John Ferraris on Advances in Chemistry at UT Dallas
Institutional Feature, September2011
In May of this year, the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) was named a Rising Star among institutions in the field of Chemistry by Essential Science IndicatorsSM from Thomson Reuters, meaning that the university showed the highest percent increase in total citations among institutions in this field.
The university's current record in this field includes 271 papers cited a total of 9,342 times from January 1, 2001 to April 30, 2011. Many of the faculty members of UTD are also in the top 1% of their fields in the database.
Below, ScienceWatch.com talks with Chemistry Professor and Department Head John P. Ferraris about UTD's highly cited work in this field.
How do you account for UTD's increase in the number of citations in the field of Chemistry in recent years?
The large increases in citations reflect the seminal work being done by researchers in the department, the Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute (Ray Baughman, Director), and the Advanced Imaging Center (A. Dean Sherry, Director).
Does this reflect a deliberate plan to enhance the university's research effort in this field, or was this an unexpected or serendipitous development?
The University made a conscious effort to expand in the area of nanotechnology with the hiring some 10 years ago of two world-class researchers (Baughman, Anvar A. Zakhidov) to establish the NanoTech Institute. We fully anticipated that it would provide the catalyst to expand our research efforts in the area but have been truly awed by the rapid growth in citations that has resulted. Since its inception, many of the Chemistry faculty have become members of this Institute. New research thrusts and subgroups, such as BioNano, have formed and their efforts have been recognized in the large increase in citations for the Department.
What factors or circumstances led UTD to its work in this field?
"The field is expanding so fast, with incredible discoveries revealed daily, that it will pervade all aspects of our daily lives within 10 years."
The former VP of Research, Da Hsuan Feng, was instrumental in establishing the Institute. He was a personal friend of the late Alan G. MacDiarmid, who shared the 2000 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Feng was charged by the Provost, Hobson Wildenthal, to explore ways to get UTD more involved in the new field of nanoscience/technology and he contacted Alan for suggestions on who the luminaries in the field were.
Alan recommended Ray Baughman, who at the time was at Honeywell but was considering seeking an academic position after 31 years in industry. Feng approached me with Ray's name and since I had known Ray for over 25 years and was familiar with his outstanding contributions, I was more than ecstatic with the possibilities of him joining the Department as a Chaired Professor. I was unaware that he was "on the market."
Through a concerted and unwavering effort by the upper administration, the department, and the faculty, we invited Ray, and then Anvar (who is the Deputy Director of the Institute, and now a Professor in the Physics department at UTD) for a visit. It was clear from the start that the "fit" was perfect. We consider ourselves fortunate to have attracted these two researchers to launch the Institute as they were being courted by other Institutions.
How does the work of the Chemistry Department tie in with the Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute and the Advanced Imaging Research Center?
Ray Baughman is a Professor of Chemistry, the Director of the Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute, and holds the Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry. A. Dean Sherry is a Professor in Chemistry, the Director of the Advanced Imaging Research Center, has a joint appointment with UT Southwestern Medical University and holds the Cecil H. and Ida Green Distinguished Chair in Systems Biology Science. He joined UTD in the early '70s. Both direct the research of Chemistry graduate and undergraduate students as well as postdoctoral and other staff researchers.
Carbon nanoscience is a topic with high paper output. Would you talk a little bit about the university's efforts in this area?
From the citation list, it is clear that the work on carbon nanotubes has garnered a huge interest. The work of Baughman and his colleagues has involved both the fundamental and applied areas, stemming in large part from his industrial perspective. Other Chemistry faculty have been working on application of carbon materials in the biological arena including sensors and disease targeting. Still other Chemistry/Physics faculty have employed nanotubes and other nanostructured carbons for solar cell applications, OLEDs, energy storage, and high-temperature superconductivity, to name a few.
"…it is clear that the work on carbon nanotubes has garnered a huge interest."
Are there other specific areas of research within the realm of Chemistry on which UTD particularly focuses?
UTD Chemistry faculty work in a number of research areas beyond carbon nanotechnology described above. There are significant efforts in membrane-based gas separations, fuel cells, energy storage, organic electronics, peptidomimetics for the treatment of diabetes, protein design and modeling, studies on self-assembly, magnetic resonance imaging agents that are responsive to physiology and metabolism, structure/property relationships in and applications of polymers, and nanomaterials for bioimaging, catalysis, and energy conversion.
What is your prediction for the state of our knowledge about this particular field 10 years from now?
The field is expanding so fast, with incredible discoveries revealed daily, that it will pervade all aspects of our daily lives within 10 years.
What research fields or capabilities do you see as critical for the future of UTD?
UTD is constantly adding new efforts and degrees in the physical and biological sciences, materials science, engineering, management, brain studies, economic and public policy and STEM education. New faculty hires at the junior and senior levels, included chaired professorships, new laboratories and modern instrumentation capabilities are part and parcel to these efforts.
What are the implications of the university's work for the future of this particular field or neighboring fields?
UTD is a leader in this and several neighboring fields and will continue to grow its efforts. UTD is on a quest to become a "Tier One" research institution. Research in the nanoscience/technology fields will continue to be a strong contributor to further enhancing the University's reputation.
John P. Ferraris
Professor and Head
Department of Chemistry
University of Texas at Dallas
Richardson, TX, USA
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT DALLAS, DEPARTMENT OF CHEMISTRY'S MOST CURRENT MOST-CITED PAPER IN ESSENTIAL SCIENCE INDICATORS:
Baughman RH, Zakhidov AA, De Heer WA, "Carbon nanotubes—the route toward applications," Science 297(5582): 787-92, 2 August 2002 with 3,146 cites. Source: Essential Science Indicators from Thomson Reuters.
KEYWORDS: NANOTECHNOLOGY, ALAN G MACDIARMID NANOTECH INSTITUTE, ADVANCED IMAGING CENTER, BIONANO, FACULTY RECRUITMENT, CARBON NANOTUBES, CARBON MATERIALS, SENSORS, DISEASE TARGETING, SOLAR CELLS, OLEDS, ENERGY STORAGE, HIGH-TEMPERATURE SUPERCONDUCTORS, NANOELECTRONICS, MEMBRANE-BASED GAS SEPARATIONS, FUEL CELLS, ORGANIC ELECTRONICS, PROTEIN DESIGN, PROTEIN MODELLING, SELF-ASSEMBLY, BIOIMAGING, CATALYSIS, ENERGY CONSERVATION.