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 and to the right to stay notified of new posts. Feel free to leave comments.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Kansas NSF EPSCoR has a New Website


Kansas NSF EPSCoR unveiled a new website for 2020 and is now posting announcements, funding opportunities, and news stories to that site. The web address did not change, but the site has been updated and become more efficient.

To find the most current information about Kansas NSF EPSCoR and the MAPS project go to the new site at:


Access to prior stories can still be found here as well as in the archives section on the about page of the new website.

You may still reach us at 785-864-3096
University of Kansas
2021 Constant Ave
Lawrence, KS 66047

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Registration is now open for the 2020 MAPS Research Symposium

Kansas NSF EPSCoR will be hosting its Annual MAPS Research Symposium on Monday, March 2, 2020, at the KU Adams Alumni Center (1266 Oread Ave., Lawrence, KS).

There will be a welcome reception the evening before (Sunday, March 1) at the Oread Hotel (1200 Oread Ave., Lawrence, KS)

March 1-2, 2020 
MAPS Symposium 
Agenda and Presentations

Registration is closed
to register

There is no fee to attend but registration is required. 

***To register your poster and submit your abstract 

for the Poster Session

go to:  http://s.12ab.pw/l/cf8

There will be a welcome reception the evening before (Sunday, March 1) at the Oread Hotel.

Reservations for overnight participants
 may be made at the Oread Hotel 1200 Oread Ave, 
Lawrence, KS 66044

To make reservations call (785) 843-1200 and tell the reservation service you are with the 

Kansas NSF EPSCoR 2020 Symposium to get the discounted rate. 

Participants who choose to stay overnight are responsible for all of their travel and hotel costs.

To guarantee a room reservation, call on or before January 31, 2020.

Deadline to register is Friday, February 21, 2020

Program and other logistical details are TBA. Revisit this page for up-to-date information. Contact Doug Byers at dbyers@ku.edu or 785-864-3227 with questions.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Announcing the 2020-2021 Kansas NSF EPSCoR Track-4 Recipients

     The NSF EPSCoR Research Fellows Awards (RII Track-4) are designed for early career, non-tenured faculty with the purpose of enhancing the fellow's research capacity through site visits and collaborations with premier private, government or academic research centers across the nation. Through these partnerships, the NSF EPSCoR Research Fellows learn new techniques using specialized equipment and facilities. These fellowship experiences are expected to potentially transform the fellow’s research career path beyond the award period as well as enhance the research capacity of their institutions. Kansas NSF EPSCoR congratulates 2020-2021 Track-4 Fellows,  Dr.  Gisuk Hwang, an Assistant Professor and Undergraduate Coordinator in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Wichita State University, and Dr. Hongyu Wu, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Kansas State University.
Dr. Gisuk Hwang
Wichita State University
    Dr. Gisuk Hwang, titled his proposed project Tailored Flow Boiling Mechanisms Using 3D Printed Multifunctional Wick Structures. The following excerpt is taken from his NSF EPSCoR RII Track-4 Award Abstract #1929187 and explains his research: “Efficient and sustainable electrical power generation is critical to the U.S. energy supply/security and economy, and it is dominated by thermo-electric systems as the 83% of the electricity in 2018 has been generated from fossil fuels and nuclear energy. The efficiency of the electrical power production is bottle-necked by the performance of a steam generator, i.e., flow boiler, which is caused by local premature water dry out from excessive unwanted vapor blankets. To address this challenge, the proposed research will a multifunctional wick structure is proposed for effective liquid-vapor separation, to simultaneously advance current technical limits on heat transfer coefficient and maximum heat transfer rate per given surface area without creating a significant hydraulic pressure drop. A key success of the proposed research requires an advanced manufacturing approach for the proposed multifunctional wick structure with complex geometries. The PI will conduct the research working with a collaborator at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln (UNL) using a state-of-the-art metallic 3D printer with a high resolution at Nano-Engineering Research Core Facility (NERCF). Also, this fellowship will greatly strengthen the collaboration between the WSU and UNL. The obtained new knowledge will be implemented into the education plans, which will empower the future engineering workforce.”

Dr. Hongyu Wu
Kansas State University
    Dr. Hongyu Wu, Assistant Professor in Electrical Engineering at Kansas State University titled his proposed project Robust Matrix Completion State Estimation in Low-Observability Distribution Systems under False Data Injection Attacks. The following excerpt, taken from his Award Abstract #1929147, provides a brief explanation of his research: "The operational landscape at electric distribution grids is undergoing a radical transformation. Notably, the impact of distributed renewable energy sources and the impetus to improve cybersecurity are challenging the status quo and calling for innovative techniques to enhance situational awareness in the distribution grid. With the support of an EPSCoR Research Fellowship, the PI and a Ph.D. student will receive training on new techniques, including a novel state estimation approach and a next-generation cyber-physical system simulation platform, at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The PI and the student will closely collaborate with NREL researchers by focusing on how to acquire better state estimation in low-observability distribution grids under cyber data attacks. This fellowship will provide an excellent opportunity for a Ph.D. student and an underrepresented undergraduate to gain valuable experience and develop new skill sets. The PI will bring the new techniques back to the home institution, i.e., Kansas State University (KSU), and introduce them to other investigators in related fields. This fellowship will foster a strong partnership between KSU and NREL, and help the state of Kansas better meet its renewable energy goals."

Monday, December 2, 2019

KSU 2018 MAPS REU student returns in 2019 to continue her research, but first takes a side trip to Mongolia

Molly Fisher in Mongolia
     What a difference a year makes, or so Molly Fisher found when she decided to return to Kansas and continue her 2018 Kansas State University (KSU) Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) collaboration with her 2018 mentor Dr. Walter Dodds, University Distinguished Professor of Biology at KSU and Co-Pi for the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas (MAPS). Last year, Molly worked with the drought-induced pools of Kings Creek, but this year Molly said that even though “the topic of study was a continuation of research from last year. The difference was that this year King's Creek had flow” and provided a "slightly more ‘normal year’ for comparison to our results from last year's drought samples.” Since last summer, Molly has worked remotely analyzing data from her 2018 research while completing her junior year at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa.
     When asked about this past summer’s REU experience, Molly said, “My 2019 summer REU had two parts to it. The first part involved working as a lab technician in Mongolia and the second part allowed me to continue my own research in the United States." Her unique 2019 MAPS research experience actually started in January when Dr. Dodds invited her back to KSU to work in his lab. In the lab, Molly continued her own research from last summer and also served as a lab technician for Anne Schechner, a Ph.D. candidate from the Dodds Lab. Molly first explained her lab technician experience and then her 2019 Summer REU research as follows:
Molly collecting and testing samples in Mongolia
"Anne is part of the MACRO Macroecological Riverine Project. As part of this team of researchers, Anne focuses on the system metabolism of temperate steppe rivers. She has research sites, both in Mongolia and the United States. I was contracted as her lab technician alongside another student, Sammi Grieger, a graduate student at Washington State University in Vancouver. On June 3, 2019, graduate students, principal investigators, and lab technicians from Ball State University, Kansas State University, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, and the University of Kansas traveled to Mongolia for the 2019 research expedition. Once in Mongolia, we met up with graduate students, lab technicians, and principal investigators from the National University of Mongolia. Anne, Sammi, and I were the metabolism crew and used probes to measure light, dissolved oxygen, temperature, and discharge. We also used an acoustic doppler velocimeter to measure barometric pressure and discharge. We spent over 20 days in the field camping the entire time. Overall, we collected data from 18 different sites in eastern Mongolia before returning to the United States on July 2, 2019. During the rest of July, I was at KSU completing my own research measuring stream N cycling using 15NH4+ in recirculating chambers to examine benthic N dynamics again looking specifically at remineralization, N uptake, and nitrification." Using her research samples collected during the 2018 summer, Molly created a poster “that James Guinnip, another Ph.D. candidate in the Dodds lab, generously presented in her absence at the 2019 Society for Freshwater Science annual meeting this past May.”
Molly's poster displaying her research

     As for her favorite part of the 2019 MAPS REU program, Molly said, “My favorite experience was by far Mongolia. I love fieldwork, the outdoors, and traveling. Having the opportunity to do all three was an opportunity I will be forever grateful to have had.” And as she reflected on her unique 2019 summer experience, she added, “Over the summer, I learned how fortunate I am to have a plethora of family, friends, and professors who are so supportive, encouraging, and proud of me. I wouldn’t be where I am at today without them. I also learned that Mongolian sugar wafers are quite delightful.”
     The Nashua, Iowa native returned to Simpson College this fall to complete her senior year and a degree in environmental science with a minor in history. Molly has also continued her campus involvement activities serving as the Senior Class President and a Carver Bridge Scholar as well as being an active member of the Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society, the Beta Beta Beta Honor Society, and the Sustainability Club. Over these next few months, Molly shared, “I will be applying to graduate schools (mainly in the marine biology realm) to further my education and continue to foster my love for science. I’m not exactly sure where I will end up, but I am thoroughly stoked to see what my future holds.”

Workforce Development, Education and Outreach funding for the KSU REU program 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 workforce development and 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 aquatic, plant and soil microbiome environments and ecological systems.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

MAPS Microbes on the Move: Exploring microbiomes through mobile museum experiences draws attention to microbial communities

The Microbes on the Move pop-up museum tent.
     Microbes on the Move: Exploring microbiomes through mobile museum experiences is one of the museum community outreach initiatives supported by Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas (MAPS). The program is directed by Dr. Teresa MacDonald, Associate Director for Public Programs at the KU Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum in collaboration with Dr. Ben Sikes, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kansas (KU), Associate Scientist for the Kansas Biological Survey, and KU MAPS Plant Research Team Leader. The Microbes on the Move project was developed as a pop-up museum designed to travel across the state of Kansas and inform communities about the diversity of microorganisms as well as their role in natural global cycles. The program focuses on illustrating the world of microbes through museum collections and living microbial communities. The objectives of the project are to encourage elementary-age children and their families to learn about the major microbe groups; to understand and appreciate the diverse nature of microorganisms; to discover connections between microbes and their local environment; and to experience microbes as living organisms through dynamic displays.
"Dorothy" observing specimens 
with microbial connections during
OZtoberfest in Wamego, KS
     Dr. MacDonald described the program as a “'drop-in event,' so visitors can experience the facilitated activities and specimen displays in any order and for as long as they are interested.” The mobile museum includes 15 portable exhibits displaying 90 different species such as fungi, lichen, and stromatolites from the KU Natural History Museum's microbe collections. It also features interactive activities such as ‘Microbe Minute’ cards that provide fun action labels and engaging stories connecting the displays to the microorganisms living in the participants' local community. Other activities involve visitors collecting samples from the local environment to culture fungi that create living art; making mini-microbial gardens using Winogradsky columns; and using USB microscopes and Foldscopes to observe individual microorganisms. When asked what the most popular activity was, Dr. MacDonald responded, “Many are drawn to the specimen displays and their microbial connections, others opt to begin exploring items with microscopes or mixing mud and water with other materials to build microbial columns. The opportunity to collect and grow fungi to find out what lives on their face, shoe, or other surface is also intriguing – particularly for young visitors.” The program's presentation is also flexible depending on the audience as Dr. MacDonald explained, “We added some activities highlighting some connections to the Wizard of Oz stories as part of our participation in OZtoberfest in Wamego.”
Students observing specimens 
with microbial connections
     The mobile museum's presentation team consists of three education and outreach staff from the KU Natural History Museum, three student assistants as well as some occasional volunteers. When selecting locations to reach out to, Dr. MacDonald said her team considers the area’s “population size, community demographics, potential community partners like a public library or other site, free community events that fit with the microbe theme and coincide with the team’s availability, the proximity the area has to informal science education opportunities, and the distance the event is from KU Natural History Museum.” So far, the Microbes on the Move project has participated in four events. The first and second outreach events occurred in the spring of 2019. One through a collaboration with the public library in Chanute, KS and the other in conjunction with the KU Spencer Museum of Art’s “Day of Creativity.” The third and fourth events occurred in the fall of 2019. One was in collaboration with the Emporia Public Library, and the other was involved with the Wamego, KS OZtoberfest. So far, the program has traveled over 800 miles reaching close to 1000 visitors, and the response to the project has been overwhelmingly positive.
     Currently, the team is planning to participate in six more events with two scheduled in the spring of 2020 (April 10 in Independence, KS and May 9 in Topeka, KS). The Microbes on the Move project is funded through the summer of 2021.

Workforce Development, Education and Outreach funding for the Microbes on the Move: Exploring microbiomes through mobile museum experiences 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 workforce development and 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 aquatic, plant and soil microbiome environments and ecological systems.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

MAPS science teams from across the state meet to present research progress

The MAPS Research Team
   Forty members of the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas (MAPS) research team consisting of faculty, post-docs, lab techs, and students met on November 4, 2019, at the Kansas Biological Survey located in Higuchi Hall at the University of Kansas (KU) to provide research updates and plan next steps for the MAPS project. Co-Pis, Dr. Walter Dodds from Kansas State University (KSU), Dr. Jim Bever (KU) and Dr. Sharon Billings (KU) welcomed the group and outlined the logistics of the meeting. Team leaders, Dr. Lydia Zeglin (KSU) and Dr. Amy Burgin (KU) from the Aquatic research group, Dr. Ben Sikes (KU) from the Plant research group, Dr. Matt Kirk (KSU) from the Soils research group and Dr. Tom Platt (KSU) and Dr. Fola Agusto (KU) from the Synthesis team reported on the accomplishments of their specific research teams. The presentation updates were followed by post-docs and students from each research group presenting their research projects and progress in using a lightning talk presentation format. The following students, post-docs and lab techs presented their specific MAPS research project.

WSU master's student Abigail Urban
From the Plant Research team:
  • Abigail Urban - Response of plan Communities to land use across the precipitation gradient in Kansas (WSU Houseman Lab)
  • Hannah Dea - MAPS: Plant Microbiome Samples Summer 2019 (KSU Jupponen Lab)
  • Matthew Kolp - Maize drought experiment and synthetic microbial communities (KU Wagoner Lab)
  • Susan Magnoli - Legume-rhizobia mutualism as a driver of grassland composition and community resistance to invasion (KU Bever Lab)

KSU master's student Stephan Koenigsberger
From the Soil Research Team:
  • Stephan Koenigsberger - Variation in soil redox with land use across the Kansas precipitation gradient (KSU Kirk Lab)
  • Irosha Wanighunga -  Effects of land use on methane oxidation (KSU Rice Lab)
  • Marcos Sarto - Soil microbial community composition across a precipitation gradient with different land uses (KSU Rice Lab)
  • Paige Hansen - EPSCoR soil microbial communities (KU Sikes Lab)
  • Annie Telegin - Exploring leachate from intact mesocosms (KU Burgin-Loeke Lab)
  • Matt Sena - Influence of precipitation and land use in pore geometry of soils with vertic properties (with KU Sullivan, Hirmas Billings, Brookfield, Lang)
KU post doc Matt Kolp
From the Aquatic Research Team:
  • Kyle Cochran - Distribution of stream water and sediment algae and bacteria across KS precipitation and land-use gradients (KSU Zeglin Lab)
  • Kynser Wahwahsuck - Nitrogen cycling in grassland vs. cropland dominated watersheds (KU Burgin Lab)
  • Joshua Dimapilis - Nitrogen-cycling microbes in Kansas stream sediments: linking structure and function
  • Janaye Hanschu and Abagel Pruitt - Nitrogen and microbiome effects on lake toxin production (KU Burgin Lab)
  • Anne Schechner - Spatial heterogeneity of metabolism in Kansas River (KSU Dodds Lab)
  • Bre Waterman - Contribution of groundwater to stream discharge and biogeochemistry across the precipitation gradient (KSU Kirk Lab)
  • Jess Wilhelm - Biogeochemical implications of stream intermittency across the precipitation gradient (KU Burgin Lab)
KSU Ph.D student Ha Le 
From the Synthesis Research Team:
  • Rebekah Wagner - Rhizobia-AMF synergism model (KU Bever and Agusto Lab)
  • Ha Le - Adaptation of pipelines to the Slurm system (KSU Liu Lab)
   Dr. Andrea Brookfield (KU) presented her and Dr. Amy Hansen's (KU) progress on their MAPS Research Education and Innovation (REI) Award project titled Integrated groundwater and surface water modeling for predicting aquatic microbiomes, and Samantha Thomas, MAPS Data Manager, provided information on options and best practices for collecting and sharing data. Following the whole group presentations, each team met to discuss future collaborative and synthesis opportunities. 
   The next MAPS team meeting, The 2020 MAPS Research Symposium , will take place in the Spring on March 2, 2020, at the Adams Alumni Center on the KU campus. In addition to the research faculty, post-docs, and students, the MAPS team will invite outreach participants, partners, stakeholders, state representatives, and university administrators across the state to participate.

Workforce Development, Education and Outreach funding for the MAPS annual all hands science meeting s 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 workforce development and 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.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

KU doctoral student teaches ecology to Kansas 3rd grade students through the MAPS KEES Program

Laura teaches students about soils
   Laura Jimenez-Jimenez understands the benefits of  STEM outreach, so when she was asked to participate in the Kansas Ecology for Elementary Students (KEES) program, she said "I got very excited and I happily joined the team. Particularly after finding out that I could teach in both Spanish and English at a dual-language school.” The KEES program is a part of the workforce development and education outreach initiatives included in the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas (MAPS). Dr.  Peggy Schultz, Associate Specialist in the Environmental Studies Program within the Kansas Biological Survey at the University of Kansas (KU) is the KEES program director. During the academic school year, the KEES program travels to elementary schools in Lawrence and Topeka, KS to provide 3rd-grade students with opportunities to conduct small group hands-on experiments in order to learn about Kansas ecology. One of the participating schools located in Topeka is the Scott Dual Language Magnet Elementary School, where they teach all of their science curricula in Spanish.
   Being bilingual and having studied ecology, biology, and statistics in her master's and doctoral programs, volunteering to teach Kansas ecology in Spanish was a natural fit for Laura. As a KEES instructor, she has “learned different strategies for teaching in elementary schools, from playing games to doing fun experiments in the classroom.” She also mentioned she enjoys contributing to the development of both the Spanish and English KEES curriculum. Her favorite part of this outreach experience is when she hears “comments from our students after they participate in a lesson. Most of them are really excited to participate and enjoy learning with us so much that they can hardly wait for our next visit.”
Laura teaches trophic levels as she gently
supports a King Snake 
   Laura's doctoral research uses mathematical models to study a wide range of problems in biology and ecology. She first became interested in combining mathematics with the natural sciences when she took a statistical ecology course in her master’s program. Laura explained, “having the opportunity to observe science through mathematics has been a beautiful experience. It has stimulated my creativity and helped to enhance my analytical thinking skills. Through statistics, I am able to use mathematical models to better understand random phenomena and analyze data. Moreover, working with ecologists has made me realize that I can contribute to solving problems that will have a positive impact on society.” Specifically, her area of interest focuses on “estimating the fundamental niches of species from occurrence and physiological data.” Laura described her research as follows, “The fundamental niche of a species is defined as the set of environmental combinations the studied species needs to maintain populations; leading, at the same time, to the survival of the species. The concept of the ecological niche is central to ecological biogeography, which focuses on spatial patterns of ecological communities called species distributions. Estimating the fundamental niche of a species is assumed to require physiological experiments, which require bringing specimens to the lab and placing them in chambers where environmental conditions are fully controlled. However, these experiments are not viable for all the species. The kind of data that is widely available is occurrence points, known to represent a subset of the fundamental niche. Our work focuses on finding an approximation to the fundamental niche from occurrences and any information related to physiological data. We do this by providing a statistical model for estimating the parameters that represent a fundamental niche. So far, we created some examples of virtual species for which the resulting estimates were compared to its theoretical fundamental niche with the purpose of evaluating our proposed model. The analysis of data from virtual species helped us describe conditions that may produce better estimates for the fundamental niche in real cases. Therefore, we are working on a second version of the model that takes into account what we learned from previous analyses.” Currently, Laura is a fifth-year Ph.D. student pursuing a doctoral degree in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. Her adviser is Dr. Jorge SoberĂ³n, a University Distinguished Professor of the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and the KU Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum.
Laura Jimenez-Jimenez
hosting a LAGO recruitment table
     Originally, Laura is from the state of Puebla in Mexico where she lived for fifteen years. Then, she and her family moved to the state of Guanajuato, Mexico where she went to college. While living in Mexico, Laura earned a bachelor's degree in Mathematics from the Department of Mathematics (DEMAT) at the University of Guanajuato and a master’s degree in Probability and Statistics from the Mathematics Research Center (CIMAT). She also received two scholarships from the Mexican National Council for Science and Technology (CONACyT). The first scholarship fully funded her master’s program, and the second has funded four years of her doctoral studies. During both her undergraduate and the master’s programs, she was an instructor for Matemorfosis, a group dedicated to the dissemination of science at the Mathematics Research Center (CIMAT). As an instructor, she specialized in teaching geometry with origami. By using origami, Laura could assemble several pieces of paper to build various 3D shapes which created a hand-on visual display to explore geometry concepts such as symmetry, volume, and regular polygons. Though she has used origami as a teaching tool, Laura added “Origami is one of my hobbies and it helps me relieve stress. In addition, I occasionally give origami workshops and talks as well.” While studying for her Ph.D. at KU, Laura has volunteered with the KEES program for 3 years, joined the KU Tango Club, and served as both the vice president and the president of the KU Latin American Graduate Organization (LAGO). This fall, Laura became a Graduate Teaching Assistant for an introductory statistics class for biology students, and stated, “I am very excited about having the opportunity to teach at KU.”
     After Laura completes her Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, she would like to find a postdoc position that also provides her with an opportunity to continue her research.

Workforce Development, Education and Outreach funding for the KEES Program 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 workforce development and 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.