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University of Arkansas at Little Rock

$1 Million Sturgis Gift Endows Nanotech Chair

A $1 million endowment to UALR from the Roy and Christine Sturgis Charitable Trust led today to the investiture of Dr. Alexandru S. Biris, director and chief scientist of the Nanotechnology Center at UALR, as the university’s first Sturgis Charitable Trust Nanotechnology Chair.

BirisDavid Ross, senior vice president of the Bank of America and senior philanthropic relationship manager for the Sturgis Trust, along with Sturgis Advisory Board Member Janet Stegall assisted Chancellor Joel E. Anderson in presenting the Sturgis Medallion to Biris at the investiture ceremony at the Engineering and Information Technology Auditorium.

“Mr. Ross and the trustees of the Roy and Christine Sturgis Charitable Trust have ensured that the nanotechnology program at UALR will produce excellent research and scholarship in perpetuity,” the chancellor said.

“Their generosity in endowing the chair in nanotechnology recognizes the remarkable scientific achievements of one of our brightest scholars, Dr. Alex Biris. Today’s announcement underscores UALR’s role as a leader in scientific research in Arkansas.”

investitureRoss said he and the trust were honored to make this investment in UALR and in the future of technology in central Arkansas.

“I firmly believe that advancing education in high technology fields such as nanotechnology will not only benefit Dr. Biris and his ongoing work, but will also enhance the economic recruitment of engineering and technology companies to Arkansas,” Ross said.

“This investiture continues the Roy and Christine Sturgis Charitable Trust’s legacy of education and economic advancement in the state of Arkansas.”

The Roy & Christine Sturgis Charitable Trust was established in 1981 to support and promote quality educational, cultural, human services, and health care programming for all people.

One of 10 children of an Arkansas farmer and homemaker, Roy Sturgis dropped out of school after the 10th grade to join the Navy during World War I. After the war, he returned to the family home in south Arkansas to work in local sawmills. He married Texas native Christine Johns and became very successful in the timber, lumber, and sawmill industries in Arkansas.

They owned other prosperous business enterprises and had notable success managing their investments, spending most of their time in Arkansas and Dallas. They never had children, but were particularly interested in helping provide educational opportunities for young people. The foundation has granted over $50 million to worthy organizations throughout Arkansas and Texas.

Alex BirisBiris, associate professor of systems engineering, serves as director of the UALR Nanotechnology Center and is focused on accelerating the development of commercial applications of nanotechnology through collaborations with private corporations, universities in the state and nation, and research institutes in the United States and abroad.

His research includes developing nanostructures to facilitate the growth of bone and other tissue, development of skin-like film to collect energy from the sun, and nanostructures to carry elements to kill cancer cells directly into diseased cells.

Biris was part of the team that designed, developed, and patented an electrodynamic dust shield for space exploration in collaboration with NASA and has published more than 15 scientific papers in the area of electrostatic dust mitigation – dust removal from solar panels. Other papers focused on his examination of Mars Dust Simulant properties by Raman Spectroscopy and X-Ray Diffraction.

Biris led the invention of a new method and technology for producing large quantities of carbon nanotubes with high purity, resulting in several pending U.S. patents. He also has led the design and development of filters based on carbon nanostructures to efficiently remove bio-chemical contaminants from air and water, also a pending U.S. patent application.

The UALR scientist helped develop a unique tissue regeneration system that has been used successfully in 33 clinical studies to grow bone tissue with several patents filed. In all, Biris has filed 22 patent applications in nanotechnology, bio-nanotechnology, and materials science.