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The Center for Applied Research and
Rural Innovation


Established in 2021, the Center for Applied Research and Rural Innovation exists to advance economic growth in our rural 9,906 square-mile Deep East Texas region. Through collaboration with education, industry and community, we work together to leverage, promote and advocate activities that result in a direct impact on economic development.

CARRI serves the region's 12 counties: Angelina, Houston, Jasper, Nacogdoches, Newton, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Trinity, and Tyler. Learn more about CARRI and the regions served.

In the Community

Read memos of recognition and news releases that showcase CARRI and CARRI grant-funded projects that help our community continue to thrive.

Apply for a Research Grant

CARRI research grant applications for the upcoming fiscal year are available after July 1.

Research Grants

2024 Grant Recipients: over $215,000 awarded

The CARRI Steering Committee selected nine proposals. Grant recipients and their research are as follows:

Dr. David Kulhavy

Amount: $17,138

Geospatial Science
Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture
Project: Meeting the Demands of Unmanned Aerial Systems and Use in East Texas 

As of January 2023, there were 871,000 UAS Unmanned Aerial Systems or drones registered with FAA and 307,000 certified pilots. The profession is increasing in society with over 100,000 UAS Pilots needed in the next three years in the $63.5 billion marketplace by 2025. The UAS program at Stephen F. Austin State University is well-placed to provide UAS Pilot training, hands-on experience for students and professionals for the workplace. Completed projects include: DroneDay2023 with 80 participants and nine speakers and presenters; ADA parking space location with ArcGIS Online; tree stump removal with SFASU Grounds; location of SFASU emergency valve shut-off locations; and demonstration of FEMA documentation on campus tree losses and impact of tornadoes; Ongoing projects with the University Police Department and Emergency Management, and providing information on FEMA documentation on campus losses to storms. Six UAS Pilots completed FAA training and received their license. tree hazard rating with UAS are ongoing with the SFASU Physical Plant. Four referred publications were published with three more submitted. Hydrex Drone Division provided technical support and UAS for precision and accurate locations leading to 3 cm accuracy with UAS and 1 cm accuracy with Ground Control Points. Pest impacts were measured with UAS saving time and money for Nantucket pine tip moth (ORGS grant) and crape myrtle bark scale impact. Training includes DJI Phantom 4 Pro; DJI Phantom RTK Multispectral; DJI Dual Enterprise Thermal; and the new Quantum vertical takeoff UAS. The use of orthomosaics produced from UAS for planning and mapping will be adding to ongoing UAS and GIS days already planned for the east Texas area at Stephen F. Austin State University.


Dr. Bidisha Sengupta

Amount: $32,510

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
College of Sciences and Mathematics
Project: Using nanotechnology in the detection of microbial biofilm in municipal wastewater in East Texas, USA 

Biofilm-forming pathogenic microbes are notorious in creating chronic infections, loss of host immune responses, and death in humans due to their resistance against antimicrobial agents/pathogen killers. They cause major problems in contaminating the environment, medical devices, and food industries. Biofilms are bio-cell aggregates held together by extracellularly secreted proteins, carbohydrates, and/or DNA. United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) stringently regulates municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) for removal of pollutants to levels below recommended World Health organization (WHO), or local environmental quality guidelines. Pollutants that degrade water quality are diverse and include potential pathogens including enteropathogenic E. coli, Streptococci, Salmonella, and somatic and F-RNA coliphage viruses. These microbes are resistant to chlorination, high salt and temperature - used in wastewater treatment. In addition, they are highly prone to form biofilms, thus making water unsafe to drink. Maintaining hygienic conditions for safe drinking is indispensable to sustain life. Hence, efficient techniques are required to prevent biofilm formation/destruction, and their characterization. Here, we propose a novel method of using long-chain DNA aptamer as scaffold to produce silver nanoclusters (Ag-NC) that can prevent biofilm in treated wastewater. Therefore, this study will be very beneficial in public health related industries including biotech and environmental agencies.

Dr. Bill Forbes

Amount: $12,000

Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture
Project: Enhancing Sustainable Food Systems and Regenerative Farming in East Texas 

We propose thesis research on methods to help entrepreneurs start-up and scale-up their regenerative farm operations in East Texas. We propose to compile a list of existing contacts in Texas with expertise on small-scale sustainable/regenerative agriculture and food systems, including practitioners, academics, and organization leaders. This will be complemented by literature review of key sources on the topic. Open-ended interviews and surveys will address questions concerning pathways and barriers to start-up/scale-up in regenerative agriculture and food supply. We expect this work may segue into a broader proposal to the Center for Applied Research and Rural Innovation and partners, to implement recommendations to expand the capacity for regenerative agriculture in East Texas.


Dr. Andrew King
Dr. David Creech

Amount: $21,820

SFA Gardens
Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture
Project: The Deep East Texas Annual and Perennial Plant Trials 

We propose the installation of an annual and perennial plant trialing facility on the CARRI property on Stallings Drive. Each year 10 to 15 companies in the U.S. release new varieties of popular annual and perennial plants and these varieties require trialing, preferably by reputable independent sources. Many of these companies will seek to trial plant material that hasn't yet been granted patent status, therefore these sites must be fenced and secure. The back of the CARRI property (see attached map) is an ideal location for such a site due to the rich but well-drained soils and distance from the highway (59 S). This location is also located underneath a tower that makes it well suited for annual and perennial trialing as these materials will be low-growing and they will be removed after each growing season. This is also a highly efficient use of University resources as little else can be done with the land underneath the tower. The trials will feature 200-300 varieties of annuals and perennials grown throughout the spring and summer culminating in a field day for east Texas Green Industry professionals and hobbyists alike to witness the performance of these new materials in our region.

Dr. Matibur Zamadar

Amount: $34,360

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
College of Sciences and Mathematics
Project: Development of Chemotherapeutic, Tin(IV) Porphyrin-Cobalt(III) Prodrug for Cancer Treatment 

Cancer is recognized as the second leading cause of death globally, claiming millions of lives each year. Studies suggested that the number of deaths from this fatal disease is expected to rise by 70 percent compared to now over the next 20 years. Thus, developing cancer therapies has become one of the world's top health priorities. However, despite some success of the current methods, the cancer therapies are limited mainly by (1) tumor-hypoxia, a state of low oxygen (O2) in tumor tissues, (2) serious side-effects on adjacent normal tissues, and (3) the sites that are often inaccessible or unsafe for treatment by traditional surgical and medical methods include major blood vessels such as the carotid arteries, critical areas of the brain, and portions of the eye. In the proposed research, a photosensitizer-cobalt(III) prodrug will be developed that has the potential to be used as an alternative method to treat and kill hypoxic tumor cells with reduced side-effects.

The proposed research is aimed at designing and synthesizing a visible light photosensitizer prodrug, tin(IV) porphyrin-cobalt (III) complex. The SnPCo(III)-prodrug will be water soluble and loaded with a sufficient concentration of chemotherapeutic drugs needed for the treatment. Collaboration with expert in cancer therapy will be established for tumor cell experiments to assure the success of the project. Funding this project will enable Dr. Zamadar to establish a thriving undergraduate research program that engages undergraduate students in the Deep East Texas region for developing a cost-effective chemotherapeutic drug for people in developed as well as non-developed countries. Funding this project will also enable Dr. Zamadar to collect quality preliminary data to seek for external grants which could potentially contribute towards the local economy.


Dr. Kefa Onchoke

Amount: $24,646

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
College of Sciences and Mathematics
Project: Microplastics Pollutants in Biosolids 

Microplastics (MPs) are synthetic, high-molecular weight compounds that have been micronized into plastic particles smaller than 5 mm (1μm to 5 mm). MPs have low biodegradation rate, remain in the environment and adversely affect the human body, the final consumer in the food chain 1. Wastewater sludge (also known as biosolids) are produced from wastewater treatment plants. Biosolids contain organic matter, plant macro-/micronutrients, and trace and heavy metals. Biosolids contain emerging pollutants including microplastics as pollutants of major concern. Biosolids have high affinity for microplastics. Microplastics can cause serious health issues including endocrine disruption, weight gain, insulin resistance, decreased reproductive health, and cancer. They are toxic and potentially harmful to humans and ecosystems. The presence of microplastics in biosolids and wastewater environments have raised serious concerns globally 2, 3. In this study, wastewater samples and biosolids collected from Lufkin and Nacogdoches Wastewater Treatment Plants (LWWTP, NWWTP) will be analyzed for their microplastics concentrations via Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Anions F-, SO42-, Cl-, Br-, NO2-, NO3-, PO43- will be determined via ion chromatography. The microplastics polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, polyester, methylcellulose, polyurethane, polyethylene, ethyl cellulose, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) will be quantified. Characterization data will be analyzed via FTIR and SEM. Information from the study will be analyzed to test the public health risks associated with microplastic concentration exposures in sludges and wastewater in East Texas. Data collected will be subjected to Pearson correlation analysis by Excel to determine association. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) will test risks, and differences in concentration between different MPs. This study is useful for the design and management of wastewater sludges produced from WWTPs.

Dr. Chrissy Cross

Amount: $32,000

Department of Education Studies
James I. Perkins College of Education
Project: Empowering Deep East Texas Preservice Teacher Scholarships 

Deep East Texas, encompassing 12 counties and facing critical teacher shortages and economic disparities, is in need of transformative educational interventions. Our proposal aligns with CARRl's goal of fostering dynamic, interactive partnerships between institutions of higher education and local stakeholders and addresses the challenges of teacher education in our area.

Scholarships will be provided to pre-service teacher candidates who are from or currently reside in the Deep East Texas 12-county region. These scholarship recipients will be current and new students in the Department of Education Studies fully on line Master of Arts in Teaching program. In return for this financial support, scholarship recipients will commit to teaching in public schools within the 12-county area for a minimum of one year after completing their certification program. Their service in these schools will not only address teacher shortages but also enhance student achievement and educational outcomes, ultimately stimulating economic growth in the region. This approach harmonizes with CARRl's mission to drive positive economic resiliency by improving the preparedness of the regional workforce.


Dr. Jeremy Becnel

Amount: $22,305

Department of Computer Science
College of Sciences and Mathematics
Project: Industry-Collaboration Capstone: Real-world project implementation for undergrad science majors 

The Industry-Collaborative Capstone Initiative is a pioneering educational program designed to integrate real-world industry projects into the capstone course for undergraduate computer science majors. This program seeks funding to create a structured, collaborative framework that connects academic learning with industrial application, thereby enhancing students' educational experiences and career readiness while simultaneously contributing to local industry innovation.

The central premise of this initiative is the symbiotic relationship between universities and industry. Students benefit by applying theoretical knowledge to practical, real-world challenges, thereby gaining invaluable experience, industry-specific skills, and professional connections. Concurrently, industry partners gain access to fresh perspectives, innovative solutions, and potential future employees well-versed in the latest technologies and methodologies.

Implementation involves establishing partnerships with companies to curate a roster of capstone projects that reflect current local industry challenges and technological trends. Participating students, under faculty and industry mentorship, will tackle these projects over a semester, culminating in a presentation of their solutions and a minimum viable product.

Through this program, we aim to elevate the standard of computer science education, meet the evolving needs of the industry, and prepare a new generation of professionals who are immediately effective in a rapidly changing technological landscape.

Dr. Linda Bobo

Amount: $18,344

Department of Kinesiology and Health Science
James I. Perkins College of Education 
Project: Strengthening Deep East Texas School's CPR & Stop Bleeding Training

SFA's Department of Kinesiology & Health Science's Graduate Athletic Training Program, Office of Emergency Management, and University Police Department want to enhance the preparedness and resilience of schools in Deep East Texas against targeted violence incidents by funding a CARRI Grant. This project aims to equip secondary-level public educators, staff, and students with life-saving skills through comprehensive training in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Stop the Bleed (STB) techniques.

Educational institutions face an ever-present threat of targeted violence, necessitating a proactive approach to ensure the safety of students and personnel. Recent tragic incidents across the nation underscore the importance of rapid and effective response measures to mitigate the consequences of such events.

This project aims to create a safer and more resilient educational environment by empowering school communities with these critical life-saving skills. The ability to respond effectively to medical emergencies and violent incidents will save lives and instill a sense of confidence and security within our communities.

Securing funding is instrumental in translating the vision of resilient schools into reality. These schools will be equipped to promptly address targeted violence and medical emergencies, making Deep East Texas a beacon of preparedness and resilience.



View Past Grant Recipients

For more information

Center for Applied Research and Rural Innovation
Staff directory