Two researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington were recently awarded Norman Hackerman Advanced Research Program awards. The awards are highly competitive prizes given by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which were created to support early-stage basic research that might attract more external funding.
A $100,000 grant was awarded to Baohong Yuan, a professor in UT Arlington’s Bioengineering department, to improve monitoring of cancer metastasis in deep tissues. Hyeok Choi, a professor in the Civil Engineering department, received $80,000 to study photocatalytic decomposition of lethal algal toxins in water resources in Texas.
The Coordinating Board received 269 proposals from 43 different institutions asking for $14.8 million in funding. From these proposals, only 11 were granted. UT Arlington and UT Austin each received awards for two of their proposals. Other Texas institutions — Lamar University, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Tech University, Rice University, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, UT Dallas and University of Houston — each received a single grant.
The UT Arlington dean Khosrow Behbehani noted that the two Hackerman awards given to Drs. Choi and Yuan highlight the excellence of UT Arlington’s research capabilities. He added in a press release: “This was a highly competitive process, and UT Arlington is pleased to have won two Hackerman Awards this year. Both Dr. Yuan and Dr. Choi are focused on advancing technologies and engineering processes that will have significant impact on the world.”
Dr. Yuan explained that when it comes to deep tissue, technology does not offer the insights needed for detection of early cancer: “Right now, there’s a trade-off. You can get images of large areas, but they don’t offer the detail needed or you can get detail in a very small and thin area. The object with this research is to look into deep and large tissue and determine the movement of the cancer cells. Thus, monitoring cancer metastasis in a natural environment may be possible, which is important for cancer treatment.”
Through Dr. Yuan’s research, the ability to determine if cancer has been eradicated after treatment or surgery will finally be possible. This method will also be less invasive than the technology that is currently being used.
Dr. Choi’s study uses sunlight together with titanium oxide (TiO2) on glass to destroy harmful algae that can affect bodies of water: “The algae in the water is bad, but what’s worse is that the algae releases toxins, too. (…) When sunlight reacts with TiO2, then it kills the bad algae,” he explained in the press release. These two research projects demonstrate UT Arlington’s broad spectrum of study and ongoing contributions to health and environmental science.