UNT's efforts to join the nation's top research universities are paying off.
In 2008-09, UNT's external research awards grew by 15.2 percent, and in 2009-10, the university expects an increase of 20 percent. UNT also has committed to making its own $25 million investment in collaborative research clusters. Now, with a new state program that rewards emerging research universities like UNT for progress, the transformation can continue with more momentum.
The program is designed to match from 50 percent to 100 percent of the gifts the university receives that support research. Together, the new funds will increase the number of graduate fellowships, endowed chairs and professorships, and high-quality facilities and equipment, all of which are critical to improving the impact UNT can make through discovery.
“Our momentum will continue to accelerate now that we can leverage the support of our donors,” UNT President Gretchen M. Bataille says.
This year, UNT is opening a new $2.2 million high-powered computing facility that will provide a tenfold increase in the university's computational power. It will be among the premier facilities of its kind in the country and the most powerful academic computing facility in the Dallas-Fort Worth region.
“This is a huge step forward for the university,” says Vish Prasad, vice president for research and economic development. “This facility will position UNT to compete for the biggest and most competitive grants.”
The centralized high-performance facility will provide scientists and researchers with the tools they need to perform invaluable research in fields ranging from energy and the environment to aeronautics and web archiving.
Several UNT researchers already have been singled out with notable awards this year for their work.
Rada Mihalcea, associate professor of computer science and engineering, was one of only 100 researchers nationwide and the only one in the region to earn the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor for a beginning scientist or engineer. She will be honored at the White House this fall.
Mihalcea's research focuses on the semantic interpretation of text to create word meaning representations that can be adapted to specific language-processing applications.
Mihalcea also is one of five UNT faculty members to win a CAREER award, given by the National Science Foundation to promising up-and-coming researchers.
Srinivasan Srivilliputhur, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, is UNT's newest CAREER award recipient. His research focuses on the development of strong, ultra-light materials for automotive and other advanced applications. Such engineered materials could someday replace heavier ones like steel and result in significant cuts in fuel consumption.
UNT's other CAREER award recipients include Mohammad Omary, professor of chemistry; Pam Padilla, associate professor of biology; and Angela Wilson, professor of chemistry.