Accelerating Research Translation: ART in Southern Mississippi from Concepts to Careers

Purpose & Vision

University of Arizona (UA) will serve as USM’s mentor for this project. UA is an Institution of Higher Education (IHE) nationally recognized for its very high TRA that is reflected in its ranking among the top 100 worldwide universities granted utility patents in 2022. Just over a decade ago, Arizona’s TRA was nearly identical to Mississippi’s, and below the national average when comparing the number of patents per 1000 researchers by state. UA took deliberate actions beginning in 2012 to change culture and build its capacity to grow TRA. UA’s historical metrics will provide a baseline to establish and track USM’s goals and objectives for the project. UA’s experience will provide best practices for training and education in helping grow USM’s capacity to support TRA. In addition to mentorship provide by UA, USM will continue its collaboration with Jackson State University (JSU), a fellow Mississippi Research Consortium institution, and a member of the NSF’s Mid-South I-Corps Hub, to assist in establishing inclusive, entrepreneurial training programs that facilitates the transformation of USM inventions from the lab to market.

Vision: Inspiring Bridges to Accelerate Research Translation through a systematic and data-driven approach that removes the barriers between ideas and market entry by creating a translational research environment distinguished by inclusivity of ideas and perspectives.​

Goals: The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) will demonstrate a novel model, (U-Model) that:

  1. Promotes human behaviors to shift USM’s research culture​
  2. Increases innovation capacity and inclusive training programs​

By 2028, USM will be recognized as a leader in Mississippi’s efforts to grow its knowledge-based economy.​

Promote Human Behaviors To Shift To An Innovation Culture*

*There are two dimensions that define a culture: The degree to which the focus is internal or external and the degree to which prefers flexibility or stability. It is easier and more sustainable to attempt to change one at a time.

Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI)
211 respondents – tenure-track faculty (30.8%), tenured faculty (14.2%), and Staff (34.1%)


Increases Innovation Capacity And Inclusive Training Programs

USM with the support of UA and its key partners will:

  • Create a new brand identity, and technology marketing strategy
  • Develop a “Train-the-Trainer” model for USM’s OIM staff
  • Establish commercial pathways for nascent technologies
  • Develop and implement programs to support culture shift and advance Seed Translation Research Projects (STRPs)
  • Develop human-centered designed courses to enhance NSF Innovation Corps (I-CorpsTM) programming
  • Actively engage in targeted programs and recruitment of graduate and undergraduate students to broaden participation
  • Advance Regional Innovation Clusters

Mentor Program

Online Portal

Key Partnerships

  • Jackson State University
  • Questus Group, LLC
  • Thrive Village, LLC
  • For the Win Solutions, LLC
  • The University of Southern Mississippi Research Foundation

Meet the Leadership Team

Brian J. Cuevas, Ph.D.

Dr. Brian Cuevas is the Director of the Office of Innovation Management at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) and is responsible for assisting the university researchers in translating their technologies into products.


Dr. Cuevas has over twenty years of innovation experience and has lead technology development and product commercialization activities for major global medical device and specialty chemical companies.  He received his B.S. in Polymer Science from USM in May of 1999 and his Ph.D. in Material Science and Engineering from The University of Florida in August of 2003.

In addition to overseeing the Office of Innovation Management, he is co-leading the development of a regional blue economy innovation cluster, Gulf Blue(SM); and serving as principal investigator on USM NSF ART Award: Accelerating Research Translation in Southern Mississippi from Concepts to Career; and senior personnel on Jackson’s State University’s NSF Engines Development Award: Advancing Food Security and Climate Resilience (MS).  Originally from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Dr. Cuevas is excited to be able to participate in advancing the knowledge-based economy in his home state of Mississippi.

Rakhi Gibbons

Rakhi Gibbons currently holds the position of Director of Intellectual Property & Licensing at Tech Launch Arizona (TLA), part of the University of Arizona. Boasting more than two decades of experience in the life sciences sector, she has navigated roles spanning research, startups, and university technology transfer.


As the director, she is responsible for overseeing all intellectual property and licensing operations within Tech Launch Arizona. Before joining the University of Arizona, Rakhi was a member of the licensing team at the University of Michigan’s Office of Technology Transfer. Her expertise encompasses intellectual property, licensing, technology and contract management, conflict of interest, and the establishment of startups.

Beyond her business acumen, Rakhi brings practical knowledge of life sciences, gained through research engagements with a biotech company in northern California and Stanford University, focusing on molecular biology and genomics. She holds a Master’s in Applied Biosciences from the University of Arizona and a Bachelor’s in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Almesha L. Campbell, Ph.D., RTTP

Almesha L. Campbell, Ph.D., RTTP, is the Assistant Vice President for Research and Economic Development at Jackson State University (JSU). In this capacity, she supports the Vice President with overall responsibility for the Division of Research and Economic Development, which oversees the units of Grants and Contracts, Sponsored Programs, Research Compliance, Technology Transfer and Commercialization, Federal Relations, and the Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development.


She designs and manages programs around innovation, technology transfer, and commercialization to broaden the participation of underrepresented minorities in these areas. Dr. Campbell co-led the development of the JSU Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and created the JSU Innovation Fellows Program. She is the principal investigator or co-principal investigator for several federally funded programs at JSU including the National Science Foundation (NSF) Mid-South I-Corps Hub, the National Institutes of Health REACH Hub, the NSF Enabling SBE Science via the Network for Transformative Research program, the NSF Engines Development Award: Advancing Food Security and Climate Resilience (MS), and the recently awarded NSF ART program led by the University of Southern Mississippi.

She is the 2023 – 2024 Chair of the Board of Directors of AUTM. In addition to AUTM, she holds membership in professional organizations such as the Licensing Executives Society, Society of Research Administrators (SRA) International, and the American Society of Public Administration, and is an honorary member of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI).