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K-State Today

May 12, 2011

Research on textiles, wind and solar power lands two faculty members among state's top scientists

Submitted by Julie Fosberg

An engineer and textile scientist are the latest Kansas State University professors selected to be among the top 150 scientists in Kansas' history.

Ruth Douglas Miller, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Elizabeth McCullough, professor of textiles and co-director of the Institute for Environmental Research, were added to the Ad Astra Kansas Initiative's list of the state's top 150 scientists for the organization's project, "Science in Kansas: 150 Years and Counting." The project is part of the yearlong celebration of the Kansas sesquicentennial and is meant to highlight important researchers and innovators throughout the state's 150-year history. Douglas Miller and McCullough join other historically noted Kansas researchers like George Washington Carver, Charles H. Sternberg, Clyde Cessna and Clyde Tombaugh.

Scientists included in the Ad Astra project are featured on digital trading cards with their picture and research stats, similar to a sports card. The cards are meant for K-12 students to help teach and emphasize the importance of science and innovation and the role they play in the history and future of Kansas.

Douglas Miller's research focuses on harnessing wind and solar power. Specifically her work studies the best places to build wind turbines and how wind and solar energies can be most efficiently incorporated into the power grid.

"With the second-best wind resource in the U.S., Kansas stands in an excellent position to build a strong renewable energy economy, preserve rural lifestyles and also help preserve the health of our planet for future generations," she said. "It is most rewarding to be working in the renewable energy field -- what the world needs the most."

Douglas Miller also directs K-State's Wind Application Center and leads the state's Wind for Schools program. The program helps K-12 schools across Kansas install small wind turbines in an effort to educate students about wind energy and interest them in careers within the alternative energy field. By the end of 2010, Wind for Schools has placed 14 turbines and installed 13. The program is also working with Colby Community College and Midwest Energy in setting up a new small wind turbine test facility in Colby, which will help identify wind turbine models that perform well in Kansas' strong winds.

Douglas Miller earned doctoral and master's degrees at the University of Rochester and her bachelor's degree at Lafayette College.

McCullough studies the thermal properties of fabrics and the development and evaluation of protective clothing systems and sleeping bags. She has written several standards for the American Society for Testing and Materials. The most recent is for determining the temperature ratings for cold-weather clothing. This standard provides procedures for measuring the insulation provided by cold-weather clothing with a thermal manikin and a model for predicting the air temperature for comfort. Since McCullough tests clothing for companies such as L. L. Bean, Land's End and J. C. Penney, consumers are able to compare products based on standardized test information. She also uses the same scientific approach for testing sleeping bags.

McCullough has received several contracts from the U.S. Army to evaluate the effectiveness of personal cooling systems worn under body armor. She has also worked with soldiers from Fort Riley's 1st Infantry Division to determine which systems have potential for use during military operations in hot desert environments.

"We have unique facilities at Kansas State that enable us to help companies develop and test new textile products," McCullough said. "We hope these innovations will improve the thermal comfort of consumers."

McCullough received her bachelor's from Ohio State University and her master's and doctorate from the University of Tennessee in textile science.

More information about the Ad Astra Kansas Initiative, as well as the trading cards, can be found at http://www.adastra-ks.org/.

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