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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 that are united by a shared research theme or topic area. Objectives of CoSs may include assessing collective research strengths, networking, building research collaborations, and pursuing external funding.

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 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 community formed in response to the National Science Foundation’s Civic Innovation Challenge, specifically to explore strategies around information and data sharing to improve mobility options and mitigate the spatial mismatch between housing affordability and jobs.

By converging expertise in transportation, data science, social science, communications, and community engagement, this community envisions transformative, intelligent systems that will enable enhanced transportation modeling and increased use of multi-modal, on-demand, and door-to-door transportation solutions for traditionally underrepresented and vulnerable communities. The long-term goal is to develop a model for the purposes of transportation data-sharing, forecasting, and services within the context of low-density urban environments. This goal is particularly salient given global pandemics, which exacerbate the negative impact of poorly designed infrastructure and land use on disparate access to safe neighborhoods, economic resources and healthcare. We seek a Smart and Connected Community that supports resilient, adaptive infrastructure to benefit community members equally.

Faculty Contact: Cortney Cronley


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


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


The mission of the Substance Misuse Community of Scholars is to lead efforts to mitigate the consequences of the opioid crisis and substance misuse issues in Tennessee through collaboration with faculty from multiple disciplines across the UT Knoxville campus, the UT System, and within our Tennessee communities. The goal of this Community of Scholars is to utilize the various experts and resources available at UT to conduct research and foster faculty and community engagement to rebuild the areas of our state that have been disproportionately affected by the recent increase in substance misuse related problems.

Faculty Contact: Jennifer Tourville


For more information on the Community of Scholars program, contact Diana Moyer at dmoyer@utk.edu.