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.

Friday, October 20, 2017

NSF EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Program: Track-2 Funding Opportunity


This solicitation is now available and remains relatively unchanged from last year.   

Submission Deadlines:

Letter of Intent Due Date(s) (required) (due by 5 p.m. submitter's local time):November 27, 2017
Full Proposal Deadline(s) (due by 5 p.m. submitter's local time):January 26, 2018

    The RII Track-2 FEC seeks to build inter-jurisdictional collaborative teams of EPSCoR investigators to participate in investigator-driven research in scientific focus areas consistent with NSF priorities. Projects must include researchers from at least two RII eligible EPSCoR jurisdictions who without the assistance of the other team and complementary resources would not be in a position to tackle the projects as well or rapidly alone.
    The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) research and education activities should include and integrate a variety of individuals, institutions, sectors and programs to broaden participation throughout the project. Proposals must reflect an integrated comprehensive vision to drive discovery and build sustainable STEM capacity that exemplifies individual, institutional, geographic, and disciplinary diversity with an emphasis on developing a diverse early-career faculty.

The topic for the FY 2018, RII Track-2 FEC proposals is Understanding the relationship between genome and phenome.

The full request for proposals with submission instructions can be downloaded as a PDF here:  

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

First Awards - Kansas NSF EPSCoR Funding Opportunity




Related to the current Kansas NSF EPSCoR focus of
microbiomes as broadly construed to be in aquatic, plant and/or soil systems. 

A Research Program for Tenure Track
Faculty Early in their Careers

Submission Deadlines:

Letters of Intent Due by 5:00 pm on WEDNESDAY, November 8, 2017.
Proposals Due by 5:00 pm on TUESDAY, January 23, 2018.  

     Kansas NSF EPSCoR helps Kansas build its research capacity and competitiveness in science and technology.  The First Award Program helps early career faculty become competitive for funding from the research directorates at the National Science Foundation by encouraging early career faculty to submit proposals to the NSF (or other federal funding agency) as soon as possible after their first faculty appointment, and by accelerating the pace of their research and the quality of their subsequent proposals. First Awards are intended to be single‐investigator awards to support the PI’s research program at their institution.  The inclusion of Co‐PIs, other senior personnel and sub-awards to other institutions is prohibited.
     Individual tenure track faculty member who are currently untenured at the assistant professor rank at Kansas State University, University of Kansas, Wichita State University, Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, Pittsburg State, University or Washburn University and meet the following criteria may apply:
  1. Is within the first three years of his/her faculty appointment,  
  2. Has not previously received a First Award or similar funding from another EPSCoR or EPSCoR‐like (Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence, COBRE) program in Kansas, and
  3. Is not currently nor has previously been a lead Principal Investigator of a research grant funded by a federal agency.
The full request for proposals with submission instructions can be downloaded as a PDF here:  

Education and outreach funding is provided by the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: "Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas."  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 aquatic, plant and soil microbiome environments and ecological systems.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Kansas NSF EPSCoR receives 20 million dollar grant to survey and study aquatic, plant and soil microbiomes

University of Kansas and Kansas State University researchers using liquid nitrogen to freeze a core of stream sediment collected from Kings Creek at Konza Prairie Biological Station,
photo courtesy of Walter Dodds, Kansas State University
     Kansas is one of five states to receive a NSF EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Track-1 (RII Track-1) award this year.  RII Track-1 awards provide up to $20 million total for 5 years to support improvements to physical and cyber infrastructure as well as human capital development in research areas selected by the jurisdiction's EPSCoR steering committee as having the best potential to improve future research and development (R&D) competitiveness of the jurisdiction. Furthermore, the project's research activities must align with the specific research priorities outlined in the jurisdiction's Science and Technology (S&T) Plan. The other recipients of the NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 awards for 2017 are Alabama, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Wyoming.
    The Kansas EPSCoR project titled, Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas (MAPS), involves the collaboration of researchers from the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, Wichita State University and Fort Hays State University.  These researchers will work together to conduct surveys of plant, soil and aquatic microbiomes and then record their environmental characteristics. Because Kansas has large gradients in precipitation and agricultural land use, it is an ideal environment for studying these microbiomes.  Kristin Bowman-James, a KU distinguished professor of chemistry, Director for Kansas NSF EPSCoR and the principal investigator of the project explained “Studying these tiny living things can be critical to understanding several key issues for the state, including agricultural sustainability, water quality, greenhouse gases, plant productivity and soil fertility."
     The Kansas NSF EPSCoR research team will specifically focus on the plant, soil and aquatic microbiomes’ environmental characteristics as well as assess the ability of these microbiomes to influence crop production, soil condition and water quality. Major project goals involve the development of a mechanistic understanding of microbiome-mediated ecosystem functions; predicting ecosystem responses to changes in precipitation and land-use patterns; and identifying ways to select for and utilize microbiomes to produce desired characteristics.  Some of these desired characteristics could increase agricultural productivity or drought tolerance, determine efficient nutrient utilization, and enhance soil quality.
    In addition, the project team will seek to expand the workforce in microbial, plant, and soil science, genomics, bioinformatics and ecology with the intent to integrate the research into educational activities designed to improve Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). The educational goals of the project will encourage the participation of both urban and rural areas of mainstream, the economically disadvantaged, first-generation college students, Native Americans, and other under-represented groups culminating in an effort to expand the workforce in microbial, plant, and soil science, genomics, bioinformatics and ecology.

To read more about the project and the award go to:

Education and outreach funding is provided by the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: "Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas."  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 aquatic, plant and soil microbiome environments and ecological systems.

Researchers from across the state meet to strategically plan for the implementation of the research initiatives of the MAPS NSF EPSCoR Track-1 Award

The MAPS Strategic Planning Team
     The Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems (MAPS) across Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 principal investigators and team leaders met on September 25-26, 2017 to outline a strategic plan for meeting the goals and objectives of the proposed research for the project.  Faculty from the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, Fort Hays State University, Wichita State University and Haskell Indian Nations University collaborated to create a strategic approach to test hypotheses, collect and store data, identify outcomes and disseminate information through education and community outreach efforts. Two National Science Foundation program officers, Andy Ogram and Tim VanReken, joined the conversations to provide guidance and suggestions.  Laura Leff, from Kent State University, also attended as a member of the MAPS Science Advisory Committee sharing her expertise and insightful observations with the team. John Riordan, from Cindy Zook Associates, facilitated the process and discussions.
     The MAPS project will utilize fundamental microbiome research to determine how microbiomes, e.g., MAPS, can enhance productivity, mitigate environmental problems in agricultural-dominated landscapes, and conserve native grasslands and their ecosystem functions.  The steep precipitation gradient across the state and the importance of agriculture makes Kansas an outstanding outdoor laboratory for testing hypotheses related to the impacts of precipitation on microbial processes.  The project's study of the interconnected nature of the soil, plant, and aquatic microbiomes makes it unique and potentially transformative. MAPS includes education and outreach initiatives focusing on microbiome science that extends from K-12 students and teachers to undergraduate and graduate students and faculty members at tribal colleges and four year institutions, including a Haskell-based summer internship program (HERS).

Education, outreach, awards and meetings funding is provided by the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems (MAPS)  The awards 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 Biology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Former Kansas NSF EPSCoR First Award Recipient Receives NSF PIRE Award

   Gurpreet Singh, Associate Professor of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, and the Harold O. and Jane C. Massey Neff Professor in Mechanical Engineering at Kansas State University and former Kansas NSF EPSCoR First Award recipient, has been selected to receive a National Science Foundation Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) five year, $4,694,233 award.  His project is titled "High-Temperature Ceramic Fibers: Polymer-Based Manufacturing, Nanostructure and Performance," and he has partnered with collaborators from five other U.S. universities, two national labs and two industries, as well as 10 foreign partners.  PIRE is an NSF-wide program that supports research endeavors across all NSF disciplines.  The goal of the program is to support research and education advances that could not occur without international collaboration and seeks to engage the U.S. science and engineering community.
     This award will leverage relationships with France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Japan.  The U.S collaborators will bring expertise in in the area of structure and thermo-chemo-mechanical property characterization of glass ceramics and the international partners offer expertise in the area of non-oxide fibers.  This collaboration will generate a diverse and engaged U.S. science and engineering workforce in precursor-derived ceramic fibers.  Singh explained "The project’s aim is to encourage and increase student opportunities for learning abroad." 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Two Kansas Assistant Professors receive NSF EPSCoR Track-4 Awards

NSF EPSCoR Track-4 Award recipients,
Dr. Katie Mitchell-Koch and Dr. Joycelyn McDonald
   Congratulations to Dr. Katie Mitchell-Koch, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Wichita State University (WSU) and Kansas NSF EPSCoR first award recipient, and Dr. Joycelyn McDonald  Assistant Professor of Biology at Kansas State University (KSU) who have both received NSF EPSCoR Track 4 Awards.
    The NSF EPSCoR Track- 4  provides up to $200,000 of funding for non-tenured investigators to visit and utilize the nation’s premier private, governmental, or academic research centers.  These research experiences are designed to enhance their individual research potential.  Through these visits, the EPSCoR Track-4 Research Fellows gain access to and learn new research techniques using unique equipment and facilities. Furthermore, the research experience and networking connections gained through this program lead to future research collaborations and are expected to build research capacity in their institutions and jurisdictions.
      Dr. Mitchell-Koch has titled her research project Electronic Structure Calculations to Characterize Mechanisms of Regioselective Additions to Olefins and to Advance P-31 NMR as a Reporter of Catalytic Intermediate.  The project’s intent is to create a better understanding of chemical reactions between metals and organic compounds and study the mechanisms and potential molecular structures involved in these reactions. She hopes to optimize reaction processes and predict molecular structures similar to those used for the synthesis of drug candidates and pharmaceuticals.  Dr. Mitchell-Koch and her students will travel to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) to use the resources available at the National Center for Super-computing Applications.  
    Dr. McDonald will focus her research on creating a better understanding of the development of collectives, a group of cells, as they move together to help form tissues and organs within fruit fly embryos. Her project is titled Dynamic Live Imaging and Manipulation of Migrating Collectives Inside Tissues.  Dr. McDonald and a postdoctoral fellow will travel to the University of California, Santa Barbara to learn new advanced microscopic methods that can reveal how collectives move in tissues as well as how to use light to control cell movements. She and her postdoctoral fellow will then bring these advanced techniques back to KSU.

Monday, September 11, 2017

KS EPSCoR sponsors KU Natural History Museum's physics programs presented to KU TRIO Talent middle school stduents

Trio students conducting physics experiments at the KU Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum
    This summer Kansas NSF EPSCoR provided participation support for two of the University of Kansas (KU) TRIO Talent Search summer programs, Career Horizons and Discover Technology.  The middle school students involved in these summer programs engaged in hands-on physics activities at the KU Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum. Career Horizons is a program for rising 7th graders and Discover Technology is a program for rising 8th graders. The Career Horizons' learning experience focuses on exploring careers in STEM, attending college, and personal recreational/health and wellness as well as creates opportunities for students to increase a positive peer network. The Discover Technology opportunity is designed to enhance students’ excitement about the world of science and technology, increase career planning abilities, strengthen a positive peer network, and help students explore a global community.
       Kansas EPSCoR had previously partnered with Dr. Teresa Macdonald, Associate Director, Public Programs for the KU Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum, this past spring to provide funding support for Kansas middle school students attending her physics hands-on activity programs. To continue that partnership Kansas NSF EPSCoR extended its support to cover these two KU TRIO summer camps' participation in the following physics programs. For the Career Horizons group, they selected the Cartoon Guide to Energy program and for the Discover Technology students, they selected the Quarks: Ups, Downs and the Universe program.  Dr. Macdonald taught both programs.
    Dr. Macdonald said the partnership with the KU TRIO programs began in 2016 when Rebecca Dukstein, Director of KU TRIO Talent Search, was referred to Dr. Macdonald, by Dr. Alice Bean of the KU Physics and Astronomy Department. When Ms. Dukstein contacted Dr. Macdonald they discussed the possibility of creating physics-themed activities that could become part of these two TRIO summer programs.  Ms. Dukstein commented, “We wanted our students to have the opportunity to learn about physics in a fun, interactive way, with hands-on science demonstrations and experiments.”
    As for what the students thought about these learning experiences, on their end of the day evaluations Ms. Dukstein said the students wrote “they loved the activities.... They also commented that it was one of the best activities of the day and they sited different things they learned during the science session at the museum.”  Dr. Macdonald also heard from the students informally, and they told her “they really liked the program, had fun, and learned new things.”  Both Ms. Dukstein expressed her appreciation to Kansas NSF EPSCoR by saying “If it wasn’t for this 'Scholarship Fund', we would not have been able to bring our students to the museum and enhance the opportunity to learn about physics.” Dr. Macdonald echoed her gratitude by commenting, “We appreciate the funding provided by Kansas NSF EPSCoR ... that helped us offer engaging science learning experiences to underrepresented audiences.”

The KU TRIO Talent Search is a free college access program sponsored by the University of Kansas and funded through the U.S. Department of Education. The goals of the KU TRIO Talent Search are to encourage 7th and 8th grade students attending public schools in Kansas City and Wyandotte County to remain in school, pursue post-secondary education, and eventually earn a certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree. 

Education and outreach funding for the physics teacher workshop 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 or prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of atomic/molecular/optical science.