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Communities of Scholars Program

The Communities of Scholars (CoS) Program was launched by the Office of Research and Engagement as a way to encourage the growth of research affinity groups that cross disciplinary boundaries. Each CoS is composed of UT researchers from multiple departments, colleges, and/or units, united by a shared research theme or topic area, and organized to share research capabilities, assess collective research strengths, and explore opportunities for collaboration. Objectives of CoSs may include identifying funding opportunities relevant to the CoS and to move toward designation as an Organized Research Unit (ORU).

Current UT Communities of Scholars

UT’s Appalachian Community of Scholars will coordinate and conduct research and engagement throughout the Appalachian region to better understand its resources, people, culture, opportunities, and challenges and to help promote its equitable and sustainable development.

Faculty Contact: Tim Ezzell

The purpose of the CoS for Biomembranes is to bring together scientists from across multiple disciplines to address the challenges that exist in understanding: 1) how biological membranes are formed and maintained; 2) how membranes impact essential cellular processes such as signaling, secretion, energy production, and drug delivery; and 3) how membrane dynamics can impact cellular behaviors relating to infection, cancer, and growth. The disciplines represented in our group include microbiology, molecular biology, genetics, cell biology, biochemistry, biophysics, synthetic chemistry, analytical chemistry, computational modeling, and engineering, with interests focused on proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates associated with membranes. Our goal is to bring together these disciplines to help tackle 21st century challenges in understanding biomembranes as well as provide better opportunities for training the next generation of scientists in multidisciplinary approaches to science.

Faculty Contact: Todd Reynolds

The mission of the brain-computer interface (BCI) community of scholars (CoS) is to gather scholars and researchers from across the Knoxville-area campus to create an interdisciplinary community to pursue novel research related to BCI. We aim to advance patient care and applications to neuroprosthetics and neurorehabilitation through basic and translational BCI research for the betterment of society. We will develop collaborative, well-funded research teams yielding research that is nationally and ideally internationally recognized for its success through interdisciplinary insights.

Faculty Contact: Xiaopeng Zhao

The mission of the Cancer Community of Scholars is to enhance cancer prevention, early detection, and survival by cultivating and facilitating multidisciplinary partnerships in research, education, mentorship, and community outreach at the Medical Center, Institute of Agriculture, and the main campus of the University of Tennessee – Knoxville.

Faculty Contact: Steven Ripp

The vision of this CoS is to pursue development of science and technology for production of zero-emission fuels, sustainable agricultural products, and green chemicals from waste via innovative, closed-loop processes supporting a circular economy. We will incorporate nature’s catalysts into advanced manufacturing to meet rising human demand while minimizing resource exploitation and the impact of climate change.

The CoS brings together chemical, mechanical, environmental, and biosystems engineers working with microbiologists, soil scientists, nutritionists, and food technologists to solve the challenging problems of food waste management that the world faces today. Extracting value from food waste and its recycling is of universal importance, and engaging the community is key to implementation. The CoS includes communicators, economists, and business professionals to realize the social change necessary to effectively implement solutions. Together, we hope to bring positive change by developing and disseminating technologies to support a sustainable future.

Faculty Contact: Abhijeet Borole

The Critical Race Collective Community of Scholars brings together faculty across the campus who are committed to critical race and ethnic studies research and scholarship. Critical race scholarship encompasses research that seeks to reduce and ameliorate racism, prejudice, and discrimination at multiple levels (individual, institutional, structural) and in a variety of sociocultural settings. As a Critical Race Collective (CRC), our goal is to conduct collaborative interdisciplinary critical race scholarship and create a supportive community of scholars to enable this important and meaningful work.

Faculty Contact: Jioni Lewis and Michelle Christian

This CoS serves to inspire interdisciplinary collaboration, spark cross-campus creativity, build a community of practice, and raise the profile of digital scholarship support services on campus. Collaboration, networking, hands-on training, and cross-pollination among faculty, librarians, artists, technologists, and alternative academics are among the core work of this group, which seeks to advance arts, humanities, and social science research into new digital realms.

Faculty Contact: Amy Elias and Gregor Kalas

This CoS tackles complex issues of social justice by studying the intersections of race, gender, class, sexuality and other dimensions of social inequality. It seeks to establish the University of Tennessee as a nationally regarded center for scholarship and creative activity on this critically important area of social, political, and cultural research.

Faculty Contact: Patrick Grzanka
More Information: ICOS on Department of Psychology website

The Mindfulness Community of Scholars brings together faculty, administrators, staff and students across the campus who are interested in mindfulness research, practices, and pedagogy. This CoS seeks to draw on and expand upon the rapidly growing body of mindfulness research, practices, and pedagogy in order to increase mental health, physical well-being, and student wellness.

Faculty Contact: Kenton Yeager

Simulations + Gaming + Role-Playing (SGR) brings together members of the UT community who share an interest in researching the use of simulations, gaming, role-playing, and similar strategies for teaching and learning. Such strategies are among the latest developments in higher education, and have been shown to create interactivity and collaboration, increase engagement and retention, deepen reflection and understanding, engender positive values and thoughtful behavior, and open authentic spaces for real-world problem-solving.

Faculty Contact: Ryan Windeknecht

For more information on the Community of Scholars program, contact Diana Moyer at