The Arkansas Research Alliance Scholars program serves as the cornerstone for ARA and plays a pivotal role in bridging university research and economic development. Scholars concentrate on Arkansas’s strongest and most commercially viable research competencies. Current research projects include drug development, stem cell research, cutting edge membrane technology and more.

Dr. Phillip Massey

2021 ARA Scholar

Associate Professor of Public Health, Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation, College of Education and Health Professions; Director, Center for Media, Technology and Health, University of Arkansas (UA)

Dr. Massey’s  research centers on health communication, media and technology in the U.S. and globally, on topics ranging from social media, cancer prevention, substance use, health literacy, and entertainment education. His scholarship has helped advanced health and media literacy research in the age of misinformation and online information sources. His research has extended traditional behavior change models, communication theories, and media effects to new media environments that continue to become more participatory. He has worked to create new ways to integrate data across medical platforms and link to health outcomes.

Dr. Edward Yeh

2021 ARA Scholar

Chairman, Department of Internal Medicine; Nolan Family Distinguished Chair in Internal Medicine, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)

Dr. Yeh graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a major in Biochemistry and received his medical degree from the University of California, Davis.  He completed medical residency at the Boston VA Medical Center and did a post-doctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate Baruj Benacerraf at Harvard Medical School.  In 1987, he was appointed Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. In the early 1990’s, Dr. Yeh relocated to Houston to join the faculty of The University of Texas and the Texas Heart Institute.   In 2000, he founded the Department of Cardiology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and developed a new field called Onco-cardiology that specializes on caring cancer patients who developed heart problems caused by cancer therapy. He was recruited to the University of Missouri at Columbia as Chair of the Department of Medicine and Director of the Center for Precision Medicine in 2016.  In three years, he raised the department’s national ranking in NIH-funded research from 98 to 76.  In 2020, he was appointed Chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Nolan Family Distinguished Chair in Internal Medicine.

Dr. Teresita Bellido

2019 ARA Scholar

Distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, UAMS

Dr. Bellido received her doctorate in biochemistry in 1988 and completed an initial postdoctoral fellowship in 1990 at the Universidad Nacional del Sur in Argentina. For the next three years she trained with Stavros Manolagas, M.D., Ph.D., while he was on faculty in the Endocrinology and Metabolism Section at the Roudebush Veterans Administration Medical Center at Indiana University. In 1993 Manolagas recruited Bellido to UAMS, where he continues to serve as director of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism and director of the UAMS/VA Center for Osteoporosis and Bone Diseases. Bellido holds multiple major grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as well as a Veterans Administration Merit Award. She serves on the Skeletal Biology Development and Disease Study Section for the NIH. Bellido and serves as president of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR), the ninth woman among 40 presidents in the society’s history and the first female president originally from Latin America.

Dr. Justin Zhan

2019 ARA Scholar

Professor of data science in the Department of Computer Science and Computer Engineering, University of Arkansas

Dr, Zhan’s research focuses on big data, blockchain technologies, information assurance, social computing and biomedical informatics. He has published more than 230 articles in peer-reviewed journals and conferences and delivered more than 30 keynote speeches and invited talks. As a principal investigator or co-principal investigator, Zhan has been involved in more than 45 projects funded by the National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, and the National Institutes of Health. Zhan has also served as editor-in-chief of two leading academic journals of data science, International Journal of Privacy, Security and Integrity and International Journal of Social Computing and Cyber-Physical Systems.

Dr. Hong-Yu Li

2016 ARA Scholar

Professor, College of Pharmacy's Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, UAMS

Dr. Li is an internationally recognized scientist in the field of cancer treatment research. He designs, synthesizes and develops small molecules through a variety of novel approaches to develop new agents for cancer treatments. He started work as a professor at UAMS in April. He was recruited from the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy in Tucson. Before Arizona, Li worked for more than 10 years at Eli Lilly & Company’s Lilly Research Laboratory in Indianapolis – the last four years as the laboratory’s principal research scientist.

Dr. David W. Ussery

2016 ARA Scholar

Director of ArC-GEM (Arkansas Center for Genomic and Ecological Medicine), UAMS

Dr. Ussery, has been working with bioinformatic analysis of bacterial genomes since 1995. His group has published more than 150 papers since 2000, including two papers that have been cited more than 1,000 times. He has been a co-applicant on grants totaling more than $30 million since 2010. His course on Comparative Microbial Genomics, taught at the Technical University of Denmark from 1997-2013, is currently in its 19th year. Workshops based on this course have been held in five countries.

Dr. Morten Olgaard Jensen

2015 ARA Scholar

Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Arkansas

Morten Jensen’s research focuses on experimental cardiovascular surgery, seeking to create useful solutions with sophisticated technologies. He was appointed to the Danish Academy of Engineering and became the youngest person since 1965 to receive the prestigious “Elektroprisen.” His work has been published extensively in scientific journals, magazines and public media.

Dr. Peter A. Crooks

D.Sc. 2011 ARA Scholar

Chairman, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences; Simmons Chair in Cancer Research, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)

Peter Crooks has been involved in drug discovery research for over 35 years and currently has several drugs in various stages of clinical development. He and his team work in the field of anticancer drug research where they focus on new, effective treatments for a variety of complex cancers including leukemia, brain tumors, pancreatic cancer, and liver cancer.

Dr. Ranil Wickramasinghe

2010 ARA Scholar

Professor and Ross E. Martin Chair in Emerging Technologies in the Ralph E. Martin Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Arkansas (UA)

Ranil Wickramasinghe has established a Membrane Science, Engineering and Technology Center at UA where he and his team focus on research that will lead to new advanced membranes and membrane-based separation processes for applications in the manufacture of human therapeutics, water treatment and production of biofuels.


Recruiting new talent starts with investing in the strong base of researchers already making a difference in Arkansas. The ARA Fellows program supports distinguished researchers currently working at one of the five research universities in the state with a $75,000 grant paid over three years. The program recognizes research leaders with an established history of impact.

Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolivar

2021 ARA Fellow

Professor of Plant Metabolic Engineering, Department of Biological Sciences; Executive Director of the American Council for Medicinally Active Plants (ACMAP); Chief Scientific Officer of Nature West, Inc.; Chair of the Northeast Arkansas Hispanic Professional Network (NEAHPN); Arkansas State University (A-State)

Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolivar is a Professor of Plant Metabolic Engineering in the Department of Biological Sciences at Arkansas State University (A-State). He has been faculty of A-State since 2005 and currently directs a research laboratory at the Arkansas Biosciences Institute. Dr. Medina-Bolivar received his B.S. degree in Biology from Cayetano Heredia University (Peru) and Ph.D. degree in Plant Physiology from the Pennsylvania State University. He conducted postdoctoral research in molecular biology at Virginia Tech. Dr. Medina-Bolivar has over 25 years of experience in plant biotechnology and is one of the world’s leading scientists using hairy root cultures as production systems of valuable natural products. His cutting edge technology has provided means to study the biological activity of novel natural products and identify their benefits to human health. Dr. Medina-Bolivar is a founding member of the American Council for Medicinally Active Plants (ACMAP) and currently serves as Executive Director of ACMAP. He was President of ACMAP in 2014-2015 and Program Chair and Host of the 2012 ACMAP conference at A-State and 2016 ACMAP conference in Lima, Peru.

Dr. Hugh Churchill

2021 ARA Fellow

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Physics; Assistant Director, Institute for Nanoscience and Engineering; University of Arkansas (UA)

Hugh Churchill is a native Arkansan and received a Ph.D. in Physics from Harvard University. Before joining the University of Arkansas in 2015, he held a Pappalardo Fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  At UA, the Churchill Lab combines expertise in nanofabrication with quantum transport and optoelectronic characterization to investigate the electronic, magnetic, and optical properties of atomically thin 1D and 2D semiconductor quantum devices.

Mariya V. Khodakovskaya

2021 ARA Fellow

Professor of Plant Biology and Director of Applied Science Graduate Program at Donaghey College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR); Founder and CEO of Advanced Plant Technologies, LLC.

Dr. Mariya V. Khodakovskaya was Faculty at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock from 2008. She is known for her pioneer work in the area of crop improvement by the application of a wide range of carbon-based nanomaterials. The Nature Nanotechnology Journal and the Economist magazine have highlighted her discoveries in the regulation of seed germination and plant growth using nanotechnology. She and her research team developed innovative approaches for the enhancement of plant tolerance to environmental stress using advanced methods of genetic engineering, molecular biology, and nanotechnology.  An important part of her research program is understanding the molecular mechanisms of the positive effects of nanomaterials in crops. To clarify the basis for enhancement of plant productivity and stress tolerance caused by the application of carbon-based nanomaterials, her laboratory is investigating the effects of nanomaterials on total plant transcriptome, proteome, and metabolome.

Dr. Alan Tackett

2021 ARA Fellow

Deputy Director, Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute; Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Scharlau Family Endowed Chair in Cancer Research; University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)

In recent years, new immunotherapy drugs have revolutionized how clinicians treat patients with certain cancers like melanoma. For some patients, immunotherapy can effectively eliminate cancer from the body – unfortunately in other patients these drugs show little benefit. Dr. Alan Tackett is interested in understanding why some patients show limited response to immunotherapies and then leveraging this information to design new cancer therapies to help all patients realize the lifesaving benefits of immunotherapy. His work is specifically focused on immunotherapy treatment of patients with metastatic melanoma. Towards these efforts, Dr. Tackett leads a translational team of researchers, oncologists, surgeons, and pathologists at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.

Dr. Laura K. Schnackenberg

2021 ARA Fellow

Branch Chief, Innovative Safety and Technologies Branch, Division of Systems Biology, National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

From 2003-2019, Dr. Schnackenberg’s research program was focused on the use of NMR-based metabolomics to evaluate drug-induced toxicity and mechanisms of disease.  More recently, the application of matrix assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) imaging mass spectrometry to evaluate drug-induced metabolic changes and spatial localization of drugs and drug metabolites in tissues.  In 2019, Dr. Schnackenberg assumed the role of Branch Chief for the IST Branch.  In addition to her continued research efforts related to MALDI imaging mass spectrometry, she helps direct, develop, and facilitate multifaceted research projects including the evaluation of biomarkers and mechanisms of drug-induced hepatotoxicity using in vitro and in vivo models, utilization of patient-specific cell lines to evaluate differential responses to tyrosine kinase inhibitors, and development of novel mass spectrometry tools to rapidly identify bacteria, compound adulteration, and viruses. One of the major goals of the branch is to develop novel in vitro models including tissue-chip-based platforms and assess their clinical translatability.

Dr. Karl Walker

2021 ARA Fellow

Associate Professor, Mathematics and Computer Science University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB)

Dr. Walker’s research has been in developing techniques or tools to analyze biological sequence data (protein amino acid sequences and DNA sequences) as well as imaging data such as PET scans, CT scans, and X-rays.  His research has primarily been in the area of computational protein structure comparison and prediction with emphasis in improving accuracy and prediction, but he has also contributed to other areas of bioinformatics research such as mass spectrometry proteomics, next-generation sequencing data analysis procedures, and the application of Artificial Intelligence in Bioinformatics.  He has also collaborated on bioinformatics research projects with researchers at ASU, UALR, UAMS, UAF, NCTR, and other institutions outside of Arkansas. He has published articles and delivered a number of presentations related to his research.

Dr. Nitin Agarwal

2018 ARA Fellow

Jerry L. Mauldin-Entergy Endowed Chair and Distinguished Professor of Information Science; Director of the Collaboratorium for Social Media and Online Behavioral Studies (COSMOS), UA Little Rock

Dr. Nitin Agarwal research advances our understanding of cyber social behaviors that emerge and evolve constantly in the modern information and communication platforms with applications in defense and security, health, business and marketing, finance, and education.

Dr. Jingyi Chen

2018 ARA Fellow

Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Arkansas (UA)

Dr. Chen’s research involves the development of multifunctional metal-based nanostructures and their hybrid materials for applications in energy conversion, tribology, and biomedicine. Dr. Chen is also a Postdoctoral Fellow, Brookhaven National Laboratory (2006-2008) and Research Assistant Professor, Washington University in St. Louis (2008-2010).

Dr. Steven Foley

2018 ARA Fellow

Deputy Director, Division of Microbiology; Supervisory Research Microbiologist, National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR)

Dr. Steven Foley studies the dynamics of horizontal gene transfer related to antimicrobial resistance and pathogenicity in bacterial foodborne pathogens. Originally from Minnesota, Dr. Foley earned his Bachelor of Science in zoology and his Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology/infectious diseases from North Dakota State University in Fargo.

Dr. Xiuzhen Huang

2018 ARA Fellow

Professor of Computer Science, Arkansas State University (A-State)

Dr. Huang conceived and defined the concept of No-Boundary Thinking (NBT), founded the Joint Translational Research Lab on the campuses of Arkansas State University and St. Bernard’s Medical Center’s Internal Medicine Residency Program, and founded the Arkansas Artificial Intelligence (AI) Campus.

Dr. Clint Kilts

2018 ARA Fellow

Professor and Wilbur Mills Chair in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention; Director, Brain Imaging Research Center; Director, UAMS NIDA T32 Training Program; Associate Director for Research, Psychiatric Research Institute; University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)

Dr. Kilts, a pioneer of brain imagery, explores the neural information processing structure of human mental health and illness, with a focus on the drug addiction process and its prevention and treatment. He received his postgraduate training in psychopharmacology and neurochemistry in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Michigan State University. He continued his training in neuropharmacology, analytical neurochemistry, and human psychopharmacology in the Biological Sciences Research Center at the University of North Carolina.

Dr. Mansour Mortazavi

2018 ARA Fellow

Professor of Physics, Director of Lasers and Nano-Science and Engineering Laboratories; Vice Chancellor of Research, Innovation and Economic Development; University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB)

Dr. Mortazavi researches special materials to be used in night vision instrumentations and optical communications. Recently, his team from UAPB worked collaboratively on grant-supported projects with the Department of Electrical Engineering of the University of Arkansas, University of Boston, and University of Arizona to develop new lasers with variable wavelengths in the mid-infra-red region of spectrum for the first time in the United States.

Dr. Laurent Bellaiche

2017 ARA Fellow

Distinguished Professor, Department of Physics and Institute for Nanoscience and Engineering, University of Arkansas

Dr. Bellaiche’s group carries out research in the field of computational condensed matter physics.  His current interests mainly lie in developing and/or using so-called first-principles methods, first-principles-based techniques and semiempirical approaches to calculate properties of ferroelectrics, magnetic compounds, multiferroics, semiconductors, nanostructures and graphene.

Dr. Tansel Karabacak

2017 ARA Fellow

Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, UA Little Rock

Tansel Karabacak’s research focuses on the properties and applications of nanostructured and thin film materials. He is especially well known for his pioneering work on glancing angle deposited (GLAD) nanostructures. In addition, he developed other novel and simple nanostructure and advanced thin film fabrication techniques such as conformal physical vapor deposited films by small angle deposition (SAD) and high pressure sputtering (HIPS), density modulated thin films by HIPS, and metal oxide nanostructures (MONSTRs) by hot water treatment. He has been working on the applications of nanostructured coatings in alternative energy systems including fuel cells, batteries, solar cells, and hydrogen storage. More recently, Karabacak’s group has also been exploring the applications of their novel materials for superhydrophobic, oleophobic, and anti-microbial surfaces, atmospheric water generation, oil-water separation, and photodetectors.

Dr. Rebecca Lochmann

2017 ARA Fellow

Interim Chair / Director of the Aquaculture/ Fisheries Center of Excellence, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

Dr. Lochmann and her team evaluate the efficacy of alternative dietary protein and lipid sources, prebiotics and probiotics, and other feed additives on the growth, health, product quality and reproductive performance of baitfish, catfish, largemouth bass, hybrid striped bass and tilapia. Cost-effectiveness of these ingredients is assessed where possible, to estimate the effects of diet manipulations on production profitability of these species.

Dr. Mark Smeltzer

Ph.D. 2017 ARA Fellow

Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology; Director, Center for Microbial Pathogenesis and Host Inflammatory Responses, UAMS

Dr. Smeltzer’s research focuses on infections caused by the bacterial pathogen Staphylococcus aureus with a particular emphasis on those infections involving bone and indwelling orthopaedic devices.  He also serves as the Program Director of a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE), which promotes the careers of new investigators and builds the infectious disease research capacity at UAMS and within central Arkansas.

Dr. Brandon Kemp

P.E. 2016 ARA Fellow

Associate Professor, College of Engineering, Arkansas State University (A-State)

Brandon Kemp seeks to better understand the fundamental interactions between light and matter by developing a consistent theory of the momentum, energy, and forces that electromagnetic fields exert on materials. His team applies theoretical advances to model existing applications and explore the feasibility of emerging technologies such as tractor beams, invisibility cloaking, and controllable materials and surfaces.

Dr. Weida Tong

2016 ARA Fellow

Director, Division of Bioinformatics and Biostatistics, NCTR

Dr. Tong is director of the Division of Bioinformatics and Biostatistics at NCTR. Tong’s work at NCTR focuses on developing bioinformatic methodologies and standards to support FDA research and regulation, and to advance regulatory science and personalized medicine. The most visible projects from his group are the Microarray Quality Control (MAQC) consortium to develop standard analysis protocols and quality control metrics for emerging technologies to support regulatory science and precision medicine; the development of liver toxicity knowledge base (LTKB) for drug safety; in silico drug repositioning for the enhanced treatment of rare diseases; and the development of the FDA bioinformatics system, ArrayTrack TM suite, to support FDA review and research on pharmacogenomics.

Dr. Min Zou

FASME, FSTLE 2016 ARA Fellow

Professor, Mechanical Engineering, University of Arkansas (UA)

Min Zou currently serves as director of the statewide Center for Advanced Surface Engineering (CASE). The center focuses on developing multi-functional and tunable surfaces for product innovations that will impact Arkansas manufacturing, aerospace and defense, agriculture, forestry, oil and gas, food packaging, and healthcare industries. Dr. Zou’s research focuses on nanoscale surface engineering for a wide range of applications ranging from anti-reflective coatings for solar panels to friction and wear reduction coatings for mechanical systems. Her research has led to new technologies being commercialized in Arkansas.

Dr. Alexandru Biris

2015 ARA Fellow

Director and Chief Scientist, Center for Integrative Nanotechnology Sciences; University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UA Little Rock)

Alexandru Biris has been the Chief Scientist of the UA Little Rock Center for Integrative Nanotechnology Sciences (CINS) since it began in 2005, serving as director since 2009. He leads the research at CINS, exploring the science of nanostructures that can be used to alter the properties of other substances at the atomic level. His vision for CINS is an aggressive outreach program to train and educate young people, as well as world-class scientists.

Dr. Laura P. James

M.D. 2015 ARA Fellow

Director, Translational Research Institute; University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)

Laura James has been a pediatrician and faculty member at UAMS since 1994. Her early research training and experience were in the conduct of pediatric pharmacology studies in children, supported by the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development through the Pediatric Pharmacology Research Unit Network. These efforts focused on pharmacology studies in children in order to guide the dosing of a number of pediatric therapeutics.

Dr. Argelia Lorence

2015 ARA Fellow

Professor of Metabolic Engineering, Co-Lead, Plant Imaging Consortium (PIC), Arkansas State University (A-State)

Argelia Lorence directs the Plant High-Throughput Phenotyping (phenomics) Facility at A-State. She also co-directs PIC, a multi-state effort that uses phenomics and other imaging techniques to allow researchers to adapt food, fiber, and fuel crops to meet the challenges of a changing climate and growing world population. Her research contributed to the discovery of a new biosynthetic pathway for vitamin C in plants. At A-State, Lorence is working on several projects including developing unique tools and imaging approaches to better understand how plants adapt to stresses such as drought, heat and cold that limit productivity. This work has the potential to positively impact U.S. agriculture.

Dr. Alan Mantooth

2015 ARA Fellow

Executive Director, National Center for Reliable Electric Power Transmission; Executive Director, NSF Center for Grid-Connected Advanced Power Electronic Systems; 21st Century Endowed Chair, Mixed-signal IC Design and CAD; University of Arkansas

Alan Mantooth has built an internationally recognized, award-winning electronics research program at UA. His team’s electronic designs have flown on the International Space Station, surviving extreme temperatures and radiation. Their latest achievements can survive extremely high temperatures, such as those found in deep well drilling or vehicular engine compartments. He has dedicated a part of his career to the transfer of research results into daily use by founding and nurturing three startup companies in Arkansas. The economic contributions of Dr. Mantooth have been estimated at more than $4 billion.