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Arkansas Research Alliance Academy Inducts Two New Members


by Lauren McLemore

Biophysicist Teresita Bellido and big data researcher Justin Zhan were announced Thursday as the newest inductees into the Arkansas Research Alliance Academy of Scholars and Fellows.

Bellido was recruited to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences from Indiana University School of Medicine and Zhan from the College of Engineering at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

“The Arkansas Research Alliance takes the lead in utilizing our research, enhancing our research among our research institutions in Arkansas and making sure its connected with industry and has a practical result,” said Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who recognized the inductees at a special ceremony at the state Capitol. “The ARA Academy of Scholars and Fellows has helped spur discoveries in artificial intelligence, nanomaterials, cyber security, healthcare, electrical engineering, and many more.”

Teresita Bellido

Since its founding in 2010, the ARA Scholars program has recruited world-class leaders in scientific research to Arkansas’ five major research universities — University of Arkansas, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Arkansas State University.

Each will receive a $500,000 grant paid over three years to further their research and join the almost 30 existing members in the academy. Bellido is a professor and chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at UAMS. Previously, she was a tenured professor in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at Indiana University School of Medicine. She serves on the Skeletal Biology Development and Disease Study Section for the National Institute of Health and also as the president of the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research.

She previously served on the UAMS faculty from 1993 to 2008 in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism and as a researcher for the VA Center for Center for Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Diseases.

Justin Zhan

Zhan joined the University of Arkansas College of Engineering in the Department of Computer Science and Computer Engineering after serving as Director of Big Data Hub and professor and in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas College of Engineering.

He has served as a steering chair of several international conferences on social computing, privacy and security risk, and biomedical computing. He also served as editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Privacy, Security and Integrity and the International Journal of Social Computing and Cyber-Physical Systems.

Zhan was awarded a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Army this fall to build a GPU cluster to be used for big-data research and education, and which he said will expand the breadth of data research at the UA.

Jerry Adams, ARA president and CEO, said the program will add eight new members over the next 12 to 18 months, and noted the scheduling of the State Science and Technology Institute’s annual conference for Little Rock Oct. 13-15, 2020, its first in Arkansas. Roughly 300 of the top technology-based economic developers from 47 states will be in town, he said.

“This is going to give us an enormous opportunity to shine a spotlight on Arkansas, on all of Arkansas, about the progress we are making as a state,” Adams said. “All of us go out and talk about how good Arkansas is, and I think people have to come here to believe it — so we are excited about this effort.”

READ MORE: Douglas Hutchings Named Director for ARA Academy

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