News Release

UT Arlington increases interdisciplinary grants by 40% in 2024

Seven multidisciplinary teams receive one-year awards to facilitate research

Grant and Award Announcement

University of Texas at Arlington

An adaptive exergame machine designed to help individuals with disabilities participate in regular exercise


An adaptive exergame machine designed to help individuals with disabilities participate in regular exercise

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Credit: Photo courtesy UT Arlington

The Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation at The University of Texas at Arlington has awarded seven Interdisciplinary Research Program (IRP) grants totaling nearly $140,000 to foster collaboration between groups that do not typically work together. This represents an increase in funding of 40% over the grants awarded in 2023.

“UT Arlington has increased its support of interdisciplinary research as we know that many of today’s great societal challenges can only be solved when innovators with various types expertise come together,” said Kate C. Miller, vice president for research and innovation. “Many federal, state and private funding agencies also recognize the importance multidisciplinary research, and that’s why so many have integrated approaches at the core of their missions. UTA’s support of collaborative research will have an impact on society today while also making these projects more viable for additional research collaboration.”

The 2024 recipients of the IRP grants are:

  • Architecture Assistant Professor Mahmoud Bayat, public affairs and planning Professor Jianling Li, civil engineering Professor Stephen P. Mattingly, landscape architecture and public affairs and planning Professor Qisheng Pan, and civil engineering Professor Mohsen Shahandashti for their project “Leveraging AI and Digital Twins for Enhancing Resilience of Transportation Networks.” Managing aging infrastructure, like bridges and roads, is a critical issue in the United States. With this project, the team is developing a new approach that uses virtual models of objects called “digital twins” and artificial intelligence (AI) to create a dynamic model of transportation networks to optimize maintenance. The solution will allow transportation agencies to better allocate resources, reduce the time and costs associated with bridge assessments, and improve the overall management and resilience of transportation assets.
  • Bioengineering Professor Khosrow Behbehani and psychology Professor Tracy Greer for their project “Assessing the Validity of Wearable Heart Rate Variability Data as a Potential Tool to Assist in Pain Management.” Exercise is an important component of pain management, but post-exercise discomfort can keep individuals from engaging in it. Researchers have found that tracking the time between heartbeats (called heart rate variability or HRV) on wrist-worn wearable devices may help guide treatment and improve exercise tolerance. This research will test whether wearables are a valid measurement tool for HRV and if HRV is an important related outcome of pain management.
  • Biology Associate Professor Jeffrey P. Demuth, biology Assistant Professor Theodora Koromila and computer science and engineering Assistant Professor Jacob Luber for their project “Single-Cell Multi-Omics of Sex Chromosome Gene Regulation.” Differences in DNA and gene content between X and Y sex chromosomes in males affect gene regulation and chromosome segregation during sperm development. This project will examine the natural variation in sex chromosomes using advanced computational analysis, ultra-high-resolution microscopy, and single-cell sequencing to reveal mechanisms underlying sex chromosome dynamics throughout spermatogenesis. The team’s development of multi-omics tools (an approach that looks at many layers of biological data) for single-cell analyses will inform the causes of fertility decline and sex differences in disease prevalence.
  • Communication Assistant Professor Grace Brannon; industrial, manufacturing, and systems engineering Associate Professor Shouyi Wang; and kinesiology Assistant Professor Liao Yue for their project “A Mixed Methods Approach to Leverage Machine Learning in the Development of Personalized mHealth Physical Activity Interventions.” Studies have shown the health benefits of physical activity, but it’s challenging to start and maintain a workout schedule. In this project, researchers will use machine learning to predict how a person's blood sugar level corresponds to daily activity levels. With that data, they will then create an exercise plan so individuals can see how their daily activity levels affect their health, with the goal of motivating individuals to stay physically active.
  • Kinesiology Professor Paul J. Fadel, art and art history Senior Lecturer Benjamin C. Wagley and UTARI Principal Research Science Muthu Wijesundara for their project “Assessment of Engagement and Cardiovascular Responses in Individuals with a Mobility Disability Using an Adaptive Exergame Machine for Increasing Physical Activity.” Although regular exercise helps people with mobility issues avoid additional health problems, lack of specialized exercise equipment for people with disabilities can sideline these individuals. This project focuses on the use of an adaptive exergame machine, a type of accessible exercise equipment with a video game component that keeps users engaged in exercise while monitoring their activity and providing feedback. The team will use the data from this study to identify areas of improvement so this adaptive equipment can be expanded for more widespread use.
  • Modern languages Associate Professor Alicia R. Rueda-Acedo, social work Associate Professor of Practice Karla Arenas-Itotia, social work Assistant Professor Jaclyn Kirsch, and College of Nursing and Health Innovation Assistant Dean of Simulation and Technology Jennifer Roye for their project “Increasing Access to Health Services for Limited English Proficiency Patients Using Simulation-Based Learning: A Pilot Study.” People with limited English-speaking skills often have difficulty accessing health care services due to the language barrier. In this project, researchers will compare the use of family members vs. trained medical interpreters when preparing limited-English-speaking patients for hospital discharge. The results of the program will be circulated to help health professionals improve outcomes for people with limited English.
  • Physics and bioengineering Associate Professor Yujie Chi and nursing, biology, bioengineering and kinesiology Professor Zui Pain for their project “Comprehensive Characterization of Low-Dose Radiation Effects on Cardiomyocytes: Dose-Responses and Molecular Mechanisms.” Researchers know a lot about the damage caused by large amounts of radiation, such as from a nuclear explosion, but there is little known about any health problems caused by small amounts of radiation, such as radiation emitted from X-rays or going through security gates. This team will perform advanced biological measurements and radiation modeling using a unique radiation and cardiac experimental system. They hope to identify early biomarkers for heart problems caused by small amounts of radiation—the first step to identifying any risks and possible health interventions.

The goal of the IRP grants is to advance interdisciplinary research at UTA in alignment with the University’s strategic plan to be recognized as an international leader in research, scholarship and innovation. Each project lasts one year in duration. At the end of the year, recipients are expected to submit applications for additional funding outside the University with the aim of further developing their findings.

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