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News release prepared by: Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, 785-532-6415,

Friday, Dec. 18, 2009


MANHATTAN -- Among the research and scholarship projects by faculty and students at Kansas State University are a few that stand out as unusual, intriguing and downright fun. Here's a look at some of those projects that were published, presented or worked on in 2009.

* Don’t fear doggie kisses. Kate Stenske, a clinical assistant professor at K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine, found that dog owners who sleep with their pet or allow licks on the face are no more likely to share the same strains of E. coli bacteria with their pets than are other dog owners. The research did show an association between antibiotic-resistant E. coli and owners who didn't wash their hands after petting their dogs or before cooking meals. The project was part of Stenske's doctoral research at the University of Tennessee and appeared in the American Journal of Veterinary Research. A short news release is available at

* Patriotic music may close minds, children's music may open them. Eduardo Alvarado, sophomore in pre-law from Overland Park, is looking at the behaviors elicited from the musical lyrics of common songs. He is working with Donald Saucier, associate professor of psychology. The preliminary findings showed that the patriotic songs had a negative effect on the research subjects, as shown through their responses to survey questions about other cultures and diversity. Songs like "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" were meant to be neutral primes, but the researchers found that they stimulated a pro-social response. A short news release is available at

* Kansas 'cuisine' flatter than a pancake. Roger Adams, rare books librarian at Kansas State University, sees plenty of cuisine in the pages of Hale Library's cookery collection. When he set out to find authentic Kansas cuisine, his search ended up flat. But he did find ethnic culinary gems across the state, from Czech sausage in Cuba to custard made with a cow's gastric juice in Lindsborg. He presented his findings at the joint conference of the National Popular Culture and American Culture Associations. A short news release is available at

* Civilizations like ours may someday expand the universe. Louis Crane, K-State professor of mathematics, proposes that the universe is fine-tuned to produce successful industrial civilizations, possibly including us. And if artificial black holes are possible, then successful industrial civilizations -- maybe ours -- will eventually produce them to fuel interstellar travel. These black holes are believed to produce a new universe on the other end of the singularity, but one that lies in our future and is always out of reach. Yet such universes, Crane said, also would be fine-tuned to produce life, civilizations and, eventually, more black holes, and so on. A short news release is available at

* Power of music lies beyond sound. Richard Harris, professor of psychology, found that people don't have to hear a song to evoke clear memories of a particular time in life. Rather, just thinking about the song is enough to spark nostalgia. Even though "Eye of the Tiger" was released in 1982, before the research subjects were born, Harris and students found that 24 percent reported that the song provoked a strong memory of high school sporting events. The research appeared in the journal Psychology of Music. A short news release is available at

* Gross 'em out to keep 'em healthy. Doug Powell, an associate professor of food safety, and two colleagues found that even during a high-profile outbreak, college students followed recommended hand hygiene procedures just 17 percent of the time. In a self-reported survey after the outbreak had subsided, 83 of 100 students surveyed said they always followed proper hand hygiene but estimated that less than half of their peers did the same. The researchers suggest compelling messages using a variety of media – text messages, Facebook and traditional posters with surprising images -- may increase hand washing rates. A short news release is available at

* Engineering the way to weight loss. Todd Easton, a professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, published "The When Diet: Mathematically Optimizing Eating and Exercise for Weight Loss." Easton began the project by thinking about the body as an engineer would -- as a system. Easton became his own test subject, comparing how much misery he incurred during the day with his weight loss with the goal to find a way to maximize weight loss and minimize misery. He developed a mathematical proof that dieters can adapt to their own needs. A short news release is available at

* A sweet research project. Sampling as many as nine gelato flavors a day while in Florence, Italy, was all in a day's work for Kelly Thompson, now a doctoral student in human ecology. For her master's thesis, she examined the differences between gelato from Italy and gelato available in the United States and compared them with U.S. ice cream. The research could be useful for U.S. ice cream manufacturers that want to move their products toward gelato or manufacturers of other foods that want to recreate the true flavors of gelato. Thompson's doctoral research is looking at wine consumption in the millennial generation. A short news release is available at

* What Rock Band can teach us about the workplace. By playing the video game Rock Band for an hour, Kansas State University students were able to help a pair of psychology professors with their research to understand how people can achieve flow while at work or while performing skilled tasks. Clive Fullagar, a professor, and Patrick Knight, an associate professor, found that -- like Goldilocks -- most people achieve flow with work that is neither too easy nor too hard but just right. A short news release is available at