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Academic News 2023


Medina-Bolivar Hosts Puerto Rican Teachers at ABI

Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolivar

For a second year, Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolivar, professor of plant metabolic engineering, spoke and led laboratory activities for K-14 teachers at the agricultural biotechnology workshop hosted by the Inter American University of Puerto Rico, Barranquitas campus. Afterward, he gave biotechnology training on medicinally active plants in his Arkansas Biosciences Institute lab to four Puerto Rican high school teachers. The project is supported by a USDA Professional Development for Agricultural Literacy grant.

Sweet Presents Conference Keynote

Dr. Andrew Sweet

Dr. Andrew Sweet, assistant professor of evolutionary biology, gave a keynote address at the International Conference of Phthiraptera, conducted virtually. The conference is a gathering of researchers and clinicians working on parasitic lice, and included attendees from every continent except Antarctica. Sweet’s presentation highlighted his research on using genetic information to untangle the co-evolutionary history between birds and their feather lice.

Merten and Student Researchers Publish Studies

Dr. Jonathan Merten

Dr. Jonathan Merten, associate professor of chemistry, along with undergraduate researchers Erin Nicholas, Shawnda Ethridge, Hannah Bariola, Shealyn Chestnut, Anna Anders, Jackie Brees and Marybeth Foster are co-authors of two recent journal articles published in Spectrochimica Acta Part B. With National Science Foundation funding, their work adapted astronomy techniques to measure the mass and chemical composition of transient laser-ablation plasmas.


Lorence is Involved in Quest for Major NSF Grant

Dr. Argelia Lorence

The research Dr. Argelia Lorence, professor of metabolic engineering and Vaughn Endowed Professor, and her team of investigators are conducting into the impact of climate change on the growth of rice was featured in a front-page article published last week in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. This follows a related feature in the New York Times. Both articles about rice, a major source of the world’s food supply, are available to subscribers. Arkansas is the nation's largest rice producer.

Alam Awarded Grant from Kays Foundation

Dr. Mohammad Alam

A grant proposal by Dr. Mohammad Abrar Alam, associate professor and Beck Professor in Chemistry, has been approved by the Kays Foundation. Titled “Synthesis antibacterial characterization of novel aminothiazole derivatives,” the $12,400 project will help support development of novel antibiotics as part of Alam’s ongoing studies. The work involves both undergraduate and graduate STEM students, from underrepresented groups, working on relevant and cutting-edge supporting research.


Lorence is Involved in Quest for Major NSF Grant

Dr. Argelia Lorence

Dr. Argelia Lorence, professor of metabolic engineering and Vaughn Endowed Professor, worked with a coalition of entities in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi to secure a $1 million planning grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant will support development of an application for a $150 million NSF grant that will promote equitable health and economic outcomes across the three states. She also will help identify A-State faculty whose work aligns with the grant’s goals.


Wilhide Recognized By Staff Centennial Wall Of Honor

Marilyn Wilhide

Congratulations to Marilyn Wilhide, COSM Fiscal Support Supervisor, who was recognized at the Distinuished Performance Awards & Service Recognition Ceremony 5/17/23 for making a significant contribution to A-State during its history.

Kennon’s Work in Science Fills 22-Year Career

Dr. Tillman Kennon

Dr. Tillman Kennon, professor of science education, was among the retirees recognized at Faculty Honors Convocation. Kennon earned two bachelor’s and a master’s degree at A-State before joining the faculty; he finished his doctorate at Memphis. Kennon was instrumental in several grant-funded projects, including one that placed graduate students in regional middle schools to teach through active learning activities. He also directed the NEA Regional Science Fair for 18 years.

Sweet Earns Honors Professor Recognition

Dr. Andrew Sweet

Students in the Honors College selected Dr. Andrew Sweet, assistant professor of evolutionary biology, as Honors Professor of the Year. Sweet, who taught “Honors Biology of Animals,” was chosen from among seven individuals nominated for the award, announced during the Honors Recognition Ceremony Friday. Sweet’s nominators emphasized his thorough explanations of course material, passion for the subject, and encouragement for students to become more engaged and think critically.

Neuman-Lee and Students Study Turtle Physiology

Dr. Bruce Johnson

Research by Dr. Lori Neuman-Lee, assistant professor of physiology, along with her graduate student researchers Jen Terry and Emily Field was published recently in General and Comparative Endocrinology. Their article examines the immune and hormone interactions in turtles in the Northeast Arkansas region. The work highlights the influence of reproduction on the physiology of these reptiles. The article is available online.


Research by Biological Sciences Team is Published

Biology Research

Alix Matthews, a Ph.D. student, is lead author of a paper published in Systematic Biology. Co-authors are Dr. Than Boves, associate professor of avian ecology, Dr. Drew Sweet, assistant professor of evolutionary biology, and Dr. Asela Wijeratne, assistant professor of bioinformatics. The paper describes their research that combined massive amounts of fieldwork along with cutting-edge genomics to assess the variation in host specificity of symbionts and their hosts, focusing on birds and feather mites.

Teaching Award, Tenure Track: Dr. Bruce Johnson

Dr. Bruce Johnson

Dr. Bruce Johnson, professor of physics, received the Excellence in Teaching, Tenure-Track, Award. Johnson’s nominators emphasized his caring attitude, frequently making extra efforts to help students, especially with difficult concepts.

Excellence in Advising Award: Dr. Maureen Dolan

Dr. Maureen Dolan

Dr. Maureen Dolan, associate professor of molecular biology and director of the biotechnology program, received the Excellence in Advising Award. Dolan has been very successful interacting with the students she advises, using that information to more effectively help them with getting prepared for professional graduate school or entering the STEM workforce after graduation. Dolan also advised the student team that won a NASA grant and prepared an experiment for the International Space Station.

Emerging Scholar: Dr. Lori Neuman-Lee

Dr. Lorin Neuman-Lee

The Emerging Scholar Award recognizes a pre-tenure faculty member for exceptional scholarly achievement. The recipient, Dr. Lori Neuman-Lee, assistant professor of physiology, has published numerous journal articles and secured grants for her lab.

Bouldin and Regn to Study Nutrient Reduction

Dr. Jennifer Bouldin

Dr. Jennifer Bouldin, interim dean, Sciences and Mathematics, and professor of environmental biology, is principal investigator (PI) for a project funded by the state Agriculture Department’s Natural Resources Division. Orithea Regn, research associate, Ecotoxicology Research Facility, is co-PI. The department is implementing nutrient reduction-related projects that support the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force’s program. They will analyze water quality data from drainage ditches designed to reduce nutrient loss. Details are online.


Journal Appoints Lorence as Associate Editor

Dr. Argelia Lorence

Dr. Argelia Lorence, James and Wanda Lee Vaughn Endowed Professor, lead of A-State Phenomics Core, and professor of metabolic engineering, has been appointed to a three-year term as associate editor of The Plant Phenome Journal. The peer-reviewed open-access journal publishes original research, interpretations and datasets investigating all aspects of plant phenomics. These approaches are key to developing crops able to thrive under challenging environmental conditions.


Sweet Receives Kay Foundation Research Grant

Dr. Andrew Sweet

The Kays Foundation has approved a grant of $12,223 to support research by Dr. Andrew Sweet, assistant professor of evolutionary biology. Sweet will use the award to apply cutting-edge DNA sequencing technologies for a better understanding of arthropod biodiversity in northeast Arkansas. The project, which will continue until September 2024, also will provide training for undergraduate students in the field of molecular biology.


Alam is Named First Beck Professor in Chemistry

Dr. Mohammad Abrar Alam

Last week the university announced alumni Charlotte and Buddy Beck have endowed two new professorships at A-State. Dr. Mohammad Abrar Alam, associate professor of chemistry, was named as the inaugural recipient of the Beck Professorship in Chemistry. The focus of Alam's research group is the development of new antibiotics to treat drug-resistant bacterial infections. He joined A-State’s faculty in 2015. Details about the Beck Professorships are online.

Zhou is Co-Author of Cell Function Research

Dr. Guolie Zhou

A research article co-authored by Dr. Guolei (Jason) Zhou, professor of cell biology, has been published in the international journal Cellular Signalling. Through collaborations with Dr. Jianfeng Xu, research professor in agriculture, and Dr. Jennifer Y. Xie, NYITCOM, their study unravels molecular mechanisms underlying the fundamental cell function of CAP1, which also is involved in the invasiveness of human cancers. Seven undergraduate and graduate students are co-authors, including the lead authors.

Medina-Bolivar Secures Sixth U.S. Patent

Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolivar

Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolivar, professor of plant metabolic engineering, has obtained a U.S. patent on “Stilbenoid Prenyltransferases from Plants.” This is the sixth patent Medina-Bolivar has secured for his research on health-related compounds from plants. The invention describes a procedure to produce prenylated stilbenoids using genetic engineering strategies. These compounds have applications as anticancer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents. Co-inventors are former Ph.D. student Tianhong Yang and Dr. Keithanne Mockaitis of Indiana.

Boves Identifies Rare Warbler Subspecies

Dr. Than Boves

Research by Dr. Than J. Boves, associate professor of avian ecology, and Alex Worm, a Ph.D. student, has been published in Ornithology. While studying black-throated green warblers, they collected blood from populations of the bird in multiple states to sequence their DNA; they found the south Atlantic coastal population is genetically unique. The Center for Biological Diversity will petition for this subspecies to be listed under the Endangered Species Act.

McKay and Lett Present to Joint Meeting

Dr. Tanja McKay

Dr. Tanja McKay, professor of entomology and interim associate department chair, and student Becca Lett made a presentation to the Joint Meeting of the Entomological Society of America, Entomological Society of Canada, and the British Columbia Entomological Society in Vancouver. Their work was titled “Dung beetle biodiversity in cattle pastures and forested habitats in Northeast Arkansas.” The theme for the Joint Meeting was “Entomology as Inspiration: Insects through art, science, and culture.”