K-State Current

K-State Current - April 27, 2022

K-State Current is a weekly news update for the Kansas Board of Regents to apprise the Regents on a few of the many successes and achievements made by K-State faculty, staff, and students.

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K-State News

Veterinary team eyes the road to provide vision exams for working dogs

Jessica MeekinsJessica Meekins, associate professor of opthalmalogy at Kansas State University, gives a dog an eye exam.

As part of a national event, an ophthalmology team from the Veterinary Health Center at Kansas State University will provide free eye exams in May for guide dogs, disability assistance dogs, detection dogs, military working dogs and other search-and-rescue dogs that selflessly serve the public.

Each year, board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists across the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico collectively provide more than 7,500 free eye exams as part of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists/Epicur Pharma National Service Animal Eye Exam event. The Veterinary Health Center has participated in this philanthropic event since 2013. After a two-year hiatus due to the global pandemic, the event resumes in 2022.

The event is sponsored by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists and Epicur Pharma, as well as several generous industry sponsors. The doctors and staff at the K-State Veterinary Health Center and participating board-certified ophthalmologists volunteer their services, staff and facilities at no charge for service and working animals and their owners/agents to participate in the event.

This year the K-State team of Jessica Meekins, associate professor of ophthalmology, and Amy Rankin, professor of ophthalmology, both in the College of Veterinary Medicine, along with Jennifer Klingele, a registered veterinary technician and a veterinary nurse in the Veterinary Health Center's ophthalmology department, will go on the road in May to conduct eye exams at KSDS Assistance Dogs Inc. in Washington. KSDS is a nonprofit organization that provides guide dogs for the visually impaired, service dogs to assist individuals with physical disabilities, and facility dogs that assist professionals in the field of education, counseling, health care, retirement or the legal system. Meekins, Rankin and Klingele also will go to Wichita and make stops at McConnell Air Force Base and the Wichita Police Department to provide exams for military and police working dogs.

"Our goal is to screen active working animals for eye diseases that could impair their ability to perform their jobs, and in doing so, help them better serve their human owners and handlers," Meekins said.

During the complete eye exam, Meekins and Rankin will look for problems including redness, squinting, cloudy corneas, retinal disease, early cataracts and other serious abnormalities. Early detection and treatment are vital to these working animals.

Read more information about American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists/Epicur Pharma National Service Animal Eye Exam events.

Clients may schedule an appointment at the Veterinary Health Center by calling the small animal desk at 785-532-5690.


A big bang: K-State graphene, hydrogen research leads to new company HydroGraph

Watch a video that explains the process of creating graphene.

It's a true research success story: Explosive graphene and hydrogen research from Kansas State University has turned into a successful international company, HydroGraph Clean Power Inc. The company recently went public on the Canadian Securities Exchange and is preparing for decades of growth as an important research and development hub.

HydroGraph and the K-State research involve a simple new way to create graphene: Put acetylene and oxygen in a small chamber and create a controlled detonation that produces large amounts of graphene from a single spark.

Graphene is a single atom-thick, two-dimensional sheet of hexagonally coordinated carbon atoms, which makes it the world's thinnest material and gives it valuable physical and electronic properties. Graphene has numerous applications, such as augmenting high-strength metals, reinforcing concrete, enhancing biomaterials and revolutionizing electronic applications.

The K-State detonation method of creating graphene checks all the right boxes. The process is safer, cleaner, environmentally friendly, cheaper, consistent and faster than other methods. An added bonus is that it is also scalable and can produce high-quality graphene in mass quantities.

"We discovered graphene serendipitously in the lab when we were using controlled explosions to make an aerosol gel," said Chris Sorensen, Cortelyou-Rust university distinguished professor of physics and university distinguished teaching scholar. "I wasn't expecting to make graphene."

Sorensen's research team had spent several years developing and patenting aerosol gels, but one day found that their explosion synthesis method also could produce nanographene — a dark and incredibly lightweight material. Several years ago, the Kansas State University Research Foundation patented Sorensen's new detonation technique to mass-produce graphene.

Sorensen's work caught the eye of Harold Davidson and Barry Hemsworth, entrepreneurs from Vancouver, British Columbia. Davidson reached out in 2017 to start a collaboration with Sorensen to build up and automate the graphene-making process to an industrial scale. Davidson and Hemsworth created a start-up company called Carbon-2D Graphene Inc. and worked hard to procure venture capital for Carbon-2D to fund Sorensen's research.

The investment paid off. The research not only led to a pilot-scale graphene production device, but another discovery: an environmentally benign, inexpensive method to make hydrogen. This is a significant advancement because hydrogen will be an important energy source in the near future, Sorensen said.

Carbon-2D Graphene Inc. soon became HydroGraph Clean Power Inc. and the collaboration has expanded to involve other K-State researchers and Kjirstin Breure, who became HydroGraph's chief operating officer. The work has resulted in new inventions, intellectual property and endless possibilities.

"We believe in partnerships and the partnership we have with K-State has been very productive," Davidson said. "The world of nanomaterials is going to open up to us and the process we have. We're using digital methods with our precisely controlled detonation technology, in order to create what we feel are going to be the nanomaterials required for the fourth industrial revolution."

Sorensen soon engaged Stefan Bossmann, university distinguished professor emeritus of chemistry, to assist in the chemical side of the collaboration. Bossmann applied a mild oxidation method to the graphene to make a high-quality graphene oxide, which maintains the integrity of the graphene and creates a new material with numerous possibilities.

"Our process is completely novel and our surface modification methods are ultraprecise," Bossmann said. "We use the explosion graphene and we modify only the outer layer, which means we maintain all other layers and their properties. That's enough to connect this outer layer to virtually any other matrix through well-established organic and inorganic chemistry."

The team of researchers also includes Arjun Nepal, research assistant professor of physics; Stephen Corkill, research engineer in physics; and numerous graduate students and undergraduate students.

Some of the recent patents from the collaborative research team include:

  • A method to create hydrogen-rich syngas in a provisional patent titled "Process for synthesis of syngas components."
  • A device for upscaling graphene production in a patent application titled "Device and process for mass production of particulate materials."
  • A process for developing turbostratic graphene oxide in a patent application titled "Graphene/graphene oxide core/shell particulates and methods."

HydroGraph continues to support the team, and recently established a $1.4 million research partnership for future projects that involve other K-State researchers in the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering and College of Arts and Sciences: Placidus Amama, associate professor of chemical engineering; Suprem Das, assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering; Jun Li, professor of chemistry; and Dong Lin, associate professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering.

Other collaborators on the work include the University of Kansas Medical Center and Missouri University of Science and Technology. The funding and research will train nine graduate students.

"This research and commercialization partnership with HydroGraph is an excellent example of how K-State is actively working with companies to bring new businesses and jobs into the state of Kansas," said David Rosowsky, K-State vice president for research.

The multi-institutional research team continues to further expand on the detonation method to create graphene and hydrogen-rich syngas. They also are developing devices for more efficiently producing the unique graphene and graphene oxide. It's a collaboration with big plans for future growth and development.

"All of this started as curiosity-based research," Sorensen said. "Land-grant universities were founded on the idea that research and creative ideas formulated at the state university would yield useful technologies. That is exactly what happened here. Moreover, this type of intellectual property collaboration could be the future for K-State."

Read more about the method for making graphene and watch a video of the process.

The HydroGraph research partnership is one example of how Kansas State University is helping to improve the economic prosperity of Kansas. K-State has launched the Economic Prosperity Plan to help people and businesses in Kansas in four key areas: food and agriculture systems innovation; digital agriculture and advanced analytics; biosecurity and biodefense; and extension and outreach. Learn more at k-state.edu/economic-prosperity.

In this image, a researcher scoops out large quantities of graphene from a small detonation chamber.

A Kansas State University researcher scoops out large quantities of graphene from a small detonation chamber. A K-State-patented method of creating graphene involves putting acetylene and oxygen in a small chamber and creating a controlled detonation.

This photo shows the K-State researchers who are collaborating with HydroGraph Clean Power Inc.

This photo shows the Kansas State University team involved in the research collaboration with HydroGraph Clean Power Inc. Researchers include, from left: Stephen Corkill, research engineer in physics; Justin Wright, doctoral student in physics, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania; Shusil Sigdel, doctoral student in physics, Nepal; Stefan Bossmann, university distinguished professor emeritus of chemistry; Luke Kramer, junior in physics and electrical engineering, Manhattan; Chris Sorensen, Cortelyou-Rust university distinguished professor of physics and university distinguished teaching scholar; Jose Covarrubias, recent doctoral graduate in chemistry; and Arjun Nepal, research assistant professor of physics.


K-State Faculty Highlights

Four internationally recognized faculty members join ranks of university distinguished professors

Kansas State University's newest university distinguished professorsKansas State University's newest university distinguished professors, from left: Hans Coetzee, professor and head of anatomy and physiology; Roman Ganta, professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology and director of the Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Diseases; Brian Geisbrecht, professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics; and Robert Goodband, professor of animal sciences and industry and extension swine specialist.

Four professors are earning Kansas State University's highest faculty title of university distinguished professor.

The 2022 recipients of the lifetime honor are Hans Coetzee, professor and head of anatomy and physiology; Roman Ganta, professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology and director of the Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Diseases; Brian Geisbrecht, professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics; and Robert Goodband, professor of animal sciences and industry and extension swine specialist.

"As leading researchers in their fields, Drs. Coetzee, Ganta, Geisbrecht and Goodband also have distinguished themselves as teachers and mentors," said Chuck Taber, executive vice president and university provost. "They consistently demonstrate K-State's land-grant mission of excellence in teaching, research and service and are quite deserving of their new titles of university distinguished professors."

University distinguished professors are appointed following a universitywide nomination and evaluation process conducted by the provost. The four faculty members will receive a personalized plaque and medallion at the university's fall 2022 commencement ceremonies.

Coetzee is internationally recognized for developing objective measures of pain during routine husbandry procedures in food-producing animals, including beef and dairy cattle, sheep and swine. Coetzee also researches bovine anaplasmosis and developed a single-dose implant vaccine that provides long-term immunity against anaplasmosis infections.

Awarded more than $21.2 million in research funding in the last 16 years, with over $18 million from highly competitive federal sources such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Coetzee has authored or co-authored over 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts in the same period. He also is highly in demand for consultation by livestock producers, practitioners, academic researchers and pharmaceutical companies on livestock pain assessment. He has presented his work at continuing education sessions and conferences around the world.

His work has earned several international and national honors, including being the first North American recipient of the World Veterinary Association Global Animal Welfare Award in 2017, only the second recipient of the World Buiatrics Congress Well-being Achievement Award in 2018 and the youngest recipient of the American Veterinary Medical Association Animal Welfare Award in 2017. He also has received the American Association of Bovine Practitioners Award of Excellence and the Zoetis Award for Research Excellence.

Coetzee first served at K-State from 2005 to 2011 as an assistant professor of clinical sciences. He rejoined the university in 2016 in his current position. He also is serving as interim director of the Nantechnology Innovation Center of Kansas State and the Institute of Comparative Medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Ganta is an international authority on tick-borne rickettsial diseases, contributing significantly to the knowledge of the biology, pathogenesis, immunology, diagnostics and vaccine studies of rickettsial pathogens from the Ehrlichia species, Anaplasma species and Rickettsia species, particularly E. chaffeensis, E. canis, E. ruminantium, A. marginale, A. phagocytophilum and R. rickettsia, which are spread by the bite of infected ticks.

As a principal investigator, Ganta has received approximately $19.65 million in extramural research funding since joining K-State in 1998, including continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health since 2002. Ganta currently holds three major NIH R01 grants to investigate pathogenesis and vaccine development targeting diseases affecting companion and agricultural animals and people. Other funding agencies that have supported Ganta's research include the Morris Animal Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Russell L. Rustici Rangeland and Cattle Research Endowment. His work has led to seven patents as inventor or co-inventor and he has eight more patent applications under review.

Ganta established the Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease in 2015 at the College of Veterinary Medicine to highlight and expand vector-borne disease research program at K-State. He generated $1.2 million in foundation support to promote the center's research goals. The center's researchers are from across campus and around the world and its many projects include vaccine development for Rocky Mountain spotted fever, bovine anaplasmosis, canine anaplasmosis and canine ehrlichiosis.

The author or co-author on 88 peer-reviewed publications, seven reviews and 12 books chapters, Ganta is actively involved on national grant review panels, serves on the editorial boards of five journals and provides peer reviews of manuscripts for 34 journals.

Ganta serves as the instructor or co-instructor for several graduate and professional courses. He has mentored 21 postdoctoral students, six faculty, two visiting scientists and eight undergraduate students, along with serving as a major professor to 23 graduate students. He is the recipient of the Pfizer Animal Health Award for Excellence in Research and was recognized as a fellow of the Association of Biotechnology and Pharmacy in India and fellow of the Conference of Research Workers in Animals Diseases, USA.

Geisbrecht is one of the world's experts on the structure and biochemistry of proteins that function in the innate immune system. In particular, his lab studies molecules produced by pathogenic bacteria that block activity of these innate immune components. Geisbrecht's work to date has determined and published the molecular structures of more than 30 proteins of the innate immune system or their bacterially-derived inhibitors. His laboratory's objective is to understand these interactions at the molecular level and to use that information as a basis for therapeutic discovery and development.

Since joining the K-State biochemistry and molecular biophysics department in 2013, Geisbrecht has received NIH support of $5.8 million for his work. This includes two new awards that will further understanding of the interactions between the innate immune system and pathogenic bacteria. Since 2013, his lab has published seven articles in the Journal of Immunology, six articles in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, two articles in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and individual articles in other prestigious journals. Illustrations from his laboratory's recent articles in the Journal of Immunology and Journal of Biological Chemistry were selected to illustrate the journals' covers.

Geisbrecht has served on national and international grant review panels and on the editorial board of several respected scientific journals, including the Journal of Immunology. He has been an invited speaker and presenter at conferences and meetings across the U.S. and world.

Teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and serving as an undergraduate advisor, Geisbrecht has been the mentor for four postdoctoral fellows, lead professor for eight doctoral students and one master's student, and has served on the dissertation/thesis committees of 25 other graduate students. He has supervised 27 undergraduate researchers in his laboratory.

Goodband is part of a national and internationally known swine nutrition team with programs focused on developing, evaluating and disseminating the latest information to increase the profitability of pork producers while maintaining the highest level of animal health and welfare. Goodband also is internationally known for his research on feed processing, feed management and swine nutrient requirements. His research found that reducing the grain particle size in swine feed from 900 microns to the currently recommended 300 to 500 microns results in a 5% reduction in feed usage industrywide and improves the profitability and sustainability of swine producers. It also has reduced the environmental impact of the industry by reducing swine waste by more than 20%.

Goodband's research has helped define amino acid requirements of growing pigs, establishing new ways of integrating feed-grade amino acid into their diets. He aided the industry during the global pandemic through his research on slowing the growth rate of pigs, which helped protect the nation's food supply and save pork producers millions of dollars.

Awarded research grants totaling $13.8 million, Goodband's work has produced eight patents, more than 400 refereed journal papers, nine book chapters, 900 research reports and 170 extension publications. He also is widely sought as a speaker at national and international meetings, giving 164 invited presentations at conferences in 11 countries.

Goodband regularly advises around 40 undergraduates each year and mentoring more than 120 graduate students since joining K-State in 1989. His work has earned many honors, including K-State's 2019 Commerce Bank and W.T. Kemper Foundation Distinguished Graduate Faculty Award; the 2019 Nonruminant Nutrition Research Award from the American Society of Animal Sciences, which is considered the society's highest research honor; and fellowship status with the American Society of Animal Sciences in 2021.


K-State Student News

Engineering Extension's Kansas KidWind Challenge advances six student teams to national event

Students on the SunFloWin teamStudents on the SunFloWin team adjust the pitch on their turbine blades during the wind tunnel performance event at the recent Kansas KidWind Challenge.

Student teams from schools in Beloit, Centralia, Dighton, Oakley, Seneca and Sterling will represent Kansas in May at the National KidWind Challenge in San Antonio.

The teams advanced to the national competition after earning top-three finishes in their divisions at the Kansas KidWind Challenge on April 2 in Topeka. The event is sponsored by the Kansas Energy Program in Kansas State University's Engineering Extension Service, in partnership with the Kansas Corporation Commission. This year's competition featured approximately 80 students from 22 schools throughout the state, including eight teams of fourth through eighth graders and 13 teams of ninth through 12th graders.

Each team had to research, design, and build its own wind turbine to test in a wind tunnel that is 4 feet by 4 feet. Each team was awarded points in four areas: turbine performance, a knowledge quiz, an instant challenge and a judge's panel, where the team members have to present their design-and-build process.

The top three finishers in the fourth through eighth grade division:

  • First place — Gerald la Turbina team from Beloit Junior-High School, USD 273, earning 86.7 points out of a possible 100. Team members are Charlie Burke, Luke Cheney, Jayc Darnall and Joel Rexroat. The team is coached by Christie Fouts. This team also achieved the highest energy output in its division with 106.4 joules.
  • Second place — KO CO Windfighters from Centralia Schools, USD 380, earning 83.5 points. Team members are Kaylee Olberding and Kalin Olberding. Team coach is Karla Kramer.
  • Third place — Wind Chill from Dighton Middle School, USD 482, earning 78.7 points. Team members are Hank Davis, Cordell Davis, Westin Johnson, Charlie Vogel and Rangler Price. Team coaches are Tatum Vogel and Diana Paris.

The top-three finishers in the ninth through 12 grade division:

  • First place — Turbine Turners from Oakley High School, USD 274, earning 91.2 points. Team members are Ian Fink, Kush Patel, and Corbin Bockwinkel. Team coach is Morgan Berkgren. This team also achieved the highest energy output in its division with 72.9 joules.
  • Second place — Windstars from Nemaha Central High School, USD 115, earning 79.3 points. Team members are Kaden Peterson and Jack Macke. Team coach is Karla Kramer.
  • Third place — Wind Gladiators from Sterling High School, USD 376, earning 79.2 points. Team members are Katie Conrad, Maddie Fales, Lanae Welty and Jeremiah Clark. Team coaches are Sydney Wilson and Wendy Calderwood.

Receiving special recognition with the Judges' Favorite Award were Team Blue from Hutchinson STEM Magnet, Allen Elementary School, USD 308, for the fourth through eighth grade division, and Osage City High School, USD 420, for the ninth through 12 grade division.

"The KidWind Challenge is a great exercise in active learning," said David Carter, director of the Kansas Energy Program. "We pay close attention to the teams' improvements from the regional to state challenge; some teams improved turbine performance by 248% and turbine efficiency by 955%."


Second-year veterinary student receives USDA-Boehringer Ingelheim summer research opportunity

Michaela LongMichaela Long, a second-year veterinary student at Kansas State University will spend her summer researching infectious diseases through a select program offered by Boehringer Ingelheim and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.

Kansas State University's Michaela Long, Turlock, California, currently in her second year of veterinary studies, is among 12 students from 10 universities across the nation selected to spend the summer researching diseases that could affect livestock and public health.

The research opportunity is being made possible by Boehringer Ingelheim and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, or ARS.

Long will work with ARS scientists on livestock infectious disease research at one of nine USDA sites. Boehringer Ingelheim and the USDA will cover all costs for the students, including a monthly stipend and expenses associated with traveling to and from their schools to the USDA centers.

"As an aspiring poultry pathologist, I am excited to take part in the research project in the program," Long said. "I look forward to the positive implications this study has for poultry and the opportunity to learn more about how to implement research studies."

Each of the ARS scholars is invited to travel to the Veterinary Scholars Symposium in Minneapolis from Aug. 4-7, where they will present their research and network with other scholars and scientists. The K-State College of Veterinary Medicine also sends a group of students to this symposium each year through its summer Veterinary Research Scholars Program.

"ARS employs world-renowned veterinarian scientists with a broad range of expertise in infectious diseases of animal and public health concern," said Roxann Motroni, D.V.M., Ph.D., and USDA Agricultural Research Service national program leader for animal health. "This allows us to be responsive to emerging One Health disease threats by quickly implementing research needed to inform emergency response. Through this partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim's Veterinary Scholars Program, veterinary students across the country will have the opportunity to train with these leading veterinarian scientists."





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