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.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Funding Opportunity for 2014 First Awards Announced

Kansas NSF EPSCoR has released a request for proposals (RFP) for 2014 First Awards.  This opportunity is for early-career faculty in the areas of climate or energy research at the Regents universities in the state.

Download the RFP to see the full eligibility requirements and details for submission at http://www.nsfepscor.ku.edu/funding.html.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

CCM Faculty Present Seminars in Vietnam

by Steve Watson

Vara Prasad, professor of agronomy, and Chuck Rice, university distinguished professor of agronomy, recently spent 10 days in Vietnam as part of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases to Combat Climate Change Borlaug Fellowship Program. This program is under the auspices of the Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Their trip to Vietnam was to collaborate with university faculty and local producers on climate change and agricultural issues. Earlier this year, Loan Thanh Le, graduate student, from the University of Agriculture and Forestry in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, came to K-State's department of agronomy for three months to study with Prasad and Rice as part of this program.

Research into greenhouse gas emissions from the production of rice and biofuel feedstocks has become important to many countries around the world, including Vietnam. Many young faculty members in Vietnam are eager for collaborations such as this with faculty from the U.S., Prasad said.

While in Vietnam, Prasad and Rice presented two seminars at the university in Ho Chi Minh City, and visited producers in areas both north and south of the city. Agricultural producers in Vietnam are faced with problems of intense storms and flooding. Also, the intense rice farming of the region uses an enormous amount of nitrogen fertilizer, leading to potential greenhouse gas emissions from nitrous oxide. These emissions concerns are becoming very important in Vietnam, according to Le.

The fellowships are funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.


The Global Research Alliance engages developing countries in research to more clearly understand and mitigate the impacts of agriculture on climate change. Eligible countries are Colombia, Ghana, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Philippines and Vietnam.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Climate Change Discussed at Community Events

Kansas NSF EPSCoR is playing an important role in determining how Kansas farmers and policy makers can mitigate the effects of climate change.  Part of the process is interacting with the public to discuss the relevance of their work.  Several recent community events featured the expertise of KNE researchers on the topic.

Chasing Ice

Two CCM team members were included in a panel discussion on climate change sponsored by Kansas Climate Action, working with Sierra Club Southwind Group at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, KS.

Event poster
The discussion featured three perspectives:
  • THE POLITICAL: Kansas Representative Dennis Hedke, Geophysicist with Hedke-Saenger Geoscience, Ltd. and author of The Audacity of Freedom
  • THE FARMER: Donn Teske, Executive Director of the Kansas Farmers Union
  • THE SCIENCE BASED: Charles W. Rice, University distinguished professor, Department of Agronomy, Kansas State University and Johannes J. Feddema, Department of Geography, University of Kansas, both KNE lead researchers
The July 13 panel discussion was moderated by Carol Barta, Librarian with the North Central Kansas Libraries System and followed a screening of the documentary film Chasing Ice.

2013 Summer High Plains Drought Outlook and Assessment Forum

Dr Charles Rice, also CCM Project Director, moderated a panel session on crop and soil management for water at the 2013 Summer High Plains Drought Outlook and Assessment Forum. His presentation included conservation practices to mitigate and adapt to drought conditions. The Forum was presented by the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), Kansas Water Office, NOAA Regional Climate Services and National Drought Mitigation Center on July 24th in Colby, Kansas. Eighty-nine participants including researchers, managers, extension, and producers from Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska came together to discuss the evolution and outlook of the drought, issues of concern, and management practices relative to the multi-state region.
Stunted wheat in Logan County, Kansas
Photo by Larry Schwarm. Used by permission.

The Forum was part of a series of events and informational webinars held since the beginning of the current drought. The morning session focused on the evolution and outlook of the drought, including presentations from those involved in monitoring, assessing and predicting our climate. The afternoon session featured panel discussions on issues of concern and management practices relative to the multi-state region.

Another Drought Forum is planned for January 9-10, 2014 to be held in Garden City, KS.  For more information contact Bethany Perry at Bethany.perry@noaa.gov or 816-268-3133.

Climate Change and Its Local, Regional and International Implications

Dr. Johannes Feddema was also one of several panelist at an event addressing questions of “What are the facts?” about climate change, “What can we do about it?” and “Where do we go from here?”

Gathering data on wild wheat samples, Saline County, Kansas
Photo by Larry Schwarm. Used by permission.
At once one of the most talked-about, yet misunderstood, issues in American life, climate change is already having some significant impacts—here in Kansas, regionally, and around the world. The panel discussion was held to bring good, fact-based information about how the issue is affecting us now, and how it will continue to affect our lives and our society in the future.  Feddema elaborated on the science of climate change while others covered its effect on national security, Kansas agriculture and rural life, and faith and moral issues.

College Hill United Methodist Church in Wichita hosted the event on October 13.  It was sponsored by Southwind Group of Kansas Sierra Club and Kansas Interfaith Power & Light.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Students Represent Kansas EPSCoR at National Conference

Nashville, Tennessee played host to the 23rd National NSF EPSCoR Conference the first week of November.  Representatives from all 31 EPSCoR jurisdictions were present to learn and discuss the strengths and opportunities they have developed in science, technology, education, commercialization and economic growth.

One of the exciting tracks at the meeting highlighted student participants from the different states.  Kansas NSF EPSCoR (KNE) was fortunate to have four excellent students attend the meeting and participate in the student activities.

Students from across the country participated in a session called Scientist Idol where they learned how to effectively develop and communicate a targeted message of how EPSCoR is essential for strengthening their state's economy.  The four Kansas students collaborated on the message and developed a three-minute presentation complete with slides. Their message focused on how KNE attracts and develops a strong statewide Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) workforce.

In addition to Scientist Idol the students also participated in a poster session, highlighting their research as part of the KNE major initiative Climate Change and Energy: Basic Science, Impacts, and Mitigation.  The students and their poster titles were:

  • Eugene Cody, Haskell Indian Nations University undergraduate student, An Examination of Burning Coal in Hopi Homes
  • Lindsey Witthaus, University of Kansas graduate student, Exploring Climate Change in Kansas Watersheds through Hydrologic Modeling and Social Surveys
  • Maria Boyd, Haskell Indian Nations University undergraduate student, Growin' on the Wild Side: Climate Change & the Future of the Omaehnomenawuk "Wild Rice People"
  • Vahid Rahmani, Kansas State University graduate student, Impacts of Rainfall Distribution and Antecedent Moisture Condition on Runoff

During the poster session the students were able to use their newly-acquired communication skills to further hone their research messages and discuss them with other participants at the meeting. Interacting with the other student participants at the meeting and learning some of the excitement Nashville, The Music City, had to offer proved to be an excellent experience for everyone.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Kansas NSF EPSCoR Annual Meeting a Success

Despite the government shutdown keeping several federal representatives from attending, the Kansas NSF EPSCoR 2013 Annual Meeting was a big success.  Over 140 participants attended the two-day event titled Climate Change and Energy: Basic Science, Impacts, and Mitigation.

The focus of the meeting was to feature the accomplishments of the NSF-funded project of the same name.  As the project enters the fifth and final year, the emphasis of discussion was placed on its evolution over time, including research, collaboration, outreach, and sustainability for the future. 

Dr. Steven Warren, Vice Chancellor for Research & Graduate Studies at The University of Kansas opened the meeting praising the program, led by Dr. Kristin Bowman-James (Project Director and University Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at KU), as a model of how multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional projects should be run.

The keynote address was delivered by noted materials scientist, Dr. Susan Sinnott, Director of Cyberinfrastructure for Atomistic Simulation CAMS) and Alumni Professor of Materials Science at the University of Florida.  She discussed the evolution of some common modeling methods and their integration with cutting-edge experimental methods. New methods aid in the discovery and design of new materials to improve existing technologies or enable new applications. Such applications are in the context of nanomaterials and materials used for energy applications, including electronic devices, energy storage, and nuclear fuels.

The keynote topic set the tone for day where the research leaders for the Climate and Energy initiative followed with overview perspectives of their research accomplishments.  The presentations demonstrated capacity-building, meeting research milestones, and creative methods for communicating the science by reaching out to community populations.

Dr. Debra Rolison, a physical chemist at the Naval Research Laboratory was the featured lunchtime speaker. She discussed the pervasiveness of gender inequality within the science and technology research community and the need to challenge the status quo with reasoned and bold arguments for change.

Sessions after lunch and the following morning included individual scientific presentations by the Climate and Energy faculty and student researchers.  Subjects ranged from the development of solar electric and ultrathin film photovoltaic devices (solar cells) to using climate and water data for farmer decision making and land and crop management in Kansas.

The technical presentations of the day gave way to a casual reception and poster session where a wider range of students and faculty had a chance to display and discuss their research in an informal setting.  The session featured almost 50 posters from scientists at Wichita State University, Kansas State University, University of Kansas, Haskell Indian Nations University, Emporia State University and Pittsburg State University.  These posters demonstrated the breadth of Kansas NSF EPSCoR including more than just the climate and energy initiative but also education and diversity efforts and First Awards that kick-start the research programs for new faculty members in Kansas.

Participants at the evening's dinner banquet were treated to a unique design exhibit that grew from activities in the Biofuels and Climate Change: Farmers' Land Use Decisions (BACC:FLUD for short) project.  Kate Meyer, Assistant Curator of Works on Paper at The University of Kansas Spencer Museum of Art, talked about the relationship between science and art and how it can be powerfully depicted through visual design.  Meyer enlisted the help of Dr. Patrick Dooley, professor of design at KU, and his students to create a series of posters that utilize graphic design principles to illuminate, translate, and communicate aspects of BACC:FLUD research and its relevance to Kansans.

The overall success of the meeting punctuates the excitement of such a large and carefully planned project that includes over 80 researchers and 150 students from across the state.  Combined, the efforts of the project position Kansas to be able to provide sustainable solutions to global challenges.

Participants attending the Nanotechnology for Renewable Energy research symposium session.
Participants attending the Biofuels and Climate Change Mitigation research symposium session.
For more information about Kansas NSF EPSCoR and the Climate and Energy initiative, please visit http://www.nsfepscor.ku.edu/ph6.html.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

New Faculty Receive KNE First Awards for Climate and Energy Research

The summer of 2013 saw seven new faculty researchers in Kansas receive Kansas NSF EPSCoR First Awards to support their programs in climate and energy science. KNE First Awards is a competitive program to provide research funds for early career sciences in Kansas.  Learn more about the recipients below.

A novel task and data regrouping based parallel approach to solve massive problems faster on multithreaded computing systems

Abu Asaduzzaman, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, Wichita State University

The growing demand for developing energy-efficient faster computing systems is fueling the interest in developing better concurrent/parallel techniques to solve computation intensive problems. In designing methods for parallel computing, both the extent of the difficulty and the nature of the proposed solutions depend significantly on programming and architectural constraints. Current state of the knowledge on parallel processing is focused on designing massively multithreaded systems. The aim of this research is to develop an innovative task and data regrouping based parallel strategy to solve complex problems faster for saving energy and time and thus minimizing environmental and climate impacts.

Coherent transport and localization dynamics of excitons in molecular aggregates

Wai-Lun Chan, Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy, University of Kansas

One of the major challenges in nano-structure based solar cells is to effectively direct photo-excited excitons to interfaces for charge dissociation. Nature provides a valuable lesson - effective exciton transport in photosynthetic complex is mediated by interplay between coherent coupling and incoherent trapping at reaction sites. Similar mechanisms should presence in organic materials but are neither well understood, nor utilized in photovoltaics applications. Using time-resolved photoemission spectroscopy and fluorescent spectroscopy, we will temporally, spatially, and energetically resolve the exciton dynamics in molecular aggregates. The results will be used to study the competition between ultrafast coherent transport and exciton localization.

Two-Dimensional Heterojunction Tunneling Transistors for Low Power Applications

Hsin-Ying Chiu, Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy, University of Kansas

The proposed research addresses the grand challenge of developing low power circuit design based on heterojunction tunneling transistors by artificially stacking atomically thin layers of nanomaterials, i.e. carbon-­‐based nanomaterials and transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs). Moreover, the proposed research will be conducted with a unique platform of combined electrical transport and optical pump-­probe measurements, which can serve a broad range of research schemes of studying physics at interfaces between two different nanomaterials. Therefore, this research will utilize the unique heterojunction properties of novel nanomaterials to develop low power and high-performance nanodevice applications.

Development of an FPGA-based Adaptable Peak Current-mode Control

Erik Mayer, Assistant Professor of Electronics Engineering, Pittsburg State University

This research focuses on the development of an adaptable, peak current-mode control for use in buck and related power converters. The control will use the modified z-transform model to determine the optimal amount of compensating ramp necessary for converters operating under a wide range of conditions. The applications would include a converter for charging batteries with solar power and a buck converter replacement for pre-charge resistors in electric and hybrid vehicle inverters. The control will be FPGA-based which will allow for several concurrent controls to be implemented on a single integrated circuit along with supervisory control.

Computational Studies of Biocatalyst Systems for Biomass Conversion

Katie Mitchell-Koch, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Wichita State University

Biorefining of cellulosic feedstock for the production of ethanol and other biofuels is a promising direction for energy independence and efficiency. Bioengineered enzymes are being developed by companies, such as Abengoa Bioenergy, for these purposes. Computational studies of enzyme-solvent and enzyme-substrate interactions will inform the rational design and engineering of enzymes. Results can be used to tailor the properties of these biocatalysts and their solvent systems in order to facilitate rapid transport of substrates to and from the active site, faster reaction rates, and catalyst specificity.

Multifunctional Copolymeric Photovoltaics

Shenqiang Ren, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, University of Kansas

This proposal will address a key challenge of multifunctional excitonic system: programming optical, electronic and magnetic properties by organic photovoltaic material design. The goal is to understand principles that govern rational design, synthesis and self-assembly of excitonic photovoltaic polymers, and to discover their unique coupling among room temperature excitonic multiferroic and photovoltaic properties. The project will be comprised of following interrelated sub-programs: (1) synthesis of semiconducting polymers with new optical, magnetic and electronic properties. (2) understanding of the integration between exciton multiferroics and photovoltaics to contribute the extension of exciton-based nanotechnology.

Charge and energy transfer upon inner-shell photoionization

Artem Rudenko, Assistant Professor of Physics, Kansas State University

Charge and energy transfer reactions drive numerous important processes in physics, chemistry and biology, with applications ranging from artificial photosynthesis to molecular electronics. This project aims at revealing basic mechanisms and time scales of charge rearrangement and energy redistribution in molecular systems upon inner-shell photoionization. After creating a localized source of positive charge by the core-shell absorption of an X-ray photon, charge and energy flow in different molecular environments will be studied on the atomistic level by coincident momentum spectroscopy. Expected results will shed light on fundamental interatomic relaxation processes and advance our understanding of radiation damage mechanisms.

To learn about past KNE First Awardees please visit

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

1 Kansas Farmer

University of Kansas Students enrolled in Professor Patrick Dooley’s VISC 414 Visual Communication: Publication and Editorial designed six posters presenting topics related to BACC:FLUD research. The posters draw inspiration from the art, science, and history of the Dust Bowl, as we turn to the sciences and the arts for a better understanding of the environmental realities facing Kansas today. 1 Kansas Farmer visually communicates the research of the Biofuels and Climate Change: Farmers’ Land Use Decisions (BACC:FLUD) project currently being conducted by scholars at the University of Kansas and Kansas State University, which examines Kansas farmers’ land use decisions and their relationship to biofuel crop opportunities and climate change.

This collaboration utilizes graphic design principles to illuminate, translate, and communicate aspects of BACC:FLUD research and its relevance to Kansans. The posters will be displayed at the University of Kansas Spencer Museum of Art and will be available for future circulation. Methods of ascertaining viewer response to the posters and the issues they explore are currently in development. 1 Kansas Farmer capitalizes on a local audience primed to consider the historical impacts of agricultural land use on the environment during the Dust Bowl, and turns that attention toward current research addressing those issues and their present and future impact upon the state.

These posters will be displayed in the main hallway of the Spencer Museum of Art in the fall of 2013 in conjunction with a small exhibition related to KU’s 2013-14 Common Book, Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time, a book about the Dust Bowl. To design these six panels, 24 students engaged with photographs taken by Larry Schwarm, an artist commissioned by the Spencer and BACC:FLUD to interrogate the conditions under which agriculture occurs in Kansas today, artworks from the Spencer Museum of Art and K-State’s Beach Museum of Art, interview quotations, survey responses, and other research collected and conducted by the BACC:FLUD team. 1 Kansas Farmer fosters an art/science collaboration to communicate research about important issues effectively and compellingly to audiences.

Professor Dooley’s students pose with one of the designs.
In addition to Professor Dooley and his class, others involved in the creation of the works included Kate Meyer; Spencer Museum of Art (KU); Dietrich Earnhart, Economics (KU); Larry Schwarm, Photography (Emporia State University); Jane Gibson, Anthropology (KU)  Stacey Swearingen White, Urban Planning (KU)  BJ Gray, IPSR (Jane’s KU grad student); Dana Peterson, KARS (KU); Jude Kastens, KARS (KU)  Belinda Sturm, Engineering (KU); Jeff Peterson, Agricultural Economics (K-State); Russell Graves, Agricultural Economics (K-State), Dave Mechem, Geography (KU)  Nate Brunsell, Geography (KU)  Chris Brown, Environmental Studies (KU); and Alyse Zadalis, IPSR (KU).

Friday, September 6, 2013

Hybrid Materials on Nanostructured Templates to Improve Lithium-ion Batteries

By using hybrid materials assembled on a vertical brush-like nanostructured template, a university-industrial collaboration has developed novel anode materials for lithium-ion batteries with eight-fold improvement in storage capacity and five-fold improvement in charge-discharge rate.

Jun Li, professor of chemistry at Kansas State University, and Judy Wu, University Distinguished Professor of Physics at The University of Kansas, worked together to develop these materials with their collaborators at NASA Ames Center for Nanotechnology and Catalyst Power Techologies Inc. both in California.

Lithium-ion batteries are critical energy sources for portable electronics. Improving the energy capacity, the charge-discharge rate (i.e. power), and lifetime can significantly enhance these devices. It is particularly important for new renewable energy applications such as electric cars and storage of intermittent electrical energy generated by solar cells and wind turbines.

Silicon has been known as a good Lithium-ion anode material which can theoretically provide about 10 times higher Li storage capacity than the current commercial anode material (i.e. graphite). However, the pulverization caused by the large volume changes during charge-discharge cycles has limited its usable lifetime. Coating silicon as thin shells around vertically aligned carbon nanotubes allows it to freely expand and contract but remain in good electrical contact with the highly conductive and stable carbon core. The hybrid material has shown dramatically improved performance.

The core-shell hybrid nanostructure (see the TEM image at the center) allows the reversible volume change during cycling between the charged (right) and discharged (left) states.

Energy-Related Education Programs Benefit Kids and Scientists Alike

Informal science opportunities such as museum visits offer youth and their adult chaperons an opportunity to experience science in an engaging, hands-on manner that promotes interest and supports life-long learning. This is exactly why Teresa MacDonald, Director of Education, is offering up at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum.

Nanoscale and energy are two important areas of current science and engineering research that are well placed to make connections between research and everyday life. The collaboration between scientists and educators has given researchers in the Kansas NSF EPSCoR-funded project, Nanotechnology for Renewable Energy, the opportunity to enhance their knowledge of educational research and practices, specifically in informal science education.

Creating informative, engaging and challenging educational experiences are effective at enhancing science knowledge and understanding, as well as generating interest in science subjects and careers. The resources developed as part of this project have engaged youth, teachers and parents, as well as the broader general public with these important science ideas through hands-on programming and extensive online material. These experiences build capacity with everyone involved in terms of their content knowledge related to nanoscale, energy and related topics, and scientists’ understanding of informal science education.

The goals of creating these opportunities were to provide challenging and engaging science education experiences that introduce core ideas about nanoscale, matter and energy. The diverse activities developed to meet these goals have successfully reached out to both youth and adult participants, and their audience continues to grow.

How Small is Small explores size and scale, where 2nd through 6th graders discover what are the smallest things in the universe are and how small they are. The new Cartoon Guide to Energy hands-on program for elementary and middle school groups that use classic cartoon scenarios to explore how fundamental forces and properties of matter build a framework for thinking about energy across its different contexts. Science Shorts is a set of four mini animated videos about solar energy and electricity. It has now had more than 20,000 views (logo and screen shots above). Photon Invaders, an online game about solar cells is now available as an Android app. Another game that explores how electrical charges work has been created (Eddie’s Obstacle Course) and the app version was recently released (screen shots above).Quarked! Adventures in the Subatomic Universe (www.quarked.org) is a website that introduces kids ages 7 and up, and their families and teachers to the exciting world of particle physics. It continues to have visitors from more than 60 countries, with more than 72,000 unique visits in 2012.

For more information about these museum offerings please visit http://naturalhistory.ku.edu/education.

The museum has developed some awesome refrigerator magnets and temporary tatoos of these characters that are fun for all ages.

Contact the KNE office if you are interested in obtaining them at no cost: nsfepscor@ku.edu or (785) 864-3096.

Adaption Strategies for Grain Sorghum for a Varying Climate

Plant growth simulations developed by Kansas State University researchers have shown that by shifting planting dates earlier by three weeks and applying irrigation at appropriate times, farmers can mitigate sorghum yield losses due to increasing temperature and decreasing precipitation.

Management practice adjustments, especially planting date shifts and irrigation have the potential to counteract the effect of climate change on the yield of some crops. This research provides farmers with alternative strategies to adapt to the effects of climate change and decrease their yield loss.

Rapid change in temperature, precipitation and the concentration of carbon dioxide is a major concern. These climate variables directly and indirectly affect the agriculture sector, mainly by reducing productivity. Researchers can use highly detailed crop models to simulate the effects of different predicted climate scenarios. The results can allow them to suggest crop management strategies to farmers for adapting to a given scenario. An adaptation strategy such as shifting planting dates earlier allows a crop to grow in a comparatively favorable environment avoiding the detrimental effect of higher temperatures on growth. A focused irrigation strategy can also help to balance reduced soil moisture and leaf water, caused by lower precipitation and higher temperatures.

This research is being conducted at Kansas State University Department of Agronomy by Abhishes Lamsal, Aavudai Anandhi Swamy, M.B. Kirkham and PV. Vara Prasad. Photo credit: Milo Head (by Larry Schwarm, used by permission)