Bowling Green, KY, United States
Bowling Green, KY, United States

Western Kentucky University is a public university in Bowling Green, Kentucky, United States. It was founded by the Commonwealth of Kentucky in 1906, though its roots reach back a quarter-century earlier. In the fall 2011 semester, enrollment was approximately 21,000.The subject of heavy construction since the late 1990s, the main campus sits atop a hill with a commanding view of the Barren River valley. The campus flows from the top of College Heights, also known as The Hill, down its north, south and west faces. WKU also operates a satellite campus in Bowling Green and regional campuses in Glasgow, Elizabethtown-Fort Knox and Owensboro. Wikipedia.

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Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: MAJOR RESEARCH INSTRUMENTATION | Award Amount: 193.69K | Year: 2014

This Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant provides funding to the Western Kentucky University to acquire a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) for education and research at undergraduate and graduate levels. The instrument will support a broad range of cutting-edge and innovative research projects spanning multiple disciplines of natural sciences and engineering. Additionally, the instrument will allow the integration of a hands-on training and research component into the curriculum for various undergraduate courses. The new instrument will allow students, researchers and educators to obtain high-resolution images of a wide variety of samples ranging from complex micro-features in electronic and aerospace materials to organic nano-particles and biological species. The new instrument will also impact the research experience and education of Gatton Academy Math and Science high school students, as well as secondary and middle school students from minority and underrepresented groups in Appalachian counties.

The scanning electron microscope with extended capabilities including secondary and backscatter imaging, high and low vacuum control, and energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer analyzer will impact a number of research projects from multiple disciplines including advanced manufacturing, mechanical engineering, geology, chemistry, and biology. The focused research and education areas include: (i) analyzing dimensional accuracy, surface finish, and crater sizes of micro and nano features machined using advanced manufacturing processes, (ii) surface morphology characterizations of nanostructures and their thin films, (iii) characterization of antibiotic coated gold nanoparticles for antimicrobial applications, (iv) characterization of structural and physical properties of advanced nanocarbon-based materials for energy-related applications, (v) morphological characteristics of stoneflies (Insecta, Plecoptera), and (vi) chemical, mineralogical (diagenetic) and morphological analysis of rocks and minerals from oil and gas reservoir. The high vacuum mode of the scanning electron microscope will enable imaging and analysis of micro and nano scale features in metallic and electronic materials. Low vacuum mode will be used for characterizing not only inorganic and organic nanoparticles, but also biological systems in various environments such as wet, dry, oily, porous, out-gassing, hydrated, or contaminated. In addition, the instrument will support a number of courses on electron microscopy; materials characterization; mechanical properties of materials; geology; and earth sciences. Overall, the new instrument will impact the research productivity of a core group of researchers to continue building a multidisciplinary, comprehensive program in materials science and advanced manufacturing.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: MODULATION | Award Amount: 325.05K | Year: 2016

Sleep is an essential and restorative process that is often neglected in modern society. In humans, chronic sleep loss (insomnia, shift work, sleep apnea) has negative consequences on normal physiological and mental function and is a risk factor for many chronic conditions, such as metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. In the Arctic, migratory songbirds are active for 20 hours/day to take advantage of constant summer light, and seemingly do not suffer from the well-known detrimental effects of sleep loss, such as physiological and cognitive dysfunction. This research aims to investigate sleep patterns and assess the costs and benefits of sleep loss in arctic-breeding songbirds in Barrow, Alaska (71°N). Broader impacts of the proposal include training the next generation of science teachers to provide instruction to K-12 students of rural Alaska, engaging students (high school, undergraduate, and graduate) and postdoctoral trainees from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds in collaborative research, and disseminating research findings to scientists and the general public.

Sleep is essential for most organisms, although its precise function is enigmatic. Chronic sleep loss is well known to have detrimental effects on human health and performance. However, other species display a diversity of sleep patterns that challenge the assumption that reduced sleep is costly for all vertebrates. This proposal takes advantage of state-of-the-art miniaturized transmitters to assess sleep architecture in free-ranging songbirds. Arctic-breeding passerines exhibit extended wakefulness during migration and are active 20 hours/day on their breeding grounds where continuous daylight prevails. The project aims to investigate the sleep/wake cycles of two species of songbirds with different life-history strategies that breed in the high Arctic (Barrow, Alaska, 71° N). It is hypothesized that both natural and sexual selection play a role in determining their sleep patterns. Next, daily sleep will be experimentally increased or decreased to assess life-history tradeoffs with fecundity and/or survivorship. Lastly, the hypothesis will be tested whether arctic-breeding songbirds are more resilient to metabolic, cognitive, hormonal, and immunological costs of sleep loss compared with temperate-breeding birds in captivity. Broader impacts include a Future Teachers of Science program that fosters training of science teachers to develop teaching modules for K-12 students of rural Alaska and a cross-cultural research program for high school students of Alaska and Kentucky to assist with field research. Results from the research will contribute to our understanding of how arctic-dwelling species, including humans, cope with continuous periods of arctic light.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: IRES | Award Amount: 249.98K | Year: 2014

This IRES award will provide research experiences to undergraduate students from Western Kentucky University (WKU) in South Korea at Pusan National University and Changwon National University. The WKU students will work on projects in biochemistry and analytical chemistry with the PI or Co-PI and respective South Korean collaborators. The PI, Professor Moon-Soo Kim from WKU, and Professor Haesik Yang from Pusan National University will collaborate on the use of sequence-specific Zinc Finger Proteins (ZFPs) and Transcriptional Activator-Like Effectors (TALEs) for the detection of pathogens. They seek improvements in detection sensitivity for this technique by using electrochemical detection with redox cycling. The development of a point-of-care diagnostic for pathogen detection is expected from this project. The Co-Pi, Professor Eric Conte from WKU, and Professor Yong-Ill Lee from Changwon National University will collaborate on the use of Magnetic Zirconia particles for the separation of chiral racemic drug mixtures. The separation of chiral racemic mixtures is a challenge in biomedicine where typically only one enantiomer will have biological activity. Magnetic zirconia particles show promise for separating a number of important racemic mixtures and subsequent isolation of the biologically important chiral molecule. Separating and isolating the pharmaceutically active chiral substance is important for studying a drug?s metabolic route.

A strengthened joint collaboration, involving WKU undergraduate students, will result between the WKU investigators from a predominately undergraduate institution and Korean collaborators at two internationally recognized Ph.D. granting institutions (Pusan and Changwon National Universities). In addition, this experience is designed to expose students to education within a different cultural milieu. They will gain an appreciation for higher education in a country other than their own and gain research experience in an international environment. Also, a greater cultural appreciation will result. WKU students will work in the laboratory of the PI or Co-PI during the academic year and visit their host Korean University during the summertime. Qualified underrepresented students from WKU will be given priority for this overseas visit, including students from nearby Appalachian counties. These students will be least likely to have the means to visit a foreign land and in general lack exposure to diverse cultures.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: GALACTIC ASTRONOMY PROGRAM | Award Amount: 127.81K | Year: 2016

The investigators study the elements produced in stars in our galaxy. All stars generate energy in their cores by fusing light elements into heavier ones. When the core of a star runs out of light elements to fuse, its contracts under its own weight. The collapse reheats the outer layers, turning the star into a red giant. This phase is unstable and ends with the outer layers being thrown off entirely. These elements are released from the stars at the end of their life cycle. The investigators will use optical telescopes to measure the element abundances. The elements are visible in planetary nebulae, which are beautiful ionized gaseous shells ejected by such stars. Undergraduate students will help with the research. The students will be introduced to the techniques of scientific and engineering research.

From images of the elements created by the stars, the investigators learn the types of nuclear reactions that went on in these stars. From the reactions, the investigator learns how massive the stars were and how long they lived. Some elements pass through the stars nuclear fires unchanged. By matching these elements, they can trace the type of molecular clouds where the stars were born.

Using new methods combining high-precision optical and infrared spectra of planetary nebulae with newer, more accurate distance measurements, they will examine the history of star formation and chemical enrichment throughout our Galaxy. Undergraduate students at Western Kentucky University will take active roles in all aspects of this work. The students will become better prepared for careers in scientific and technical fields. The investigator is working in a region of the country where such jobs are most needed.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: RSCH EXPER FOR UNDERGRAD SITES | Award Amount: 191.33K | Year: 2015

This project is supported under the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Sites program, which is an NSF-wide program although each Directorate administers its own REU Site competition. This program supports active research participation by undergraduate students in an effort to introduce them to scientific research so as to encourage their continued engagement in the nations scientific research and development enterprise. REU projects involve students in meaningful ways in ongoing research programs or in research projects designed especially for the purpose. The REU program is a major contributor to the NSFs goal of developing a diverse, internationally competitive, and globally-engaged science and engineering workforce. The Social, Behavioral and Economic (SBE) sciences Directorate awarded this REU Site grant to Western Kentucky University Research Foundation which aims to provide undergraduate students with hands-on research experience examining technology as a means of advancing our understanding of human behavior and cognition. This project is likely to advance knowledge of the field of psychology by training future scholars in advanced research methods and utilizing cutting-edge technology to conduct high-quality psychological research. This project has the potential to impact society by a) advancing the field of psychology by conducting cutting-edge research that will be translated into national and/or international presentations and publications, b) providing valuable research training to the next generation of psychological scientists, and c) recruiting students from underrepresented STEM groups in order to increase their familiarity with scientific research methods in the field of psychology and spark their interest in STEM-related careers.

The purpose of the REU project is to provide a unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience in psychological research to undergraduate students enrolled in colleges and universities where there are limited research opportunities. Utilizing a targeted recruitment method, at least 50% of program participants will be qualified, first-generation college students, racial minorities, or students with disabilities, with an emphasis on those from rural or disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds in the Appalachia region. Students spend 10 weeks working closely with a faculty mentor on research utilizing technological advances in the various subspecialties of psychology. Students participate in developmental workshops and activities related to topics such as ethics, research methods, statistics, computer software, and presentation skills. At the conclusion of the program, students present their findings at a mini research conference in front of university faculty and staff. To broaden the projects impact, all students are expected to disseminate their research findings at a national or international conference and students are strongly encouraged to submit their research findings for publication. The goal is to have participants develop strong skills as psychological researchers, thereby increasing the likelihood that a majority of program participants will pursue graduate degrees and/or careers in the psychological sciences or closely related fields.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Systematics & Biodiversity Sci | Award Amount: 154.80K | Year: 2016

How do evolutionary changes within species translate into broad patterns across a group of related species? This question is at the heart of evolutionary ecology, but has been very difficult to answer. A major problem is that current analytical approaches, known as phylogenetic comparative methods, require that a single value be used to represent a trait for an entire species. As a result, valuable information on differences among individuals within a species cant be used. This limits the types of questions that these comparative methods can address. The main goal of this project is to develop new analytical software that accounts for trait variation within species, which will result in a much more powerful computational tool. The newly developed software will be tested using experimental data from salamanders and fish. This award will have multiple broader impacts. This new tool will let a whole new set of hypotheses be tested and will be widely used by scientists doing evolutionary ecology research. Undergraduate students will receive hands-on training in mathematical modeling and software development. Educational outreach activities include a research-education exchange between a regional undergraduate university and a large research university. National and international teaching workshops will help train the next generation of students and scientists from around the world.

Analyses of phenotypic data tend to remain distinctly different enterprises between microevolutionary and macroevolutionary studies. Consequently, we still do not know how microevolutionary trends from ecological selection associate to macroevolutionary trends across phylogenies. Phylogenetic comparative methods (PCMs) measure the amount of phylogenetic signal in a set of data or account for the phylogenetic relatedness among observations when evaluating ecological variation, but currently work only with single values for species. Thus, large amounts of within-species data are disregarded when using PCMs, which limits their inferential capability. This project will develop an analytical solution to this problem, and provide a framework for extending PCMs to large data sets comprising microevolutionary data. The methods developed will allow scientists to evaluate the consistency of small-scale and large scale evolutionary relationships in a comparative framework. This project will incorporate both theoretical and empirical components. Statistical research will evaluate the statistical power and inferential error rates of expanded-PCM to varied analytical designs, phenotypic variables, tree topologies, and data balance. These methods will be applied empirically to two vertebrate systems to study the phylogenetic relatedness of intra-species morphological variation, as it is associated with intra- and interspecific ecological variation. Several educational outreach activities will also be conducted, including: a research-in-education exchange between a primarily undergraduate university and large research university, and teaching workshops in quantitative methods to train the next generation of students and scientists from around the world.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ATMOSPHERIC CHEMISTRY | Award Amount: 124.71K | Year: 2015

This project is investigating the potential for agricultural emissions of nitrogen and sulfur gases from sources such as dairy farms, piggeries, and other animal production sources to lead to the formation of very small particles in the atmosphere. Previous studies have shown that gas phase compounds related to waste management practices from animal agriculture could influence the formation of atmospheric particles. This project includes laboratory, field and modeling studies to investigate the environmental fate of nitrogen and sulfur compounds from these sources.

An environmental chamber will be used to quantify secondary aerosol formation potentials at different relative humidities and temperatures for select amines (diethylamine (DEA), trimethylamine (TMA), butylamine (BA), a diamine, or NH3) oxidized in the presence of an organosulfur compound (methanethiol, dimethylsulfide (DMS), or dimethyldisulfide (DMDS)) or hydrogen sulfide. The investigators will perform field sampling of particulate matter and precursors at agricultural operations in Kentucky at the USDA-Agricultural Research Station (ARS) laboratory to determine the impact of elevated amine and sulfur concentrations on atmospheric chemistry.

Kinetic modeling calculations will help clarify the sequence of chemical reactions responsible for the data seen in laboratory experiments. This will, in turn, help explain emission rates observed in field observations. The investigators expect to elucidate the atmospheric oxidation routes for reduced sulfur compounds and amines. Empirical estimates of the aerosol formation potential of key agricultural emissions will be developed for use in predicting local and regional air quality impacts and emissions inventories of the reduced nitrogen and sulfur species will be developed as an additional input to air quality models.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Systems and Synthetic Biology | Award Amount: 497.88K | Year: 2016

Nanotechnology is a fast emerging area that is attracting immense research interest. Gold nanoparticles, which are the focus of this project, have properties that are very different than bulk metal and have applications in a variety of areas, including medicine, heavy industry, and information and communication technologies. The aim of this project is to understand the mechanism of gold uptake and gold nanoparticle production in plants. Once the molecular mechanism of gold nanoparticle biosynthesis is deciphered, a plant-based system can be easily manipulated for efficient production of these nanoparticles for downstream applications. In contrast to conventional methods, which generate tons of hazardous materials, this eco-friendly method of gold nanoparticle production will generate minimal wastes, and thus have a minimal impact on the environment. Many undergraduate student researchers will be active participants on this project and will gain hands-on experience of this cutting-edge nano-biotechnology.

The goal of this project is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the mechanism of gold uptake and assimilation in plants by identifying the genes involved in gold nanoparticle biosynthesis. A combination of molecular, biochemical and physiological approaches will be used for this project. The long-term goal of this project is to develop transgenic approaches to further enhance the biosynthesis of gold nanoparticle of different shapes and sizes for potential downstream applications. This project will also extend an international research collaboration with scientists from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in New Delhi, India. This research project will: (i) train and mentor at least 15 undergraduate students for independent research and critical thinking skills, and (ii) provide opportunities for oral and written communication of research findings through presentations, and peer-reviewed publications. Through close mentoring and careful monitoring of progress, we will motivate and prepare students to pursue graduate degrees and to build careers in STEM discipline. Students will also have opportunity to visit IARI laboratories, where they will have an opportunity to perform research, interact and collaborate with foreign students, post-docs and scientists. Finally, it is anticipated that the study will take the field of nanogold technology a step closer to commercial realism.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Chemical Catalysis | Award Amount: 300.47K | Year: 2015

In this project funded by the Chemical Catalysis Program of the Chemistry Division, Professor Rui Zhang at the Western Kentucky University is designing efficient photocatalysts (catalysts that function with the input of light) that can utilize sunlight to activate oxygen and transfer it to other chemicals, also termed oxidation. The use of sunlight and atmospheric oxygen rather than a chemical reagent in the oxidation processes of bulk chemicals would be more sustainable, generate less chemical waste, and potentially reduce economic costs associated with the process. The research may impact the fundamental science and technology of green chemistry. The project is providing cutting-edge research experiences for the participating undergraduate STEM students and thereby training future STEM professionals. High school students from Gatton Academy are also spending time in the laboratory and learning about catalysis research.

Dr. Zhang is studying ways to produce highly reactive metal(V)-oxo species in a catalytic cycle through photo-disproportionation of mu-oxo metal(IV) dimers. Initial studies in this research laboratory have demonstrated unique reactivity of ruthenium(IV) mu-oxo bisporphyrins and iron(IV) mu-oxo corroles in which high valent transition-metal oxo intermediates are accessed through the disproportionation. Now, Prof. Zhang is studying ways to produce the more reactive manganese(V)-oxo species via photo-disproportionation reactions and to develop efficient oxidations catalyzed by more stable metallocorrole complexes. Synthetic pathways are being developed to link a photosensitizer to the catalyst and to improve the light harvesting efficiency of the catalyst.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 54.27K | Year: 2015

The goal of this collaborative Advancing Health Services through System Modeling Research project is to lay a scientific foundation for new business rules and operation sciences useful for the patient centered medical home model (PCMH). The PCMH model is an emerging team-based approach for primary care aimed at improving timely access to care, continuity of care, care cost and comprehensiveness for patient wellness. This three-year project has the following tasks: 1) to develop a comprehensive health information technology data preparation strategy to provide healthcare demand and supply portfolio data 2) to develop an adaptive discrete-cluster-based statistical estimation model that can predict healthcare workload based on key patient attributes, such as diagnosis and treatment characteristics, and 3) to create stochastic optimization models to aid in managing patient panels and staffing levels for all PCMH teams. Such models would provide dynamic updating rules for patient and staffing allocation with a stochastically migrating patient population in medical facilities; and would provide a real time appointment scheduling system to improve daily operations through optimal patient allocation and staffing under stochastic patient demand for service.

With the development of a healthcare workload portfolio estimation model, patient allocation model and dynamic scheduling strategy, this research will directly support PCMH practices by assigning patients to provider team members so that that providers time can be fully utilized and patients receive prompt, adequate and economical healthcare. The project will be in collaboration with the largest healthcare system in U.S., the Veterans Health Administration. We expect the results of this research to be adopted and implemented in hundreds of medical facilities. The research will be brought into classrooms to inspire and engage undergraduate and graduate students, especially underrepresented groups. This research will contribute to and enhance our graduate level courses and seminars. In addition workshops will be developed on campus and in various conferences.

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