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Cluster Hire Proposals Received

I’m pleased to tell you that we have received 18 proposals for our two open topic research clusters.

The proposals came from faculty in six different colleges, but almost every college is represented in some way. The proposals outline ideas for several new campus institutes, as well as new partnerships with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, UT Medical Center, and community organizations.

These proposals will be reviewed and ranked by a multidisciplinary committee of faculty; the committee’s scores and rankings, along with the input from the deans, associate deans for research, and department heads, will be shared with the provost, vice chancellor for research, and chancellor, who will make the final selection. The decision is expected by May 15.

The following list includes the title of each proposal, a brief description, and the faculty member who submitted it if you want to offer your expertise.

Download the Proposal List Excel spreadsheet

  1. Quantum Materials for Future Technologies

Cristian Batista
Professor of Physics and Willis Lincoln Chair of Excellence
College of Arts and Sciences

We propose a cluster hire focused on producing Quantum Materials for Future Technologies (QMFT). The cluster will synergize with the high-performance computing large-scale experimental facilities of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. A main goal of this cluster hiring will be to bridge the gaps between crucial areas for the future development of quantum technologies including quantum materials engineering, condensed matter physics, computer science and quantum information

  1. Ending Poverty in Our Own Backyard: Central and Southern Appalachia

Jeff Cochran
Department Head for Educational Psychology and Counseling
College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences
Educational Psychology & Counseling

We will research causes, effects and interventions to break the cycle of poverty in our surrounding regions of central and southern Appalachia. From our regional successes, we will evidence solutions to the challenge of poverty faced by all 21st century global societies. Our approach will be to collaborate with community organizations in order to ground our research in our home regions and to ensure co-ownership of the solutions that we generate and outcomes that we evidence.

  1. UTK Institute for Crime, Law and Justice

Wendy Bach
Associate Professor
College of Law

We propose a cluster-hire, bringing together researchers from Law, Business, and Sociology, as well as other departments, to focus on substantially reconfiguring the purpose, scope and size of the criminal justice system.  We propose the creation of the UTK Crime, Law and Justice Institute –the purpose of which would be to generate and disseminate research-based interventions in criminal justice and related policy areas.

  1. Harnessing Big Data for Connected Intelligent Transportation Systems to Enhance Economic Competitiveness

Asad Khattak
Beaman Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering
College of Engineering
Civil & Environmental Engineering

The potential to improve transportation system efficiency and safety is enormous. This cluster will address the challenges of providing connectivity and automation in monitoring and controlling the production and delivery of products and services. The team will harness big data coupled with Artificial Intelligence techniques to foster the development of connected and automated transportation systems, to enhance economic competitiveness by conducting fundamental and applied data science research.

  1. Local Solutions to Global Environmental Change

Paul Armsworth
College of Arts and Sciences
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

This Cluster examines the Grand Challenge: in a time of global change, how can we improve people’s well-being by improving their environment, while also reducing social inequities and promoting economic growth? As global changes impact the Southeastern U.S., we need integrated solutions that work for people and nature. This exceptionally interdisciplinary Cluster, housed in the Baker Center, focuses on the design and evaluation of locally grounded solutions to global change.

  1. Integrated Systems for Healthy Communities

Chris Cox
Professor and Head
College of Engineering
Civil & Environmental Engineering

This cluster seeks to address the grand challenge of achieving better performance outcomes (e.g., economic, social, health, sustainability, resilience) in communities in a holistic manner through systems thinking. Our systems approach will leverage emerging capabilities in sensors, data analytics and system dynamic modeling. The systems approach facilitates integration of disciplinary perspectives and convergent collaboration, thereby enhancing communities in the state and across the globe.

  1. Cluster Hire in Biomembranes: Structure, Dynamics and Biogenesis

Todd Reynolds
Associate Professor
College of Arts and Sciences

Biological membranes impact everything from energy production to drug delivery, and are fundamental to understanding biological complexity. At UTK > 20 faculty are working in this field, but we can make great progress if we bring them together to strategically address how biomembranes are assembled, maintained, and function. A Cluster Hire in Biomembranes will catalyze this by increasing our capabilities and funding, organizing our efforts, and will make us international leaders in this area.

  1. Meeting Public Policy Grand Challenges through an Intercollegiate School of Public Policy Analytics

Matthew Murray
Director, Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy
College of Business Administration

We propose a cluster of computational social scientists who will leverage big data to support evidenced-based policymaking in the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Since facilitating transdisciplinary research is difficult, we propose an intercollegiate school of public policy analytics as opposed to a loose affiliation of faculty sprinkled across the University. The school will be built around two successful research centers, the Baker Center and Boyd Center and four departments.

  1. Data Powered Health Innovation

Tami Wyatt
Professor, Associate Dean of Research
College of Nursing
Administration – College of Nursing

The “Data Powered Health Innovation”proposal addresses the 21st century Cures Act challenges. It builds on current research collaborations in the Colleges of Nursing, Engineering and Arts & Sciences by adding the Colleges of Communication and Information, Law, and Haslam College of Business to form a robust foundation for health innovation, discovery, and technology transfer. This approach to entrepreneurship toward prototype funding is necessary to receive competitive extramural funding.

  1. Empower Tennessee to Learn

Barbara Murphy
Associate Professor
College of Arts and Sciences
School of Music

The focus of our Cluster Hire, Empower Tennessee to Learn, is increasing the accessibility and affordability of higher education for Tennessee citizens by creating high quality Open Educational Resources (OER) to be used in any form of course delivery. We want to create the Empower Institute, a group that will assist faculty in creating OER, conduct empirical research on the effect OER has on the cost and accessibility of education, and provide experiential learning opportunities for students.

  1. Healthy Brain::Healthy Life

Rebecca Prosser
Professor and NeuroNET Research Center Director
College of Arts and Sciences
Biochemistry, Cellular & Molecular Biology

Our grand challenge is to: “Promote life-long brain, cognitive, and emotional health across society”, or “Healthy Brain::Healthy Life”. The first step to address this challenge is to expand multidisciplinary research focused on degenerative brain disorders.  It includes new faculty within multiple colleges collaborating across cell/molecular, bioengineering, cognitive, clinical, social and data analytic approaches, and is coordinated with the clinical-research efforts on brain disorders at UTMC.

  1. Addressing the Grand Challenge of Educational Inequities: Strengthening the Educational Pipeline

Sherry Bell
Department Head, Acting Dean
College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences
Theory & Practice in Teacher Education

This proposal will create a transdisciplinary team to address the massive adaptive and integrative challenges that face education from preschool through postsecondary. The cluster faculty will conduct research, provide technical assistance, engage stakeholders, and instruct university students in ways that enhance and advance both theory and practice throughout the educational pipeline, toward the ultimate goal of increasing equity, opportunity, and academic success in all phases of schooling.

  1. Smart Manufacturing Institute

Mingzhou Jin
Professor and Associate Department Head
College of Engineering
Academic & Student Affairs

Smart manufacturing is the new paradigm for integration of advanced information and manufacturing technologies leading to agile and flexible ecosystems to address dynamic local and global markets and societal drivers. Progress made in the science and technology of materials and manufacturing at UTK has led to the necessity of integrating all efforts into one umbrella through data science and systems engineering to address grand challenges of economic development and environmental sustainability.

  1. Soft Materials Research in Tennessee

Mark Dadmun
Paul and Wilma Ziegler Professor
College of Arts and Sciences

Soft materials are crucial for current and emerging technologies, where there exists significant expertise in the study of soft matter at UTK, offering a strong foundation from which to build a nationally and internationally recognized program. We therefore propose a cluster hire in the area of soft materials to build this community and expand the synergy that presently exists among this group and among their international collaborators.

  1. Interactions of Food, Water, and Energy Systems

Thanos Papanicolaou
Professor and Henry Goodrich Chair of Excellence
College of Engineering
Civil & Environmental Engineering

A UT FEWS cluster can lead the region and the nation in evaluating how the proliferation of mixed urban-agro-ecosystems can transform the nexus of crop production, energy costs, and water availability. The primary goal of this cluster will be to advance understanding and technology of FEWS in the region by transforming the individual components into an integrated natural-human system for examining inherent interactions, feedbacks, and processes to elucidate factors influencing resilience.

  1. Solutions to Substance Abuse through Primary Prevention and Early Intervention in Adolescents

Paul Erwin
Professor and Head
College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences
Public Health

This Cluster Hire will form the UT Center for Adolescent Health (CAH), within the Dept. of Public Health (CEHHS), with involvement from the Dept. of Nutrition (CEHHS), Colleges of Social Work and Nursing, an evaluation unit in NIMBioS, and UT Extension. The initial focus of the CAH will be on the Grand Challenge of substance abuse prevention, specifically in the prevention of opioid addiction, along with establishing a new undergraduate major in public health.

  1. Center of Food and Activity for Healthy Communities

Hollie Raynor
Professor, Interim Assistant Dean of Research
College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences

Establish the Center of Food and Activity for Healthy Communities, housed within CEHHS, engaging 3 departments in CEHHS, Nutrition; Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sports Studies; and Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management; College of Arts & Sciences (Geography); Haslam College of Business (Economics); and National Institute for STEM Evaluation and Research (NISER). The Grand Challenge addressed is modifying lifestyle culture around diet and physical activity to reduce health disparities.

  1. The Computational Living Cell

Jeremy Smith
Governor’s Chair
College of Arts and Sciences
Biochemistry, Cellular & Molecular Biology

The hires will bring to bear the massively-parallel supercomputing, simulation, modeling and data analytics capabilities at UTK and ORNL to create the world’s most powerful computational system for modeling the living cell, in exquisite detail and with unprecedented predictive power. Specific applications will provide new therapies for pancreatic cancer and antibiotics.