UNT's research clusters are collaborative, cross-disciplinary teams composed of leading researchers, faculty, students and institutions engaged in seminal research and the synergistic exchange of ideas and resources. Faculty and student researchers from the Department of Biological Sciences are involved with the following clusters:
The Developmental Integrative Biology cluster employs a highly collaborative approach to exploring developmental physiology from molecular to organismal levels, physiological genomics relating to developmental processes, and the interactions of genes and environment as they influence cellular, physiological, morphological, and behavioral development. Investigators use a rich variety of animal models popular in developmental studies, including C. elegans, fruit flies, zebrafish, northern bobwhites and other amphibians, birds, and mammals. Through the use of diverse animal models, participants identify major unifying principles of Developmental Integrative Biology.
The Signaling Mechanisms in Plants research cluster draws upon existing expertise and emerging research strengths in cell biology, biochemistry, genetics, metabolomics and informatics to study how plants use cellular communication—a complex network of molecular signals— in their growth, development and defense responses to stress. Understanding these signaling processes can help regulate crop yield and resistance to pathogens, insects and other adverse environmental conditions. Manipulating signaling mechanisms in plants also will lead to new technologies in agriculture, human nutrition, phytoremediation of environmental toxicants and sustainable energy.
UNT has developed a superlative computational chemistry research program and one of the strongest in the nation in electronic structure methods and applications. Within this domain, molecules and their properties are simulated, and computational methods are used to identify promising new chemical materials and processes. The cluster provides innovative modeling and simulation solutions to the pharmaceutical, toxicology and biomedical arenas.
Bio-photonics, nano-photonics and bio-nanophotonics are contemporary fields that draw upon the expertise of research from physics, materials science, chemistry, electrical engineering, biology and medicine to form the basis for a whole range of novel technologies. Highly trained Bio/Nano-Photonics researchers examine how light can be used to develop new materials and devices with significant applications in medicine, telecommunications, energy and other fields, from using nano-prisms and metal atoms in cancer research to designing new sustainable lighting sources for homes and businesses.
The Materials Modeling research cluster uses an interdisciplinary approach to develop and apply advanced modeling and simulation techniques in order to improve the design and performance of new and existing biological and man-made materials. Human tissue, jet engine metals and greenhouse gases are examples of materials studied under various conditions, which are sometimes extreme, such as temperature, oxidation and environmental stress. Cutting-edge technology coupled with expertise from leading experimental researchers positions MMRC to lead the field in fully integrated, multi-scale modeling research and to expedite solutions for the technological challenges that face our country and global society.
A new discipline of engineering is emerging based on green chemistries. Plant scientists and other biologists in the Renewable Bioproducts research cluster design, develop and implement sustainable, multifunctional biosolutions and discover how to harness the unique chemical properties of plants, bacteria and various bioagents to achieve ecologically safe, green solutions that outperform their non-renewable counterparts. Research spans development and deployment, with sustainable applications including alternative motor oils, solar cells, biodegradable consumer packaging and composite fibers used in the construction of buildings.
Begun as a local effort at the Omora Ethnobotanical Park in 2000, the program today is an international and interdisciplinary venture, whose partner institutions in the United States and Chile work to integrate the ecological sciences and environmental ethics. As a long-term socio-ecological research, education and conservation program in the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve, the Omora Alliance is developing innovative ways to address intertwined environmental and social problems such as global ecological change, invasive exotic species, cultural homogenization and sustainable development. The term biocultural conservation attempts to express the intrinsic link between human cultures and the environment. It also is an effort to place emphasis on the fact that often culture diversity is as endangered, or more so, than species diversity in many places. In the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve (CHBR), researchers have placed special attention to this link, which requires a transdisciplinary approach to study, conserve and communicate these findings. The work in the CHBR links diverse approaches including environmental ethics, Yaghan traditional ecological knowledge, ecology, art and policy making, among others.