News Archive 2023

News Articles


Nineteen Members Inducted to Arkansas Academy of Microlectronics-Photonics

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — Feb. 27, 2023

Faculty, staff, family and friends of the Arkansas Academy of Microelectronics-Photonics and Materials Science and Engineering came together in person to celebrate three years of academy inductees during its annual meeting late last semester.

Nineteen new members were inducted — six in the class of 2020, seven in the class of 2021 and six in the class of 2022. The academy met virtually from 2019 too 2021 due to the COVID pandemic.

"One of the most significant outcomes of our annual meeting, other than inducting new members, is to gather feedback from our academy members that are diversely distributed in industry, academia and federal labs across the nation," said Matthew Leftwich, director of the graduate program in materials science and engineering. "One of the most noteworthy outcomes from the meeting was a collective and focused discussion regarding how the MSEN Graduate Program, its faculty and students, the university, the state and ultimately our nation can benefit from upcoming CHIPS federal funding opportunities."

Academy Member Inductees

2020 CLASS

  • Silke Spiesshoefer
  • Clayton Workman
  • Albert Estevez
  • Ryan Swain
  • Hameed Naseem
  • Bill Brown (Honorary Member)

2021 CLASS

  • Muhammad Anser
  • Matthew Leftwich
  • Ryan Pooran
  • Brandon Passmore
  • Viral Patel
  • Rick Wise
  • Collis Geren (Honorary Member)

2022 CLASS

  • Benjamin Conley
  • Ranjith John
  • Prakash Lakshmikanthan
  • Deepa Mannath
  • Fisher Yu
  • Rick Ulrich (Honorary Member)

For more information on the graduate program in materials science and engineering, visit the program website.

U of A Well Positioned to be a National Leader in Semiconductors

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — March 06, 2023

The U of A is well positioned to be a leader in the United States’ semiconductor economy. Semiconductors, such as silicon, are essential materials in most electronic devices and advance performance in fields such as healthcare, the military, computing and transportation.

In the last two years, researchers at the U of A, primarily in electrical engineering and physics, have been awarded in excess of $45 million in funding to create a multi-user silicon carbide research and fabrication facility, a center dedicated to investigating the formation of atomic orders in semiconductor alloys and their effects on various physical properties, and, in collaboration with Montana State University, a Quantum Foundry to accelerate the development of quantum materials and devices.

Building on this expertise, the university has launched a major new initiative to increase investment in semiconductor research and awareness of what is already happening.

The U of A’s existing research foundation means it’s uniquely positioned to take advantage of the recent CHIPS (Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors) and Science Act, which is providing approximately $280 billion in funding to stimulate domestic research and manufacturing of semiconductors.

As a result of manufacturing and production shortages of essential computer chips during the pandemic, which are overwhelmingly manufactured overseas, the federal government has prioritized the onshoring of this critical technology.

Alan Mantooth, a Distinguished Professor of electrical engineering, noted in a recent interview that the semiconductor isn’t just important, “it’s foundational. A lot of things get built off semiconductors.”

Mantooth added, “I think it’s important to recognize that this region and Arkansas particularly, and this university, are very well positioned because we have that entire value chain. From the foundational work to the new fabrication going in, to backend processes that allow us to build all the way to the application, and the people that we work with, like John Deere, Caterpillar, Ford, G.M., Toyota… I think there is an opportunity to attract businesses to this state and region that we haven’t had before as a result of investment through the CHIPS Act and raised awareness of what’s here.”

U of A Chancellor Charles Robinson noted that there isn’t currently a semiconductor chip plant in Arkansas, and creating one is essential to retaining talent. “Historically, our graduates who want to work in this field have had to leave the area. Greater investment in and awareness about what is happening here will not only create opportunities to keep our graduates here, but incentivize even more talented people to come here. We’re at an inflection point where the university can step forward to maximize its potential in this field.”

“The university and state of Arkansas have a golden opportunity to help drive the United States’ semiconductor industry and transform the heartland of the nation in the process,” said Mike Malone, vice chancellor for economic development. “Through workforce development, talent attraction and retention, unmatched facilities and partnerships with global industry leaders, we are ready to take the lead.”

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas' flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the Uof A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the few U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research News.

Lab to Fab; Mantooth Discusses Semiconductor Research and Fabrication at U of A

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — March 07, 2023

The U of A is a leader in the U.S. semiconductor economy. As the essential materials in most electronic devices, semiconductors advance performance in fields such as healthcare, the military, computing and transportation.

Alan Mantooth, Distinguished Professor of electrical engineering, is an international leader in the investigation and fabrication of silicon carbide, a powerful and versatile semiconductor. Over the past 20 years, his research teams have received more than $200 million in federal funding to support various projects related to silicon carbide solutions for power electronics.

In this month's Short Talks from the Hill, Mantooth discusses his work with silicon carbide and explains why the university is uniquely positioned as a leader in the semiconductor economy.

"We're attempting to create a bridge in the manufacturing gap that exists in America," Mantooth says in the podcast. "Right now we have a lot of expertise, probably the world's leading authorities around the nation, in this material system and the things that it can do for us in our everyday lives, like electrified transportation, electric power grid modernization and so forth. But these people have no place to do low volume prototyping. … So we have bridged that gap by creating an open facility where university researchers, national laboratories or even small and large businesses that don't have access to this capability can prototype their ideas in a cost-efficient manner and then ramp it to high-volume manufacturing. So it really is part of the whole ecosystem of manufacturing from lab to fab."

The U of A has launched a major new initiative to increase investment in semiconductor research and awareness. Researchers in this area, including Mantooth, are eligible to take advantage of the recent CHIPS (Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors) and Science Act, which is providing approximately $280 billion in funding to stimulate domestic research and manufacturing of semiconductors.

You can listen to Mantooth — and all previous Short Talks programming — wherever you get your podcasts, or by clicking on the link above. For more information, please visit Arkansas Research, the home of research and economic development news at the U of A.

Engineering Faculty Awarded $3.5 Million to Advance 3D Concrete Printing

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — March 16, 2023

Applied Research Associates, a research and engineering firm headquartered in New Mexico, awarded faculty in the College of Engineering nearly $3.5 million to study the most expedient ways to 3D print horizontal mission structures for the U.S. military. The faculty team will work to identify optimum design patterns and indigenous materials that can be used in horizontal construction projects (such as creating culverts, T-walls and Jersey barriers), as well as develop printing instructions for mobile robots that can be deployed quicky on site.

Michelle Barry, an associate professor of civil engineering, will serve as the principal investigator of the two-year grant. Wenchao Zhou, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, and Cameron Murray, an assistant professor of civil engineering, will serve as co-PIs.

Barry, who oversees the Granular Materials Research Laboratory, will have a number of responsibilities. Among them will be exploring new material structures and geometric configurations to optimize performance and efficiency. This will include examining biomimetic structures – meaning they mimic naturally occurring designs, such as honeycomb patterns — that can reduce material use while increasing strength.

Barry will also be cataloguing and characterizing a range of indigenous soils to determine their suitability for incorporation into concrete. The idea is that an expeditionary force will be able to deploy and make use of local materials in horizontal construction rather than shipping cement and aggregates across vast distances. The force would instead have a convenient catalog of recipes for concrete mixes adapted to local conditions with the assurance it can be pumped through nozzles and 3D printed with requisite robots on site.

Murray, who specializes in concrete, will assist with analyzing the composition of the concrete as well as large-scale testing of experimental forms.

Zhou, who is the director of the Advanced Manufacturing, Modeling and Materials Lab at the U of A, is also the co-founder of AMBOTS, a local startup company developing “swarm manufacturing technology.” Zhou’s job will be to oversee the conversion of the CAD models created by the team into machine instructions. This is easier said than done, as it will involve laying down printing paths for a range of materials and designs, and eventually incorporating multiple robots.

AMBOTS will lead the software development for the construction of 3D printing robots. The robots are expected to work independently as well as collectively and be able to adapt to different mixes. Other considerations include ensuring a high degree of precision in printing large scale jobs, development of a mobile platform that can be deployed quickly in a range of environments and the ability to power the overall system.

Both graduate students from Zhou’s lab and employees at AMBOTS will be conducting the work.

Getting a prototype done in two years is a tall task, but Barry anticipates mobilizing as many as 18 graduate students, post-doctoral students and research technicians, as well as welcoming additional faculty into the project. Funds from the award will also be used to acquire a large format 3D printer, as well as additional equipment for soil and concrete characterization.

Barry indicated that using indigenous soils has been an area of interest to her for some time, largely due to the lower impact on the environment. “Humans have been building with soils for thousands of years, but 3D printing soils enables us to use soils in new and exciting ways. We can build structures or roads in disaster relief areas,” she said, “where you're just bringing in a piece of equipment because you might not be able to bring in other construction materials. If the local soils will work, you print with them for the time being, people are sheltered and then once it's not needed, it dissolves back to the original landscape.”

The project is also a great chance for AMBOTS to demonstrate what it can do.

“We're excited to have the opportunity to work with ARA and leverage their industry knowledge and experience to develop cutting-edge 3D printing capabilities,” Zhou said. “This grant will enable us to invest in research and development, driving the innovation of our swarm 3D printing technology and unlocking new possibilities for the future of construction and other industries.”

The $3.5 million subaward comes as part of a larger $12 million award ARA received from the United States Army Engineer Research and Development Center.

About the University of Arkansas:As Arkansas' flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the few U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research News.

Professor Min Zou Receives SEC Faculty Achievement Award

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — March 30, 2023

The Southeastern Conference has honored Min Zou, Distinguished Professor of mechanical engineering, with the 2023 SEC Faculty Achievement Award for the U of A.

"Dr. Min Zou is a shining example of our amazing faculty in the College of Engineering, from her groundbreaking research in nanomaterials to her outstanding and inspiring work with mechanical engineering students," said Dean Kim Needy. "We are overwhelmed with joy to see Dr. Zou's achievements honored in this way, and we are celebrating her award with as much enthusiasm as any SEC win on the field or court."

Every year, the SEC recognizes faculty with outstanding records in research and scholarship from each of its member universities with SEC Faculty Achievement Awards. After the SEC Faculty Achievement Awards have been announced for each university, the SEC selects the SEC Professor of the Year from the group of recipients.

The U of A will recognize Zou for receiving the SEC Faculty Achievement Award during Faculty Appreciation Week, which is the second week of April. Zou will be recognized at the Provost's Faculty Reception to be held April 12 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Janelle Y. Hembree Alumni House.

"I owe this award to my mentors, collaborators and talented students who make my career at the University of Arkansas so fun and rewarding," said Zou, who holds the 21st Century Chair of Materials, Manufacturing and Integrated Systems. "I'm honored and humbled to have been selected by our provost and supported by my department head and Dean Kim Needy for this prestigious award."

Joining the U of A in 2003, Zou has served in the Department of Mechanical Engineering as an assistant professor, associate professor, professor and distinguished professor. Zou is also a faculty member of the Institute for Nanoscale Science and Engineering and the interdisciplinary Microelectronics-photonics (microEP) Graduate Program at the U of A.

Zou is a leader in the fields of mechanical engineering, materials science and nanotechnology, and she is internationally recognized for her expertise in nanoscale surface engineering, nanomechanics and nanotribology. She has received numerous awards and honors for her groundbreaking research, including the prestigious National Science Foundation Career Award (2007), two Al Sonntag Awards (2021 and 2013), the Edmond E. Bisson Award (2019) and the Walter D. Hodson Award (2001) from the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE), where she is also a fellow. She has been recognized by the Arkansas Alumni Association with the Faculty Distinguished Achievement Award for Research (2018) and by the Arkansas Research Alliance, which named her a fellow in 2015. She is also a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

In addition, Zou has led over $30 million in extramural research funding. Her research has been cited and published in more than 134 peer-reviewed publications, four book chapters, seven granted and four pending patents, and 36 best paper, poster or business competition awards.

The technology developed in Zou's lab has led to the creation of two startup companies, which have received over $5 million in support from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. This technology has made a significant impact on many industries and has been used in a wide range of applications including tribology, solar panels and LED lighting.

Zou received her bachelor's and master's degrees in aerospace engineering from Northwestern Polytechnical University, China, and she received her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Prior to joining the U of A, she worked at the Shanghai Aircraft Research Institute and was a senior advisory development engineer and staff engineer at Seagate Technology, where she contributed to developing new technology involving the computer hard drive head-disk interface.

"We applaud Dr. Zou for receiving this great honor," said Terry Martin, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. "Dr. Zou is a distinguished professor and well known for her research in nano-surface engineering. She has made tremendous contributions to the research activities of our university, as well as brought cutting-edge technology to the forefront of the engineering field."

To learn more about the SEC Faculty Achievement Awards, visit For more information about Zou's research, listen to this episode of the U of A's Short Talks from the Hill podcast.

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas' flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas' economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the few U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research News.

Chemistry and Biochemistry's Jingyi Chen Inducted Into AIMBE College of Fellows

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — April 14, 2023

Jingyi Chen, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has been inducted as a fellow in the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering's 2023 class.

Election to the AIMBE College of Fellows is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to a medical and biological engineer.

The College of Fellows is comprised of the top 2% of medical and biological engineers. Membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to "engineering and medicine research, practice or education" and to "the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of medical and biological engineering or developing/implementing innovative approaches to bioengineering education."

Chen was nominated, reviewed and elected by peers and members of the College of Fellows "for outstanding contributions to the development of functional nanostructures and translation for diagnosis and therapy of cancer and infectious disease."

A formal induction ceremony was held during the AIMBE Annual Event in Arlington, Virginia, on March 27. Chen was inducted along with 140 colleagues who make up the AIMBE College of Fellows Class of 2023.

While most AIMBE Fellows hail from the United States, the College of Fellows has inducted fellows representing 30 countries. AIMBE Fellows are employed in academia, industry, clinical practice and government.

AIMBE Fellows are among the most distinguished medical and biological engineers, including three Nobel Prize laureates, 17 fellows having received the Presidential Medal of Science and/or Technology and Innovation, and 205 also inducted to the National Academy of Engineering, 105 inducted to the National Academy of Medicine and 43 inducted to the National Academy of Sciences.

About AIMBE: The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering is the authoritative voice and advocate for the value of medical and biological engineering to society. AIMBE's mission is to recognize excellence, advance public understanding, and accelerate medical and biological innovation. No other organization can bring together academic, industry, government, and scientific societies to form a highly influential community advancing medical and biological engineering. AIMBE's mission drives advocacy initiatives into action on Capitol Hill and beyond.

Twenty Years of Transformation: GSIE Celebrates Distinguished Doctoral and Doctoral Academy Fellows

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — April 17, 2023

Editor's note: This story originally ran in the winter edition of the Arkansas Alumni magazine.

Since their establishment in 2002 as part of the record-breaking gift from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation, the Distinguished Doctoral Fellows and Doctoral Academy Fellows have expanded and elevated graduate education at the U of A, leading to breakthrough research, impactful creative activity and transformational opportunities for the more than 650 students who have graduated from the program.

The fellowships offer nationally-competitive financial packages to approximately 65 outstanding doctoral students each year, both from Arkansas and beyond, helping to recruit top students for research and scholarly activity — work that not only drives economic development in Arkansas, but serves as a rising tide that raises all ships across campus.

"This was a transformational gift," said Curt Rom, interim dean of the Graduate School and International Education. "When you put a top scholar in a laboratory or a studio or an innovation enterprise, everybody around them gets lifted by that talent. They improve the quality of the laboratories or studios where they work, and having more highly-accomplished graduate students enhances our ability to recruit top-notch faculty who want to come work with them. There's a ripple effect of these students across campus."

"One of the goals of the fellowship programs is to attract graduate students who might not otherwise have considered the University of Arkansas as a destination of choice," said Vicky Hartwell, director of graduate fellowships, enrollment and graduation services in GSIE. "As part of my role reviewing the fellowship nominations, I see students coming from all regions of the country and from countries around the globe. Many of our doctoral fellows fall in love with the state and choose to stay here after graduation."


For Leah Hamilton, a Doctoral Academy Fellow graduate, the fellowship provided crucial funds that allowed her to earn a doctorate in public policy she wouldn't have been able to pursue otherwise.

"I would not have the career I have today without the fellowship," Hamilton said. "The fellowship allowed me to reach my goal of completing my education debt-free. Now, I am a poverty scholar and spend my time thinking about how to reshape the social safety net to support all families."

Hamilton decided to pursue a career in public policy after working in foster care for several years, where she saw first-hand the "devastating effects of poorly-designed social policy." She wanted to change that policy to help children and families.

Now an associate professor of social work at Appalachian State University, Hamilton has been able to realize that dream. In addition to her work as a professor, she also serves as the senior fellow at the Jain Family Institute and faculty affiliate at the Social Policy Institute of Washington University in St. Louis. As a co-principal investigator on a team analyzing the temporarily expanded Child Tax Credit's effects on employment and other factors, she gave briefings to the White House and the Senate Joint Economic Commission. She has also been able to advocate for stronger public policy through her work featured in multiple national publications including The Washington Post, CNBC, The Atlantic, Forbes, Vice News, National Public Radio, Fortune and Fast Company.

"I'm very grateful," she said of the fellowship.


Hamilton is one of countless success stories to graduate from the fellowship. Graduating fellows have gone on to academic careers at prestigious institutions such as Harvard University, Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, Emory University, Boston University, Yale University and the University of Oxford. Not only that, but others have gone on to work at organizations including NASA, Microsoft, Intel, the U.S. Department of Defense, Apple, General Mills, Nestle, Bank of America, NVIDIA, Toyota, Walmart, Tyson and the National Science Foundation.

"Because of their involvement in research, science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, they've been hired by some of the top companies in the country, and now we find our graduates working across the globe, whether it be in an international university or for multinational corporations and being located internationally," Rom said.

But fellows have also made an indelible impact on the state of Arkansas as well, solving problems that will help the state's residents.

"A number of the Doctoral Academy Fellows and Distinguished Doctoral Fellows are working on projects that are very relevant to the state of Arkansas, whether that be a business or engineering or an environmental science or agriculture problem," Rom said. "The research they're doing, in combination with their faculty mentors, are solving real-world problems with science-based information to help elevate Arkansas."

"Many of our fellows are also working on problems related to quality of life, whether that be nutrition, diet or health and science," Rom said. "The technology they're discovering or creating is being applied in medical fields, nutritional fields, and even across our agricultural enterprise to have a more vibrant, viable sustainable food system."

Not only that, but the research conducted by fellows has also driven economic development in the state. The fellows' work has often been commercialized, with graduating fellows becoming entrepreneurs helming startup businesses centered around their technology.


One of those fellows is Matthew Leftwich. A 2010 Doctoral Academy Fellow graduate and Arkansas native, Leftwich has participated in the startup of five small businesses in Northwest Arkansas, culminating with Nanomatronix LLC, where Leftwich serves as chief executive officer. He has generated more than $20 million in research and development commercialization funding for start-ups over the last 25 years, in addition to leading four successful product launches for space and military applications.

Now, he serves as director of the Materials Science and Engineering Graduate Program, where he is helping other doctoral students realize the potential of their research.

"The Doctoral Academy Fellowship allowed me to remain in Arkansas to complete my academic goals while pursuing my career goals in parallel," Leftwich said. "If the Doctoral Academy Fellowship and microelectronics-photonics program did not exist, it is entirely possible that I would have chosen to relocate out of state, and the local impact I have had may not have blossomed. Not only did the fellowship help prepare me for success, it was an enabling factor to my success and allowed me to achieve my goals here in Northwest Arkansas."

As for the future of the fellowships, Rom sees continued expansion of doctoral education across campus as colleges replicate their own fellowships in their areas.

"I think the future of this fellowship program is quite bright," Rom said. "The success of these fellowships has created the opportunity for colleges and departments to raise money for additional fellowships. So, we see a range of other fellowships that are modeled on our graduate school fellowships that are now emerging in colleges. They want to create additional success through their philanthropic gifts."

More information on the fellowships can be found on the GSIE website. For more success stories of the fellows, visit the DAF/DDF anniversary celebration page.

CAREER Awards to Foster Quantum Material Research Program

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — May 19, 2023

Physicist Jin Hu has been awarded a second Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award, this time from the National Science Foundation. The new award of $579,527 comes two years after Hu received a $750,000 CAREER Award from the U.S. Department of Energy.

NSF and DOE CAREER awards are considered the most competitive and prestigious awards to honor faculty members in the early stages of their careers. The awards support research and education activities. It is rare for an investigator to receive two CAREER awards.

Hu, an assistant professor of physics in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, leads the Quantum Materials group at the U of A. Researchers in this group study various quantum materials — materials showing exotic physical properties arising from quantum mechanical effects of electrons, such as superconductors, two-dimensional materials and topological materials. The group aims to discover novel physics and new materials with advanced functionalities.

These CAREER awards support Hu’s investigation of topological quantum materials. Such materials carry electrons resembling particles found in high-energy physics. Investigation of these materials has led to deeper knowledge of important topics in physics. Topological quantum materials also display a kaleidoscope of novel properties with great promise for technology applications, such as very high mobility or zero energy loss during power transmission for energy-saving devices.

The DOE CAREER award supports Hu’s study of unusual properties of topological quantum materials arising from the interaction between electrons. The new NSF project targets another direction of electrical control for phases and properties. Achieving switchable quantum phases is an important step toward the technological application of those emergent quantum materials and could open new research areas.

“I am excited to receive these awards, which will help me establish and strengthen our research programs,” Hu said. “I benefit a lot from many great physics and engineering colleagues, and I appreciate the hard work of the students who laid the foundations for the research.”

The study of quantum materials is an important ingredient of the National Quantum Initiative. Over the past few years, the U of A has grown its research and education programs within this national strategic direction, as represented by large-scale research centers sponsored by federal agencies such as the NSF MonArk Quantum Foundry and the DOE’s µ-ATOMS EFRC, which position the university as a national leader in materials science research. Hu contributes to both centers.

“Dr. Hu’s world-class expertise in the growth and study of high-quality quantum materials plays an essential role in these centers,” said Lin Oliver, professor and chair of the Department of Physics.

The highly collaborative research programs of these centers and faculty CAREER awards foster quantum material research at U of A to achieve research excellence, one of the three strategic priority areas of U of A.

“Dr. Hu’s success in winning two CAREER awards signifies the importance of his quantum materials research and his commitment to integrating research into the education of his students," said Kathy Sloan, interim dean of the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. “We are so proud of his accomplishments.”

About the University of Arkansas:As Arkansas' flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the few U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research and Economic Development News.

University Breaks Ground on One-of-a-Kind Semiconductor Facility

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — Aug 21, 2023

The University of Arkansas celebrated an important milestone with the groundbreaking on a building that Chancellor Charles Robinson suggested might someday rival the U of A’s most iconic structure, Old Main, in significance to the university and the state of Arkansas.

Robinson and other university leaders, including University of Arkansas System President Don Bobbitt and members of the U of A System Board of Trustees, as well as researchers and industry leaders, gathered at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park in South Fayetteville to celebrate construction of the national Multi-User Silicon Carbide Research and Fabrication Facility, or MUSiC.

The new semiconductor research and fabrication facility will produce microelectronic chips made with silicon carbide, a powerful semiconductor that outperforms basic silicon in several critical ways. The facility will enable the federal government – via national laboratories – businesses of all sizes, and other universities to prototype with silicon carbide, a capability that does not presently exist elsewhere in the U.S.

Work at the facility will bridge the gap between traditional university research and the needs of private industry and will accelerate technological advancement by providing a single location where chips can go from developmental research to prototyping, testing and fabrication.

“This fills a gap for our nation, allowing companies, national laboratories and universities around the nation to develop the low-volume prototypes that go from their labs to fab, ultimately scaling up to the high-volume manufacturing…” said Alan Mantooth, Distinguished Professor of electrical engineering and principal investigator for the MUSiC facility. “We fill that gap. And there’s no other place like it in the world. This is the only place that will be able to do that with silicon carbide.”

The 18,660 square-foot facility, located next to the National Center for Reliable Electrical Power Transmission at the research and technology park, will address obstacles to U.S. competitiveness in the development of silicon-carbide electronics used in a wide range of electronic devices, circuits and other consumer applications. The building will feature approximately 8,000 square feet of clean rooms for fabrication and testing.

Education and training within the facility will also accelerate workforce development, helping supply the next generation of engineers and technicians in semiconductor manufacturing, which Mantooth and other leaders have said is critical for bringing semiconductor manufacturing back to the U.S., after it was offshored in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“This is truly a special day in the life of the University of Arkansas,” said Robinson. “This building, it really doesn’t need to be hyped. It is a very important building, and you just know it, important for our university, important for our state, important for our nation.”

Robinson invoked another groundbreaking, that of Old Main, the university’s oldest and best known structure, which the university celebrated Aug. 17, 1873, almost exactly 150 years ago.

“I took that 150th anniversary of the groundbreaking as a good sign that we are moving in a timely way,” Robinson said, “doing important work in establishing this building.”


Friday’s groundbreaking occurred a day after the university and the Arkansas Department of Commerce hosted the CHIPS AMERICA Summit, an event in which research, industry and governmental leaders discussed semiconductor-related opportunities resulting from the CHIPS (Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors) and Science Act passed by Congress in 2022. The event featured Adrienne Elrod, director of external and government affairs for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s CHIPS Program Office, U.S. Rep. Steve Womack and Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Hugh McDonald.

During the summit, Elrod stated that prior to the coronavirus pandemic, 90% of the world's leading-edge chips were manufactured at one facility in Taiwan. The federal government prioritized the onshoring of this critical technology as a result of manufacturing and production shortages of essential computer chips during the pandemic.

“If America is going to compete and lead the world over the next century, we must invest in our technology and manufacturing,” Elrod said. “We want to make sure, at the very least, that we have two new large-scale clusters of leading- edge fabs created (in the United States).”

As Mantooth mentioned, the University of Arkansas can contribute to this effort on a fundamental level and is uniquely positioned to take advantage of opportunities offered by the CHIPS and Science Act, which is providing approximately $280 billion in funding to stimulate domestic research and manufacturing of semiconductors.

“The university is leaning forward and has now secured funding for projects important to microelectronics research and development,” Womack said during Thursday’s summit. “The university has positioned itself, as I say often, to be the preeminent university research location for microelectronics. … I am grateful for the bright minds at the University of Arkansas with a proven track record of success who will make this happen.”

About the University of Arkansas:As Arkansas' flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the few U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research and Economic Development News.

Mantooth Receives Prestigious Harry A. Owen Jr. Award

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — Aug. 28, 2023

Alan Mantooth, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and executive director of the UA Power Group, has received the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Power Electronics Society Harry A. Owen Jr. award for 2023 "for two decades of distinguished service and leadership in technical operations, standards, publications, mentorship activities and as society president."

The award, established in 1996, honors long and distinguished service to the welfare of the Power Electronics Society at an exceptional level of dedication and achievement. Since 2011, it has been dedicated to the memory of Harry A. Owen Jr. of the Duke University Pratt School of Engineering in Durham, North Carolina.

Mantooth served as president of the Power Electronics Society from 2017-2019 and vice president from 2013-2015.

The general criteria for the Harry A. Owen Jr. Award are based on achievements by which an individual has made outstanding contributions to the Power Electronics Society that encompass a broad range of activities over a substantial period including, but not limited to:

    • Creative and invigorating leadership of the society.
    • Exceptional administrative and managerial accomplishments on behalf of the society.
    • Identification of new technologies within the scope of the society and nurturing activities to support these technologies.
    • Initiation of innovative programs to encourage wider participation in the full spectrum of society activities.
    • The general communication and advocacy of power electronics technology to the technical community as a whole.

Power Electronics Society is one of the fastest-growing technical societies of Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, which has facilitated and guided the development and innovation in power electronics technology for over 35 years.

$3 Million NSF Grant Establishes 2D Materials Research Traineeship

msen photoReference: University of Arkansas Newswire — Sep. 11, 2023

With a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the University of Arkansas will establish an NSF Research Traineeship site on the Fayetteville campus to explore the novel properties and applications of atomically thin "2D" materials, their growth and device fabrication to utilize them. This award will provide funding for more than 10 fellowships each year for graduate students performing research on two-dimensional quantum materials and devices over the next five years.

Electrical engineering and computer science assistant professor Morgan Ware is principal investigator on the award. Working alongside him is Materials Science and Engineering Graduate Program director Matt Leftwich, a co-principal investigator on the project. Together they will lead the project.

"We aim to revolutionize STEM graduate education by integrating 2D materials research across multiple disciplines," Ware said. "We will mentor the fellows in their academic and research pursuits and equip them with the skills and knowledge required to be successful as the next generation workforce in the emerging and high-demand field of 2D materials."

Ware and Leftwich lead a team of cross-disciplinary scholars. Co-principal investigators on the project include professor of educational statistics and research methods Ronna Turner and associate professors of physics Hugh Churchill and Jin Hu. Other team members include associate professor of physics Bothina Manasreh, Distinguished Professor of physics Greg Salamo and associate director of the Materials Science and Engineering Graduate Program Julia Kohanek.

The team will create three new courses that will form a permanent concentration of study on 2D quantum materials and devices within the Materials Science and Engineering Graduate Program at the U of A.

"The students will gain both technical knowledge and personal and professional 'soft skills' through a comprehensive approach to graduate education for future scientists and engineers," Leftwich said. "The students will also be able to develop entrepreneurial talents that will help them translate their research into practical applications."

The traineeship is based on three principles that aim to develop professional and technical skills:

1.Combining practical experience and soft-skills development through mandatory seminar courses.

2.Forming and working in cohorts and small groups inspired by industry standards and guided by senior doctoral students.

3.Focusing on learning how to turn technology into business opportunities.

These principles are supported by a range of core and elective courses in the Materials Science and Engineering Graduate Program offered by over 50 faculty from 11 different departments, schools and colleges.

This award is facilitated through the direct partnership between the U of A's interdisciplinary Materials Science and Engineering Graduate Program and the MonArk NSF Quantum Foundry, a collaborative initiative funded by NSF to create a foundry-like environment for the development of 2D materials and devices. This partnership will leverage the expertise and resources of both organizations to advance the frontiers of materials engineering including physics, electrical engineering, chemistry, mechanical engineering and computer science.

Technology Venture's Inventor's Spotlight: Jingyi Chen

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — Sep. 08, 2023

Jingyi Chen likes to build things. When she was choosing where to go to college, she had a dilemma: Did she want to build big things, like homes and buildings, or very small things constructed from atoms and molecules?

"I was interested in knowing what reaction is happening and how it's happening," she said, "not just the overall reaction but the intermediate steps right down to the molecular level."

She decided to go small and is now a professor of physical chemistry at the University of Arkansas.

Chen has been with the university since 2010 and has been awarded nearly $2.5 million in research funding in that time. She leads the Chen Research Group, where her team's research interests lie in the development of novel materials and their applications in various fields, including catalysis, energy storage, and environmental remediation. Chen's collaborative and interdisciplinary approach has attracted a talented group of researchers, contributing to the success of the group.

An area of interest to Chen is how the physical properties of macroscopic objects arise out of the component atoms as they aggregate into larger and larger particles. She is developing novel multi-metal-based nanostructures and new methods for functionalizing their surface with soft materials. The ultimate goal of her research is to establish the structure-property relationship and further explore their applications in energy conversion, tribology and nanomedicine.

In more practical terms, Chen is working on a more efficient way to electrolyze water into hydrogen and oxygen, as a means of facilitating, and lowering the cost, of hydrogen production. In 2021, the Department of Energy announced its Hydrogen Shot, the goal of which is to reduce the cost of a kilo of hydrogen to $1 within ten years — down 80% from its current cost of about $5 per kilo. Chen was happy to accept that challenge.

"We're focused on the oxygen evolution reaction," she explained, "which means making oxygen. Making oxygen helps to make hydrogen because when we split water, we have to have both sides of the reaction be efficient. It turns out the kinetic barrier is on the oxygen side. There is only one election transfer for the hydrogen evolution reaction and there are four electrons involved in the oxygen evolution reaction, so that is more the technologically difficult barrier."

Ultimately, she says, "I am focused on lowering the overall costs of electrolysis by making it more efficient."

Another specific area of interest of Chen's is developing an antimicrobial surface that resists contamination. She is working in collaboration with Yong Wang, an associate professor of physics, to develop a nanoparticle coating that could be used on high contact surfaces, which could be particularly helpful in places like hospitals. Chen and two of her graduate students went through I-Corps training to explore potential paths to commercialization of this technology.

Chen was recently inducted into the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering's College of Fellows. The honor recognizes her outstanding research and leadership in the field of physical chemistry, particularly her pioneering work in nanostructured multimetals and hybrid materials. The induction into the College of Fellows, as well as being named an Arkansas Research Alliance fellow in 2018, are testaments to Chen's impactful contributions and her commitment to advancing the boundaries of scientific knowledge.

University Startup Collaborates on $2.2 Million, AI-Driven Cybersecurity Project

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — Aug. 25, 2023

With a $2.2 million grant from the BIRD Foundation, Bastazo, a U.S.-based startup with strong ties to the U of A and University of Arkansas at Little Rock, will partner with Salvador Technologies to develop advanced artificial-intelligence automation and rapid-recovery hardware to protect industrial control systems.

The intiative will address escalating concerns posted by sophisticated external threats, including ransomware.

"Our collaboration with Salvador Technologies represents a union of revolutionary cybersecurity concepts," said Philip Huff, co-founder of Bastazo and assistant professor of computer science at UALR. "Leveraging large language models to automate decisions is not just a leap for us, but a giant step for the entire industrial cybersecurity sector."

Rooted in Arkansas, Bastazo specializes in cutting-edge cybersecurity solutions. It uses artificial intelligence and advanced analytics to support cybersecurity operations in critical infrastructures across many industries.

The collaboration with Salvador Technologies provides an opportunity to reinforce security and innovation. Salvador Technologies is renowned for its rapid-restoration technology for control systems.

"Our partnership with Bastazo enables a holistic approach to cybersecurity, ensuring not just rapid recovery, but preemptive threat detection," said Alex Yevtushenko, CEO of Salvador Technologies.

The mission of the BIRD (Binational Industrial Research and Development) Foundation is to stimulate, promote and support industrial research and development of mutual benefit to the United States and Israel.

Bastazo, a Greek word meaning to carry the burden, was founded in 2020 by Huff and three U of A faculty members, Distinguished Professor Alan Mantooth; Jia Di, professor and chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; and Qinghua Li, associate professor of computer science. The company is based on licensed technology initially developed at the Secure, Evolvable Energy Delivery Systems, a U.S. Department of Energy cybersecurity center at the U of A.

NSF Awards Almost $500,000 to Study Novel Nanostructures

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — Sep. 15, 2023

Jingyi ChenThe National Science Foundation awarded $493,595 to U of A professor of chemistry Jingyi Chen to study synthetic approaches to new hollow nanostructures made of non-precious metals.

Hollow nanostructures have become an emerging area of study because they outperform their solid counterparts in various applications for catalysis and electrolysis. Their superior physicochemical properties stem from their low mass density, high porosity and large reaction surface-to-volume ratio. The hollow structure increases the surface to volume ratios while optimizing material use.

Currently, rarer noble metals are favored in various nanostructures because they are stable and less prone to corrosion while being easier to reduce from a high oxidation state to a low oxidation state. Noble metals include gold, platinum, silver, iridium and others. Due to their scarcity, they are more costly, so Chen's goal is to identify more multifunctional nanocomposite materials of earth abundant metals as lower-cost alternatives to noble metals.

"We aim to fundamentally understand the nanochemistry behind the controlled synthesis of earth abundant metals and related compounds at the nanoscale," Chen explained. "This, we hope, will enable us to enrich the toolbox of nanomaterials for applications in energy conversion and storage, sensing, and environmental remediation at a lower cost."

As part of this project, Chen and her research team will provide opportunities for research students from underrepresented groups to contribute to the training of a diverse, globally-competitive future workforce.

The results from this project will also serve as the basis of videos for educational outreach through the Chemistry­ Rules YouTube channel, the Nanochemistry 101 Boot Camp and the annual Science Day event at the regional Scott Family Amazeum.

The NSF grant comes as part of the Macromolecular, Supramolecular and Nanochemistry Program in the Division of Chemistry and the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.

Wei Du Receives NSF Award to Research Development of SiGeSn-Based Semiconductor Materials

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — Oct. 27, 2023

wei duWei Du, a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, received an award from the National Science Foundation in support of his research on SiGeSn-based heterostructures for intersubband photonic materials for use in semiconductor manufacturing.

The award is for collaborative research with the University of California-Los Angeles. The total amount is $520,000, with $270,000 awarded to the U of A. This award will help advance Du's research and productivity.

His goal is to study and develop a new semiconductor material system based on alloys of silicon, germanium and tin, or SiGeSn. Du said, "Here we are growing the SiGeSn materials in alternating atomically sharp stacks with germanium layers. This enables us to detect and characterize the optical responses overall. There is a large need for this kind of characterization of materials to understand the fundamentals."

Du explained that if his work is successful, it will lay the foundation for new far infrared and terahertz lasers and photodetectors that can fully exploit the electromagnetic spectrum.

Du shared, "This grant will support our experiments and research material growth. It also provides our students with valuable research experience and support."

The project's fundamental studies revolve around growing the specific compositions of the SiGeSn material in layered stacks with an atomically sharp interface, characterizing the fundamental electronic properties of such materials and demonstrating that a far infrared optical transition can be engineered according to the group's designs, he said.

"After we understand the fundamentals of designing a device and the materials themselves, we are going to build the device and see the results first-hand," he said.

Du wants to apply his research to semiconductor manufacturing in the future. He shared that the material he is researching should be compatible with mainstream silicon semiconductor technology. This will make it easy to transition his grown materials to industry and advance future U.S. semiconductor manufacturing interests.

AIMRC Seminar: Altered Metabolism in Calcific Aortic Valve Disease Initiation and Progression

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — Oct. 30, 2023

Kartik Balachandran, professor of biomedical engineeringThe Arkansas Integrative Metabolic Research Center (AIMRC) will host Kartik Balachandran, professor of biomedical engineering in the U of A College of Engineering, who will discuss how metrics derived via multiphoton microscopy correlate with early progression of calcific aortic valve disease (CAVD) at 12:55 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 1, in the Bell Engineering Center, room 2267.

Abstract: Calcific aortic valve disease (CAVD) represents the most prevalent form of valvular heart disease, comprising about 40% of all valve disease cases. It is also the most common indication for valve replacement surgery. CAVD patients have an approximately 50% increase in risk of death from cardiovascular causes. There are currently no therapeutic strategies to treat CAVD — surgical intervention is the only option. The lack of cellular biomarkers of disease progression, as well as the lack of effective human cell-based benchtop, or animal models, limit our ability to develop effective drug treatments or intervene at an early stage of CAVD. Balachandran's lab recently demonstrated that cellular activation and proliferation within valvular cells occurring during CAVD progression correlate with altered optical metabolic redox ratio of flavin adenine and nicotinamide (FAD and NADH) dinucleotides (FAD/FAD + NADH), measured by multiphoton microscopy. In this talk, he will go over the work that his group has done in collaboration with the AIMRC (professor Kyle Quinn) to understand how metrics derived via multiphoton microscopy correlate with early progression of CAVD in two-/three-dimensional organ-on-chip in vitro models and in vivo models.

Biography: Balachandran received his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the National University of Singapore and his master's degree in mechanical engineering and Ph.D. in bioengineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. His primary expertise is in mechanobiology, mechanics, structure-function relationships and organ-chip engineering. His research group is interested in how altered mechanics and structure contribute to the biological progression of cardiovascular, neurovascular and epithelial diseases, and how this knowledge can be utilized to develop therapeutic strategies and early disease detection strategies. He joined the U of A in 2012, where he is currently a professor and graduate program director in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

This seminar is also available via Zoom.