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Research director joins Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center as its first hire

Monday, Nov. 30, 2015

SALINA — Following an international search, John Lawrence has joined the Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center as its first research director. Lawrence, a doctorate-level agricultural engineer who specializes in food processing, specifically grain storage management, is the facility's first hire since opening this summer.

The Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center, located in Salina, is a research, testing and educational facility dedicated to the science and understanding of bulk solids materials handling. The center is the only one of its kind in North America, housing six laboratories for university and industry-sponsored research; training, conference and lecture rooms; a material properties test lab; and a full-scale bulk solids test bay.

As a key researcher, Lawrence works to solve the movement challenges bulk solids have while passing through the hoppers, or containers, in which they are stored. Often times particles can become densified and stagnant in various spots in the hopper, preventing all the material from flowing smoothly. Lawrence's research also will focus on finding and solving problems within particle disintegration and segregation in the pipeline during pneumatic conveying.

"Coming from the private sector, John has a vast understanding of the needs and challenges faced by the bulk solids industry," said Kurt Barnhart, associate dean of research at the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus. "This extensive experience, combined with his academic preparation and research in agricultural and biological engineering, makes him well suited to lead this center for the university."

Additionally, Lawrence is developing beginner and advanced short courses in bulk solids for technicians and engineers in the industry that will begin in January. He also manages the day-to-day activities of the facility and will be outlining the center's strategic vision for the next three to five years.

"We want to make this a global institute," Lawrence said. "If a bulk solids company hires an engineer who has had no previous exposure to this type of particles handling, he or she will be able to come to our center and comprehensively learn about the process through our hands-on training. Kansas State Polytechnic also is discussing options of incorporating a few bulk solids classes into its engineering technology programs and developing a master's degree in bulk solids that could be taught through the center."

Lawrence, a native of Nagercoil, India, began his position with the bulk solids innovation center in October. He formerly served as the lead researcher and director at IntelliFarms, a grain management company in Missouri. He has a bachelor's degree in agricultural engineering and a master's degree in agricultural processing from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in India. He earned a doctorate in agricultural and biological engineering from Purdue University. Lawrence did postdoctoral research at the University of Arkansas and at Kansas State University in Manhattan.

The key tenant of the Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center is the university, while two local companies, Coperion K-Tron Salina and Vortex Valves, supplement the facility by serving as anchor occupants. The center was opened this summer after about a year of construction.

For more information on bulk solids education and the facility's research capabilities, contact Lawrence at jlawren@k-state.eduor Barnhart at 785-826-2972 or kurtb@k-state.edu.


Kurt Barnhart


Kansas State University Bulk Solids Center

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John Lawrence

Agricultural engineer John Lawrence is the new Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center research director.

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Julee Cobb

At a glance

Agricultural engineer John Lawrence has joined the Kansas State University Bulk Solids Center as its first research director. Lawrence was selected for the position following an international search.