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K-State Today

October 18, 2011

Recognized success: Two K-State distinguished professors among research award winners

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Two Kansas State University distinguished professors will be recognized for their excellence in research with an award that includes a $10,000 grant for ongoing research efforts.

Xiuzhi "Susan" Sun, distinguished professor of grain science and industry, and Michael Kanost, distinguished professor of biochemistry and head of the department of biochemistry, will be recognized Wednesday, Nov. 9, with Higuchi-University of Kansas Endowment Research Achievement Awards. The honors include a plaque and a $10,000 grant to be used for research materials, summer salaries, fellowship matching funds, hiring research assistants or other research support.

Takeru Higuchi, a former distinguished professor at KU, and his wife, established the Higuchi-KU Endowment Research Achievement Awards in 1981. These awards recognize long-term research accomplishments of faculty at Kansas Board of Research Universities. Awards are given in four categories: humanities and social sciences, basic sciences, biomedical sciences and applied sciences.

Sun will receive the Irvin Youngberg Award for Applied Sciences for her work as a world authority on biopolymers, especially the production of chemicals and materials from renewable feedstocks in ways that are environmentally friendly and sustainable. Her research focuses on how agricultural feedstocks -- like plants and grains -- or bioenergy by-products can be used to create bio-based materials that are safer and more durable. Her research has been supported with more than $12 million in grants from federal, state and industrial funding sources.

Sun, whose research has led to eight patents, also serves as director of K-State's Bio Materials and Technology Laboratory and co-director and founder of the Center for Biobased Polymers By Design. She joined K-State in 1996.

Kanost will receive the Olin Petefish Award in Basic Science for his work in the areas of molecular insect science, insect immune systems and biochemistry, areas in which he is one of the world's leading experts. A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, his research deals primarily with the proteins and other substances present in the blood of insects and the formation of insect exoskeletons.

Kanost's work contributes to a better understanding of the role insects play in the transmission of human diseases, as well as the control of insect pests. His research on caterpillars, mosquitoes and beetles has been supported with more than $15 million in grants from several scientific agencies.

Steve Warren, KU vice chancellor for research and graduate studies, said Sun, Kanost and the other two award winners are being recognized for their level of scholarly productivity, and it is important to encourage that effort.

"Kansas has outstanding professors in a wide range of fields," Warren said. "There have been 120 awardees over the years, each distinguished by important contributions to the state and the world."

The Higuchi award winners will be recognized at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Education Pavilion at the Lied Center of Kansas in Lawrence.