2010 was a busy year of discoveries for Kansas State University researchers. Here is a sampling of some intriguing and fun faculty and student research projects from the past year.
* Purple pies battle hunger and cancer. Weiqun "George" Wang, research scientist in human nutrition, found that purple sweet potatoes have a significantly higher anthocyanin content, which inhibits human colon cancer cell growth. To test the bioavailability of anthocyanins in humans, Wang made the potatoes into tasty, bright purple pies. More information is available at http://bit.ly/g2J1mN.
* Healthier pastors could mean fitter flocks. Melissa Bopp and Elizabeth Fallon, assistant professors of kinesiology, surveyed faith leaders across the U.S. about their personal health habits. They found pastors with better diets tended to offer more health-oriented programs at their churches than pastors who are less physically fit. Check out the details at http://bit.ly/grJdqY.
* Watching the 'XX'-factor in gubernatorial candidates. A governor's political agenda may not be a matter of why but rather 'Y,' according to Brianne Heidbreder, assistant professor of political science. Heidbreder and a colleague examined whether a U.S. female governor's gender influenced the importance given to social policies. After viewing two years of televised speeches, they found that female governors devoted more of their TV time to addressing social welfare policies than their male counterparts. Read more about it at http://bit.ly/gmBz2T.
* Electrifying research leads to safer etching process. Jason Scuilla and Michael McMann, assistant professors of art, wanted to find nontoxic alternatives to the traditional printmaking technique, which involves etching copper plates with acid baths. The two experimented with various alternatives before developing their own method, called Shu-la. Find out more at http://bit.ly/hUVs0d.
* Picture perfect? Natalie Pennington, a May 2010 master's graduate in communication studies from Springfield, Mo., studied how college students use Facebook pictures. She found that most students didn't remove provocative pictures of themselves, and that users often used a profile picture they felt appealed to the opposite sex. More information is available at http://bit.ly/9aRH4C.
* Chinese wolfberries offer benefits to howl about. Dingbo "Daniel" Lin, a research assistant professor of human nutrition, tested Chinese wolfberries for improving retinal damage in type-2 diabetes patients. Lin found that the fruit lowers oxidative stress an eye undergoes from the disease, thus helping patients. Lin is continuing research on the benefits of fresh wolfberries, as well as of dried ones. For more information go to http://bit.ly/fBOeq4.
* Webcams can improve reading fluency. Timothy Frey, assistant professor of special education, counseling and student affairs, collaborated with two master's students on a project to improve the reading fluency of elementary-age students. The researchers found having children listen and watch how they read on a webcam reduced the number of verbal errors and increased the children's reading comprehension. A news release and video are at http://bit.ly/gT8GWO.
* Several snack cakes a day keep the doctor away. Mark Haub, professor of human nutrition, did something most nutritionists would never consider. For 10 straight weeks his diet consisted of prepackaged snack cakes. In the end Haub shed 27 pounds on the diet, moved from overweight to normal on the body mass index scale, and lowered his cholesterol by 20 percent. The initial news release and video are available at http://bit.ly/ah6584.
* Wii Fit goes beyond games. Shawna Jordan, research assistant professor in human nutrition, and Laurie Hildebrand, May 2010 graduate in athlsetic training and pre-physical therapy, found that Nintendo's Wii Fit helped improve balance in soldiers with a traumatic brain injury. Their study showed positive improvements in balance when using the device. More information is available at http://bit.ly/ewYaR6.
* Sitcoms offer cultural analysis. Tanya Gonzalez, assistant professor of English, is watching shows like "Ugly Betty" not just for entertainment, but also to study how Latino culture and families are portrayed. She's finding that male characters are swapping once dominant macho man qualities for more family-oriented ones. More details are available at http://bit.ly/hW72sW.