Recent Awards

July 2020

Dr. Mary Yang receives $443,854 to develop deep learning methods to identify cells that promote complex disease development

Dr. Mary Yang, Professor of Information Science and Director of the Midsouth Bioinformatics Center at UA Little Rock, has received $443,854 from the National Institutes of Health to develop unique deep learning methods to identify key cell networks in complex diseases. This knowledge will help doctors and scientists further understand how complex diseases evolve and develop in the body, and how to identify effective drug targets. Yang’s deep learning model focuses on developing high-resolution single-cell genomic analytics techniques to capture cell differences with detail and clarity. By clearly characterizing cell differences, scientists can better identify cells that cause diseases to advance and evolve. This technique will allow more specialized, targeted treatments to different cells in the body.

Yang will supervise undergraduate students from different disciplines as well as graduate students in the joint UA Little Rock-UAMS Bioinformatics program during this project.

“The project will serve as a vehicle to equip undergraduate and graduate students with essential research skills and interdisciplinary knowledge, and to stimulate the students’ ambition to pursue careers in biomedical science,” Yang said.

The MidSouth Bioinformatics Center at UA Little Rock provides extensive bioscience computational resources and training to faculty, staff, and students in the region.

Research reported was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R15GM137288. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

February 2020

Center for Arkansas History and Culture receives $20,000 to digitize issues of Oxford American Magazine

The Center for Arkansas History and Culture at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock has received $20,360 to digitize and make searchable issues of the Oxford American, a quarterly literary publication based in Little Rock, Arkansas, that showcases the best southern writing. The center will digitize 106 issues of the publication from Spring 1992 to Fall 2019. Additionally, the center will perform optical character recognition of the text, a process that allows users to actively search content in the digital copy of the printed publication.

The project will be completed in the center’s Digital Services Lab, a comprehensive state-of-the-art technology space that provides digitization and born-digital processing services. The space is equipped with audio, video, photograph, and document digitization spaces along with a space specifically for processing digital materials.

“We are pleased to partner with this outstanding publication to promote a better understanding of southern culture,” Dr. Deborah Baldwin, director of the center said. “Our Digital Services Lab is not only a value to the university, but also to the community.”

The six-month project will digitize a total of 13,580 pages. Each digital copy of the publication will be produced in a high-quality image format.

October 2019

Jodie Mahony Center receives nearly $2.5 million to identify and serve promising STEM students from underrepresented populations

The Jodie Mahony Center for Gifted Education at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock has received $2,449,587 over a five-year period to develop and implement a STEM program that identifies and serves academically promising second and third grade students at Arkansas schools selected through a statewide application process. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the STEM+C2 program is designed to identify promising students through universal screening and provide services to gifted and talented second and third grade students, including students from underrepresented populations. STEM+C2 is the third multi-year research and demonstration program awarded to Dr. Ann Robinson to develop an evidence-based school intervention that encourages STEM talents in elementary schools. Rigorous field studies have documented the positive effects of the STEM+C2 program on students and teachers. These studies have been presented to audiences worldwide.

Working with researchers from Duke-TIP and the Penn State University, the Jodie Mahony Center will provide elementary students with the tools and resources they need to succeed in computer science, engineering, and mathematics with creativity and innovation. Through professional development, STEM+C2 will prepare second and third grade teachers in gifted, creative, and talented education with summer institutes and academic year support. The professional development will equip teachers with content related to STEM disciplines, strategies to identify promising students from underrepresented groups, and a STEM+C2 toolkit with engineering design challenges and computer science explorations. The program will also prepare teachers to implement “Blueprints for Biography: Computer Science Series” developed by researchers at the Mahony Center. The series features STEM innovators Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace, and Raye Montague, the 2019 recipient of the Fribourgh award at UA Little Rock.

“The STEM+C2 team assembled across three universities is a thrilling powerhouse of women devoted to developing academic and creative STEM talents in young children,” Robinson said. Dr. Jill Adelson, Research Scientist at Duke-TIP, and Dr. Christine Cunningham of the Pennsylvania State University, an international expert in science and engineering education, join Dr. Christine Deitz and Ms. Kristy Kidd from the Mahony Center for an exciting collaboration. I can’t wait!”

TRIO Talent Search receives two additional $40,000 awards for STEM-focused programs

The TRIO Talent Search Program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock has received two additional $40,000 awards from the U.S. Department of Education to support STEM-focused programs in Talent Search target high schools and middle schools in Pulaski County.

The TRIO Talent Search program and school officials will select students from these schools to participate in this unique curriculum. These STEM-focused programs include hands-on learning experiences in virtual reality applications, robot building, basic coding skills, web development, and various engineering applications.

“We are very excited to receive the STEM funds,” Linda Barker, UA Little Rock TRIO executive director said. “The awards present an opportunity to partner with the existing STEM programs at UA Little Rock. The hands-on experiences will give students confidence in their ability to succeed in science and math courses.”

Students and teachers in the STEM programs will also travel to different sites around central Arkansas to learn about STEM majors and career fields, including UA Little Rock, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, University of Central Arkansas, and other sites identified through the Arkansas STEM Coalition. The goal of this program is to allow students, parents, and teachers to learn more about STEM fields and careers in central Arkansas.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the TRIO Talent Search Program at UA Little Rock assists first-generation and/or economically disadvantaged students to complete secondary school and enroll in post-secondary education programs. For a complete list of participating schools, visit the TRIO website.

August 2019

Mariya Khodakovskaya receives $100,000 to study plant stress tolerance for space exploration

Dr. Mariya Khodakovskaya

Dr. Mariya Khodakovskaya has received $100,000 from NASA to discover how to improve sustainability and stress tolerance in plants developed for exploration of Mars. In order for humans to explore new planets such as Mars, plants and crops need to sustainably grow in environments that do not have an abundance of water. Khodakovskaya will be investigating how applying carbon nanomaterials such as graphene and carbon nanotubes can affect and enhance plants’ tolerance to drought stress and other environmental factors. Khodakovskaya will apply this technology to valuable agricultural crops such as rice and soybeans. This will allow space explorers to grow plant food sources on Mars. Dr. Khodakovskaya believes that the new “nano-agro” technology is a cheap and efficient way to reduce the use of water in greenhouses to specifically produce plants for human exploration on other planets. Additionally, she thinks this technology is a better alternative to genetic engineering to improve crops.

July 2019

UA Little Rock MidSOUTH awarded over $8 million to empower Arkansas communities

UA Little Rock MidSOUTH has received more than $8 million dollars in contracts from various Arkansas state agencies using federal flow-through funding. These contracts further the state’s mission of creating a safer and happier Arkansas for children and families. In addition to providing service learning opportunities for students in the field of child welfare, MidSOUTH is a full-scale training and education organization. Since 1991, MidSOUTH has equipped students, practitioners, providers, and advocates with essential tools to empower oppressed and vulnerable populations and improve communities. The program accomplishes these tasks through continuing education in the areas of child welfare, healthy families / family support, parenting education, addictions, prevention, treatment, and recovery. MidSOUTH is the community service arm of the School of Social Work at UA Little Rock.

“In the last 5 years, MidSOUTH has experienced exponential growth in terms of contract funding, program development, services performed, individuals trained, and persons employed,” Gigi Peters, MidSOUTH executive director said. “It is so exciting and fulfilling to be part of a team with such flexibility to welcome such change.”

January 2019

2019 Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Four University of Arkansas at Little Rock students have received funding for the 2019 Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. These programs encourage students to develop and execute a research plan with the help of a faculty mentor.

Madeline Burke: Duck and Cover: How the Outdated Maritime 1851 Limitation of Liability Act Shields Shipowners From Liability ($2,750 from SURF, $1,250 match to equal $4,000).

Michael Meziere: Examining the Relationships between Religiosity, Rape Myth Acceptance, and Sexual Misconduct ($2,125 from SURF, $625 match to equal $2,750).

Bonn Belingon: Enzymatic Studies of BbI06 from Borrelia burgdorferi ($2,750 from SURF, $1,250 match to equal $4,000).

Caroline Kornelsen: Understanding of Förster Resonance Energy Transfer in Ionic Materials ($2,750 from SURF, $1,250 match to equal $4,000).

Read more…

November 2018

Jodie Mahony Center receives over $55,000 to provide workshops for Arkansas teachers

The Jodie Mahony Center for Gifted Education has received $55,241 from the Arkansas Department of Education to provide workshops and trainings to candidates seeking National Board Teacher Certification. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving effectiveness in education and teaching. Read more…

Dr. Mariya Khodakovskaya receives $1,000,000 to study heat tolerance of rice

Dr. Mariya Khodakovskaya Dr. Mariya Khodakovskaya, biology professor and interim associate dean in the College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences will receive $1,000,000 over a four-year period to study the genetic qualities of rice to determine its heat tolerance. This project is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. Read more…




October 2018

Dr. Shawn Bourdo receives $85,500 to study how nanomaterials affect bone regeneration

Dr. Shawn BourdoDr. Shawn Bourdo, research assistant professor at the Center for Integrative Nanotechnology Sciences at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, has received an $85,500 R15 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study how certain nanomaterials may enhance healing in bone wounds. Read more…




Dr. Yupo Chan awarded nearly $25,000 to monitor earth’s atmosphere

Dr. Yupo ChanDr. Yupo Chan of the systems engineering department has received $24,900 from NASA to measure the earth’s atmosphere to monitor its health and future climate. Chan is working with Dr. Edmond Wilson of Harding University and Dr. Po-Hao Adam Huang of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Read more…



Dr. Kieng Bao Vang-Dings receives nearly $50,000 to study effects of nanomaterials in immune systems

Dr. Kieng Bao Vang-DingsDr. Kieng Bao Vang-Dings, research assistant professor at the Center for Integrative Nanotechnology Sciences, has received $49,509 from the Center for Advanced Surface Engineering to study the effects of tunable nanosystems on the human immune system. The project was awarded through the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s seed grant program. Read more…



Arkansas Economic Development Institute receives $102,000 to create feasibility study for leadership institute in four-state region

Jim Youngquist

The Arkansas Economic Development Institute at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock has received $102,100 from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) to create a feasibility study on the development of a leadership institute in the Arkansas-Louisiana-Texas-Oklahoma region. Read more…

September 2018

Dr. Mariya Khodakovskaya awarded $464,000 to study environmental risks of carbon nanomaterials in plants

Dr. Mariya KhodakovskayaMariya Khodakovskaya, professor of biology and interim associate dean in the College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences has received $464,000 from the USDA to assess the environmental risks of carbon nanomaterials used to stimulate and regulate the growth of plants. Dr. Khodakovskaya is working with Dr. Alexei Basnakian, Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at UAMS, and Dr. Micah Green, Professor of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University, to examine if any health risks are involved with the use of these nanomaterials in plant agriculture. Read more…


UA Little Rock chemistry professor receives nearly $190,000 to research new methods for optoelectronic materials

Dr Noureen SirajDr. Noureen Siraj from the chemistry department has received $188,863 from the National Science Foundation to study experimental methods of developing organic optoelectronic materials. With this funding, Siraj will work with the Center of Organic Photonics and Electronics and Laser Dynamic Laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology to characterize new materials developed at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock which possess Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) characteristics. Read more…

August 2018

Sequoyah National Research Center receives nearly $58,000 to develop digital interface on Trail of Tears

The Sequoyah National Research Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock has received nearly $58,000 from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council to develop an interactive touch-screen interface that teaches the general public about the Trail of Tears in Arkansas. The Trail of Tears, which occurred from 1831 to 1850, pertains to the forced relocation of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole, Muscogee (Creek), and Chickasaw tribes from the southeastern United States to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). Read more…

June 2018

Dr. Daniel Berleant and Dr. Phil Williams receive nearly $50,000 to investigate protein accumulation in corn seeds

Dr. Daniel BerleantDr. Phil Williams Dr. Daniel Berleant and Dr. Phil Williams of the Department of Information Science have received $48,167 from the USDA to study how proteins accumulate in corn seeds depending on their genomic and epigenomic traits. In order to study this important problem, the project team will analyze the expression of native and recombinant proteins from corn plants. Read more…



May 2018

Jodie Mahony Center Receives Funding for Middle School Program: “MT Stage: The Hamilton Experience.”

The Jodie Mahony Center for Gifted Education has received $31,084 from the Arkansas Department of Education for “MT Stage: The Hamilton Experience.” This program allows seventh, eighth, and ninth grade students to produce and perform in the play “Hamilton,” a popular hip hop musical that started on Broadway in 2015. Read more…

January 2018

Department of Philosophy Plans for Annual Arkansas High School Ethics Bowl

The UA Little Rock Department of Philosophy has received a $1,600 grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council to host the sixth annual Arkansas High School Ethics Bowl. The Arkansas High School Ethics Bowl is led by Drs. Jana McAuliffe and Michael Norton in the Department of Philosophy. Read more…

Center for Arkansas History and Culture Wins Grant to Process and Digitize Arkansas Railroad and City Maps

The UA Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture has received $5,874 from the Arkansas Humanities Council to assess, digitalize, and catalog early railway line and city maps from 1917-1918. The project, entitled “Tie-ing Arkansas Together,” will process and digitize 133 oversized railway maps associated with the St. Louis, Iron Mountain, and Southern Railroad and the Missouri Pacific Railroad. Read more…

ASBTDC Awarded $100,000 to Assist Four-County Area

The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC) at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock has received $100,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Portable Assistance Program. The competitive grant program supports one-year projects in areas that have experienced recent economic distress through natural disaster, downsizing, layoffs, or plant closures. Read more…

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