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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.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Kansas State EPSCoR physicist uses X-ray lasers to create molecular black hole

Artistic rendering of "molecular black hole"
courtesy of DESY/Science Communication Lab.
    Kansas NSF EPSCoR Track II physicist, Artem Rudenko, and his colleague, Daniel Rolles, both assistant professors of physics at Kansas State University (KSU), have successfully used short pulses of ultra-intense high-energy X-rays to create detailed images illustrating X-Ray interactions with and break ups of molecules.  Rudenko is a research team member on the current Track 2 NSF EPSCoR grant titled, Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules and Nanostructures
    This discovery involved shooting iodomethane, CH3I, and iodobenzene, C6H5I molecules with an X-ray laser.  The X-ray laser used in the experiments is located at Linac Coherent Light Source at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University and has an intensity of 100 quadrillion kilowatts per square centimeter.  This X-ray laser is understood to be the most powerful laser in the world.  According to Rudenko, "As this powerful X-ray light hits a molecule, the heaviest atom, the iodine, absorbs a few hundred times more X-rays than all the other atoms. Then, most of its electrons are stripped away, creating a large positive charge on the iodine." This positive charge pulls electrons from other atoms in the molecule creating a short-lived black hole. This stripping away process only takes a few femtoseconds (A femtosecond is a millionth of a billionth of a second) and repeats the process until the molecule explodes. Unlike a real black hole in space, the molecular black hole allows the electrons to eventually escape.
   This research may help scientists better understand the damages from X-ray radiation; provide a tool to image biological particles, such as proteins and viruses, with high resolution; shed light on the charge and energy flow in highly energized molecules involved with solar energy conversion; and impact the field of radiation-driven chemistry.

For more information on this discovery go to K-State News  and the June 1 2017 Issue of Nature.

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation EPSCoR Track II Award No. IIA-1430493 and was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Basic Energy Sciences Program 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Kansas EPSCoR 2017 "Modeling the Unseen in the Physical Sciences" teachers share AMO lessons at KATS Camp

     The Kansas Association of Teachers of Science (KATS) held its annual KATS Camp in Junction City, Kansas (KS) on April 21 - 23, 2017.  As a follow up activity to the 2016 KS EPSCoR Physics Teacher Workshop titled: Modeling the Unseen in the Physical SciencesKS NSF EPSCoR sponsored participants so they could attend the 2017 KATS Camp and network with other science teachers from around the state.
     During the 2016 summer KS EPSCoR workshop the invited middle and high school physics, chemistry and physical science teachers interacted with the KS NSF EPSCoR Track 2 Collaborative Research: Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules and Nanostructures grant researchers: Chris Elles (KU), Ewe Thumm (KSU), AT Le (KSU) and Bret Flanders (KSU). Under this project team's guidance, the teachers made curricular connections to the grant's current research and created Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (AMO) lessons to teach to their students. These lessons specifically addressed the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Science and Engineering Practices that related to AMO Physics. As part of the workshop follow-up, teachers attending the KATS Camp were offered the opportunity to present on their workshop experiences, the AMO lesson plans they created, and their students reactions after teaching their lessons. Of the participants who attended the camp, five decided to present during the Kansas NSF EPSCoR AMO lesson sharing session titled Linking Contemporary Research to NGSS. This session was chaired by Dr. Paul Adams, Dean of the College of Education, and Professor of Education and Professor of Physics at Fort Hayes State University.  Adams has been a part of the KS NSF EPSCoR Physics Teacher Workshop planning team since its inception in 2015.
Tim Elsen, Molly Bovos, Kara Luce and Paul Adams
   During the KS NSF EPSCoR presentation, each teacher gave a short summary of what they learned at the workshop and then stationed themselves around the room to demonstrate their lessons. Audience members were encouraged to visit each station to learn how the workshop participants were teaching AMO topics in there classrooms. Wilbur Middle School science teacher and President Elect of KATS, Tim Elsen, discussed his lesson that introduced "the Electromagnetic Spectrum to middle school students by allowing them to 'discover' the infrared portion of the spectrum. Students recreate Herschel's infrared experiment in the classroom." Fellow workshop participant and physics teacher at Basehor-Linwood High School, Molly Bovos, presented a lesson on Modeling Laser Strength.  She explained "I worked on this lesson with my students and we found that there are many factors that contribute to the "strength" of the laser such as different types of light and radiation. We learned that strength could be described by frequency, energy, or power." Kansas physics teacher, Kara Luce from Holcomb High School, was attended the 2016 NE EPSCoR  Physics Teacher Workshop at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She discussed the history and current knowledge of electromagnetism as well as the usefulness of using demonstrations to illustrate its underlying physics concepts.
Pam Kraus
Pam Kraus, physics teacher at St. John's Military School said "I presented the lesson I designed at the EPSCoR workshop last summer. It was about using lasers to introduce the concept of electromagnetic radiation in preparation for teaching high school chemistry students about ER given off when excited electrons drop to lower energy levels."  She used different colored hand held lasers and gummy bears to demonstrate her topic. Adrianne Wedel, physics teacher at Newton High School, demonstrated her lesson on Modeling the Human Eye by showcasing cell phone and prism holograms.
Adrianne Wedel

   Ottawa High School's physics teacher and first time KATS participant, James Deane was an audience participant during the  KS EPSCoR presentations.  He commented on the session saying "I thought it was very informative. My fellow workshop attendees have put together some very polished activities." And he added, "If I had it to do over again, I would probably polish my workshop activity and present."
    As for the KATS Camp overall experience, Bovos, a first time participant, commented, "I gained so much by going to this conference and I think it is important for us to get together to revisit what we learned at the EPSCoR summer workshop."  And, Elsen emphasized, "I certainly hope that the EPSCoR summer workshop continues to promote attendance at KATS Kamp and offering the chance to present. This is a great way to promote networking and creative collaboration!"

Education and outreach funding for sponsoring Kansas physics teacher workshop participants' attendance to the  2017 KATS Camp 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


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Kansas NSF EPSCoR Director's discovery featured in the Department of Energy's Office of Science Highlights

Dr. Kristin Bowman-James
   The Department of Energy has featured Dr. Kristin Bowman-James' scientific research on their May 2, 2007 highlights page. Dr. Bowman-James is a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at the University of Kansas and the Director of Kansas NSF EPSCoR.  She and her colleagues: Dr. Jonathan L. Sessler, Chemistry Department, University of Texas, Austin; Dr. Bruce A. Moyer, Oak Ridge National Laboratory; and Dr. Amar H. Flood, Chemistry Department, Indiana University, Bloomington, have designed molecules, called chelators, that positively impact energy production by selectively removing unwanted ions from complex solutions.These strategically designed chelators, generated in this research will selectively separate ions on demand allowing more efficient processing and safe disposal of radioactive waste.  Specifics related to the highlight can be found on the DOE Office of Science Basic Energy Sciences highlight page titled Casting a Wide Net and on the In Depth tab of Newswise. 
Image courtesy of Bruce Moyer and Andy Sproles, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
The image above illustrates the idea that specific ions can be captured using designed molecular chelators ranging from foldamers for chloride, tetraurea chelates for sulfate, strapped calizpyrroles for lithium nitrate, and calixcrowns for cesium.

Funding for these projects was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences: Jonathan Sessler (Grant No. DE-FG02-01ER15186), Bruce Moyer (Grant No. ERKCC08), Kristin Bowman-James (Grant No. DE-SC0010555), Amar Flood (Grant No. DE-FG02-09ER16068). Bruce Moyer acknowledges additional support for applied research from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Environmental Management.