF Research Grant

Dr. Jonathan Merten

As part of a National Science Foundation grant, Dr. Jonathan Merten, associate professor of chemistry, spent time at the University of Florida during the summer setting up experiments in the lab of a colleague and collaborator. He and his undergraduate research student, Shealyn Chestnut, joined UF colleagues to use a novel high-resolution spectrograph for measuring the mass of a laser-induced plasma. The experiments complement results from a spectrometer in Merten’s lab.

Shields Selected for Microbiology Lectureship

Dr. Robert Shields

Dr. Robert Shields, assistant professor of microbiology, was selected to receive the 2022 Randall Lectureship Award, presented by the South Central Branch of the American Society for Microbiology. Shields presented his lecture and accepted the award during the organization’s annual conference, which was hosted by Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Shreveport. Shields was nominated for the award by Dr. Stephen Mullin, chair, Department of Biological Sciences.

Neuman-Lee’s Students Research Turtles at Zoo

Dr. Lori Neuman-Lee

Research conducted by students who work under the guidance of Dr. Lori Neuman-Lee, assistant professor of physiology, was featured by the Memphis Zoo. Jen Terry, an environmental sciences Ph.D. candidate, took interest in the freshwater turtles that live at the zoo but are not part of the official collection. She conducted research under the guidance of Neuman-Lee and with assistance from technician Alexia Vanoven, an undergraduate wildlife, fisheries and conservation major.


Take 5 With Dr. Argelia Lorence

Dr. Argelia Lorence

In the first edition of "Take 5",Chancellor Todd Shields & Dr. Argelia Lorence discuss the progress of her multi-year study on the impact of nighttime temperatures & rice production.

Medina-Bolivar To Present In Project Scope

Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolivar

Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolivar, professor of plant metabolic engineering and an Arkansas Research Alliance (ARA) Academy member, will make the next presentation in Project Scope, a monthly session sponsored by ARA, Oct. 26. He and his team are studying the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties of bioactive compounds of plants, and extracts enriched with these compounds, as potential adjuvants in triple-negative breast cancer. Online registration is available.

Sweet is Co-Organizer for International Conference

Dr. Andrew Sweet

Dr. Andrew D. Sweet, assistant professor of evolutionary biology, was one of the co-organizers of a symposium at the Congress of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology in Prague, Czech Republic. The symposium, which attracted approximately 1,800 attendees, highlighted some of the latest research on host-symbiont co-evolution, including work from genetics, evolutionary biology, experimental biology and mathematical theory. The featured researchers represented 11 different countries.

Medina-Bolivar Gives Lectures in Puerto Rico

Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolivar

Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolivar, professor of plant metabolic engineering, gave lectures and led laboratory activities on plant metabolomics to K-14 teachers at the USDA-sponsored workshop on agricultural biotechnology hosted by the Inter American University of Puerto Rico, Barranquitas campus. Medina-Bolivar was also an invited speaker at the annual Conference of the American Council for Medicinal Plants (ACMAP), hosted by the same institution. Three of his students also presented.


Kays Foundation Approves Augusto’s Proposal

Andressa Alves Augusto

Andressa Alves Augusto, research associate, Ecotoxicology Research Facility, wrote a successful proposal to the Kays Foundation for a $11,862 grant to modernize the facility’s fish culturing infrastructure. The grant will support a plumbing upgrade and renovations to the equipment used for culturing. The project will be evaluated by comparing fish health, using data collected before upgrade and post-upgrade, along with time spent culturing.

Research by Izadyar and Team is Published

Dr. Anahita Izadyar

Dr. Anahita Izadyar, associate professor of chemistry, is corresponding author of an article published in the Journal of the Biocatalysis and Agricultural Biotechnology. The title is "Electrocatalytic effect of recombinant Mn peroxidase from corn on microbiosensors to detect glucose." The co-authors are Dr. Elizabeth E. Hood, emeritus professor of agriculture, and undergraduate students My Ni Van, Marcela Miranda and Scout Weatherford.

Alam Studies Domino Reaction Development

Dr. Mohammad Abrar Alam

An invited perspective by Dr. Mohammad A. Alam, associate professor of chemistry, was published in Current Organic Chemistry. In “Domino/Cascade and Multicomponent Reactions for the Synthesis of Thiazole Derivatives,” Alam discusses the development of various domino reactions to synthesize thiazole derivatives.

Dr.'s Alam and Gilmore Co-Author Article

Dr. Mohammad Alam (left) and Dr. David Gilmore (right)

Dr. Mohammad Alam, associate professor of chemistry (left), and Dr. David Gilmore, emeritus professor of microbiology (right), are co-authors of an article in Antibiotics, in which they reported the development of pyrazole derivatives as potent antibacterial agents.

Lorence’s Research Featured in Guardian

Dr. Argelia Lorence

Dr. Argelia Lorence, professor of metabolic engineering, and her research into climate impact on rice production were highlighted in a Guardian article. NBC News is producing a follow-up. Also, Lorence and Dr. Karina Medina-Jimenez, Arkansas Biosciences Institute, co-edited a book written by research teams from the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Chile and Spain. Each chapter, including two from Lorence’s team, describes a step-by-step protocol for high throughput plant phenotyping. Details are online.


JENNIFER BOULDIN to serve as interim dean of sciences and mathematics

Dr. Jennifer Bouldin

Associate dean for the college and a professor of environmental biology, Dr. Jennifer Bouldin, will step in following the retirement in August of current dean Dr. Lynn Boyd.

Sweet's Article Analyzes Change in Cell Function

Dr. Andrew Sweet

An article co-authored by Dr. Andrew D. Sweet, assistant professor of evolutionary biology, was recently published in Communications Biology. The researchers found that parasitic lice evolved fragmented mitochondrial genomes many times over the last 60 million years. In most other animals, these fragmented genomes are associated with cell death and aging, but lice seem to function normally. The results could challenge assumptions about how eukaryotic cells function.

Visiting Fulbright Scholar

Dr. Argelia Lorence (left) and Dr. Crystal Palomares (right)

Dr. Argelia Lorence (left), professor of metabolic engineering, and Arkansas Biosciences Institute research team, host International Fulbright scholar, Dr. Crystal Columba Palomares (right). Dr. Palomares joins Dr. Lorence and team on research that could change the way the world cultivates one of its most important grains (see video). If you are interested in learning more about the Fulbright Student Program click here

Wijeratne and Students Present Workshop

Dr. Asela Wijeratne

Dr. Asela Wijeratne (left), assistant professor of bioinformatics, and two of his graduate students, Brett Hale and Sandarwuan Ratnayake, presented a workshop at the International Plant Biology meeting in Portland, organized by the American Society of Plant Biologists. Their workshop included analysis of high-throughput gene expression data. In addition, they also presented a poster session on their work regarding plant-pathogen interactions.


Boves Contributes Research to Bird Study

Dr. Than Boves

Dr. Than Boves, associate professor of avian ecology, was one of the scientists from leading bird and wildlife research and conservation groups who published a study modeling a novel approach to mapping seasonal migration pathways for birds. Boves contributed his expertise to the study, in Ecological Applications, along with migratory data he and students have collected on the prothonotary warbler. His lab has studied the warbler for nearly a decade.

Izadyar and Colleagues Publish Research

Dr. Anahita Izadyar

Congratulations to Dr. Anahita Izadyar, associate professor of chemistry, who with several colleagues has authored an article for the peer-reviewed Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. She is corresponding author, and Dr. Elizabeth E. Hood, Lipscomb Distinguished Professor, Dr. Ilwoo Seok, associate professor of mechanical engineering, and undergraduates My Ni Van, Marcela Miranda and Scout Weatherford are co-authors of this publication.


Weaver Selected for INBRE Award for Summer Research Fellowship

Alexx Weaver

Alexx Weaver of Lonoke is conducting research this summer at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) as recipient of the 2022 INBRE Mentored Research Summer Fellowship. Weaver is a junior biotechnology and biological sciences major at Arkansas State University. The award is valued at $6,000 for housing, board and a stipend while she conducts her work. The article is online

Medina-Bolivar Co-Authors Research Paper

Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolivar

A paper co-authored by Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolivar, professor of plant metabolic engineering, was published in Plants. The paper describes a novel approach to produce cajaninstilbene acid, a compound from pigeon pea with neuroprotective, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. The first author is Medina-Bolivar’s Ph.D. student in molecular biosciences, Gaurav Gajurel. Dr. Luis Nopo-Olazabal and undergraduate student Emily Hendrix also were co-authors. The article is online

ABI Researchers Featured in Annual Report


As Arkansas Biosciences Institute celebrates its 20th anniversary, its 2021 annual report features researchers who have contributed to its success, including eight ABI faculty at A-State. Congratulations to ABI veterans Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolivar (p. 18), Dr. Argelia Lorence (p. 20), and Dr. Maureen Dolan (p. 32), along with newer faculty Dr. Emily Bellis (p. 34), Dr. Sudeepa Bhattacharyya (p. 47), Dr. Kyle Gustafson (p. 35), Dr. Scott Mangan (p. 36) and Dr. Andrew Sweet (p. 37). The report is now online

Neuman-Lee Studies Snakes’ Unique Immunity

Dr. Lori Neuman-Lee

Dr. Lori Neuman-Lee, assistant professor of physiology, was recently awarded a grant from the Arkansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (Arkansas INBRE), along with two collaborators from Southern Arkansas University. Their grant, titled “Characterization of Snake Immunity in a Novel Animal Model,” examines the role of immune cells in snakes, which have a unique immune strategy. Neuman-Lee joined the faculty in 2017.

Merten Appointed to Journal Editorial Board

Dr. Jonathan A. Merten

Dr. Jonathan A. Merten, associate professor of chemistry, has been appointed to the editorial advisory board of Spectrochimica Acta Part B: Atomic Spectroscopy, a journal in which his work has frequently been published. The journal was initially established in 1939 by the Vatican's astronomic observatory. The editorial board of the publication includes 46 editors and editorial advisory board members in 13 countries or regions.


Jenkins is A-State's Rookie of the Year

Amanda Jenkins

Amanda Jenkins, administrative specialist in Biological Sciences, is recipient of the Rookie of the Year Award. After beginning this job in 2021, her quick move through the learning curve has been noted by faculty. In addition to serving as the department’s first point of contact, she books travel, assists uploading the academic schedule, drafts minutes for faculty meetings, and assists students and faculty members with various needs.

Tunno is Keynote Speaker for Symposium

Dr. Ferebee Tunno

Dr. Ferebee Tunno, associate professor of statistics, was the keynote speaker at Christian Brothers University’s recent Undergraduate Math and Computer Science Symposium. He was invited by A-State alumnus Dr. Justin Smith, who is an assistant professor on the CBU faculty. The title of Tunno’s talk was "Introduction to GARCH Processes," where GARCH is an acronym for “generalized autoregressive conditionally heteroskedastic.”

Marsico Appointed to Jefferson Science Fellowship

Dr. Travis Marsico

Congratulations to Dr. Travis Marsico, professor of botany and associate department chair, on his appointment by the U.S. Department of State to the 2022-23 class of Jefferson Science Fellows. This program, for which Marsico will live in Washington, D.C., is designed to enhance capacity for science, technology and engineering expertise within the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Marsico gives details in a video report

Wijeratne Receives USDA Research Funding

Dr. Asela Wijeratne

Dr. Asela Wijeratne, assistant professor of bioinformatics, has received a research grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Working with colleagues from Iowa State, he and his team will examine how certain soil-borne pathogens alter microbes in the vicinity of soybean roots, and they will look for novel materials for biocontrol of phytophthora stem and root rot.

Izadyar to Conduct Reviews for Swiss NSF

Dr. Anahita Izadyar)

Dr. Anahita Izadyar, associate professor of chemistry, has been invited by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) to conduct grant proposals for two projects, one involving sensing systems in aquatic ecosystems and the other involving ion recognition in electrochemistry. She also completed invited reviews of research articles in four different professional scholarly journals, including Journal of ChemElectroChem, Electrochemistry Communications Journal, and Journal of Nanostructure in Chemistry.


Gustafson and Students Present at Conference

Dr. Kyle Gustafson

Dr. Kyle Gustafson, assistant professor of biology, accompanied six science students to the state conference of the Arkansas chapter of The Wildlife Society, held at DeGray Lake Resort State Park. Doctoral degree student Zachary Campbell, master’s student Taylor Fiedor, and undergraduate students Landen Ho, Maria Bollinger and Benjamin Brown, along with Gustafson, all made presentations for the conference participants.

McKay and Rolland's Rice Research is Published

Dr. Tanja McKay (left) and Dr. Virginie Rolland (right)

Dr. Tanja McKay (left), professor of entomology, and Dr. Virginie Rolland (right), associate professor of quantitative wildlife ecology, with former grad student Rachel Hampton co-authored a paper published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. They looked for detrimental effects from using infrared technology, used in drying rice, on germinating rice seeds destined for the next field season. They concluded lower-power intensities did not affect germination.


Merten is Author of Invited Journal Review Articlet

Dr. Jonathan Merten

An invited review article by Dr. Jonathan Merten, associate professor of chemistry, has been published in Spectrochimica Acta Part B: Atomic Spectroscopy.The article pertained to laser-ablation atomic absorption spectroscopy. Merten also recently presented research posters with undergraduate authors Hannah Bariola, Shawnda Ethridge and Erin Nicholas at the Conference on Plasma Spectrochemistry in Tucson.

Wijeratne Receives Kays Foundation Grant

Dr. Asela Wijeratne

Dr. Asela Wijeratne, assistant professor of bioinformatics, submitted a successful research grant proposal to the Kays Foundation. Through his project, funded in the amount of $16,168, Wijeratne is seeking to find a more durable and environmentally friendly solution for sudden death syndrome (SDS), which is a highly destructive soybean disease caused by the fungal pathogen, Fusarium virguliforme.

Medina-Bolivar Describes Anti-Cancer Compound

Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolivar

Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolivar, professor of plant metabolic engineering, is co-author of a paper published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. Sepideh Mohammadhosseinpour, a Ph.D. student in the molecular biosciences Ph.D. program, is first author. They describe a compound, isolated from peanut roots, and its effects on triple-negative breast cancer cells. They are very optimistic about the potential benefits because triple-negative breast cancer is the most difficult to treat.


Merten and Undergraduates Present at SciX

Dr. Jonathan Merten

Dr. Jonathan Merten, associate professor of chemistry, presented an invited talk recently at SciX in Rhode Island. Undergraduate co-authors Anna G. Anders, Erin Nicholas, Aaron Hopson, Jackie Brees and Shawnda Ethridge also participated. Their presentation was “Influence of atmosphere on laser-ablation atomic absorption measurements – findings and potential for artifacts.” These students and Merten also presented research posters. In addition, Merten gave an invited seminar at Florida, his alma mater, on “Hyphenating the laser-induced plasma.”

MAlam’s Pyrazole Review is Published

Dr. Mohammad Abrar Alam

An invited review by Dr. Mohammad A. Alam, associate professor of chemistry, has been published in Future Medicinal Chemistry. In the review, “Antibacterial pyrazoles: tackling resistant bacteria” Alam notes that development of bacterial resistance to antibiotics has been described, and has been followed in recent years by antibacterial properties of pyrazole derivatives. He also discussed the mode of action of these compounds.

Neuman-Lee is Speaker for Biology Conference

Dr. Lori Neuman-Lee

Dr. Lori Neuman-Lee, assistant professor of physiology, was an invited speaker for the Society for Comparative and Integrative Biology Conference. Her talk described an in-depth review she and her student lab employees conducted when their lab and fieldwork was shut down in 2020 due to the pandemic. They found there are huge gaps in the basic knowledge of reptilian immunology, presenting key challenges in their studies of how immune systems work.

Medina-Bolivar's Antioxidant Research Publishe

Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolivar

A paper co-authored by Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolivar, professor of plant metabolic engineering, was published in Molecules. The paper describes the antioxidant properties of extracts from peanut hairy roots. Antioxidants are important compounds that may play a role in preventing diseases in humans. The co-authors of this study were Medina-Bolivar’s Ph.D. students in molecular biosciences, Gaurav Gajurel and Rokib Hasan. Their article is online.

Gustafson Studies Impacts on Wildlife Genetics

Dr. Kyle Gustafson

Dr. Kyle Gustafson, assistant professor of biological sciences, is corresponding author for an article recently published in Evolutionary Applications. In a conservation study which notes the negative impact of urbanization on wildlife movements, Gustafson and colleagues highlight the value of information that can be gained from population genomic studies. The studies can provide guidance for conservation of fragmented populations. The open access article is available Details are online.

Boyd Giving Support for Rural STEM Students

Dr. Lynn Boyd

Dr. Lynn Boyd, dean, Sciences and Mathematics, serves on the board of the Foundation for Archuleta County Education (FACE), a non-profit that financially supports activities to enhance K-12 education in Archuleta County, Colorado. She provides advice regarding science education to the board, which makes grants to teachers in the county and runs a summer STEM camp for children. They are helping students to set higher career goals.


Support Reaches $575,000 for Red Wolf Conservation & Research Center

Loti Woods and Dale Weiler

Progress toward development of the American Red Wolf Conservation & Research Center (ARWCRC) at Craighead Forest Park in Jonesboro continues with investments of $575,000 to support the collaborative project led by Arkansas State University. The article is online.

Shields Secures R03 Grant from Federal NIH

Dr. Robert Shields

Dr. Robert Shields, assistant professor of microbiology, has secured a two-year research R03 grant of $270,393 from the National Institutes of Health. In this project he will investigate an essential gene that regulates expression of a mobile genetic element that helps transfer DNA from one bacteria to another. Essential genes represent the most critical components of a bacterial genome and are required for survival.

Mullin Elected to Lead Herpetologists Group

Dr. Stephen Mullin

Members of the Herpetologists’ League elected Dr. Stephen Mullin, chair, biological sciences, to serve as vice president and president-elect of the international professional group. Mullin, who first became involved with the league as a master’s student in 1990, will serve a two-year term before elevation to the presidency. The Herpetologists’ League, which publishes two scholarly journals, is devoted to studying amphibian and reptile biology.

Tunno Co-Authors Statistics Research

Dr. Ferebee Tunno

Dr. Ferebee Tunno, associate professor of statistics, and former faculty member Dr. Latia Carraway, now at Valley View High, co-authored a paper accepted for publication in Communications in Statistics: Case Studies and Data Analysis. They present a new way to measure the volatility of financial time series, which is shown to be on a par with arc length for such endeavors. An application involving the clustering of 30 prominent stocks is presented as well.

Medina-Bolivar Selected as ARA Research Fellow

Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolivar

Congratulations to Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolivar, professor of plant metabolic engineering, who was inducted into the Arkansas Research Alliance (ARA) Academy of Scholars and Fellows at the Governor's Mansion. Medina-Bolivar, whose lab is in the Arkansas Biosciences Institute, is one of A-State’s leading researchers and faculty advisers. Three of his students received the cell biology and biochemistry award for their poster presentation at the national Sigma Xi conference.

Alam and Gilmore are Working on Antimicrobials

Dr. Mohammad A. Alam (left) and Dr. David Gilmore (right)

A paper co-authored by Dr. Mohammad A. Alam (left), associate professor of chemistry, and Dr. David Gilmore (right), emeritus professor of microbiology, was published in Future Medicinal Chemistry. They describe the synthesis of a library of novel compounds as potent antimicrobial agents that are potent growth inhibitors of MRSA and vancomycin resistant enterococci (VRE), two of the more worrisome of the antibiotic-resistant gram-positive bacteria. The article is online.