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UT Arlington engineering professors honored with Hackerman Advanced Research awards

The University of Texas at Arlington has received two highly competitive Norman Hackerman Advanced Research Program awards from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Baohong Yuan, an associate professor in the Department of Bioengineering, received a $100,000 grant to better monitor cancer metastasis in deep tissue. Hyeok Choi, an assistant professor of environmental engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering, received $80,000 to study solar-driven photocatalytic decomposition of lethal algal toxins in Texas water resources.

A total of 269 proposals from 43 institutions requesting $14.8 million in funding were submitted to the Coordinating Board. Only 11 proposals were granted. UT Arlington and UT Austin were the only institutions to receive two approved research proposals. The other seven institutions - Baylor College of Medicine, Lamar University, Rice University, Texas Tech University, UT Dallas, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio and University of Houston - received one grant each.

Khosrow Behbehani, dean of the UT Arlington College of Engineering, said the successful Hackerman awards to Drs. Yuan and Choi highlight research excellence at UT Arlington.

"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."

The Legislature created the Hackerman Advanced Research Program in 1987 to "exploit the potential of technology" and support basic research likely to attract external funding.

Yuan said current imaging technology doesn't always offer the detail needed for early cancer detection, especially in deep tissue.

"Right now, there's a tradeoff. 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," Yuan said. "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."

Yuan said his research also would help determine if the cancer has been eradicated after patients have undergone treatment or surgery. He adds that his method and device would be much less invasive than current technology.

Choi's research uses sunlight with titanium oxide, or TiO2, on glass to destroy bad algae that can effectively kill bodies of water.

"The algae in the water is bad, but what's worse is that the algae releases toxins, too," Choi said. "When sunlight reacts with TiO2, then it kills the bad algae."

A secondary goal of the research will be to develop a way to activate TiO2 under visible light.

Provided by University of Texas at Arlington