RTI International names 2016-2017 class of University Scholars

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, North Carolina — This year’s class of RTI University Scholars includes, for the first time, researchers from North Carolina State University and Fayetteville State University.

The RTI University Scholars Program supports highly talented academics who take scholarly leave from their home institutions to collaborate with RTI researchers.

The six scholars, who will spend up to one academic year at RTI working on strategic research projects, are Owen Duckworth, Ph.D., Sylvia Nassar, Ph.D., and Nagui Rouphail, Ph.D., of N.C. State; Rakesh Malhotra, Ph.D., of Fayetteville State; and Crystal Cene, M.D., and Ilene Speizer, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

They represent a variety of specialties and will work with RTI researchers on the following projects:

  • Cene, an internal medicine physician and associate professor of medicine, will study social network characteristics and health information among a racially diverse group of older women, in collaboration with RTI’s Megan Lewis, Ph.D., and Brian Southwell, Ph.D.. She and Southwell also plan to co-edit a special issue of a journal on the role of social networks in clinical care and health-related decision-making.
  • Duckworth, an associate professor of soil biogeochemistry in the crop and soil sciences department, will join his longtime RTI collaborator, James Harrington, Ph.D., in analytical sciences. They will study how minerals produced by microorganisms affect the fate and transport of environmental contaminants, including arsenic and pesticides used to combat the mosquito that carries the Zika virus.
  • Malhotra, an associate professor of geospatial technologies, will work within RTI’s geospatial science and technology program. He will research the use of remote sensors in food and agriculture, energy, and health, capitalizing on RTI’s and Fayetteville State’s growing capabilities in satellite and unmanned aircraft technology.
  • Nassar, a professor and coordinator for the Ph.D. program in N.C. State’s counselor education program, will lead the RTI Career Builders project with Peter Joyce, Ed.D, and Eric Johnson, Ph.D., of RTI’s Governance and Economic Development-Workforce and Economic Opportunity program. The project focuses on the development of career-development curriculum modules, assessment and program evaluation tools, and collaboration and dissemination via public forums and scholarly publications.
  • Rouphail, a professor of civil engineering, will work with Alan Karr, Ph.D., director of RTI’s Center of Excellence for Complex Data Analysis. He will analyze data on traffic and transportation, gathered by a fleet of local drivers who volunteered to have their cars equipped with the i2d “intelligence to drive” system. The project will explore differences in driving styles, energy use, emissions, roadway system performance, and other factors.
  • Speizer, a research professor in the department of maternal and child health and a faculty fellow at the Carolina Population Center, will work with Wendee Wechsberg, Ph.D., director of the RTI Global Gender Center. They share research interests in violence prevention, substance use, couples research, sexual risk, and HIV prevention, and plan to pursue an NIH grant for health interventions for young women who engage in transactional sex in Pretoria, South Africa.

Each academic year since 2014-2015, RTI has hosted University Scholars. Two scholars participated in the program’s inaugural year, and seven in 2015-2016.

“The University Scholars Program is an asset to RTI,” said Don Bailey, Ph.D., an RTI Distinguished Fellow and early childhood development researcher. “By inviting talented researchers to work with us, we create new opportunities for both RTI and the many outstanding academic institutions in our area.”

Bailey and other RTI researchers working on newborn screening hosted a 2015-2016 RTI University Scholar, Cynthia Powell, M.D., of The University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

“Her time here directly contributed to the success of two major proposals, and further solidified an already established working relationship,” Bailey said.

The program is currently open to faculty members from Duke and all 16 campuses of the University of North Carolina.

Highlights

  • This year’s class of RTI University Scholars includes, for the first time, researchers from North Carolina State University and Fayetteville State University
  • The RTI University Scholars Program supports highly talented academics who take scholarly leave from their home institutions to collaborate with RTI researchers