Message from URI’s Vice-President

for Research and Economic Development

Bethany D. Jenkins
Photo by Beau Jones

It is truly my delight to highlight the exceptional research and scholarship at the University of Rhode Island and welcome readers to this issue of Momentum: Research & Innovation. This issue is the first I’ve stewarded as URI’s vice president for research and economic development for almost a year. It’s been terrific to get to know the amazing people doing research at URI and learn the breadth and depth of their impact.

It is such a joy for our whole URI community to celebrate the success of Aria Mia Loberti ’20. I had the honor of sitting next to Aria and her beautifully trained guide dog Ingrid during the 2018 URI commencement ceremony where, as a sophomore, she was being recognized for receiving the Research and Scholarship Excellence Award, she is still the youngest person to earn this award. It was a sweltering day and she and her companion were the epitome of kindness and grace. Aria’s trajectory from URI to Hollywood stardom has been thrilling to follow and Aria’s advocacy for human rights is an inspiration to all and speaks to our core values at URI.

I am also humbled and honored to celebrate major achievements of our outstanding URI faculty. Professors Steven D’Hondt of Oceanography and Sunshine Menezes of Environmental Communication were inducted as American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) fellows. This is one of the highest honors academic scientists can obtain and they are recognized as being some of our country’s most distinguished leaders.

Kathryn Ramsey, assistant professor of cell and molecular biology is supported by a prestigious National Institutes of Health, Maximizing Investigators’ Research grant for her work in bacterial disease. I can’t emphasize enough the honor these faculty bring to URI.

This issue highlights ways URI researchers push boundaries to improve human lives.
Bethany D. Jenkins

This issue of Momentum also captures the growing research at URI aimed at solving our global problem of plastic pollution on our land, in our seas, and as we are increasingly aware, in our bodies.

Last spring, URI convened a group of global leaders for an inaugural Plastics Forum that included scientific experts from a variety of backgrounds and policy leaders. I recognize Professor Vinka Craver, associate dean of research in the College of Engineering and professor of civil and environmental engineering who leads the URI Plastics Land to Sea Initiative and Kathleen Shannon in the Division of Research and Economic Development who were tireless in creating and convening this enriching forum.

URI faculty are also working to be part of the solution to the plastics problem. Associate Professor Melissa Omand is creating biodegradable ocean instruments with a prestigious Convergence Accelerator funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

This issue highlights ways URI researchers push boundaries to improve human lives. Nicole O’Malley, assistant professor of music therapy is investigating the neurobiological impacts of music, Ammina Kothari, director of the Harrington School of Communication and Media and professor of journalism is examining the impacts of technology on how we communicate, and Professor Drew Zhang, Alfred J. Verrecchia endowed chair in artificial intelligence and business analytics, is applying artificial intelligence to financial and health care settings.

We celebrate the innovative spirit of our students and faculty, and we highlight URI’s partnership with our URI Research Foundation (URIRF). Peter Rumsey, URIRF’s chief business development officer, is leading a Resilient Innovative Sustainable Economies via University Partnerships (RISE-UP) program that is supporting students and faculty with financial support from the Navy to catalyze innovation and incubate startup companies.

There is such a breadth of energy and excellence at URI, I am humbled daily and grateful for the opportunity to steward our research ecosystem.

Bethany D. Jenkins, Ph.D.

Vice President URI Division of Research and Economic Development Professor
Department of Cell and Molecular Biology and Graduate School of Oceanography