UNT Research, Volume 17, 2008

u n t . u u n t r tires e a r c h

Associate professor of biological srlences
Jyoti Shah says, in the case of plants threatened by insects or disease, protection is
better than a cure.
"We're trying to understand the mechanisms by which plants defend themselves,"
says Shah, who came to UNT last fall from Kansas State University. "If you understand , ,
the basic defense, you can develop plants with enhanced resistance."
Shah earned bachelor's and master's degrees in microbiology from the University of
Bombay and a doctorate in biology from the University of Notre Dame. He is working
on four major research projects - two funded by the National Science Foundation and
two by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The NSF grants support Shah's work with lipids, which play a part in long-distance 4 A
signaling in plants. Understanding that process in plants' immune response is the aim of
one project. The other involves Shah's collaborative research with the Kansas Lipidomics Research Center, which he says is
the nation's only center for the metabolic profiling of lipids.
"Lipids play a major role in the response of organisms to environmental stress," Shah says. "In general, by looking at
signature changes in plant lipids, researchers can detect stress before it occurs."
Shah's USDA-supported work targets specific pathogens and insects that serve as stressors to plants. In one project, he
took a gene from the Arabidopsis plant and engineered it in wheat to make it resistant to Fusarium head blight disease.
The goal is to reduce disease, thereby increasing production and decreasing the need for fungicides.
Another project targets the green peach aphid, which can feed on more than 100 plant species.
"We're looking at the basic science to see how plants control this insect," Shah says.
Assistant professor of mechanics l nd energy engineering
Today's sports apparel carries heat away as sweat evaporates through its pores
without wetting the fabric. Understanding that process at the nano level - for pores a
few billionths of a meter in diameter - is among the goals of Matthew J. Traum. He
joined UNT's new mechanical and energy engineering department last fall after earning
master's and doctoral degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ',f
"My research takes evaporative cooling to the next level," Traum says. "Really small
pores induce strange behaviors in fluids moving through them - that's the hallmark ,,
of nanotechnology." I
At the nano level, for example, water vapor interaction with the pore walls slows
diffusion, he says. Traum is working to understand why and discover ways to increase
diffusion. He says his research is unique because it probes water vapor's emergent nano
properties at atmospheric pressure rather than under a vacuum as other research does.
"Designers of commercial micro- and nano-systems must contend with real atmospheric conditions, and I show them
how to make devices that work under normal atmospheric pressure, complete with humidity," Traum says.
At MIT, Traum worked at the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies to develop self-cooling body armor, but this
technology has non-military applications, too. One day, Traum says, nano-porous materials will enable air quality control
and energy conservation in buildings by containing conditioned air inside while allowing oxygen to diffuse in from outside.
Traum earned bachelor's degrees in aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering from the University of California
at Irvine. He says his interests moved from airplanes to generators, thermal-fluid sciences and, eventually, nanotechnology.
"Thermal-fluidic processes are governed by nano-scale phenomena," he says, "and nanotechnology can be used to
tune and control these processes to your advantage."

UNT RESEARCH 2008 " 23

University of North Texas. UNT Research, Volume 17, 2008. Denton, Texas. UNT Digital Library. http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc115031/. Accessed July 28, 2014.