April 7, 2016

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

April 7, 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

This week, we are celebrating the accomplishments of 12 Alumni Fellows from across the spectrum of programs at K-State, including six who earned their graduate degrees from us. Reading through their accolades, you will find that many of the undergraduate alumni were or are also engaged with research at K-State or in their current jobs. We are very proud of the impact they have had on their disciplines and on global challenges that confront us all.

At the other end of the career spectrum, I had the pleasure of addressing a room full of graduate students and their families and friends who were being recognized for excellence and achievement. One quote that I shared with the students, which I think describes the challenges of the graduate student experience quite well, is from F. Scott Fitzgerald: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.”

Research can be that way. Testing one idea against another; balancing observations and interpretations; combining the immiscible in hopes of creating something remarkable.

— Peter

Reminder: PepsiCo Innovation Seminar TODAY, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Leadership Studies Town Hall

Don't miss a chance to hear about PepsiCo's approach to research and development and specific areas in which the company is seeking ideas. Read more.

Register for the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute 2016 Regional Translational Medicine Meeting

The 2016 Regional Translational Medicine Meeting is April 21 and 22 in Kansas City, Missouri. KCALSI's goal is to increase regional collaboration, and a large number of companies are registered. The agenda includes presentations from bone metabolism and diagnostics to bioinformatics and outcomes research. Registration is free. Learn more about KCALSI.

Save the Date: Global Food Systems Research Science Communication Workshop

Plan to attend presentations by graduate students and postdoctoral researchers who are members of Global Food Systems research teams on April 28 at 2:00 p.m. in the Beach Museum of Art UMB Theater. A keynote talk by artist and National Geographic photo-essayist Jim Richardson will follow at 4:30. The K-State speakers received special training to enhance science communication skills. More information coming soon!

Fulbright Information Session

The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs will be hosting a Fulbright Scholar Program Information Session at 3 p.m. April 27 in the Alumni Center Lecture Room (third floor). The Core Fulbright Scholar Program offers nearly 500 teaching, research or combination teaching/research awards in more than 125 countries. At this session, three faculty members who have been recent Fulbright Scholar awardees — Barry Bradford (Australia), Jonathan Mahoney (Kyrgyz Republic), Joe Sutliff Sanders (Luxembourg) — will talk about their experience, the logistics of setting up an extended stay in another country, and tips for the Fulbright Scholars submission. Register for the session.

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 Connection: The Fulbright Specialist Program awards grants to U.S. faculty and professionals approved to join the Specialist Roster in select disciplines to engage in short-term collaborative projects at eligible institutions in over 140 countries worldwide. Project requests are submitted by non-U.S. institutions and focus on strengthening and supporting institutions’ development needs. Eligible activities include short-term lecturing, conducting seminars, teacher training, assessments and evaluations, special conferences or workshops, as well as collaborating on faculty development and curriculum or institutional planning.

K-State in the News

As Farm Incomes Drop, Kansas Grain Co-ops Feeling Pressure to Consolidate

3/31/16 Bloomberg
They're just the latest in a long history of consolidation. The number of co-ops in Kansas has fallen from about 350 in 1950 to about 80 today, according to Brian Briggeman, a professor at Kansas State University. The pressure to consolidate grows when farm incomes fall and margins tighten, he said.

Healthy Yards Expo on Saturday Will Promote Greener Lawns and Gardens

3/30/16 The Kansas City Star
The expo focuses on Kansas Healthy Yards and Communities (KHYC), a program developed by Kansas State University Research and Extension. KHYC helps homeowners make wise choices on environmentally conscious lawn and garden care techniques. Johnson County K-State Research and Extension is teaming with Johnson County Stormwater Management and the cities of Lenexa, Overland Park and Shawnee to present the event.

New Study Highlights Redcedar's Impact on Prairie Chickens, Helps Improve Conservation Efforts

4/01/16 JBK-Environmental
Researchers from Kansas State University and the U.S. Geological Survey tracked 58 female lesser prairie-chickens for two years on 35,000 acres of privately owned grasslands in southern Kansas using GPS transmitters.

Paper-Like Battery Electrode Made With Glass-Ceramic

3/31/16 Science Daily
A paper-like battery electrode developed by a Kansas State University engineer may improve tools for space exploration or unmanned aerial vehicles.

Watch Out: Spring Cleaning Could Disrupt Brown Recluse Spiders

3/29/16 NewsChannel 10
"The brown recluse spider's bite can be kind of a nasty one," Holly Schwarting said, who works in the Department of Entomology at Kansas State University. "Their venom contains a material that causes our tissue to break down, so it can create a lesion and a slow healing wound."

From Our Peers

Science Could Help Us Feed the World, If Only We Let It

3/31/16 Huffington Post
At a university lab in the Netherlands, professor Mark Post is working tirelessly to perfect the world’s first lab-grown beef burger. If he is successful, beef lovers the world over will be able to eat a burger that is possibly more environmentally friendly and healthier than the real thing. Whether consumers — already suspicious of so-called frankenfood — will ultimately accept an in-vitro burger is an open question. And the same goes for 3D-printed food. And nutrient-enhanced, genetically modified sweet potatoes, even though they could help solve malnutrition in developing countries. All over the world, scientists and other innovators at universities and, yes, even corporations are toiling to develop technologies that they believe could help solve some of our modern food system’s biggest problems. But we as consumers have often rejected these possible solutions, sometimes forcefully, in the name of food we deem to be more natural to our diets. Should we be so quick to do so? Though I didn't specifically ask him during our recent interview, I'd guess Jayson Lusk, an agricultural economics professor at Oklahoma State University, would say no.

Renewable Energy Group Begins Ames Laboratory Expansion

4/01/16 Bloomberg
Renewable Energy Group, Inc. leaders celebrated the beginning Friday of an expansion and upgrade of the laboratory at the company's Ames, Iowa headquarters to further enhance renewable chemical related biotechnology research, development and commercialization. ... "Technology investments like expanding lab capabilities in the Ames community enhance Iowa State University's ability to market the community and place our students in their chosen field," said Dr. Steven Leath, Iowa State University President.

'Community Solar' Systems May Add Savings to Local, Cooperative Energy Projects

4/30/16 Science Daily
New research by engineers at Oregon State University indicate that an optimal development of neighborhood solar energy might increase the total electricity produced by 5-10 percent, a significant gain by the standards of solar energy efficiency.

Prehistoric 'Malaria' Strain May Have Triggered the Downfall of Dinosaurs, Study Claims

4/30/16 Inquisitr
A new research study mapping malaria's prehistoric origins has claimed to have unearthed considerable evidence to date the origins of the disease as far back as the epoch of the dinosaurs. The findings have prompted a leading expert to propose that the disease could well have impacted the prehistoric species millions of years ago. In his latest study published in the journal American Entomologist, paleo-biologist George Poinar Jr. from the College of Science of Oregon State University, claims to have examined fossil evidence pointing to an ancient strain of malaria that is related to the modern-day strain that has plagued humans for centuries.

USDA Announces $5.2 Million for Nanotechnology Research

4/30/16 EurekAlert!
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced an investment of more than $5.2 million to support nanotechnology research at 11 universities. The universities will research ways nanotechnology can be used to improve food safety, enhance renewable fuels, increase crop yields, manage agricultural pests, and more. ... Universities receiving funding include: [Auburn University, Iowa State University, Clemson University, and others.]

RSCAD Trending Topics

Program Shines Light on KC Life Sciences Innovators, Research

The Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute Inc. is working to bring more attention to Kansas City's life sciences experts through its Expert Exchange Program. The program — started in 2012 at the end of former CEO Dan Getman's term — highlights expert researchers and scientists in the community who have national or international reputations in their area of research in an effort to promote the region as a nationally recognized center of excellence in life sciences.

No-Strings Awards at NIH Draw Concern

After years of roller-coaster funding for her lab, yeast geneticist Sue Jinks-Robertson of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, was thrilled early last year when her sole funding source, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), announced a new kind of award that promised stability. She could trade her three small, project-based grants, which had to be renewed every 4 years, for a single award that would provide 5 years of steady funding. But when NIGMS called Jinks-Robertson in February to tell her she had won this new option, the Maximizing Investigators' Research Award (MIRA), her excitement quickly turned to shock. Her funding, she learned, would be cut 20% compared with her average over the last 5 years, from $427,300 to $345,000 a year.

More Professors Say Undergraduates Need to Hone Research Abilities, Survey Finds

This latest edition of a survey that is conducted every three years found an uptick in faculty members who believe undergraduate students are arriving at college with inadequate research skills. Many faculty members believe their institution’s library plays a critical role in helping students develop those skills. Scholars increasingly see it as their responsibility to support their undergraduate students, with an emphasis on competencies and learning outcomes.

Spoiled Milk

More than a few people probably chuckled a little, back in January, when the University of Maryland at College Park came under fire for a press release about research that linked drinking a brand of chocolate milk to recovery from concussions. Many said at the time that the press release seemed like unpaid advertising, given that the findings were never subject to peer review. But since then, a barrage of questions about research ethics and conflicts of interest has led the university to take down the press release, halt (for good) the research it described and form a committee to investigate the entire affair. The final report from that investigation, released Friday, found the university to be lacking important policies and procedural guidelines for publicity and product endorsement and that multiple people involved in the chocolate milk research did not understand what constitutes a conflict of interest.

National Academy of Sciences Online Sessions and Events

During the 153rd annual meeting, several events and sessions will be webcast live and videos will be posted after each session. Follow the NAS on Twitter @theNASciences, and join the annual meeting conversation #NAS153. Schedule of events: (see above link)

This Scientist Nearly Went to Jail for Making Up Data

Scientific integrity took another hit Thursday when an Australian researcher received a two-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty to 17 fraud-related charges. The main counts against neuroscientist Bruce Murdoch were for an article heralding a breakthrough in the treatment of Parkinson's disease. And the judge's conclusions were damning. There was no evidence, she declared, that Murdoch had even conducted the clinical trial on which his supposed findings were based. Plus, Murdoch forged consent forms for study participants, one of whom was dead at the time the alleged took place. Plus, Murdoch fraudulently accepted public and private research money for the bogus study, published in 2011 in the highly reputable European Journal of Neurology. "Your research was such as to give false hope to Parkinson's researchers and Parkinson's sufferers," said Magistrate Tina Privitera, who heard the case in Brisbane. Still to go to trial is Murdoch's co-author, Caroline Barwood, who has also been charged with fraud.

Facing Down the World's Deadliest Pathogens in a BSL4 Lab

Ebola, smallpox, plague—the rogue’s gallery of highly infectious deadly pathogens is frighteningly long and their potential for havoc is great, which is why they can only be studied within the tightly controlled confines of a biosafety level 4 (BSL4) facility. The precautions make work in a BSL4 extremely demanding, slow and physically taxing, which is one reason such research lags behind studies of less-lethal organisms. An Australian research team, however, recently reached a milestone when it became the first to screen and catalogue all of the genes activated by a BSL4 pathogen when it infects human cells. Their focus was the obscure but deadly Hendra virus, which causes respiratory disease in horses and can cross over into humans; they recently published their findings in PLoS Pathogens.