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. 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. Jie Xiao

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.

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. Carolina Cruz-Neira

2011 ARA Scholar

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

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.

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.

Dr. 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.

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. Merle Paule

2017 ARA Fellow

Senior Biomedical Research Scientist and Director, Division of Neurotoxicology, National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR), US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Dr. Paule has played a major role in developing an automated system for monitoring multiple complex brain functions in nonhuman primates, children and rodents.  These functions include learning, short-term memory, motivation, color and position discrimination and time perception and are used as measures for determining the effects of drug and other chemical exposures.  Utilization of similar or identical behavioral tasks across species serves to facilitate the interspecies extrapolation of exposure data and thus the risk assessment process.

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. Paul C. Howard

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.

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. Michael Owens

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.

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.