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.

Hong-Yu Li

Ph.D. 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.

David W. Ussery

Ph.D. 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.

Morten Olgaard Jensen

Ph.D., Dr.Med. 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.

Jie Xiao

Ph.D. 2015 ARA Scholar

Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Arkansas

Jie Xiao’s research spans from materials synthesis and electrochemical catalysis/kinetics to advanced characterization with particular interest in the identification of new materials and novel technologies for energy storage and conversion. Prior to her work at UA, she was a senior scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, leading fundamental research and practical applications of energy materials and systems.

Gareth Morgan

M.D., FACP, FRCP, FRCPath, Ph.D. 2014 ARA Scholar

Director of the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy and Deputy Director of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)

Gareth Morgan’s work in the field of molecular genetics in blood cell cancer stands at the forefront of molecular studies related to multiple myeloma. His influential work includes characterizing the myeloma genome and defining specific subsets of the disease that have prognostic importance. The author of more than 450 articles for leading journals, his work is leading molecular research related to myeloma.

Peter A. Crooks

Ph.D., 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.

Carolina Cruz-Neira

Ph.D. 2011 ARA Scholar

Director of the George W. Donaghey Emerging Analytics Center, University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR)

Carolina Cruz-Neira has created and deployed a variety of technologies that have become standard tools in industry, government and academia, the most well known being the CAVE virtual reality system. An ACM Computer Pioneer and IEEE Virtual Reality Technical Achievement Award recipient, her work with advanced technologies provides value to a wide-range of disciplines and business.

Ranil Wickramasinghe

Ph.D. 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.

Daohong Zhou

M.D. 2010 ARA Scholar

Deputy Director of the Division of Radiation Health, College of Pharmacy; Associate Director for Basic Research, the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)

Daohong Zhou applies his expertise to cancer and stem cell research. He and his team of scientists focus on radiation and chemotherapy-induced stem cell injury as well as leukemia. They are seeing substantial and encouraging results as they develop new strategies to promote ex vivo expansion (growth out the body) of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) that are responsible for the production of all blood cells. These HSCs can be used to treat leukemia and lymphoma by transplantation.


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.

Paul C. Howard

Ph.D. 2016 ARA Fellow

Director, Office of Scientific Coordination, NCTR

Dr. Paul C. Howard is senior biomedical research scientist (SBRS) at NCTR. He has been the director of the Office of Scientific Coordination since 2008, and was a senior research scientist in the Division of Biochemical Toxicology. Howard’s research interests have historically been focused on food contaminants, cosmetic ingredients, tattoo inks and nanotechnology-based materials. The research needs of these projects have led to the development of the Center for Phototoxicology, the Nanotechnology Core Facility and the Inhalation Toxicology Core Facility at NCTR.

Brandon Kemp

Ph.D., 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.

Michael Owens

Ph.D. 2016 ARA Fellow

Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and Director, Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Studies, University of Arkansas Medical Sciences (UAMS)

Dr. Owens’ research program specializes in the development of medications to treat drug abuse, one of which is currently involved in FDA clinical trials to treat methamphetamine addiction. He has served as a scientific advisor and consultant for industry, government, and private agencies, including the National Academy of Science, National Institutes of Health, Small Business Innovative Research Grants, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Cancer Institute, National Science Foundation, and American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Weida Tong

Ph.D. 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.

Cang Ye

Ph.D. 2016 ARA Fellow

Professor, Department of Systems Engineering at University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR)

The focus of Dr. Ye’s research is to create innovative assistive co-robots that will allow natural human-robot collaboration in accomplishing assistive tasks specifically for people with visual/physical disabilities. He is also developing next generation computer vision methods for small-sized rovers to support NASA’s future robotic space exploration missions. Dr. Ye has published more than 53 academic papers. He is internationally reputed for his research in co-robotics.

Min Zou

Ph.D., 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.

Alexandru Biris

Ph.D. 2015 ARA Fellow

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

Alexandru Biris has been the Chief Scientist of the UALR 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.

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.

Argelia Lorence

Ph.D. 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.

Alan Mantooth

Ph.D. 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.