Celebrating Innovation from non-STEM Departments Across UT

Innovation is everywhere. The University of Tennessee Research Foundation is proud to support innovations from all colleges and departments across the University of Tennessee System. While most disclosures are STEM focused, recent disclosures have come from UT’s Facility Services, Department of Theater, College of Social Work, UTIA-Extension, School of Music, and College of Architecture and Design, showcasing the wide range of translation research happening across the UT System.

Bethanie Poe, VSW Certificates Coordinator

Veterinary Social Work (VSW) is a growing area of social work practice that focuses on human-animal relationships. UT’s VSW program began in 2002 as a collaboration between the Colleges of Social Work and Veterinary Medicine. In 2013, Elizabeth Strand, Founding Director of VSW at the College of Veterinary Medicine, created and launched the VSW Certificate Program, which focuses on four unique areas of the field: compassion fatigue and conflict management; link between human and animal violence; animal-assisted interventions; and animal-related grief and bereavement.

“VSW deals with an issue that is important to a lot of people, but we don’t always recognize it,” says Bethanie Poe, who serves as the VSW Certificates Coordinator. “For example, somebody who is older and needs to go to a nursing home but won’t because of their dog. Or someone who is unhoused and would like to go to a shelter, but they won’t, because the shelter won’t take their dog. We still have a long way to go in recognizing these issues.”

The VSW certificate program consists of online modules, group supervision sessions, online workshops and a 250-hour, service-learning project. In April 2021, Strand filed an invention disclosure with UTRF to help license her online modules to other universities. Through a service agreement, her team will help schools develop their own certificate programs.

In the School of Music, Hillary Herndon, professor of viola, is working alongside three other School of Music string faculty members – Evie Chen, Jon Hamar and Wesley Baldwin – to catalog and create a series of pedagogical books and anthologies of repertoire for solo and ensemble strings by composers who are historically underrepresented in the current canon of Western Classical Music. Herndon says the project is important for both music teachers, who don’t have the time or funds to track down hard-to-find pieces for their students, and the students themselves.

Hillary Herndon and Jon Hamar, School of Music string faculty members

“I think we’re missing a broad awareness of other voices,” says Herndon. “To be able to expose kids at a younger age gives them a broader view of what music is and hopefully keeps them interested. It particularly speaks to kids who are from similar demographics or cultures as the composers and lets them know there is a place for them here.”

In 2020, the team received a grant from the Sphinx Venture Fund to create, print and distribute 300 copies each of beginning-level repertoire for viola, cello, bass, violin, and a string ensemble. Beyond this initial print, UTRF is helping them secure licensure to publish and find partners for intermediate and advanced versions. They also wish to make companion recordings for each book.

Maged Guerguis is an Assistant Professor of Design and Structural Technology and McCarty Holsaple McCarty Endowed Professor in the College of Architecture and Design. He is also the Director of Soft Boundaries Lab. Guerguis partnered with UTRF on two projects: 3D-printed face shield and 3D-printed construction system.

Maged Guergis, Assistant Professor of Design and Structural Technology and McCarty Holsaple McCarty Endowed Professor in the College of Architecture and Design

To combat the shortage of personal protective equipment for medical professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic, Guerguis designed a 3D-printed face shield, “UT-Shield,” that was comfortable and provided additional protection. The face shield was donated to healthcare workers during the pandemic. Later that year, he partnered with Uday Vaidya, UT-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair for Advanced Composite Manufacturing, to make 50,000 injection-molded face shields.

Close-up of UT Shield

“The goal of designing the face shield was to create something protective and more comfortable that could take some stress off healthcare workers facing danger on daily basis,” says Guerguis. “It was truly such a privilege working with Uday. His leadership and the outstanding team has made a project with this magnitude possible.”

Earlier this year, Guerguis filed an invention disclosure for a 3D-printed construction system in an effort to revolutionize longstanding conventional construction methods that have negative environmental and financial impacts on the U.S. economy. His proposed technology will be the first step toward a novel, fully integrated robotic fabrication approach to construction driven by the material economy and has the potential to transform the current construction practices.

“Whether we realize it or not, architecture and construction have a significant impact on the environment,” says Guerguis. “Work in my lab addresses the challenges facing designers striving to create a sustainable built environment. How can we have the least impact on the environment while promoting a new approach to resiliency?”

“UTRF is proud to support innovators across all colleges and departments to help bring their innovations to marketplace,” says UTRF Vice President Maha Krishnamurthy. “The measure of technology transfer is the number of lives impacted.”

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