Research

Luca Cucullo, Ph.D.

Professor, Foundational Medical Studies

Neuroscience and Cerebrovascular Disorders

Dr. Cucullo’s research interests are largely focused on the cross interactions between the cellular elements of the neurovascular unit; the development of multidrug resistance at the blood-brain barrier (BBB); biomarkers of BBB disruption; environmental and cellular modulation of BBB functions, and their relevance to the onset of neuroinflammation, stroke/ischemia and the pathogenesis of secondary brain injury. In the past 10 years, his research has focused on characterizing the impact of chronic smoking and vaping on the cerebrovascular system and its potential impact on promoting neurological disorders and worsening the outcomes of brain injuries related to stroke, traumatic brain injury, neuroinflammation and, more recently, COVID-19.

Christina Papadimitriou, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary Health Sciences and Sociology

Health Care Equity

Dr. Papadimitriou is a sociologist and medical rehabilitation researcher interested in how people with disabilities and their caregivers make meaning of their health care experiences. She uses what she learns from their experiences to develop more inclusive and collaborative health care practices. Dr. Papadimitriou works with multidisciplinary and interprofessional teams to study peer support — people with physical disabilities trained to support peers with disabilities to improve community participation and health care outcomes — and relationship-centered assessment — for persons experiencing disorders of consciousness due to brain injury to improve shared decision-making between health care providers and family caregivers. This work leads to greater shared benefits for persons with disabilities, their caregivers and health care providers.

Andrew Goldberg, Ph.D.

Reddy Professor, Biomedical Sciences

Vision Health

Photoreceptors live in your retina, at the back of your eye, and they have a very distinct shape — without which healthy vision is impossible. Dr. Goldberg has devoted much of his career to studying the molecular basis for how this unique shape is achieved. One of the biggest challenges to treating diseases involving rods and cones (the two types of photoreceptors) has been a lack of understanding about their fundamental structure when healthy. By discovering how normal rod and cone structures are achieved, Dr. Goldberg and colleagues are laying the groundwork for development of treatments that could be deployed much earlier in disease progression.

Ankun Yang, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering

Electrochemical Transformations

Seeing is believing — Dr. Yang’s research focuses on developing platforms to visualize and probe electrochemical transformations on site and during operations. These platforms will integrate a range of advanced testing methodologies and characterization techniques to allow simultaneous visualization, sensing and analysis. With these in-situ (i.e., on site) and operando (i.e., during operations) platforms, Dr. Yang’s team aims to understand, predict and ultimately control energy materials and their electrochemical transformations in their native environments and at the most fundamental levels. This research will impact the design and performance of energy-storage devices, which are critical for many important technologies including portable electronics, transportations and integration of renewable energy.

Ngong Kodiah Beyeh, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Organic Chemistry

Supramolecular Chemistry

Focusing on organic and biomaterial chemistry, Dr. Beyeh’s research team is particularly interested in using weak interactions to self-assemble soft hybrid polymeric materials with many applications. Dr. Beyeh’s current research focuses on the design of self-healing hybrid materials through halogen bonds, identifying cavity containing organic compounds as potential therapeutic agents for treating eye cataracts, designing new protein-based materials as water sensors for heavy metals and hazardous organics, and using special organic compounds as unique dispersants for petroleum asphaltenes, which can help mitigate crude oil transportation challenges. These projects sit at the chemistry, polymer science, materials science, and biology interface.

Khalid Malik, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Computer Science and Engineering

Neuro-Symbolic Artificial Intelligence

Dr. Malik’s research interests include trustworthy and decentralized neuro-symbolic artificial intelligence (AI) in cybersecurity and health care. In cybersecurity, he focuses on developing forensic examiners for authenticity, integrity and veracity of audio and videos by using explainable artificial intelligence (XAI). He also works on hybrid cryptographic and generative AI models for secure group communication. In health care, he focuses on prediction of neurological disorders with focus on subarachnoid hemorrhage prediction, and infectious diseases using clinical text and medical imaging by using neuro-symbolic learning and automated knowledge graph generation, XAI and fairness-enabled AI, and federated learning. Dr. Malik’s research is supported by various international, federal and state agencies such as the National Science Foundation, Brain Aneurysm Foundation, and Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization Innovation Hub.

Sarah A. Denha

Graduate Student, Chemistry

Biochemistry

Denha works in Adam Avery, Ph.D., lab, researching how mutations in a protein called ßIII-spectrin causes the neurodegenerative disease spinocerebellar ataxia type 5 (SCA5). SCA5 affects the cerebellum, which is responsible for balance and movement coordination. Understanding the underlying mechanism by which mutant ßIII-spectrin affects the normal function of the neurons helps in developing future therapeutics for the currently untreatable SCA5. To understand the disease mechanism, Denha employs a unique combination of assays ranging from biochemistry and biophysics, to fruit fly genetics.

Learn more about Denha's research.

Kristen Munyan, DNP

Assistant Professor, Nursing

Nursing Workforce Issues

In Spring 2020, Dr. Munyan’s scholarship team examined the incidence of traumatic stress among frontline nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic. They sampled over 200 nurses who reported high levels of traumatic stress related to their work. They used the Traumatic Stress Questionnaire, a screening tool used to identify individuals at risk for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). More than 65 percent of nurses had scores above the threshold that indicated risk for developing PTSD.

Ziming Yang, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Geochemistry and Environmental Science

Geochemical Processes

Dr. Yang’s team’s research includes studying organic geochemical processes in the hydrothermal systems on Earth and beyond. They design and carry out experiments to simulate natural hydrothermal environments, to understand the reaction pathways and mechanisms with respect to prebiotic synthesis and the origin of life. They also explore the potential application of Earth-abundant materials in green and sustainable chemistry. They are also interested in biogeochemical (microbial) processes in soil and aquatic ecosystems, including the Arctic tundra, wetlands and the Great Lakes. One of their current projects focuses on transformation and cycling of soil organic carbon, phosphorus and pollutants (e.g., mercury) in the Lake Michigan sand dune ecosystem.

Joshua Haworth, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Human Movement Science

Biomechanics

Dr. Haworth studies sensorimotor mechanisms underlying human movement. As co-director of the OU BEAR Lab (Biomechanics, Ergonomics and Abilities Research), Dr. Haworth, with physical therapy and medicine students, focuses on developing knowledge and methods to support patient-centered physical medicine including advanced health monitoring and care delivery. The state-of-the-art space is designed and equipped to measure and modify various aspects of mobility and state of mind, using markerless 3D motion capture, force plates, EMG, eye tracking and computer-vision based affect assessment. Current studies examine barriers to mobility in persons with osteoarthritis, cancer survivorship, autism and other special populations.

Peter Elphick

Graduate Student, Physics

Computational Physics

Elphick’s current research is centered on spectrum analysis using a nanoscale device called a Spin Torque Nano Oscillator (STNO). The STNO is ultra fast and can scan over a wide microwave frequency range in a small amount of time relative to the time scale of microwaves. Due to its construction, it eliminates the need for some supporting circuitry and is appealing to manufacturing due to the fact that it is complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) compatible. The research is focused on studying the effects of the STNO’s imperfections on its performance in spectrum analysis

Nivedita Mukherji, Ph.D.

Associate Provost, Faculty Affairs and Professor, Economics

Macro and Regional Economics

Using knowledge flows and regional economic characteristics, Dr. Mukherji’s team has developed innovation absorptive capacities for U.S. metropolitan statistical areas. These absorptive capacities are found to be important for regional economic performance. During the early stages of the pandemic, as cases and mortality data were published on a daily basis, it became evident that there were large disparities in the incidence and mortality rates across regions. Dr. Mukherji developed an index that captured the vulnerabilities of 770 counties across the U.S. to the virus. This index demonstrates the vulnerability of the counties depending on socioeconomic and demographic conditions. These indexes can be developed for infectious diseases to prepare for future health crises.

Watoii Rabii, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Criminology and Sociology

Criminal Justice and Immigration

Dr. Rabii is a qualitative researcher whose primary training is in criminology and urban sociology. His research focuses on the sociology of race and ethnicity, masculinity and immigration. The research can be categorized into two tracks. First, exploring how positive discourses about race, immigration and masculinity mask and perpetuate inequalities. The second focuses on the experiences of immigrants and people of color within the criminal justice and immigration justice system. Important to the research are the concepts of colorblindness, hybrid masculinities and immigration.

Douglas Zytko, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Computer Science and Engineering

Human Computer Interaction

Computers are dangerous. OK, not computers themselves, but the way they’re used to communicate with strangers online and face-to-face. Dr. Zytko’s research explores and designs solutions for risk of harm associated with computer-mediated communication, particularly against women and LGBTQ people, such as sexual violence and harassment. He’s currently exploring AI and virtual reality as design “materials” for these solutions. He’s using participatory design to enable women to craft new AI interventions for safety while using social matching systems such as dating apps. He’s also exploring the role of virtual reality storytelling to impact attitudes and behavior around public health issues.

Jo Reger, Ph.D.

Professor, Sociology and Department Chair

Formation and Fracture

Communities create connections. From neighborhood book clubs to ideological movements, communities offer like-minded people an opportunity to unite over a common thread. But while this can connect some, it can also become a barrier for others. In her new project — “Singing to Utopia: Lesbians, Feminists and Music, 1968–1998” — Dr. Reger explores the U.S. women’s music community and the formations and fractures within this culture. She found that some women were being excluded from the mainstream music scene, among other groups, which indirectly gave rise to a vibrant women’s music community.

Read more about Formation and Fracture.

Sang Rhee, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences

Gut Feeling

We’ve known for decades that our intestines are populated by a large collection of microbial organisms, mainly bacteria that help with digestion and can boost our immune systems. But in the last ten years or so, researchers like Dr. Rhee have begun to develop a much more nuanced understanding of what else those bacteria can do — or not do — to our bodies. Rhee’s specialty is mucosal immunology, which is the study of immune responses in our mucus membranes, including the throat, lungs, and, of course, intestines. For now, Dr. Rhee’s studies are focused primarily on gaining a better understanding of the biological processes by which gut bacteria can impact brain health.

Read more about Gut Feeling.

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