Research Excellence

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is home to a diverse portfolio of research, scholarly, programmatic, entrepreneurial, and outreach activities.

UWM in the News

UWM astrophysicists excel

July 6, 2021

UWM researchers take leading role in first black hole-neutron star collision detection

For the first time, researchers have confirmed the detection of a collision between a black hole and a neutron star. In fact, the scientists detected not one but two such events occurring just 10 days apart in January 2020.

The extreme events made splashes in space that sent gravitational waves rippling across at least 900 million light-years to reach Earth. In each case, the neutron star was likely swallowed whole by its black hole partner.

The discovery was made by an international team of scientists that includes 22 members of UWM’s Center for Gravitation, Cosmology and Astrophysics.

Gravitational waves are disturbances in the curvature of space-time created by massive objects in motion. During the five years since the waves were first measured, a finding that led to the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, researchers have identified more than 50 gravitational-wave signals from the merging of pairs of black holes and of pairs of neutron stars. Both black holes and neutron stars are the corpses of massive stars, with black holes being even more massive than neutron stars.

Read more in the June 29, 2021 UWM Report.

Funding renewed for NANOGrav center, which includes UWM

An international team of astronomers, including several from UWM, have renewed funding from the National Science Foundation for their work in detecting and characterizing low-frequency gravitational waves, a transformational challenge in astrophysics.

The NSF has awarded a $17 million grant over five years to the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) for operation of the NANOGrav Physics Frontiers Center (PFC).

The low-frequency gravitational-wave detectors used by NANOGrav PFC are millisecond pulsars—rapidly spinning, superdense remains of massive stars that have exploded as supernovas. These ultra-stable stars are nature’s most precise celestial clocks, appearing to “tick” every time their beamed emissions sweep past the Earth, like the beacon on a lighthouse. Gravitational waves cause small but detectable fluctuations in the measured arrival times of the radio pulses on Earth.

Read more in the June 21, 2021 UWM Report.

5 startups earn UWM Research Foundation bridge grants

May 26, 2021

Five UWM startup companies have been awarded the first round of funding from the UWM Research Foundation’s new bridge grant program, which leverages a $200,000 matching grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation that was announced last year.

 The funding will support UWM startups that are managed by faculty, students or staff that have licensed intellectual property from the Research Foundation. This “gap” funding is meant to compensate for the shortage of capital for university-based innovations.

Through donations from individuals and donors such as Bader Philanthropies and Clarios, the Research Foundation has raised just over half of their portion, and plan to award the remaining match, phase II, in early 2022.

Each of the following—five of UWM’s 15 launched campus startups—has been awarded up to $25,000 through the program.

COnovate Inc., formerly SafeLi, was co-founded by Carol Hirschmugl and Marija Gajdardziska-Josifovska. With the funding, the researchers are applying a novel, carbon-based nanomaterial that they discovered to lithium-ion batteries. When used in the batteries’ anode, the material boosts performance and safety of the batteries compared to current technology.

Estrigenix Therapeutics Inc. is a collaboration among Karyn Frick (UWM), William Donaldson (Marquette University), and Dan Sem (Concordia University). The company’s goal is to develop and commercialize first-in-class therapeutics to treat hot flashes and memory dysfunction in menopausal women. The startup aims to develop and license a molecule-compound to a pharmaceutical partner.

Pantherics Incorporated was originally founded by Douglas Stafford and Alexander “Leggy” Arnold. The company focuses on developing and commercializing novel therapeutics for chronic inflammation. The company’s lead drug compound is being developed as an oral medication that will replace inhalers for reducing lung inflammation in persistent asthma.

RoddyMedical LLC is headquartered in the UWM Innovation Campus and headed by nursing doctoral student Lindsey Roddy. The company’s SafeMover is a single-use device designed to organize and secure different types of medical tubes and cords to improve IV medication safety and eliminate hazardous cord dislodgement.

Co-founded by Ching Hong Yang, T3 BioScience LLC is commercializing non-antibiotic agricultural products that protect crops from infection by harmful bacteria and fungus. It has shown that its lead product, RejuAgro, is more effective than antibiotics currently being used by farmers to protect against crop infection.

Originally appeared May 13, 2021 in UWM Report.

Udvadia named a 2021 UW System Regent Scholar

April 15, 2021

Ava Udvadia, UWM associate professor of biological sciences, has been named by the University of Wisconsin System as one of three 2021 Regent Scholar recipients. The honor recognizes both Udvadia’s research into the genetics that allow healing of nerve damage and also her efforts to encourage undergraduates to participate in that work.

The UWS Regent Scholar program, which was introduced in 2014, provides a one-time $50,000 grant to individual faculty members or campus programs that undertake undergraduate research projects having the potential to foster innovation, entrepreneurship and talent development.

“This is significant recognition and a wonderful statement about the exponential impact of Dr. Udvadia’s work,” said UWM Chancellor Mark Mone. “We are extremely proud of Dr. Udvadia and her students. I commend her for carrying the torch for future young scientists and researchers.”

Udvadia’s research may one day provide new treatments for human eye injuries or diseases, such as glaucoma, that cause permanent vision loss.

Her work is inspired by fish, which can restore full function of their optical nerve cells after damage and regain lost sight. Vision requires both the light information detected by eyes and its translation by the brain, a connection made by the optical nerve cells.

This process of replacing the cellular parts needed to transmit visual information to the brain is called regeneration. However, the central nervous system cells in humans do not regenerate, even though they have the same genes and pathways used by fish.

From All Directions

March 29, 2021

The 2021 UWM Research magazine highlights the diversity of approaches UWM is taking to tackle COVID-19: Pushing the boundaries of the natural sciences, social sciences, public health, and the arts.

  • Sandra McLellan, professor of freshwater sciences
    Using wastewater as a COVID-19 warning system.
  • Konstantin Sobolev, professor of civil and environmental engineering
    Developing a longlasting spray coating that could both repel and sterilize virus-laden droplets.
  • Anne Basting, professor of English
    Easing isolation through the power of imagination.
  • Min Sook Park, professor of information studies
    Investigating how people interpret information about COVID-19 in graphs, maps and charts presented by the media..
  • David Frick, professor of chemistry
    Seeking antiviral drugs to fight COVID-19.
  • Amanda Simanek, associate professor of epidemiology
    A social approach to fighting COVID-19 misinformation
  • Simone C.O. Conceição, professor of adult and continuing education
    Improving connections: Creating a sense of presence online to give students a fuller learning experience..
  • James Peoples, professor of economics
    Flying under ominous economic skies: Unprecedented challenges for the airline industry.

See UWM Research 2021
for these and many other articles on UWM research.

A look at UWM’s award-winning undergraduate researchers

February 4, 2021

UWM’s award-winning undergraduate research program encourages and highlights the work of students all over campus. Every year a number of these researchers are chosen to receive the Senior Excellence in Research Award (SERA).

Below are the 2020-21 award winners, and their faculty mentors.

Awardee Mentor
Jocelyn Jarvis, Psychology Krista Lisdahl
Ismael Coello Ramirez, Materials Engineering Benjamin Church
Anna Kaminski, Atmospheric Science Clark Evans
Louis Chapman, Civil Engineering Marcia Silva
Paul Newcomb, Ethnic Studies Rachel Ida Buff
Noah Wolfe, Exceptional Education Chris Lawson
Sofia Mattson, Psychology Christine Larson
Profiles of each researcher appear in the February 2 UWM Report.


UWM researchers among the top 2 percent of scientists worldwide, based on citations

December 18, 2020

Fifty-nine scientists at UWM are listed in a ranking of the top 2% of scientists in the world in a study by Stanford University. The list includes two who passed away in recent years, Arun Garg (Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering) and Richard M. Warren (Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Psychology).

The study identifies the top scholars in their field by considering how often their work has been cited over the course of their careers. Their order of appearance on the list, and in the image (from top left) is below.

Row 1
Pradeep Rohatgi, Distinguished Professor, Materials Science & Engineering
Leonard Parker, Professor Emeritus, Physics
Neil Oldridge, Professor Emeritus, Occupational Science & Technology (not pictured)
Belle Rose Ragins, Professor, Management (Lubar School)
Michael Nosonovsky, Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering
George W. Hanson, Professor, Electrical Engineering
Mohsen Bahmani-Oskooee, Distinguished Professor, Economics
Scott Gronert, Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Yue Liu, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Mark D. Schwartz, Distinguished Professor, Geography
Nadya Fouad, Distinguished Professor, Educational Psychology
Karyn M. Frick, Professor, Psychology
Row 2
Michael Weinert, Distinguished Professor, Physics
Fred J. Helmstetter, Distinguished Professor, Psychology
Peter O. Dunn, Distinguished Professor, Biological Sciences
Patrick R. Brady, Professor, Physics
Deyang Qu, Professor, Mechanical Engineering
Mark Dietz, Professor, Chemistry & Biochemistry
Dawn K. Erb, Professor, Physics
Patricia E. Stevens, Professor Emerita, Nursing
John L. Friedman, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Physics
Mike Allen, Professor, Communication
Lingfeng Wang, Professor, Electrical Engineering
Row 3
Peter M. Sheehan, Emeritus Adjunct Professor, Geosciences
Daniel F. Agterberg, Professor, Physics
Linda A. Whittingham, Professor, Biological Sciences
Mark J. McBride, Professor, Biological Sciences
John A. Berges, Professor, Biological Sciences
Ernest Alexander, Professor Emeritus, Urban Planning (not pictured)
Robert Greenler, Professor Emeritus, Physics
David H. Petering, Distinguished Professor, Chemistry & Biochemistry
Mark V. Johnston, Professor Emeritus, Occupational Science & Technology
David L. Kaplan, Professor, Physics
Fatemeh Mariam Zahedi, Distinguished Professor Emerita, Lubar School of Business
Barbara R. Pauloski, Associate Professor, Communication Sciences & Disorders
Row 4
Wilfred T. Tysoe, Distinguished Professor, Chemistry & Biochemistry
Alan G. Wiseman, Associate Professor, Physics
Konstantin Sobolev, Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering
Jolien Creighton, Professor, Physics
John Janssen, Professor, Freshwater Sciences
Carolyn Rubin Aita, Professor Emerita, Chemistry & Biochemistry
Krishna M. Pillai, Professor, Mechanical Engineering
Adel Nasiri, Professor, Electrical Engineering
Changshan Wu, Professor, Geography
Christine R. Kovach, Distinguished Professor, Nursing
George Sosnovsky, Professor Emeritus, Chemistry & Biochemistry
Row 5
Elizabeth C. Devine, Professor Emerita, Nursing
Jun Zhang, Professor, Electrical Engineering
Hugo Lopez, Professor, Materials Science & Engineering
Anoop K. Dhingra, Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering
Hope A. Olson, Professor Emerita, Information Studies
Dietmar Wolfram, Professor, Information Studies
Richard Grusin, Professor, English
Devendra K. Misra, Professor, Electrical Engineering
Junhong Chen, Professor, Materials Science & Engineering
Iris Xie, Professor, Information Studies
George Morris, Adjunct Faculty, Public Health

UWM astronomer helps discover extrasolar “space weather”

December 16, 2020

If you wanted to look for life on planets around stars other than our sun, known as exoplanets, you would first locate the ones in the “Goldilocks zone.” That’s the area – not too close, not too far – at just the right distance from a star where a planet might have liquid water.

Unlike the sun, most stars in the Milky Way galaxy are small, relatively cool red dwarfs – called M dwarfs. Proxima Centauri, the sun’s closest neighbor at only 4 light years away, is an M dwarf with two exoplanets that could be habitable.

However, stars, including M dwarfs, emit flares – brief but powerful eruptions of intense electromagnetic radiation that occur on the stellar surface. And, at least for the sun, these components of “space weather” are accompanied by clouds of ionized gas that could harm life.

Using the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder radio telescope in Western Australia, astronomers including David Kaplan, UWM associate professor of physics, have linked stellar flares with accompanying bursts of radio waves.

Read more in the December 9 UWM Report.

Recent coronavirus research at UWM

November 24, 2020

UWM research spotlights pandemic’s impact on the arts

Nonprofit organizations in the arts face significant challenges as they try weathering fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

A report from the Helen Bader Institute for Nonprofit Management at UWM found that 40% of arts nonprofits in Wisconsin have been forced to provide programs or services at a “severely reduced” capacity. The median financial impact per organization surveyed in the report was a loss of $30,000.

Bryce Lord, associate director of the Helen Bader Institute for Nonprofit Management, says the economic impact of the arts is often underappreciated.

Read more in the October 5, 2020 UWM Report.

UWM awarded COVID-19 rapid response grant from the Zilber Family Foundation

Lorraine Malcoe and the Zilber School of Public Health received a COVID-19 rapid response grant from the Zilber Family Foundation titled, “A Coordinated Community-Driven Response to COVID-19 in Milwaukee’s Black Communities,” that will focus on minimizing the immediate economic, social, and health impacts of the pandemic within Black communities in Milwaukee.

From the From the Office of the Provost November 23, 2020.

Improving the public’s understanding of COVID-19 data in charts and graphs

A UWM researcher is part of a team that is investigating how people interpret information about COVID-19 in graphs, maps and charts presented by the media.

A team of scientists from four universities, including UWM’s Min Sook Park, has been awarded a RAPID grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate not only whether the public understands these data representations, but also whether their level of understanding influences their perceptions of the pandemic’s severity.

Read more in the August 14, 2020 UWM Report.

Examples of UWM’s contribution to coronavirus research and community outreach

April 28, 2020

Physics faculty awarded NSF grant to study Coronavirus SARS-CoV2 Proteins

From the office of the Provost:

Abbas Ourmazd and Ghoncheh Mashayekhi (Physics) received an EAGER award from the National Science Foundation to use their latest machine learning techniques to determine the virulence-related structural changes in SARS-CoV2 proteins (the virus is responsible for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic). The proposal was accepted within days of submission. UWM is a world leader in protein dynamics and further awards to UWM researchers are anticipated. Congratulations, Abbas and Ghoncheh!

UWM research aims to test effectiveness of coronavirus screening tool

Information is critical in tracking the coronavirus and its impact.

The data can be vital in responding to future outbreaks, according to UWM researchers who are helping local hospital systems evaluate the accuracy of a new screening tool they are using. Subarna Paul (Biomedical and Health Informatics PhD program) is working with emergency rooms at Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s in Milwaukee and Ascension St. Joseph Milwaukee to evaluate how well the new tool works. The tool is embedded in hospital patient data software: St. Mary’s uses the Cerner software system; St. Joseph, the Epic system.

Paul is working with sub-investigator Min Wu, associate professor and chair of the Department of Health Informatics and Administration in the College of Health Sciences.

Read more in the April 20, 2020 UWM Report.

UWM Prototyping Center helping design reusable masks to aid COVID-19 first responders

When Kyle Jansson learned about a Milwaukee coalition aiming to mass-produce medical-grade filtration face masks for health care workers, he felt a particular responsibility to volunteer.

As director of the Prototyping Center at UWM’s Innovation Campus, mechanical engineer Jansson is armed with the component design experience and numerous production processes to take on modeling challenges of every description. The center helps clients turn an idea into a physical object.

Milwaukee MaskForce, led by Waukesha-based Husco International Inc., includes more than 25 organizations in business, academia and health care who are collaborating to design, test and mass-produce a reusable, medical-grade face mask. Those on the front lines battling the coronavirus epidemic are confronting shortages of lifesaving protective gear.

Making a Class II medical device with the same performance as N95 masks that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would take months. Jansson and his team, consisting of friends, colleagues and freelance engineers, jumped into the fray, helping to create, in a mere 60 hours, a functional proof-of-concept prototype that served as the coalition’s starting point. Two weeks out, MaskForce is getting close to having a final approved product.

Read more in the April 13 UWM Report.

Milwaukee’s Coronavirus Racial Divide: A Report on the Early Stages of COVID-19 Spread in Milwaukee County

Excerpt of report by Joel Rast, UWM Center for Economic Development:

Like many other densely populated urban areas, Milwaukee is experiencing a surge of reported COVID19 cases. On March 12 there was only one confirmed case in Milwaukee County. By April 8 there were 1,425 confirmed cases. The real numbers are likely far higher than that.

Lack of widespread testing has made the spread of the coronavirus difficult to measure with any degree of certainty.

Although we do not know precisely how many cases of COVID-19 there currently are in the Milwaukee area, the data that we do have has revealed disturbing patterns. At this point, African American residents are much more likely than white residents to have contracted the virus. As of April 8, nearly twice the number of African American county residents as whites had tested positive for COVID-19. African Americans represent 27 percent of the county’s population, but they account for 45 percent of confirmed cases. More disturbing still, of the 67 coronavirus-related deaths reported in Milwaukee County as of April 8, 46 of the victims were black. The disproportionate toll that the coronavirus is taking on African Americans—both deaths and confirmed cases—has been reported in other cities with large black populations, including Detroit, New Orleans, New York City, Boston, and Chicago.

Read the report.

Three faculty named fellows at UW System Institute for Research in the Humanities

April 15, 2020

Carolyn Eichner (History and Women’s and Gender Studies) The Name: Legitimacy, Identity, and Gendered Citizenship in France and Empire examines names as public representations of personal identity. Names form sites of engagement between people and states, colonies and metropole, autonomy and hegemony, custom and law, and tradition and modernity. Focusing primarily on 19th-century France and its empire, my study investigates the gendered and racialized ways the government used naming regulations to reify categories of inclusion and exclusion as it developed as a modern, imperializing state. It also explores citizens’ and colonial subjects’ responses to these measures, reactions to the state’s increased reach into peoples’ lives.

Kennan Ferguson (Political Science)
The attempt to escape debt underlies the most powerful formulations of politics, promising freedom, liberty, and autonomy. This is deeply misguided. Beholden: Between Freedom and Debt contests the presumption that obligations can (and should) be escaped, instead recognizing debt (moral, social, and economic) as both ubiquitous and unavoidable. Rather than presupposing the default goal of political action as“freedom,” activists should instead strive to encourage and develop forms of indebtedness most conducive to human flourishing: to remake communities, identify connections, and compound human emotions. The political potential of debt, in other words, orients toward association and intensification rather than oppression.

Lisa Hager (CGS English and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies)
For my IHR Fellowship, I will be starting a new book project, “Trans Victorians: Reconceptualizing Gender Identities in Nineteenth-Century British Literary Culture.” The central argument of this book is twofold: first, Victorian studies scholars must fundamentally reconceptualize our understanding of nineteenth-century gender to account for the possibility of movement between, across, and among genders; and, second, we must use this understanding to consider the possibilities of trans narratives within the diversity of gender identities represented in Victorian literature, periodicals, and authorial personae.
In centering transgender identities that redefine and remake sexed and gendered bodies, my project argues that the discipline of Victorian studies must bring to the fore the ways in which the oppositional, binary discourses of gender necessarily reveals their own contradictions in the form of bodies and genders that refuse to fit into one of only two gender identities.

Originally appeared on the Academic Affairs website April 6, 2020.

Three UWM faculty earn UW System research awards

April 6, 2020

2019-2020 Regent Scholar

Read more in the March 31, 2020 UWM Report.

UWM neuroscientist Karyn Frick has been honored by UW System as one of three 2020 Regent Scholar recipients. It recognizes Frick’s extraordinary efforts in support of undergraduate research, innovation and entrepreneurship.

“Our UW System faculty and students are doing amazing research,” UW System President Ray Cross said. “It is important to recognize this vital work and celebrate the individuals who spearhead these innovations.”

Frick and members of her research team are exploring ways to prevent the memory loss that results from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, particularly in women, and the work has led to a startup company called Estrigenix Therapeutics Inc. View her Regent Scholars Award Video.

2020-21 Ignite Grant Program funding

Two UWM faculty earned funding under the 2020-21 Ignite Grant Program for Applied Research. Junjie Niu (Materials Science and Engineering, left) was awarded $48,000 for his project project, “A New Design of Lithium Ion Battery with Improved Energy Density for Electronic Devices and Cordless Power Tools.” Niu also earned a 2015-16 Ignite award. Alexander Timmer (Architecture, right) was awarded $50,000 for his project, “Mobile Design Box Retrofit: Addressing Urban Vacancy Through Entrepreneurial Infrastructure.”

The Ignite Grant Program for Applied Research is funded by the UW System and WiSys, a independent, nonprofit supporting organization for the UW System.

Distinguished Professorships

UWM Distinguished Professors have a significant impact on their fields of study. With remarkable productivity, international reputations, and glowing testimonials from peers, UWM Distinguished Professors continue to make significant scholarly contributions to their disciplines. Of the 57 professors who have achieved this status since 1973, 31 remain on the faculty, continuing their leadership role at UWM. The Office of Research also maintains information on the selection, roles, and responsibilities of UWM Distinguished Professors (PDF), and the Historical List of Distinguished Professors.

Centers, Institutes, and Laboratories

UWM is home to more than 100 centers, institutes, and laboratories. These entities conduct research and scholarship, programs, and outreach in order to contribute to the scientific, cultural, educational, and economic conditions of the campus, region, and globe. These centers, institutes, and laboratories generate millions of dollars of extramural research awards each year in order to advance the mission of each entity and the University.

Discovery and Innovation Grant (DIG)

The Discovery and Innovation Grant (DIG) (formerly RGI) is a competitive internal seed funding program that supports high-quality, innovative research by investing in projects selected through an independent and objective process.

Advancing Research and Creativity (ARC) program

(Formerly RACAS) Advancing Research and Creativity (ARC) is an internal research funding program for projects in all disciplines and at any stage of development. Funded work must be completed within a 12- to 18-month timeline. Awards are expected to result in scholarly, scientific, and artistic outcomes. The review process uses internal and external reviewers.