May 12, 2016

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

May 12, 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 spent the last week in Montgomery, AL, at the Air War College as one of 160 invited leaders from across the U. S. to the National Security Forum to provide a civilian scientist or business person’s perspective on global challenges such as famine, drought, and disease. I met one Colonel who led the mobilization of medical people and material in support of managing the last Ebola outbreak. His perspectives on disease management in a unique cultural context were fascinating and enlightening — lessons for all of us who are on the research front lines.

Earlier this week, K-State played host to more than 100 national and local leaders and scientists in agricultural disease research for the second NBAF Summit. K-State is actively engaged with regional development, building a strategy with state and local agencies to become the national nexus for zoonotic disease education and research. We were able to showcase our RSCAD talents in disease treatments, food production and safety, and security studies. There is no question that we align with the national and global disease defense strategies — K-State RSCAD is making a difference.

The academic experiences for many of our students culminate in graduation ceremonies this Friday and Saturday. Take a moment to congratulate a graduate when you see him or her. They are why we get up each morning and come to campus; teaching and training the next generations of explorers in their disciplines is what makes my academic career fulfilling. Wish them well and thank them for being part of our K-State family.

— Peter

Research Showcase Debrief

The Office of Corporate Engagement will host a Research Showcase debrief and brainstorming event on Monday, May 16 from 3:00-4:30 p.m. in the K-State Alumni Center Purple Pride Room. Wayne Carter, President and CEO of the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute, will join us to provide an outside perspective. Register for this session. It's not too late to provide written feedback on the March 22 showcase.

Tapping into the Commercial Satellite Industry

Data requirements are growing for RSCAD opportunities from landscape architecture and design to community planning, global food systems, and food/energy/water nexus-related activities. Across the university, faculty use many systems for "layered sensing" and data utilization across commercial space-based systems, manned and unmanned aircraft, robotic devices, and other sensors in a variety of settings. Faculty can tap into the commercial satellite industry through the DigitalGlobe Foundation. An example of one university's engagement with DigitalGlobe is the Big Pixel Initiative led by UC San Diego with imagery grants from the Foundation. If you have questions about the foundation or other potential opportunities for engagement with DigitalGlobe, contact Joel Anderson in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at or 785-532-3455.

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 or call 785 532-6195.

Highlight from this week's Funding Connection: The U.S. Department of Agriculture released this year’s Water Challenge Grant RFA. This solicitation focuses on solutions for conserving higher quality water and understanding human behavior and its influence on decision-making for agricultural water use. Specific areas of interest:

  • Water Availability for Diverse Agricultural Uses: The Right Water for the Right Place and Time
  • Understanding Decisions and Behaviors Connected with Agriculture and Post-harvest Processing Industry Water Use
  • Understanding the Human Health Impacts to Exposure from Nontraditional Water Used in Agriculture

K-State in the News

Is Eating Raw Cookie Dough Actually That Bad for You?

5/09/15 New York Post
Plus, most commercial eggs contain an added protective oil coating on the shells, and washing them could remove the coating and drive bacteria on the outside of the egg to the inside via the pores in the eggshell, says Londa Nwadike, PhD, a food safety specialist at Kansas State University and the University of Missouri.

Kansas Crop Tour Finds Above-Average Wheat Yield Prospects

5/05/16 Reuters Africa
"We have very good yield potential. Farmers right now are hoping for cool, moist weather through the end of the growing season so that yield potential can be realized," said Romulo Lollato, an extension wheat specialist at Kansas State University and tour scout.

Pond Scum and The Gene Pool: One Critical Gene in Green Algae Responsible for Multicellular Evolution, Understanding of Cancer Origin

5/05/16 Science Daily
Kansas State University biologists are skimming pond scum for clues of multicellular evolution and possible origin of cancer.

USDA Announces $15.6 Million in Grants to Strengthen Rural Communities

5/04/16 EurekAlert!
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced $15.6 million in grants to increase prosperity in rural America through research, education, and extension programs focused on promoting rural community development, economic growth, and sustainability. These grants were made through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Foundational program, administered by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Agricultural Economics and Rural Communities — Economics, Markets and Trade:

  • Arizona State University, Tempe, Ariz., $482,831
  • University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Ark., $398,186
  • University of California-Davis, Davis, Calif., $474,132
  • University of Connecticut, Storrs, Conn., $499,872
  • Albany State University, Albany, Ga., $499,386
  • Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan., $498,396

From Our Peers

Study Looks at Climate Change Concern in Adolescents

5/03/16 Bloomberg
A North Carolina State University study of middle schoolers found that concern about climate change was linked to whether students had a personal belief in human-caused climate change and how often they discussed the topic with family and friends - even those who disagreed.

Harsh Parenting May Harm a Child’s Physical Health

5/06/16 WebMD
Until now, "we did not know if parenting that was harsh — while not falling into the category of abuse — could predict physical health," said Schofield, an assistant professor of human development and family studies at Iowa State University.

Europe Is Rethinking the Meaning of a GMO

5/08/16 BuzzFeed
There’s no telling which way the European Commission will come down, Jeff Wolt, a professor of agronomy and toxicology at Iowa State University, told BuzzFeed News. “Europeans, if they’re going to do this in a unified way, have to hash through a lot of questions before this is resolved,” he said. “I think it’s something that’s just going to change day to day.”

African Farmers Need the Tools and Technology to Adapt to a Changing Climate

5/06/16 Los Angeles Times
Agricultural research is also revealing other new and effective approaches to adapt to climate change. For example, scientists are studying and using beneficial microbes from soil to strengthen plant resilience to increased drought, diseases and pests brought on by climate change. My research at Auburn University has demonstrated that microbes can help plants such as corn, cotton and tomato survive drought by growing bigger and longer roots that allow them to capture more water from soil.

No Longer Lost in Translation: Biochemists Watch Gene Expression in Real Time

5/05/16 Science Daily
In an unprecedented feat, Colorado State University biochemists have made a live-cell movie of RNA translation — the fundamental cellular process by which a ribosome decodes a protein.

RSCAD Trending Topics

FAA Provides Clarification on Educational Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems

On May 4, 2016, the FAA released a memorandum interpretation to clarify that students may use small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) in “furtherance of his or her aviation-related education at an accredited educational institution.” In issuing the interpretation, the FAA is recognizing students are increasingly using sUAS for educational purposes and will no longer require a Section 333 exemption in most cases.

Why Jane Jacobs Matters Now

On May 4, people around the world will celebrate Jane Jacobs’s 100th birthday— with lectures, walks, and other events. More events will follow throughout a centennial year that has already seen the premier of an opera about her and a rock show where she has a cameo, and which will soon see a new documentary film. This is well and good, and I will be giving some talks and joining some walks, too, because Jacobs was not only a legendary and inspiring activist—leading public campaigns to stop the construction of highways and the destruction of neighborhoods around her homes in New York and Toronto—she is generally considered one of the most influential urban theorists. Her 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities is considered one of the most important books ever written about cities.

New Gene-Detecting Technology Could Lead to 'Super Wheat'

Scientists at the John Innes Centre (JIC) and The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) announced on April 25 that they have pioneered a new gene-detecting technology which, if deployed correctly, could lead to the creation of a new elite variety of wheat with durable resistance to disease.

Can Artificial Intelligence Create the Next Wonder Material?

Instead of continuing to develop new materials the old-fashioned way — stumbling across them by luck, then painstakingly measuring their properties in the laboratory — Marzari and like-minded researchers are using computer modelling and machine-learning techniques to generate libraries of candidate materials by the tens of thousands. Even data from failed experiments can provide useful input. Many of these candidates are completely hypothetical, but engineers are already beginning to shortlist those that are worth synthesizing and testing for specific applications by searching through their predicted properties — for example, how well they will work as a conductor or an insulator, whether they will act as a magnet, and how much heat and pressure they can withstand. The hope is that this approach will provide a huge leap in the speed and efficiency of materials discovery, says Gerbrand Ceder, a materials scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, and a pioneer in this field.

Free the Public Universities

Over the last decade, the fate of America’s public universities has commanded considerable attention. The principal concern has been the impact that steadily declining levels of state support for higher education has had on tuition levels, enrollment patterns, and program offerings and priorities. Since 2000, public universities have lost 25 percent of their state funding per student. The University of California at Berkeley, one of the leading public research universities in the nation, now receives only about 13 percent of its budget from state appropriations, compared with about 50 percent a few decades ago. This shift from public to private funding support has led many to conclude that we are witnessing nothing less than the privatization of the public research university. But while public universities can be said to be "privatizing," another equally powerful, but typically overlooked, trend has been moving in the opposite direction — the "publicization" of private research universities, or the accelerated incorporation of public values and mission into the traditional role of these institutions.

Set Up a Public Registry of Competing Interests

Before publishing this article, the editors of Nature asked me to declare any competing interests. This is routine practice with most journals and is intended to address the serious issue of bias in research. The problem is that after competing interests are disclosed in published research, almost nothing is done with them.

Defending the Humanities

In his talk, Burns repeatedly said the humanities — by helping us understand such a broad range of different topics and perspectives — in fact promote unity through understanding. But he freely admitted that the denigrators of the humanities don't see it that way. "In a larger sense, the humanities help us all understand almost everything better — and they liberate us from the myopia our media culture and politics impose upon us. Unlike our current culture wars, which have manufactured a false dialectic just to accentuate otherness, the humanities stand in complicated contrast, permitting a nuanced and sophisticated view of our history, as well as our present moment, replacing misplaced fear with admirable tolerance, providing important perspective and exalting in our often contradictory and confounding manifestations," he said in the prepared version of his talk. "Do we contradict ourselves? We do!”