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.

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.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Kansas Elementary Teachers Learn About The Nature of Matter With The Support of Kansas NSF EPSCoR

  As a further extension of outreach to Kansas Science teachers, the Track 2 Grant #1430519 titled: Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules, and Nanostructures sponsored the Operation Primary Physical Science (OPPS) Workshop at Fort Hays State University.  The workshop was held July 17 – 18, 2017. Twenty four elementary school teachers, mostly from the rural communities across the state, were invited to participate in this two day workshop to study how to teach the Nature of Matter and aligned it with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
   Dr. Paul Adams, Dean of the College of Education, Anshultz Professor of Education, and Professor of Physics at Fort Hays State University (FHSU), has been involved with the highly successful Track 2 Kansas EPSCoR High School Physics and Chemistry Teachers’ workshop, Modeling the Unseen in the Physical Sciences, for the last 3 years. As a result of the Kansas adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in June of 2013, a new vision was created for teaching and learning K -12 Science.  The relatively new NGSS structure involves transforming traditional science teaching approaches by shifting the focus from the memorization of facts to greater student engagement in the processes of science. Using the NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas, the Science and Engineering Practices and the Crosscutting Concepts, (known as three dimensional teaching) teachers are now expected to guide students to understand the big ideas of science, conduct investigations and develop models; and bridge concepts across disciplinary boundaries. Because many elementary teachers are not as well prepared to lead students in content-rich, inquiry-based quality instruction, Dr. Adams developed this workshop to meet their need.  He also wanted to provide an aligned connection between the NGSS elementary physics curriculum and the NGSS high school curriculum.  Specifically, the OPPS workshop addressed enhancing the elementary school teachers’ content knowledge related the particle nature of matter as well as experience and develop a three dimensional learning pedagogical approach.
Earl Leglieter leading a modeling lesson
   Earl Leglieter conducted a session on Modeling Strategies, similar to the one he presented at the 2017 Kansas EPSCoR Modeling the Unseen in the Physical Sciences high school workshop in June, but with a specific goal to build a particle model of matter, a first step to understanding chemistry and physics. Adams presented the NGSS three dimensional teaching strategies using National Science Teacher Association materials, and later facilitated teachers’ processing discussions.
  Teachers were given a pre/posttest which showed a significant gain in content knowledge [(P<2e-10) from a mean of 38 to 71].  In addition, the teachers said they enjoyed learning more about structuring lessons to involve modeling and inquiry; having students work in small groups to develop skills of cooperation and learning from others; how to help children learn by discovery through the use of open questions; and how to give students time to experiment and investigate in order for them to come up with ideas on their own.  Furthermore, the teachers really appreciated this opportunity to learn more about NGSS, modeling strategies and teaching physics.
   One Teachers commented “It was good to see actual physics lessons that could be adapted to my level,” and another recognized the need to lead students to figure out solutions on their own. Overall, the teachers were happy to have new curriculum, new experiments, and a different way to teach the states of matter.

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.