October 20, 2016

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

October 20, 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

Since the last RSCAD Momentum (October 13), I had the opportunity to meet with our PreAward Services staff to discuss the challenges of growing the research enterprise at K-State. Following our strategic plan retreat earlier this year, a committee of OVPR staff have been working on how to respond to a 62% increase in grant proposals since 2012 while also ensuring quality service to the faculty and staff on campus.

Related to this, the “eRA” task force, comprising representatives from across campus, presented their recommendations for a comprehensive electronic Research Administration system (or eRA) that would facilitate sponsored project proposals, submissions, negotiations, approvals (including compliance committees reviews and approvals), and tracking. Their work was detailed and comprehensive, which I greatly appreciate. We will be developing a budget prioritization plan to help implement many of their recommendations in the next few years.

Under our “Trending Topics” headlines is a story that caught my eye, “Higgs Bison is the Missing Link….” At first glance, I thought perhaps our BRI director and mosquito expert had changed his stripes, or at least his host organism. After reviewing the story, I realized that the European Bison herd that was being discussed was one that my daughter studied in Germany in 2013 while on a “DAD” fellowship — that’s like the Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst (aka DAAD) scholarship program for German academic exchange for research, except she was funded by me. She studied with Prof. Klaudia Witte (see journal reference) at Universität Siegen in Nordrhine-Westfalen, Germany, just east of Köln. As a proponent of undergraduate research, I highly recommend that undergraduate students consider combining a study abroad experience with a research connection, and the DAAD offers great funding opportunities to support that endeavor.

It goes without saying that one of my favorite articles this week appeared in Science about Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize for literature. As an author of many pithy, sometimes jejune chemistry articles, I often tried to sneak in an obscure reference to music or a movie, and David Malakoff’s article rings true. Dylan’s first album came out the year I was born, and my parents, who were music teachers, loved playing his music and that of Peter, Paul, and Mary and Woody Guthrie. My research career has helped me to see "a new world of people and things, hear paupers and peasants and princes and kings.” Congrats, Robert Zimmerman.

Enjoy your homecoming week — take the opportunity to share your passions for research with an alumnus or alumna.

— Peter

Find Funding

Take advantage of agency-specific information sessions about DOD, USDA, and NSF opportunities — plus SCOPUS training — in late October and early November. Read about upcoming training sessions offered by the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

New Funding Opportunities

The Funding Connection

The Funding Connection is a weekly publication of the Office 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: EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Program: Track-2 Focused EPSCoR Collaborations, or RII Track-2 FEC, builds inter-jurisdictional collaborative teams of EPSCoR investigators in scientific focus areas consistent with NSF priorities. Projects are investigator-driven and must include researchers from at least two RII-eligible jurisdictions. The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) research and education activities should seek to broaden participation through the strategic inclusion and integration of different types of individuals, institutions, and sectors throughout the project. Proposals must describe a comprehensive and integrated vision to drive discovery and build sustainable STEM capacity that exemplifies diversity of all types (individual, institutional, geographic, and disciplinary). The development of diverse early-career faculty is a critical component of this sustainable STEM capacity. For FY 2017, RII Track-2 FEC proposals are invited on a single topic: Genomes to Phenomes.

K-State in the News

Researchers Earn Patent for Soybean Variety That May Save Industry Millions of Dollars a Year

10/12/16 Barn OnAir & Online
If parasites want to get to soybeans, they’ll have to go through Kansas State University researchers first. Harold N. Trick, professor of plant pathology; Timothy C. Todd, instructor of plant pathology; and Jiarui Li, research assistant professor in plant pathology, have designed and patented a soybean variety that protects from nematode parasitic infestation. Soybeans are the second largest crop in the U.S. and bring in about $37 billion each year. But nematode parasites — the No. 1 soybean disease in the nation — plague the crop with stunting, chlorosis, wilting and higher susceptibility to other diseases. The new variety from Kansas State University could potentially save the soybean industry millions of dollars per year. “Basically, we’ve designed a soybean variety that fights back against parasites,” Trick said. “It affects nematodes by stopping their reproduction cycles.”

Zika Infection May bring Future Immunity: Study

10/14/16 WebMD
People who've been infected with Zika face a low risk for another bout with the virus that can cause birth defects, a new study contends. "The research shows that infection provides excellent protection against reinfection," Stephen Higgs, director of the Biosecurity Research Institute at Kansas State University, said in a university news release. "This means people infected during this current epidemic will likely not be susceptible again. When a large proportion of the population is protected — known as herd immunity — the risk of future epidemics may be low," he explained. Higgs and his colleagues also found that Zika virus is present in the blood at the very early stages of infection and is only briefly present in some tissues. But it remains in other tissues for a long time.

A Threat to the Food System: We Need to Do a Better Job of Protecting U.S. Agriculture Against Bioterrorism

10/17/16 US News & World Report (by Tom Daschle and Richard B. Myers, interim president of Kansas State University)
The 15th anniversary of September 11 honored the far-too-many who lost their lives that horrific day. Almost unnoticed was the 15th anniversary of the U.S. anthrax attacks that occurred soon thereafter and left 5 dead, 17 infected and more than 10,000 at risk of exposure. The magnitude of those attacks clarified the need to address bioterrorism more comprehensively in the United States. Americans rarely consider the potential for our enemies to attack our nation's agricultural infrastructure and food supply with biological weapons. They should. Agriculture security is national security. Fourteen years ago, U.S. Navy SEALs found a list of pathogens and a schematic in an Afghanistan cave that al-Qaida planned to use to produce bioweapons. In addition to six human pathogens, ten pathogens targeted food, six targeted livestock and poultry, and four targeted crops. Clearly, al-Qaida was considering agroterrorism.

NIFA invests $1.4 million in Health and Safety Education for Rural Communities

10/12/16 US Department of Agriculture
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced $1.4 million in grants to enhance the quality of life for citizens in rural areas through the Rural Health and Safety Education competitive (RHSE) grants program. Through these awards, the program is supporting two projects to address the critical challenges of substance misuse in rural communities. Fiscal year 2016 grantees include: Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan., $356,257 – This project expands on the existing Keys to Embracing Aging program to reach communities statewide in Kansas and Kentucky. The program introduces and reinforces 12 healthy lifestyle behaviors, including nutrition, physical fitness, social, and mental wellness, personal safety, stress reduction, and financial management.

KSU Engineering Students Tackle Blue-Green Algae Problem

10/13/16 WIBW News
A team of mechanical engineering seniors at K-State are proposing a solution for a real world problem—the blue-green algae bloom in the northeast corner of Milford Lake. They designed a prototype for their client, Clay County park manager Mike Carney to review. Carney runs camping operations at the Clay County Park in Wakefield and said loyal campers at the site are leaving due to the smell and general safety concerns. “This summer, I’ve lost eight of them,” he said. “They come up here, they worry about going out boating. They worry that they don’t want to take the children out there.”

From Our Peers

Researchers Work to Spread Prized Genes of Yellowstone Bison

10/13/16 Houston Chronicle
Researchers have transplanted embryos originating from the bison herd at Yellowstone National Park into female bison in Minnesota in hopes of increasing the genetic diversity of herds in the state and helping to restore America's official mammal to the landscape. While Yellowstone bison are prized because they're free of domestic cattle genes, experts say using them in breeding programs is difficult because they carry a contagious disease called brucellosis, which causes spontaneous abortions in pregnant cattle. Other efforts at spreading the genes of Yellowstone bison have focused on using animals descended from the park's herd that have been certified as disease free. Transplanting embryos uses in-vitro fertilization to get around the problem. Colorado State University animal reproduction professor Jennifer Barfield and other researchers last month implanted embryos in four female bison at the Minnesota Zoo. Veterinarians will conduct ultrasound tests in the coming months to see if the animals became pregnant. If all goes well, they'll give birth to baby bison in the spring.

If Congress Invests in Seasonal Weather Forecast Research, Everyone Wins

10/14/16 Washington Post (by Leonard Pietrasfesa, professor emeritus in atmospheric sciences at North Carolina State University)
Fall is upon us, with wintertime to follow. The weather will turn cooler, and the leaves will explode with brilliant colors, then wither and die. The change of seasons is marvelous. But no season one year is the same as the next. The long-term research of atmospheric scientists has led to forecasts that help us to properly dress daily, and moreover help the vast sectors of our national economy from industrial base scales to small family-owned businesses. The list of societal benefits from weather and extended weather research is pervasive. The seminal research on extended weather conditions has already helped power companies and the airline industry know what is over the horizon. It has aided downhill ski-lift operators, city planners and highway officials in anticipating how much snow will likely fall this upcoming winter, and thus how much artificial snow to plan for or how much road chemicals and salt will be needed, etc. Knowing how much our society depends on reliable weather information from the National Weather Service and their partners in the private sector, atmospheric scientists have learned that there could be great economic advantages to extending the range of reliable forecasts.

Scientists Find Ancient, Wingless Wasp Unlike Any Other

10/12/16 Breitbart
Scientists say a bizarre, wingless wasp, extinct for millions of years, is unlike any other. Found impeccably preserved in Burmese amber, Aptenoperissus burmanicus lived 100 million years ago in what’s now Myanmar’s Hukawng Valley. The parasitic wasp is so unique, its discovery required scientists to create a new taxonomic family, Aptenoperissidae, of which it is the only member. Researchers placed the family under the order Hymenoptera, home of all modern bee and wasp species. Scientists surmise the wasp crawled around the base of trees, searching for insects to prey upon and protected nooks where it could lay eggs. “When I first looked at this insect I had no idea what it was,” George Poinar, Jr., a professor of integrative biology at Oregon State University, said in a news release. “You could see it’s tough and robust, and could give a painful sting. We ultimately had to create a new family for it, because it just didn’t fit anywhere else. And when it died out, this created an evolutionary dead end for that family.”

How Empathetic Are Americans? Gender and Generation Matter

10/15/16 Psychology Today Blog
America ranks no. 7 globally when it comes to our empathic concern and the ability to imagine others' point of view, according to a first-of-its-kind study from Michigan State University. The October 2016 report appears in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. For this study, researchers led by MSU's William Chopic analyzed data obtained from an online empathy survey completed by 104,365 men and women around the world. A subsequent study by Konrath and O'Brien along with Linda Hagen of University of Michigan and Daniel Grühn of North Carolina State University analyzed data on empathy from three separate samples that included more than 75,000 American adults. Analysis of the data found that women in their 50s are more empathic than men of the same age—as well as younger or older men and women.

Staggering Loss of Wildlife Following Amazon 'Rubber Boom’

10/12/16 Science Daily
Researchers for the first time have documented the killing of millions of animals in Brazil's Amazon Basin for their hides following the collapse of the Rubber Boom in the 20th century, causing the collapse of some aquatic species. Yet despite the harvest of many terrestrial animals, most land-based species appear to have survived the carnage. Results of the study are being published this week in the journal Science Advances. "There was a massive international trade in furs and skins taken from the Amazon in Brazil during much of the 20th century, yet surprisingly no previous studies documented the exploitation of the animals or the resilience of the ecosystem," said Taal Levi, a wildlife ecologist at Oregon State University and co-author on the study.

RSCAD Trending Topics

Bio Agro-Defense Policy: America’s Food Supply, Health, and Economy at Risk

The Bipartisan Policy Center and Kansas State University held panel discussions on the threat of bio/agroterrorism, highlighting the importance of agriculture in biosecurity, as well as potential strategies, tactics, and policy solutions for the next administration. The 2015 bipartisan report of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Biodefense reported that, despite progress on many fronts, the nation remains highly vulnerable to biological threats. A critical consideration in the national dialogue on biodefense includes the need to protect American’s food supply and agriculture economy. A biological attack on the $1 trillion agriculture sector would have devastating economic, social, and political fallout, and it is critical to promote engagement and awareness in the biosecurity debate.

Kansas City One Health Day

On Nov. 3, individuals and groups from around the world will celebrate a collaborative approach to improving human, animal and planetary health called One Health. Kansas City is celebrating, too. The Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute, BioKansas and Kansas State University Olathe are partnering to hold activities from 4-7 p.m. at the Kauffman Foundation. Activities include Collaborate2Cure, networking at a BioBreak and then a keynote presentation by world-renowned Zika expert, Dr. Stephen Higgs. The event also will be livestreamed on Zoom.

'Higgs Bison' Is The Missing Link In European Bison Ancestral Tree

For a decade, people who study Europe's bison population have been baffled by a genetic mystery. The animals, which are a protected species, seemed to have appeared out of thin air about 11,000 years ago. "There's something very fishy in the history of European bovids," says Alan Cooper of the University of Adelaide, one of the lead authors of a paper published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications. ... About 120,000 years ago, ancient cows and steppe bison had created a hybrid species that survived for thousands of years, which Cooper says is rare. Cooper and his colleagues jokingly called the new hybrid animal the "Higgs bison," a reference to the famed particle physics discovery.

Spy Agencies Team Up With National Academies

In an unprecedented move, U.S. intelligence agencies are teaming up with the nation's most prestigious scientific body in a bid to make better use of findings from the country's leading social and behavioral scientists. The partnership between the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) in Tysons Corner, Virginia, and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine aims to build bridges between communities that historically have either ignored one another or butted heads. The effort includes the creation of a permanent Intelligence Community Studies Board at the academies, which will meet for the first time next week, as well as a first-ever study of how social and behavioral science research might strengthen national security.

FFAR and Borlaug Dialogue Attendees Celebrate New $100,000 National Academy of Sciences Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences

It is widely recognized that global food production must double by the year 2050 in order to meet demand, and that this advancement requires scientific innovation. The new NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences is designed to honor breakthrough scientific achievements and inspire continued innovation in food and agriculture sciences. Support from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a national nonprofit that supports innovative science, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, endows the Prize in perpetuity.

Bob Dylan, the Songwriter Scientists Love to Quote, Just Won a Nobel Prize

In 2014, a group of scientists at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute in Stockholm revealed that they had been competing for nearly 2 decades to see who could sneak the most Dylan lyrics into their papers. Two of the researchers, Jon Lundberg and Eddie Weitzberg, said the contest originated with a 1997 paper they published in Nature Medicine entitled “Nitric Oxide and Inflammation: The answer is blowing in the wind.”

The Cure for Cancer Is Data—Mountains of Data

For a decade we’ve been talking about the potential of gene sequencing and personalized medicine, how advances in computer processing power combined with an increasingly intimate understanding of our individual genomes has put us on the threshold of an age of miracles. With enough data, the theory goes, there’s not a disease that isn’t druggable. But as Schadt has learned, it’s not enough to plumb the depths of an individual’s DNA. It requires a universe of data—exabytes worth—to detect patterns in a population, apply machine learning, find the network of mutations responsible for disease, and do something about it. The bigger these data sets become, the more accurate and powerful the models and the predictors become.