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Research

Research, Scholarly and Creative Activities, and Discovery (RSCAD) News

July 28, 2016

The weekly RSCAD newsletter provides the latest research news, funding opportunities, and academic trends.

Announcements from the Office of the Vice President for Research

Notes from the Desk of the VPR

I’m off to the balmy east coast to bask in the infamous summer swelter of Foggy Bottom for a research administrators’ workshop followed by a meeting of new VPRs in Morgantown, West Virginia — something like boot camp for new research VPs, only without the mandatory morning calisthenics (I will try to work in some voluntarily). The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, or APLU, sponsors the training sessions for new VPs in order to get us networked, up to speed on some of our common challenges, and trained in advocacy for our programs.

Pre-meeting preparation has helped me identify several key case studies of successful institutions that have grown their research enterprises even through challenging financial times. Becoming a Top 50 Public Research University doesn’t happen overnight, and it happens very intentionally. Research is part of our institutional DNA, and we should celebrate it and communicate strategically about it as often as we can.

The OVPR will be embarking on a reflective strategic plan refresh for all our units this September, and I’ve already begun to lay a foundation of introspection with our leadership. We need to be aligned with where our colleges want to go and ensure that we are serving faculty, staff, and students to meet their research agendas, as was made clear in a 2014 Task Force Report. My goal is to have a draft ready for campus input by mid-October.

— Peter

Fair Labor Standards Act FAQs from NSF

The National Science Foundation has released an FAQ regarding the new FSLA ruling (PDF) and how it affects postdocs. If you are an NSF PI or are planning to submit a proposal that includes a postdoc, please be sure to review. The OVPR is working with the Provost and Human Capital Services to finalize a campus position and communication on postdoctoral fellows at K-State. 

PreAward Services Updates Contract Negotiating Assignments

Upcoming staff changes necessitated some new assignments. Read more about what contract negotiators do and find out who serves your college, department, or unit. 

Downtime

RSCAD Momentum and The Funding Connection will be on hiatus next week. They'll be resting up for the fall semester. (Get ready!)

New Funding Opportunities

The Funding Connection

The Funding Connection is a weekly publication of Research & Sponsored Programs. For more information about individual programs and for applications, please e-mail research@k-state.edu or call 785 532-6195.

Highlight from this week's Funding ConnectionThe National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) provides three years of support for outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) or in STEM education. Individuals demonstrate their potential for significant research achievements through a comprehensive holistic plan for graduate education that takes into account individual interests and competencies. This plan describes the experiences, attributes, and academic achievements that, when considered in combination, show how the applicant has demonstrated potential for significant research achievements in STEM or in STEM education.

K-State in the News

Making Plant-Based Diets More Popular: Just Add Convenience

7/21/16 Huffington Post (by Steven Ross, food science student at Kansas State University)
Pulses have until now been an unsung hero in the food industry. The high levels of protein, iron and zinc in pulses like beans, chickpeas and lentils are an alternative source of nutrients for non-meat eaters. The International Year of Pulses 2016, as declared by the United Nations, seeks to raise awareness of this. That is why a team of students from my university, Kansas State, have developed a fully vegan, microwaveable black eyed pea and chickpea enchilada that can be on the table in eight minutes. We just won joint first prize in a nationwide competition searching for the best new recipes that use pulses as a core ingredient, the LovePulses Product Showcase. Despite being meat free, the meal has an impressive 20g of protein per portion, thanks to the pulses.

Aphids That Plague Sorghum Fields Return to Kansas

7/22/16 SF Gate
Officials say the sugarcane aphid has returned to Kansas. The Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/2a5NSes) reports that the tiny Southern pests have threatened grain sorghum, or milo, fields in the Sunflower State the previous two years. Kansas is the nation's leading producer of grain sorghum. Aphids were reported and confirmed in fields in Sumner and Cowley counties this week. Officials are scouting fields but haven't determined how far north the aphids have spread. Last year, some sorghum producers saw heavy yield losses due to sugarcane aphids. Kansas State University says the pest spread to 36 Kansas counties, making it close to the Nebraska border.

At K-State, Zika Researchers Move Ahead Amid Congressional Gridlock

7/20/16 Topeka Capital-Journal
As Congress remains deadlocked on bankrolling research into the Zika virus, a leading infectious disease expert at Kansas State University isn’t waiting for federal funds. “We thought it was sufficiently important to begin working on Zika, so we did it with our own funding, basically,” said Stephen Higgs, director of the Biosecurity Research Institute. The virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus, leading to serious birth defects. There are more than 1,300 Zika cases in the continental U.S., all of which have been linked to travel, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The first Kansas cases appeared in March.

Kansas Leaders Tackle Aquifer Conservation

7/23/16 Topeka Capital-Journal
The depletion of Kansas groundwater isn’t a new story, and leaders throughout the state are actively pushing for increased water management resources to protect this critical asset. The ability to create Local Enhanced Management Areas, or LEMAs, was created by the Kansas Legislature in 2012, said Nathan Hendricks, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University. LEMAs allow the groundwater management district, in this case GWD No. 4, to determine on a local level what water management to put in place.

From Our Peers

Women Steering the Ship of State: They’re Everywhere (Except Here)

7/21/16 Washington Post
A familial relationship “has really been one of the routes to power, especially when seeking the presidency,” said Farida Jalalzai, a professor of political science at Oklahoma State University who has done extensive research on female leaders around the world. “With someone like Hillary Clinton, it’s hard to say she’s not qualified; she’s definitely accumulated the résumé to do this job. But why is it, yet again, that it is the wife of a former president who will possibly break the glass ceiling in the United States?”

Why Ford Wants to Make Car Parts Out of a Tequila Factory’s Leftovers

7/22/16 Washington Post
Ford already uses other types of plants, including soy, in components such as seat cushions. And it’s not the only automaker to experiment with bioplastics. Toyota, for instance, has also invested in the development of plant-derived materials for use in seat cushions and various other parts. Several years ago, it announced plans to begin using a newly developed sugar-cane-based material in some interior surfaces. Other automakers, including Mazda and Fiat, have made similar investments.  But this may be the first time agave has been explored for use in bioplastics by the automotive industry, said David Grewell, an Iowa State University professor and co-director of the Center for Bioplastics and Biocomposites. Using agave fibers in plastics would help cut down on wasted plant material on Jose Cuervo’s end. But Mielewski noted that the bioplastics may also be lighter in weight than petroleum-based plastics, which could improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles.

DNA Study Points to the Potential Impact of Toadflax Hybrids on Biocontrols

7/20/16 Houston Chronicle
Researchers with Colorado State University and the U.S. Forest Service have uncovered new information that may explain why insect biocontrols used to manage toadflax infestations can sometimes exhibit mixed results. Both yellow toadflax and Dalmatian toadflax are non-native plant species that have become widespread and difficult to control invaders in large areas of the western U.S. Experience shows herbicides are not always effective at toadflax control. In addition, many invasions are found in sensitive public forests, open rangelands and wilderness areas where widespread spraying simply isn’t an option.

Surface Tension Can Sort Droplets for Biomedical Applications

7/19/16 Science Daily
Imagine being able to instantly diagnose diabetes, Ebola or some other disease, simply by watching how a droplet of blood moves on a surface. That's just one potential impact of new research led by Arun Kota, assistant professor in Colorado State University's Department of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Biomedical Engineering. Kota's lab makes coatings that repel not just water, but virtually any liquid, including oils and acids -- a property called superomniphobicity. They described their most recent innovation in engineered superomniphobic surfaces in Lab on a Chip, a publication of the Royal Society of Chemistry. Kota and his team engineered a simple and inexpensive device that can sort droplets of liquid based solely on the liquids' varying surface tensions. They did it by making their device's surface tunable, meaning they can manipulate its surface chemistry to turn up or turn down how well it repels liquids.

Study Identifies Ways to Share Key Data Between Researchers, Business Practitioners

7/21/16 EurekAlert!
Academic researchers study many aspects of business, but business practitioners rarely make use of that research. A multi-university research team reports that researchers and practitioners share more interests than either group realizes and outlines ways that the two groups can collaborate more effectively to address shared challenges. "There's a big gap between science and practice, and our goal with this study was to look at both why that gap exists and how we can eliminate it," says Jeff Pollack, co-author of a paper on the work and an assistant professor of management, innovation and entrepreneurship at North Carolina State University. Fundamentally, the researchers found that there are two key issues that contribute to the gap between researchers and practitioners — and those two issues are essentially two sides of the same coin. First, there is a perception that there is little overlap in the interests of researchers and practitioners, which acts as a disincentive for them to work together. Second, generally speaking, the two groups know very little about each other — meaning that neither group has a clear understanding of what the other group thinks is important.

Researchers Use NIFA Grant to Develop Rapid Food Safety Test
7/21/16 USDA Blog
Keeping the food on America’s tables safe to eat is a major priority at USDA, where we are constantly working to find innovative ways to stay a step ahead of bacteria and other dangerous contaminants that can cause illness. Thanks in part to a grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), a research team led by Dr. Bryan Chin, director of the Auburn University Detection and Food Safety Center, has developed a cheap, portable and easy-to-use new screening tool (link is external) to test fresh fruits and vegetables for the presence of bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses.

RSCAD Trending Topics

SCICOMM 2016: A Two-Day Conference on Effective Science Communication at University of Nebraska-Lincoln

This is a one-of-a-kind event in the US (cost= $20) and a great opportunity to interact and learn from other science communication enthusiasts! Registration will be capped at 300! Register today to hear from science communicators from physics, biology, chemistry, & other fields, discussing best practices & novel approaches for engaging the public in science, sociological challenges for science communicators, promising avenues for K12–Higher Ed collaborations, and more!

Human Brain Mapped in Unprecedented Detail

Think of a spinning globe and the patchwork of countries it depicts: such maps help us to understand where we are, and that nations differ from one another. Now, neuroscientists have charted an equivalent map of the brain’s outermost layer — the cerebral cortex — subdividing each hemisphere's mountain- and valley-like folds into 180 separate parcels. Ninety-seven of these areas have never previously been described, despite showing clear differences in structure, function and connectivity from their neighbors.

Microbes in Our Guts Have Been With Us For Millions of Years

Humans did not evolve alone. Tens of trillions of microbes have followed us on our journey from prehistoric ape, evolving with us along the way, according to a new study. But the work also finds that we’ve lost some of the ancient microbes that still inhabit our great ape cousins, which could explain some human diseases and even obesity and mental disorders. Researchers have known for some time that humans and the other great apes harbor many types of bacteria, especially in their guts, a collection known as the microbiome. But where did these microbes come from: our ancient ancestors, or our environment? A study of fecal bacteria across all mammals suggested that the microbes are more likely to be inherited than acquired from the environment. But other studies have found that diet plays a major role in shaping the bacteria in our guts.

The Unsung Heroes of CRISPR

The soaring popularity of gene editing has made celebrities of the principal investigators who pioneered the field — but their graduate students and postdocs are often overlooked.

The Academic's Guide to Social Media

Social Media for Academics (SAGE Publications) is not meant to be the final word on the topic, but a guidebook to how academics can use social media to publicize their work, build their networks and manage information — and how to find the time.