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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.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Kansas, Nebraska "Collaborative Research: Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules, and Nanostructures" NSF Track 2 Grant supports collaborative outreach to small college faculty

Dr. Hui Zhao and Dr. Benjamin Tayo
       A unique partnership has formed between, Dr. Benjamin O. Tayo Assistant Professor of Physics at Pittsburg State University and Dr. Hui Zhao, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Kansas as part of the educational outreach initiatives funded by the NSF EPSCoR grant titled "Collaborative Research: Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules, and Nanostructures", #1430519.  This educational initiative provides funding support for a small college physics faculty member to work closely with one of the key researchers on the grant project. Their educational plan involves collaborating on research, co-authoring any publications that may result from their research and developing related curriculum to enhance Pittsburg State’s physics curriculum.
Dr. Zhao conducting experiments in his lab
     Their research focuses on the theoretical studies of the electronic and optical properties of two-dimensional crystals. In particular, Tayo has been working on modeling the properties of the W1-xMoxS2 alloy as a function of the composition x. He surmised "that being able to characterize the electronic properties of this alloy for composition x could possibly lead to advanced functional materials with properties superior to that of the individual materials MoS2 and WS2."  Zhao added, “We are performing experiments to be compared with the model. This will help understand electronic states in these alloys. Such knowledge contributes to the goal of controlling electrons in these materials with light.” Furthermore, he emphasized “this collaborative research clearly aligns with the emphasis for the Thrust 2 research effort of the grant directed at two-dimensional materials.” Zhao will perform experimental studies as part of their proposed research activities. Tayo will provide theoretical and numerical capabilities to improve the understanding of these properties that will enhance the impact of the collaborative work.  They both hope “to find new ways of controlling the electronic and optical properties of 2D materials” using theoretical calculations to explain and complement the experimental findings. From this collaborative research project, they hope to use their data tested theories in future studies and experiments.
        Students have also benefited from this collaborative initiative.  Each professor has had the opportunity to involve a graduate student in the project. Tayo’s graduate student worked with him throughout the summer, and although his graduate student found the research a little challenging, it has sparked his interest in the field.  As a result, Tayo's graduate student enrolled in a topics class titled “Density Functional Theory” to improve his understanding of electronic and optical  physics.  With this enhancement of his knowledge base, he can then start performing some calculations for the experiments.  Zhao is also supporting a graduate student who is performing the related experiments
     Tayo summarized the experience so far by saying:
I am grateful that by means of this collaboration, I was really busy last summer carrying out research. The knowledge gain so far has helped me a lot and it’s very useful for the students as I incorporate some of the knowledge into my teaching. I would strongly recommend the program to my colleagues because being active in research really enhances the depth of your knowledge and makes you to become a better teacher.
     And Zhao added:
The goals were to involve faculty members from small colleges in cutting edge research that would eventually transfer benefits to their students. The theory-experimental collaboration model is a perfect way to accomplish this since it doesn’t require facilities from the small college partner.
     Tayo and Zhao will continue their collaboration throughout the remainder of the academic school year.

The  Kansas and Nebraska NSF EPSCoR Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules, and Nanostructures, #1430519  Track 2 Grant is 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.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Kansas and Nebraska present a Symposium on Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules and Nanostructures

     Over 100 university faculty and students attended the 2015 Nebraska Research & Innovation Conference Symposium on Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules & Nanostructures held September 28-29, 2015 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Lincoln, Nebraska.  The symposium was sponsored by both the Kansas NSF EPSCoR and the Nebraska NSF EPSCoR programs.
Program speakers and participants
     The seminar featured guest presentations by Dr. Mark I. Stockman, Georgia State University, who discussed Condensed Matter in Ultrafast and Superstrong Fields: Attosecond PhenomenaDr. Anatoly Svidzinsky, Texas A&M University, who discussed QASER: From Radio Frequencies to Optical DomainDr. Philip H. Bucksbaum, Stanford University, who discussed Ultrafast Electron Motion in Atoms and Molecules;  Dr. Stephen Leone, University of California, Berkeley, who discussed Attosecond Dynamics: From Atoms to Semiconductor Solids; and Dr. Todd Martinez, Stanford University, who discussed Understanding and Modeling Ultrafast Molecular Dynamics from First Principles.
Dr. Martin Centurion; Dr.Vinod Kumarappan; Dr. Hui Zhao
      The speaker sessions closed with three presentations from the Kansas and Nebraska researchers currently involved in the collaborative NSF EPSCoR Track 2 Grant (#1430519) titled Collaborative Research: Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules, and Nanostructures.  Dr. Martin Centurion, represented the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and discussed Diffractive Imaging of Isolated Molecules with Femtosecond Electron Pulses.  Dr. Vinod Kumarappan represented Kansas State University and discussed Diffractive Imaging of Isolated Molecules with Femtosecond Electron Pulses.   And, Dr. Hui Zhao represented the University of Kansas and discussed Ultrafast Electron Transport In and Between Single Atomic Layers.
Symposium Poster Session
     The day concluded with over 30 undergraduate and graduate students, post docs and faculty from across Kansas and Nebraska participating in the poster session that showcased their research in Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

KU Geography PhD Candidate and HERS Alum featured in the Spring 2015 Edition of "Winds of Change"


Winds of Change Spring 2015
     David Ward published an article in the spring 2015 issue of the  Winds of Change titled “Doing Something About The Weather: The forecast is calling for growth in climate-related careers.”  In the article, he discussed the surge of public awareness regarding climate change and the career opportunities it is producing. Ward also highlighted several students' learning experiences within these new interdisciplinary climate change academic programs that are developing at universities across the United States. Ward found most programs were very receptive to collaborating with other disciplines and concluded this cross curricular approach was better preparing students to enter the climate change workforce.  In addition, he discovered a growing trend that many of these climate-related programs were very interested in working directly with tribal communities or with Native American students researching how changing weather patterns are impacting Indian Country.
Winds of Change, Spring 2015
      Paulette Blanchard, Absentee Shawnee and alum of the Kansas EPSCoR educational collaboration with the Haskell Environmental Research Studies initiative (HERS), was one of the students featured in the article. She credits her interest in climate change and the environment to the HERS summer internship experience she had while attending Haskell Indian Nation University as an undergraduate.
      Following her undergraduate career, Blanchard completed a master’s degree at the University of Oklahoma studying at the South Central Climate Science Center. Her research focused on how climate and geography were impacting tribes across several states.  She found that tribes were aware of climate change because it impacted them personally, socially and economically.  However, she was not sure if they were trying to combat it as much as trying to survive it.  She commented that the “challenge was there were 63 tribes in the area and three fourths of them are…not situated in areas that can provide economic stability.” Furthermore, she mentioned that many of the communities were struggling to find sources of quality water, to build energy-efficient homes or invest solar powered systems.
     Blanchard supports the interdisciplinary approach to a climate change education because it addresses the many aspects of the tribal communities' concerns and prepares students to work with them.  She recognized the importance for any one working with these communities to understand the social and cultural dynamics, the history, the economics and the politics of the community that is being supported and that “cultural competency was a must.”

Paulette is currently pursuing her PhD in the Department of Geography at the University of Kansas.  

HERS provides the platform for various stages of support for programs of interest to American Indian/Alaska native communities, most recently focused on the effects of climate change on indigenous communities.  

Friday, October 2, 2015

Teachers Explore Improving Climate Education at Fort Hays State University


Dr. Paul Adams instructing teachers
     This fall, Kansas school districts statewide are in the process of implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).   However, as Dr. Paul Adams, Dean of the College of Education, Anschutz Professor of Education and Professor of Physics at Fort Hays State University (FHSU) commented, “while the vision advocated by the NGSS is a significant step to improving science education in the country, the knowledge and skills necessary to implement this vision lags behind.” So Adams, using his 2015 Kansas NSF EPSCoR Education and Diversity Grant Award, designed a secondary science teacher summer program to address some of these content and teaching strategy limitations.  His five day teacher workshop titled: Improving Climate Education through Field Observations and Data Analysis, had three specific goals:
  • to provide Kansas science teachers the opportunity to enhance their content knowledge; 
  • to discuss teaching strategies associated with the new NGSS curriculum requirements; and 
  • to explore resources that could support their lessons planning as it related to climate and weather.  
So on July 6, 2015, twelve high school and middle school science teachers from across the state of Kansas met at FHSU to work with Adams and to learn more about teaching climate and climate change within the scope of the NGSS curriculum guidelines.
Science teachers collecting data
    The workshop's hands-on activities featured using infrared thermometers and sun photometers as well as researching clouds, precipitation, relative humidity and biomass. In addition, participants were introduced to the worldwide science and education program, GLOBEGlobe Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment. GLOBE served as an excellent resource for studying climate observation protocols; exploring tested climate and climate change teaching strategies; and learning how to use data to develop scientific arguments that aligned with the NGSS science and engineering practices. Teachers were also exposed to databases and database analysis tools in MY NASA DATA. This site created opportunities for the learner to develop strategies for arguing from evidence.
      During the workshop, teachers also learned how to define a study site, how to do field studies and how to use technology tools to help students reach NGSS performance expectations. At the end of the workshop, teachers used GLOBE data to produce NGSS lessons and to create course specific NGSS implementation plans incorporating GLOBE-based learning activities. These implementation plans will be made available to teachers across the state at the www.fhsu.edu/smei website.
      This climate workshop was so successful that there is a plan to re-run it as a short course at the Kansas Association of Teachers of Science meeting on Hydrology. There is also interest in doing an elementary science teacher GLOBE workshop and grants are being considered to fund these programs for the future.

The 2015 Kansas NSF EPSCoR Education and Diversity Grants 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 climate or energy research or atomic/molecular/optical science.