Couple Takes Multi-disciplinary Research to a New Level

Couple Takes Multi-disciplinary Research to a New Level

Mathematics, physics, biology, anthropology, Spanish … these are all common majors for college students. But one University of Arkansas couple combines all of these majors. Titus and Shaina met while members of Razorbacks for Christ during Shaina’s freshman year. They married three years later, giving interdisciplinary studies a whole new meaning.

Titus: We’ve both been really privileged to have the opportunity, in spite of the fact that we’re very different majors. She’s anthropology, biology, and Spanish and I’m physics. One of the unique things my wife and I have both done is study abroad. To get the opportunity to go together …

The Morris’ took advantage of being in the university’s honors college and traveled abroad in China, Russia and France. Shaina, a National Merit fellow, has also traveled to Spain and Costa Rica, where she found the plants that inspired her biology and anthropology research in anti-fungal medicines.

Shaina: This kind of research is really important because there are over 350,000 kinds of plants in the world and only a really tiny fraction of them have actually been looked at for medicinal properties. What I’m doing could show that a certain species of plant has something in it that inhibits fungal growth. And fungal infections are really difficult to treat whether they’re on humans or on agriculture crops, so it’s really good to have a list of possible sources of antifungal agents that somebody could look at later on.

Titus’ research took a different path. It involves working with a diamond-anvil cell collecting data which will eventually be sent to theory groups.

Titus: My research consists of studying glass-forming liquids with Brillouin spectroscopy. In particular we study glycerol because it’s kind of a typical glass forming liquid and this is important because glasses are not very well understood. In particular, my experiment looks at how well it forms a glass with respect to temperature variations and really high-pressure variations. Glasses have applications in plastics, lubricants and polymerizations. Our hope is to provide more data so glass forming can be better understood.

What’s next in the Morris’ future?

Shaina: I’ve read a little bit about Cambodia and Vietnam and there’s just not a whole lot out there about the medicinal plants of those places. So I thought it would be an interesting area to go and try to do a type of ethnobotanical research there.

Titus: After graduation I do hope to go on and continue a similar kind of research while I’m doing a PhD. 

While traveling the world to do their research the Morris’ bring many disciplines under one roof, redefining the term interdisciplinary.

About The Author

University Relations Science and Research Team

University Relations Science and Research Team

Matt McGowan
science and research writer
479-575-4246, dmcgowa@uark.edu

Robert Whitby
science and research writer
479-387-0720, whitby@uark.edu

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