University of Arkansas at Little Rock: Cutting Edge Research Strives for Important Breakthroughs (Sponsored Report)

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Jul. 9, 2012 12:00 am  

Dr. Cang Ye is working to develop a “smart cane” that will help visually impaired people travel more easily and safely.

The faculty of the Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology (EIT) at UALR helps educate the next generation of Arkansas’s engineering, IT and construction professionals. And EIT’s professors also participate in cutting-edge research aimed at creating important scientific breakthroughs and increasing the body of knowledge in critical subject areas. Below are highlights of five EIT researchers’ work.

Dr. Nitin Agarwal

Dr. Agarwal is an expert in social computing, knowledge extraction in social media, and web data mining. He studies data from blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites to understand technology-mediated communications. The implications of Dr. Agarwal’s research include:

• Advancing our understanding of “social media currency,” used to participate in games and buy virtual goods but also as a mode of payment in contemporary e-commerce transactions.

• Studying the notions of trust in the micro-financing sector, especially the rapidly emerging “crowd-funding” phenomenon through sites like www.kickstarter.com, where entrepreneurs post business ideas and the public invests in them.

• Analyzing the role of Facebook and other social media platforms in supporting interventions to help combat illness and destructive behaviors; social influence has proven effective in smoking cessation and obesity prevention, for example.

• Leveraging findings from technology-mediated communications to influence user interface design, making it easier for the elderly, physically challenged and other groups to easily use the Internet and social media to connect with others, glean important information, etc.

Dr. Nidhal Bouaynaya

Dr. Bouaynaya works in the field of genomic signal processing, integrating ideas from signal processing and mathematics to tackle problems related to the systems biology of cancer and the dynamics of molecular networks. Her group is focusing on building predictive models of genetic networks and designing optimal intervention strategies for effective future gene therapies of complex diseases, including cancer and diabetes. Dr. Bouaynaya and two collaborators won a $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the dynamics of the skin cancer network to develop optimal control strategies to force the melanoma genetic network away from undesirable cellular states, such as metastasis. Dr. Bouaynaya and colleagues are developing the experimental capability to alter and follow the gene-state directories of cancer cells, the hope being that mathematically derived interventions will be implemented in living cells.

Dr. Keith Bush

Dr. Bush is partnering with colleagues at UAMS’ brain imaging research center using an fMRI machine, which takes movies instead of still pictures, to record brain blood flow patterns. Dr. Bush’s role is building computational tools to allow UAMS researchers to more clearly understand how the brain is working. Making fMRI data clearer and more precise could allow monitoring of a brain to enable real-time adjustments in treatment or therapy based on how the brain is functioning. Utilizing Dr. Bush’s algorithms, doctors can have a patient perform a task or take part in therapy and then adjust based on what the brain is telling them. This project is the next step in Dr. Bush’s research, which has also included developing neural stimulation/observation algorithms to suppress seizures, work Dr. Bush performed at McGill University that is pictured at left.

Dr. Guoliang Huang

 

 

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