May 19, 2016

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

May 19, 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

Late last week, we celebrated the accomplishments of our students, undergraduate and graduate, many of whom were engaged in the research enterprise at K-State. Commencement is such a special event, and I enjoyed making a cameo appearance at the Arts & Sciences commencement and leading the K-S-U cheer again — a tradition I started when I was the dean. Congratulations to all our new graduates and the faculty who mentored and advised them!

Last Friday I had the pleasure of addressing the Konza Rotary Club, which invited me to share our research vision for a Top 50 public university. We talked about the historic mission of K-State, our land-grant legacy, and how research has been at our core since 24 men and 24 women began their studies more than 150 years ago. Oh how we’ve grown.

This week, we had our KSU Research Foundation board meeting, reviewing and updating our bylaws and evaluating how our disclosures, patents, and licensing have been progressing this year. I also attended the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute, or KCALSI, Institutional Advisory Board to review the year’s progress on the KCALSI strategic plan, Path to 2025, and discuss the 2015 industry census. This report provides a comprehensive review of the life sciences industry between Manhattan, Kansas, and Columbia, Missouri, along with an assessment of the economic impact of life sciences-related research.

— Peter

In Case You Missed It

Did you miss recent K-State Today articles about services available from units within the Office of the Vice President for Research? If so, take a few minutes to read them now:

April Awards are posted!

Check our Research Awards site to find the latest round of successful funding proposals or to find reports from previous fiscal years.

Vacation time

RSCAD Momentum will take a two-week break and return on June 9. Keep generating good RSCAD news for us to share!

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 (USDA) released its Foundational Program RFA requesting research in the six Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) priority areas: 1) Plant Health and Production and Plant Products; 2) Animal Health and Production and Animal Products; 3) Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health; 4) Bioenergy, Natural Resources, and Environment; 5) Agricultural Systems and Technology; and 6) Agricultural Economics and Rural Communities. The goal of this program is to invest in agricultural production research, education, and Extension projects for more sustainable, productive, and economically viable plant and animal production systems.

K-State in the News

These Rural Kansas Art Galleries, and Their Mission, Might Surprise You

5/15/16 The Kansas City Star
At Symphony in the Flint Hills Gallery, that organization’s director, Christy Davis, will curate future shows as the Hamms and Regiers forge their visions in the Matfield Green galleries and deepen ties with the sculpture path, the Volland Store as well as the Ulrich Museum at WSU and the Beach Museum at K-State.

Through The Looking Glass: How Children's Books Have Grown Up

5/10/16 National Public Radio
In the mid-20th century, the U.S. competition with the Soviet Union drove a re-evaluation of children's books in the classroom, according to Philip Nel, who studies children's literature at Kansas State University. Suddenly, the whole country was afraid that the U.S. was falling behind, and that education was to blame.

Business Watch: New York Bioscience Company Opens Office in Manhattan

5/14/16 Topeka Capital-Journal
New York’s Orion Integrated Biosciences, a biodefense company, has opened an office in Manhattan to work with Kansas State University scientists and, in the future, with the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility. The new office, which will be staffed by two employees, is located in the Manhattan/Kansas State University Innovation Center, which is part of K-State’s research park.

Left Uncontrolled, Weeds Would Cost Billions in Economic Losses Every Year

5/10/16 Science Daily
A study by experts with the Weed Science Society of America showed that corn and soybean yields would be cut by about 50 percent if weed control measures were not implemented in the United States and Canada. The seven-year study, led by Kansas State University professor Anita Dille, showed a total potential economic loss of $43 billion a year.

From Our Peers

Study: Delaying Retirement Might Help You Live Longer

Delaying retirement has many financial benefits. You can tuck away some of your continued earnings for the future and give your existing savings more time to compound. Social Security payments also increase for those who sign up at an older age. A new study from Oregon State University found that retiring after age 65 may additionally help you live longer.

Research Finds Skull Condition Thought Extinct is Actually Widespread

5/13/16 Bloomberg
Some forensic anthropologists thought the skull condition called cribra orbitalia (CO) was a thing of the past - but new research from North Carolina State University and the University of the Witwatersrand finds that it not only still exists, but is fairly common in both North America and South Africa.

Researchers Integrate Diamond/Boron Nitride Crystalline Layers for High-Power Devices

5/10/16 Science Daily
Materials researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a new technique to deposit diamond on the surface of cubic boron nitride (c-BN), integrating the two materials into a single crystalline structure. "This could be used to create high-power devices, such as the solid state transformers needed to create the next generation 'smart' power grid," says Jay Narayan, the John C. Fan Distinguished Chair Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at NC State and lead author of a paper describing the research.

Carbon Capture is Substantial in Secondary Tropical Forests

5/13/16 Science Daily
"The mantra has been, 'we need to protect old-growth forests'," said Saara DeWalt, an author of the study and an associate professor of biological sciences at Clemson University. "Protection of old-growth forests, which store substantial amounts of carbon, is absolutely needed, but we need to look to secondary-forest protection as well."

The Mind-Boggling Challenge of Designing 120-Sided Dice

5/10/16 Wired
Creating the world’s most complex dice presents more than a few technical challenges, which helps explain its enduring appeal to mathematicians. “This is not an original idea,” says Henry Segerman, a mathematician at Oklahoma State University and co-founder of Dice Lab. “We were just the people crazy enough to actually do it.”

RSCAD Trending Topics

Announcing the National Microbiome Initiative

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), in collaboration with Federal agencies and private-sector stakeholders, is announcing the National Microbiome Initiative (NMI). The NMI aims to advance understanding of microbiomes in order to aid in the development of useful applications in areas such as health care, food production, and environmental restoration.

NSF Director Unveils Big Ideas, With an Eye on the Next President and Congress

France Córdova, the director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, Virginia, has unveiled a research agenda intended to shape the agency’s next few decades and win over the next U.S. president and Congress. The nine big ideas illustrate how increased support for the type of basic research that NSF funds could help answer pressing societal problems, she says, ranging from how humans interact with technology to how climate change in the polar regions will impact the global economy, environment, and culture. (Click here for a one-page description of each idea.)

Modified Crops Not Seen Adding to Human Health Risks: Study

Foods produced from genetically engineered crops don’t pose additional health risks to humans compared with their conventionally bred counterparts, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. A NAS committee outlined findings in a 408-page report released Tuesday. It reviewed epidemiological data from the U.S. and Canada, where food made with genetically engineered (GE) plants has been consumed for the past two decades, and compared it with information from Western Europe, where such foods aren’t widely eaten.

"Plague Village" May Upend What We Know About How Black Death Spread

Without a doubt, the bubonic plague has been one of the deadliest and most devastating infectious diseases in all of human history. The bacterial infection—caused by Yersinia pestis—has sparked dozens of outbreaks and three massive pandemics, killing hundreds of millions of people. The Justinian Plague from 541 to 767 is estimated to have killed up to 50 percent of the population at the time and spurred the demise of the Roman Empire. Likewise, the fourteenth century Black Death, which circumnavigated Europe in just a few years, ended up slaughtering as much as 60 percent of the continent’s population. But despite the indelible mark the dark disease has left on humanity, researchers still aren’t certain how exactly Yersinia sweeps through cities and countries. The highly infectious disease has historically been linked to rodents, in which the bacteria can fester, and rat fleas, which take in and then vomit out the bacteria in subsequent bites. Thus, booming vermin populations have long been assumed to spark and sustain outbreaks. But a fresh analysis of a tiny village in England—made famous for its handling of a plague outbreak from 1665 to 1666—stands to challenge the view.

Inside EurekAlert, the News Hub That Shapes the Science You Read

Scientists discover a new planet that might be able to support life. A drug that targets certain cancer receptors. Evidence of a previously unknown branch of human ancestors. Extreme weather. Dinosaurs had feathers? Who the hell knew ravens were so clever! And you saw the story on Facebook, on Twitter, in an email from your mom. Then you shared it to your coworker via Slack, your boss over lunch, from a barstool during your date that evening. Science news gets around. But a lot of it—you probably didn’t know this—comes from the same place. A website called EurekAlert gives journalists access to the latest studies before publication, before those studies are revealed to the general public. Launched 20 years ago this week, EurekAlert has tracked, and in some ways shaped, the way places like WIRED cover science in the digital era.

A Scientific Roadmap for Antibiotic Discovery

In recent decades, the discovery and development of new antibiotics have slowed dramatically as scientific barriers to drug discovery, regulatory challenges, and diminishing returns on investment have led major drug companies to scale back or abandon their antibiotic research. Consequently, antibiotic discovery—which peaked in the 1950s—has dropped precipitously. Of greater concern is the fact that nearly all antibiotics brought to market over the past 30 years have been variations on existing drugs. Every currently available antibiotic is a derivative of a class discovered between the early 1900s and 1984.

Museum Drawers Go Digital

Researchers have for decades used museum specimens to answer questions about how species diverge, where they move around the globe, and how they respond to changing conditions. “There is more information about biodiversity in natural history collections than in all the other sources of information put together, outside of nature itself,” says Larry Page of the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville. “But it's been mostly inaccessible.” Researchers wanting to study the specimens have traditionally had to travel from museum to museum in person, or else request that the specimens be mailed to them. Now, even as they struggle with funding woes that limit their activities, institutions from China to Europe to the United States are working to put specimen photographs and related information online where anyone can view them.

Tracing Zika Back to Patient Zero

It’s not enough to know where Zika originally came from. Today, researchers also want to know how and why the virus mutated as it leapt from Africa to Asia to the Americas. Scientists have established that Zika causes grave abnormalities in fetuses, and can cause serious nerve disorders in children and adults, too. But it seems the virus wasn’t always this way. Learning how and when the Zika mutated could be one of the keys to unlocking why it’s so dangerous now, at a time when it appears poised to work its way through the Americas and possibly extend to the Mediterranean.