Welcome to the Kansas NSF EPSCoR (KNE) news and announcements blog. Stay up-to-date with all the happenings, discoveries, events and funding opportunities associated with KNE. Enter your email in the "Follow by email" box below an to the right to stay notified of new posts. Feel free to leave comments.

Monday, February 20, 2017

2017 Kansas NSF EPSCoR Physics Teacher Workshop at Kansas State APPLY NOW

  Kansas NSF EPSCoR will select up to 30 physics and physical science teachers from Kansas and Nebraska to participate in a 2 day professional development opportunity at Kansas State University on June 15 -16, 2017. Participants will earn a stipend of $300 for writing lessons and/or enrichment activities that incorporate models, the Atomic, Molecular and Optical (AMO) Physics research, and the Next Generation Science Standards' (NGSS):  Science and Engineering Practices into their current lessons and activities. Travel, lodging and meals will be covered as well.
  Participants will work with the Kansas EPSCoR AMO Physics Scientists; Ms. Lizette Burks, Kansas Department of Education Science Program Consultant; and Dr. Paul Adams, Dean of the College of Education at Fort Hays State University to:
  1. Discuss how modeling is used in laser and nanotechnology research; 
  2. Enhance their understanding and utilization of the Science and Engineering Practices of the NGSS;
  3. Make curriculum connections between the research and theNGSS; and 
  4. Rewrite current or develop new lessons and/or enrichment activities to reflect the AMO Physics research

Rolling selections begin April 24, 2017

For additional information read the articles about the past KS EPSCoR Physics Teacher workshops click on the years to follow the links.

2016 Physics Teacher Workshop

2015 Follow up with 2015 workshop attendees at KATS

2015 Physics Teacher Workshop

This educational collaborative opportunity is funded by the
Kansas NSF EPSCoR National Science Foundation Award titled:  
Collaborative Research: Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of 
Atoms, Molecules and Nanostructures
No. IIA-1430493

If you if you have any questions, contact:
Rosemary Blum 
(785) 864-6120

Kansas NSF EPSCoR encourages applications from women, minorities, and underrepresented groups.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Kansas EPSCoR Track 2 Researcher and University of Kansas Physicist, Dr. Hui Zhao, discovers a new bilayer material

Taken from the cover of Nanoscale Horizons,
Volume 2 Number 1 January 2017
  A member of the Kansas NSF EPSCoR Track 2 “Collaborative Research: Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules and Nanostructures” research team, Dr. Hui Zhao and his team at the Ultrafast Laser Lab at the University of Kansas have successfully created a new bilayer material. This material was developed by combining atomically thin layers of molybdenum disulfide and rhenium disulfide. Each layer of the new material measures less than one nanometer in thickness. According to Zhao, both molybdenum disulfide and rhenium disulfide “absorb light very well as semiconductors, and they’re both very flexible and can be stretched or compressed.” The goal of this type of research is to produce more efficient and versatile light emission devices, such as LEDS that can bend and that are just a few nanometers thick.  By creating the bilayer material, Zhao achieved the results he pursued.  In order to better explain this scientific breakthrough, Zhao used the following comparison:

“One can think of a material as a classroom full of students — which are the electrons — one on each seat,” he said. “Sitting on a seat, a student — or electron — can’t move freely to conduct electricity. Light can provide enough energy to stand up some of the students, who can now move freely and, as electrons, to conduct electricity. This process is the foundation for photovoltaic devices, where the energy of sunlight is captured and converted to electricity.” The emission of light involves the inverse process, in which a standing electron sits down in a seat, releasing its kinetic energy in the form of light.  “To make a good material for light emission devices, one needs not only the electrons that carry energy, but also the ‘seats’ — called holes — for the electrons to sit down.”

   Previous scientific studies, including some by Zhao, had already used the method of stacking different types of atomic sheets to create bilayer materials; however, those materials had the electrons and the “seats” located in different atomic layers.  Because it is difficult for electrons to find "seats," light emission efficiency of prior bilayer materials was very low – more than 100 times lower than if both electrons and “seats” were located in one atomic layer. Within this newly produced bilayer material, the electrons and their seats will be located in their original layer, instead of separate layers. Thus, the new bilayer material will produce light emissions that are much stronger.
   A cover story appearing in the January 2017 edition of the peer-reviewed journal Nanoscale Horizons by Zhao and his fellow researchers Matthew Bellus, Samuel Lane, Frank Ceballos and Qiannan Cui, all KU physics graduate students, and Ming Li and Xiao Cheng Zeng of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, titled Type-I van derWaals heterostructure formed by MoS2 and ReS2 monolayers details the how the low tech “Scotch tape” method was used to create the new bilayer material.

Funding for this Research partially provided by the Kansas and Nebraska NSF EPSCoR Track 2 Grant #1430519 titled: "Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules, and Nanostructures."  The grant's educational objectives are designed to enhance STEM education in Kansas by supporting activities that will lead to an expanded STEM workforce or prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of atomic/molecular/optical science.

For additional information on this discovery, go to KU Today article, Using 'Scotch tape' and laser beams, researchers craft new material that could improve LED screensat at https://goo.gl/w1HKyh

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Small College Faculty Collaboration with KU brings a low-cost Surface-Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) Instrument to MidAmerica Nazarene University

    As part of the Kansas EPSCoR Track 2 “Collaborative Research: Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules and Nanostructures” small college collaboration initiative, Dr. Jordan Mantha, Associate Professor of Chemistry at the MidAmerica Nazarene University (MNU) partnered with Dr. Chris Elles, Associate Professor of Chemistry at the University of Kansas (KU) to develop a low-cost Surface-enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) instrument. The SERS instrument is designed to investigate the reaction dynamics of photoswitching molecules interacting with plasmonic fields.  The instrument Dr. Elles and Dr. Mantha constructed was specifically designed to be easily replicated with small, primarily undergraduate institutions in mind.
   Dr. Mantha plans to use the SERS instrument in his Analytical Chemistry course this spring (2017) and he created a new lab for this course “to show SERS as modern surface-selective spectroscopic technique.”  In addition, he will use the SERS instrument in his Quantum Chemistry course to be taught in the fall of 2017.  In this course, he is planning a semester long project incorporating another new lab to mirror class discussions on vibrational spectroscopy.  This lab will provide an engaging hand-on opportunity to study and witness in real time, the concepts of reaction dynamics and plasmonic nanomaterials.  Dr. Mantha stated “This course, in particular, is taken by both Chemistry and Physics majors at MidAmerica Nazarene University and my hope is that this project will help develop our Atomic, Molecular and Optical (AMO) and experimental physics capabilities.”  Both Dr. Mantha and Dr. Elles hope that this collaboration will expose the students at MNU to undergraduate research in physical chemistry/chemical physics, and ultimately spark an interest that encourages them to pursue graduate studies in the STEM fields.
   Overall, Dr. Mantha really appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with a large public university, and “to get back in the lab after five years as a faculty member at a small liberal arts school.”  As a result of this collaboration, Dr. Mantha went on to say, “I’ve learned a lot about plasmonic arrays and ultrafast reaction dynamics over the summer and working with the Elles group has been phenomenal. I’ve made some great new connections with the Kansas physical chemistry community and have something to bring back to my institution that will keep me involved in research and give my students an opportunity to see what ‘real’ science is like.”

Funding for this Collaborative Research Experience was provided by the Kansas and Nebraska NSF EPSCoR Track 2 Grant #1430519 titled: "Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules, and Nanostructures."  The Grant's educational objectives are designed to enhance STEM education in Kansas by supporting activities that will lead to an expanded STEM workforce and prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of atomic/molecular/optical science. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Summer Undergraduate Research Opportunities in AMO Physics at Kansas State University and the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. APPLY NOW!


Both the Kansas NSF EPSCoR and the Nebraska NSF EPSCoR programs are sponsoring at least six Kansas or Nebraska undergraduate students to participate in their 2017 Atomic, Molecular, and Optical (AMO) Physics Summer Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) students (at least three students will be accepted at each campus). 

The Kansas AMO Physics REU will be held at Kansas State University (KSU) and is titled, Interactions of Matter, Light & Learning. 

Students will earn a $5200 stipend, have a $500 travel allowance and on-campus room and board will be covered.

This year's research topics include:

  • Ultrafast lasers & attosecond physics
  • Nanoparticle formation & light scattering
  • Nonlinear fiber optics
  • High energy and neutrino physics
  • Atomic and condensed matter theory
  • Physics education 
Rolling Admission for the KSU REU begins 2/1/2017


For more information on the Kansas State University REU go to: KSU AMO REU or call 785-532-1612

For more information on the 2017 AMO Summer Undergraduate Research Experiences at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln (UNL) or to apply go to: http://www.unl.edu/summerprogram/physics

Priority deadline for the UNL Summer Physics REUs is 2/1/2017

Only US citizens and permanent residents are eligible for NSF funding.

Funding for these research opportunities are provided by the Kansas and Nebraska NSF EPSCoR Track 2 Grant #1430519 titled: "Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules, and Nanostructures." 

Monday, November 21, 2016

2016 Kansas EPSCoR Physics Teacher Workshop Participants' Collaboration results in Kansas High School Acquiring Access to Cosmic Ray Detector

   Molly Bovos,  Basehor-Linwood High School Physics Teacher met James Deane, Ottawa High School Physics Teacher at the 2016 Kansas NSF EPSCoR Physics Teacher Workshop, "Modeling the Unseen in the Physical Sciences," held at Kansas State University this past summer.  At the workshop, teachers toured the James R. Macdonald Laboratory, discussed cutting edge Atomic, Molecular and Optical (AMO) research with Kansas EPSCoR Physicists and brainstormed how to connect the laser research to their high school physics classroom.  
   At the end of the workshop, Deane invited Bovos to join QuarkNet, a project supported in part by the National Science Foundation, the Office of High Energy Physics, the Office of Science and the U. S. Department of Energy. QuarkNet is a website dedicated to high school students, teachers and physicists working together on physics research that involves the exploration of the nature of matter, energy, space and time. 
   Through the QuarkNet program, Bovos attended a workshop on the study of cosmic rays and cosmic ray muons.  She became very interested in QuarkNet's initiative to make Cosmic Ray Detectors available to high schools students, so she applied and was granted a detector, on loan, from Chicago's Fermilab.  There are nine such Comic Ray Detectors that are registered to Kansas teachers at this time. As an added bonus, QuarkNet provides information collected from around the world allowing other schools with the same equipment to compare data collected. 
HS Senior Alex Teeter
   Already she has students engaged in studying the process that creates cosmic rays, which is a nuclear reaction. One student, Alex Teeters, a Basehor-Linwood High School senior is interested in nuclear physics and is taking an independent study course in Modern Physics with Bovos.  Together they are working on a project involving a time-of-flight study. The study involves measuring how fast a comic ray muon is traveling by spacing several detectors at different heights, then calculating their time of flight from the atmosphere to Earth.  Muons are very unstable particles and they decay in 2.2 micro seconds, so theoretically they should not be able to travel from the atmosphere to the Earth, but they do. According to Bovos, “This is one piece of evidence we have for Einstein’s theory that time slows down for objects moving at speeds close to the speed of light.” 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Kansas EPSCoR AMO Physics Researcher Delivers Words of Encouragement to Hispanic STEM Students

Dr. Carlos Trallero
   Si  Se Puede Hacer Ciencias y Matematicas is an outreach program that invites 6th-8th grade Hispanic students to the Emporia State University (ESU) campus to participate in four hands-on workshops taught by Hispanic professionals from all over the state of Kansas. This year, Si Se Puede Hacer Ciencias y Matematicas was held on October 29, 2016, and Dr. Carlos Trallero, Associate Professor of Physics at Kansas State University and Kansas NSF EPSCoR researcher, delivered the keynote address to 70 Hispanic middle school students as well as a number of parents and teachers in attendance.  Dr. Trallero discussed the many hardships he faced as a student, how he over came them to reach his goals, and how it is so important to never stop trying no matter what obstacles students might face.  Last year Dr. Trallero led a workshop on "How the Internet Works." 
   The Si Se Puede Hacer Ciencias y Matematicas Saturday experience is an outreach program at Emporia State University (ESU) designed to increase Hispanic youth’s interest in science and mathematics, foster awareness of career opportunities in mathematics and science related fields, and provide an opportunity for students to interact with professionals working in STEM fields. Hispanic students in 6th-8th grade are invited to the ESU campus to participate in four hands-on workshops taught by Hispanic professionals from all over the state of Kansas. These workshops are designed to allow students to explore STEM topics such as: engineering, physics, medicine, chemistry, and veterinary medicine. This year, "students attended workshops where they built moon landers, excavated dinosaur bones, made ice cream, watched and participated in Chemistry and Physics experiments, and viewed X-rays of animals."
Students conduct a chemistry experiment using charcoal filters (right) and
students put the finishing touches on their moon lander (left). 
   Parents and teachers are also encouraged to attend adult sessions that focus on how to encourage Hispanic students to study STEM subjects and advice on how to support their students as they pursue and succeed in attaining a college degree.
  “We were very pleased with this year’s record attendance,” said Dr. Betsy Yanik, the program’s director. “The teachers, students and parents were highly complimentary of this year’s activities.”

Associate Professor Carlos A. Trallero participation in the Si Se Puede Hacer Ciencias y Matematicas as part of the outreach initiatives included in the Kansas-Nebraska EPSCoR Track 2 grant:  Collaborative Research: Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules and Nanostructures.

Monday, November 7, 2016

University of Kansas EPSCoR Track-2 Student Investigates Behaviors of Heterogeneous Catalytic Materials

Amy Jystad
   Amy Jystad, a graduate student in the department of Chemistry at the University of Kansas, is conducting simulations to study behaviors of heterogeneous catalytic material. Her research is part of the collaborative EPSCoR RII Track-2 FEC between the Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis (CEBC) at the University of Kansas and the University of South Carolina. The project is titled Catalysis for Renewables: Applications, Fundamentals and Technologies (CRAFT). The overall goal of this EPSCoR project is to improve catalysts that convert the biomass, lignin, into commodity chemicals.
Amy's model
    Specifically, Amy's research focuses on "simulating the acidity behavior of the metal centers in metal-doped KIT-6 mesoporous silicates." There is a strong correlation between this acidity behavior and the catalytic activity of metals, such as zirconium, tungsten and niobium. Therefore, by using density functional theory simulations, Amy wants to better understand what determines this behavior. The long term goal of her research is to simulate the reaction mechanisms for the catalytic conversion of lignin into commodity chemicals that "may provide insights and guidelines for developing a renewable source of feedstock that can be used to manufacture plastics and other products currently made from petroleum crude." Her research could also provide beneficial insights for the other EPSCoR RII Track-2 FEC researchers.  Marco Caricato, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Kansas, is Amy's faculty mentor and is part of a core group at the CEBC using computer modeling methods to understand and optimize chemical processes.

The CEBC is a unique multi-scale, multidisciplinary research and education enterprise recognized as 
an international leader in the field of catalysis. Major companies—like Archer Daniels Midland, 
Chevron Phillips, DuPont, INVISTA, Reliance, Solvay, and UOP—choose to partner with the CEBC to leverage the center’s novel research and faculty expertise.