UTA Greenlights $6M Imaging Center, Cutting-Edge MRI for Brain Health Research, and More

The new on-campus facility at the University of Arlington will be a major upgrade in research infrastructure for the Texas Tier One institution. A focus of the new center will be pressing issues in brain health.

For the first time, the University of Texas at Arlington will have convenient on-campus access to cutting-edge MRI technology. UTA has approved plans for a new $6 million Clinical Imaging Research Center that will house a state-of-the-art 3-Tesla MRI machine.

The on-campus facility represents a major upgrade in research infrastructure, according to an October news release. Currently, UTA faculty, staff, and students who need MRI scanning for research purposes must travel to UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, which poses challenges for regular access. 

The new Clinical Imaging Research Center ties to UTA’s mission as a Texas Tier One research institution and a Carnegie Research 1 (R-1) institution.

“The addition of the Clinical Imaging Research Center is a key part of UTA’s vision to expand our clinical research infrastructure,” Kate C. Miller, UTA vice president of research and innovation, said in a statement.

Miller said the school believes the facility will be a “beacon” to attract top talent and catalyze innovative interdisciplinary discoveries. It also creates opportunities for UTA students to gain hands-on research experience with advanced technologies like MRI.

UTA focus on brain health, studies funded by NIH and DoD

A major research focus of the new center will be pressing issues in brain health, including cognitive decline, traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurodegenerative conditions. UTA currently has several research projects underway related to brain health, including studies funded by NIH, DoD, and other sources.

Beyond the imaging support for that work, the center will enable and enhance studies in diverse fields like engineering, physics, mathematics, computer science, social work, business, and more.

SEIR: “Advancing health and the human condition”

UTA Associate VP for Research Jon Weidanz, a professor of kinesiology, says the university has been working toward the new center for years. The strategic initiative will serve six colleges within UTA. The university expects the facility to be operational within 12 to 15 months of construction.

The imaging center will be located in UTA’s Science and Engineering Innovation and Research (SEIR) building, which opened in 2018 to promote cross-disciplinary research collaborations. The university has called the SEIR facility “a gateway for advancing health and the human condition.”

The MRI center is being funded by UTA’s allotment from the National Research University Fund, a state program that supports emerging research institutions, according to the release.

“Cluster hires” to leverage research investment in innovation

The strategic initiative will serve six colleges within UTA, allowing teams from multiple colleges to tackle complex problems using a holistic, integrated approach.

UTA plans to strategically build research strength around the new infrastructure investment.

To complement existing faculty expertise, UTA’s Weidanz says, the university plans to conduct a “cluster hire” this fall to recruit new researchers with specific MRI and imaging experience related to the center’s focus areas.

The center will also help UTA form new research partnerships with health systems in Dallas-Fort Worth, expanding the university’s overall clinical research footprint, he said.

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