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Research, scholarship and creative activity at Oklahoma State University

BUILDING THE

Oklahoma Center for Respiratory and Infectious Diseases

2014


Burns Hargis, President Stephen W.S. McKeever, Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer Vanguard is published annually by Oklahoma State University. It is produced by the Office of Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer.

Editor/Writer: Kelly Green, Art Director/Designer: Ross Maute, Photographers: Mandy Gross, Ryan Jensen, Todd Johnson, Sean Kennedy, Gary Lawson, Kevin McCroskey, Phil Shockley Contributing Writers: Julie Barnard, Derinda Blakeney, Wravenna Bloomberg, Laura Crutcher, Matt Elliot, Kelly Green, Mandy Gross, Sean Hubbard, Sean Kennedy, Christy Lang, Terry Tush For details about research work highlighted in this magazine or reproduction permission, contact the editor. Kelly Green, Editor, Vanguard 405.744.5827; vpr@okstate.edu research.okstate.edu

Oklahoma State University, in compliance with Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 11246 as amended, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other federal laws and regulations, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, disability, or status as a veteran in any of its policies, practices or procedures. This includes but is not limited to admissions, employment, financial aid, and educational services. Title IX of the Education Amendments and Oklahoma State University policy prohibit discrimination in the provision of services or benefits offered by the University based on gender. Any person (student, faculty or staff) who believes that discriminatory practices have been engaged in based upon gender may discuss their concerns and file informal or formal complaints of possible violations of Title IX with the OSU Director of Affirmative Action, 408 Whitehurst, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078, (405)744-5371 or (405) 744-5576 (fax). This publication, issued by Oklahoma State University as authorized by the Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer, was printed by Heritage Solutions at a cost of $6,050. (5M) 12/13. #5063

Greetings friends and colleagues, This is the 12th edition of Vanguard magazine and the last for me as vice president for Research and Technology Transfer. Although I always look forward with excitement, there is a tinge of sadness in departing after 10 years from this position of service at Oklahoma State University. The past decade has shown remarkable growth for OSU’s research programs. Measuring research activity and impact is a notoriously difficult thing to do. Inevitably, we have to resign ourselves to the use of surrogate measures, each with many limitations. The most commonly used surrogate is the total funds expended at a university in support of research. At OSU, this figure has increased from $94.5 million in fiscal year 2002 to $181.9 million in fiscal year 2012 (with a high of $190.9 million in 2011). This essentially doubling of OSU’s research activity tops an approximately 65 percent increase in the national average (all universities) over the same period. A detailed analysis is available at research.okstate.edu/report. However, simple measures such as research expenditures can be misleading. It is impossible to sum up the breadth and extent of so many research and creative activities at a comprehensive university simply by quoting a number. Vanguard magazine attempts to describe the intricacies and details of selected projects from the complete research and creative activity portfolio at OSU. This year, we cover how the bright minds of OSU faculty members and students are tackling issues such as childhood obesity, applications of unmanned aerial vehicles, potential medical benefits of diamond nanoparticles, new vaccines for infectious diseases and many other areas of science and technology. Of course, science is not the only area where mankind’s inquisitiveness takes OSU scholarly studies. The use of advertising in public diplomacy, education innovation, the limitations and benefits of independent boards, and writing and authorship are some of the many subjects explored within this edition of Vanguard. It has been a fun journey as OSU’s vice president for Research and Technology Transfer. Together with a dedicated and talented staff, we have built a professional technology transfer program, achieving record-high license income for the university and spinning off several successful companies. OSU’s research compliance program has attracted national recognition. We have constructed the world-class Henry Bellmon Research Center, along with the Venture I and Morgan buildings at the Oklahoma Technology and Research Park. We have seen the university build world-renown programs in bioenergy research, unmanned aerial systems, high-energy physics, sensors and many more. Federally supported programs have increased dramatically, especially through our partnership with the University Multispectral Laboratories, which we established in Ponca City. The list goes on. New ventures now call me. The research program at OSU will continue to grow, initially under the interim leadership of Dean Sheryl Tucker, and then under a permanent leader, who will be found with a nationwide search. I wish them, and all of you, well.

Sincerely,

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu


Research, scholarship and creative activity at Oklahoma State University 2014

TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S 2 STEM for the Future

The OSU College of Education prepares future teachers and professionals for STEM areas. Their efforts are broad and growing, reflecting a collaborative and vibrant culture in which STEM subjects are a priority.

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Q&A: Educating for Growth

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6 Extreme Algae

You wouldn’t survive in the crater of an active volcano or in acidic mine waste deep below the earth’s surface, but Galdieria sulphuraria will.

8 Naturally Speaking, OSU Researchers Going Native 11 New Supercomputer Serves Researchers Statewide

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12 It Takes a Village

The OSU Family Health and Nutrition Clinic combines research and community resources in the treatment of childhood obesity.

14 Popping the Cork on a State Wine 17 Independent Boards: Better or No? 18 Advertising as Public Diplomacy

Dr. Jami Fullerton examines the role of globalized media in international relations, nation branding.

20 Building the Oklahoma Center for Respiratory

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and Infectious Diseases Thanks to a National Institutes of Health Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant, OSU is putting together an incredible foundation of researchers in the field of respiratory and infectious diseases.

26 From Basic Research to a Vaccine 28 Preparation and Opportunity Lead Scientist to OSU 30 Little Planes, Big Benefits

A look at current unmanned aerial system research projects underway at OSU.

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32 The Diamond Approach 34 Energy Solutions

An OSU-developed software program helps rural utilities respond to increasing demand from the oil and gas industry.

36 OSU Sets Royalty Record 37 Growing the Numbers

BACK COVER Journeying to Write Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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STEM for the FUTURE SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING and MATHEMATICS represent key areas in education and employment now and for the future. The Oklahoma State University College of Education’s efforts to prepare future teachers and professionals for STEM areas are broad and growing, reflecting a collaborative and vibrant culture where STEM subjects are a priority. BROADER DEFINITION While the College of Education’s working definition of STEM starts with science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, it doesn’t end there. “We prepare teachers of math and science, and elementary and special education teachers who have emphases in these areas,” College of Education Dean Pamela “Sissi” Carroll says. “Beyond the usual definitions, though, our working definition includes our

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Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

STEM-active aviation and aerospace education programs, and our health and human performance programs, including health promotion, exercise science, therapeutic recreation, recreation management, physical education, and athletic training, each of which requires a science-strong foundation.” With so many science-heavy programs, opportunities for collaboration across programs are numerous. The college also serves as the home of


PHOTO / GARY LAWSON

NASA Education Projects at OSU. The university has a lengthy and rich history with NASA Education, dating back more than 40 years. Today, more than $40 million in contracts reside at Oklahoma State and reach thousands of K-12 teachers and students across the country.

CRSTL The Center for Research on STEM Teaching and Learning (CRSTL) has continued to grow and expand. The center engages in a range of collaborative research and outreach projects that aim to improve STEM teaching and learning. CRSTL matches the needs of Oklahoma classrooms with the innovation of OSU’s premier scientists and engineers. (For more information on CRSTL, visit crstl.okstate.edu.) Juliana Utley, mathematics education associate professor and Alice Phillips Professor in Elementary Education, and Toni Ivey, assistant professor in science education, co-direct CRSTL. Faculty members from the colleges of Education, Arts and Sciences, and Engineering, Architecture and Technology are part of projects filtering through CRSTL, which is building a larger STEM pipeline through its efforts. “By fifth grade, we are already losing students from STEM fields and by eighth grade, students have decided whether a STEM career is an option for them. Targeting early grades is very important,” Ivey notes. Faculty members partner with public school teachers on an array of grant-funded research and outreach projects. In 2012, CRSTL and NASA Education Projects partnered with Stillwater Public Schools to host one of a handful of Downlinks with the International Space Station. More than 400 sixth-graders came to the OSU campus to communicate in real time with NASA astronaut Kevin Ford, who was aboard the International Space Station.

With the help of a Stillwater middle school teacher and sixth grade student, NASA Education specialist Brian Hawkins (left) talks about what astronauts wear and eat while in space as part of a NASA Downlink from the OSU campus with the International Space Station on Nov. 30, 2012.

Another example of a joint project is a state grant called C-3 — College, Career, Citizen — where faculty members work with a co-op that serves many rural school districts to implement Engineering is Elementary, a well-established curriculum from the Boston Museum of Science. Engineering, aerospace and energy are prominent STEM job fields in Oklahoma. There is also a documented shortage of doctors in the state. STEM education is vital to all of these fields, and increasing awareness of the importance of math and science for K-12 students is an integral step. “We are really trying to help build interest in the areas that industry is reporting a need,” Utley says. “I think we are seeing a lot of success and an uptick in the number of K-12 teachers’ schools desiring to work with the university.”

CRSTL participated in the Governor’s STEM Summit and an Aerospace Education Industry Partnership Meeting in 2013. The center also has hosted a STEM Teacher Institute each of the last two summers with plans for a third in 2014. A Broader Impacts workshop brought together faculty members and community entities, such as the Oklahoma City Zoo and the Oklahoma WONDERtorium, providing a place to network and make research connections. In the fall of 2013, Robert Raab joined the college as its first coordinator of faculty and student research initiatives, a role that serves to connect with external funding agencies and community partners and support faculty in research and outreach efforts.

STORY CONTINUES >

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PHOTO PROVIDED

OKLAHOMA STEMx LEARNING NETWORK In 2012, Oklahoma State University joined STEMx, a multistate network developed by states, for states. A selfdescribed grassroots movement, STEMx provides “an accessible platform for states to share, analyze and disseminate quality STEM education tools to transform education.” STEMx efforts aim to expand the number of STEM teachers, increase student achievement and grow tomorrow’s innovators. Oklahoma is one of 19 states in this collaborative effort, which is sponsored by Battelle Inc. CRSTL serves as the official hub for the state in STEMx. Education faculty members are working to get teachers to share knowledge with other teachers. “There are many silos of excellence in our state,” Utley says. “The impetus behind STEMx is to create one hub in the state that can pull in those silos and share them with others.”

OSUTEACH The College of Education has teamed with the College of Arts and Sciences to secure a grant that will help support a new and effective approach to recruiting and preparing secondary science and mathematics teachers. OSU received a $1.5 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to implement OSUTeach. The program is modeled after the highly successful and innovative UTeach at the University of Texas-Austin. Launched at UT-Austin in 1997, the program has since been implemented at 34 other universities around the country with fantastic results. Research shows that a high percentage of program graduates enter the teaching profession, and five years later, most of them are still teaching in schools.

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Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

High school students visit science labs at OSU as part of the annual National Lab Day, held each May on the Stillwater campus.

“One of the greatest potential benefits of the UTeach program is the number of graduates prepared to teach math and science for our state,” Carroll says. UTeach was created to attract a wide range of bright science and mathematics majors into secondary teaching careers, to prepare them through an advanced field-intensive curriculum, and to promote professional retention through induction support and ongoing professional development. (For more information on UTeach, visit uteach-institute.org/replicating-uteach.) UTeach students begin by taking two recruitment courses (the courses are one credit hour and tuition costs are reimbursed, allowing students to try out teaching math or science without

the financial commitment). Preparation to teach includes working in elementary, middle and high school classrooms with master teachers as they develop inquiry-based lessons using research-based curricula and materials. Students receive a degree in their STEM major and full teaching certification without added time or cost.   The university will raise additional funds for OSUTeach while working toward implementation in 2014-15. Support has been provided by the Schusterman Family Foundation and others. CHRISTY LANG


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Educating for Growth As the nation slowly recovers from the economic downturn in 2008, jobs especially high-paying ones — are still hard to come by. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education is largely billed as a key factor is preparing students for successful careers. Dr. Robert Sommers, state secretary of education and workforce development and director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, discusses why STEM education is so valuable for the state as a whole.

How can we increase the number of Oklahoma students interested in STEM?

Through career development, CareerTech ensures students have the knowledge and skills to make informed career choices and to create education plans to be prepared for those careers.

A multifaceted and sustainable approach to STEM education is key. The CareerTech System is the ultimate key to bridging and creating relevance and skills in the Oklahoma education system. STEM education must include elementary, middle school, high school and postsecondary opportunities.

Through career readiness, CareerTech ensures students know how to analyze issues, resolve problems, work with others and adapt to complex workplaces. Creativity, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills are core to career readiness.

How do CareerTech’s STEM education programs prepare students for successful careers?

Through academic enhancement, CareerTech ensures students develop the academic knowledge and skills required by their career choices.

STEM programs nurture creative students who are problem-solvers, innovators, logical thinkers, inventors and strong communicators who excel in science, technology, engineering and math. STEM students are prepared in rigorous coursework and with handson and laboratory experiences. CareerTech STEM programs also provide career preparation, development and readiness and academic enhancement. • Through career preparation, CareerTech develops students’ technical knowledge and skills that are required to succeed in postsecondary education or careers or to advance within careers.

CareerTech’s STEM academies prepare students for higher education and STEM degrees. In addition to rigorous math and science classes, STEM academies include a sequence of pre-engineering, biomedical and biotechnology courses. How can Oklahoma strengthen STEM education programs at K-12 and post-secondary levels? To strengthen STEM education in Oklahoma, all educational entities must work together to serve as a seamless alignment and not as barriers to STEM education. STEM coursework must be rigorous and applicable, using all aspects of science, technology, engineering and math.

Why are STEM-educated workers so valuable to our economy? Economic growth is important to Oklahoma. Students with a strong STEM foundation and 21st-century skills will ensure Oklahoma has a strong talent pipeline to continue the state’s economic growth. The Department of Commerce  says STEM careers are some of the bestpaying and have the greatest potential for job growth in the early 21st century. The report also notes that STEM workers play a key role in the sustained growth and stability of the U.S. economy, and training in STEM fields generally results in higher wages, whether or not the individuals work in a STEM field.

ROBERT SOMMERS previously served as CEO and superintendent of Butler Technology and Career Development Schools in Hamilton, Ohio. Under his leadership, the district doubled in size, became the highestperforming career-technical district in Ohio and became known for creative educational programs, including blended learning schools. He also served in several capacities with the Ohio Department of Education.

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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Extreme Algae Study sheds new light on evolution

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ou wouldn’t survive in the crater of an active volcano or in acidic mine waste deep below the earth’s surface or in superheated water laced with sulfur. That is, unless you were Galdieria sulphuraria. The algae thrive in hell on earth, surviving in the most poisonous and noxious environments imaginable.

Galdieria sulphuraria colonies growing on an agar plate. PHOTO / GERALD SCHÖNKNECHT

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Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

And, thanks to a study published in Science, we know a bit more about how the organism does that, a development that also sheds new light on evolution. “Galdieria really grows in places where nothing else grows,” says Gerald Schönknecht, an OSU botany professor who led the portion of the study that

analyzed the algae’s genome and looked at how it transports substances across its cell membranes. “It can take up to 57, 58 Celsius (135 degrees Fahrenheit). You can grow it in battery acid — diluted, hot battery acid.” Hard Core Algae It’s been found all over the world — on rocks submerged in hot springs in Iceland or Yellowstone National Park; on the slopes of Sicily’s Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest active volcano; and in abandoned mine shafts all over the world, swimming in acidic mine drainage laden with toxic heavy metals. Horizontal gene transfer makes it all happen. Normally, only individuals from the same species can exchange genetic material, transferring their genes to offspring — vertical gene transfer. That’s sexual or asexual reproduction. But, through horizontal gene transfer, Galdieria sulphuraria absorbed a list of genes from different bacteria that, over millennia of evolution, gave it traits that help it thrive. For comparison, that’s like absorbing from your living room geranium the ability to make food from light. In Galdieria’s case, Schönknecht and his colleagues found the important genes and linked them to specific ways it survives. That’s part of why the findings, which were published last March in Science, are significant. Also, horizontal gene transfer isn’t typically considered to have played a major a part in the adaptive evolution of


eukaryotes — the broad term for all large, complex organisms (red algae, dogs, humans, et cetera) — that, at the cellular level, have cells with a nucleus. “I think that’s why we made it in to Science,” he says. “There are others who’ve seen horizontal gene transfer in other algae … How much an impact these genes made for the adaptation of these organisms. That was not really clear.” Unraveling the Puzzle The work began in 2007. Schönknecht was on sabbatical at the University of Dusseldorf in Germany when he became involved in the algae’s genome project led by Andreas Weber there. Colleagues from Michigan State (where the algae’s genomes were sequenced), Heinrich-Heine University, University of California at Berkeley and other institutions joined the scientists. He began by looking at Galdieria’s genome and examining the chemical mechanisms the algae use to transport needed nutrients and waste across the membranes separating their cells from the outside world. Evolution works like this. Organisms live and die with certain small deviations in their genetic codes from their buddies. Those mutations are typically passed on to offspring through reproduction. Those offspring sometimes take their own spin on the mutations, and the process repeats with each generation. Due to natural selection, those with the most beneficial mutations accumulate. Those with the least beneficial traits die off. That’s a slow process taking place over millions of years. In contrast, horizontal gene transfer, Schönknecht says, “allows the rapid acquisition of Galdieria sulphuraria has been isolated in several locations in Ireland. The algea have been found in yellow sulfur deposits at a hot spring in Seltun (top) and in a volcanic area in Skalafell (bottom).

entirely new functions” — an evolutionary leap forward. Schönknecht saw evidence of the process clearly in the algae’s inner workings that were similar to those of fungi (the paper in Science focused on bacteria — the team wasn’t able to confirm evidence of horizontal gene transfer between the algae and fungi). “A lot of the transporters in there are very similar to transporters from fungi,” he says, “which is really odd, since algae and fungi are not related at all. That’s the point where I really got curious.”

“I’m not aware of any different photosynthetic organism that can do that,” Schönknecht says. “Horizontal gene transfer may be more important for eukaryotic evolution than we have assumed so far.”

Understanding Its Benefits Schönknecht says the next stage of the research will look at Galdieria’s arsenic pump, how it adapts to soils and how we can transfer its genes to other organisms. The group, which grew to 18 researchers by the time the study was published, has speculated A Boring Organism the knowledge could be Initially, he was used to help improve frustrated. Galdieria biofuels produconly had one tion. Researchers potassium have, in small channel, which quantities, was a feature produced common in hydrocarbons algae. He by tricking threw up his algae to make hands and said, fuel without “Now, that’s a all the trouble boring organism of exploration, … Forget about it.” Schönknecht pollution and the But later he other environmental understood why. PHOTO / PHIL SHOCKLEY baggage of the energy Potassium channels industry. However, the algae are conduct protons, he says. In frail and put out such small amounts the acidic environments, the outside world practice remains a pipedream for now. is loaded with the particles. Having Schönknecht wonders if stealing a transporter that lets them in would some genes from Galdieria or a kill the cell. Naturally, an organism similar organism could help toughen that thrives in such places would those biofuel-producing algae. Also, need as few of those as possible. He also found dozens of ways the cells a few of his colleagues in Europe are studying how Galdieria can be admitted sugars, amino acids and other used to clean up spills, or things such food sources, way more than most as waste from paper mills, which algae. That’s most likely a trait acquired from hori- is extremely toxic and acidic. Gerald Schönknecht’s other projzontal gene transfer, he says, and one that ects include work with the Noble Research Center in Ardmore, Okla., allows the plant to using Oklahoma Center for the survive without Advancement of Science and Techneeding light nology funding to understand how (photosynthesis, plants deal with acids and bases and the process most how they get rid of acids produced plants use to feed in waterlogged soils. He has been an themselves). In OSU botany professor since 2000. fact, it can live like MATT ELLIOTT a fungus, too, dining on dying bacteria.

PHOTOS / CHRISTINE OESTERHELT

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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Naturally Speaking, OSU Researchers Going Native An airliner is soaring through the clouds loaded with passengers enjoying the flight when a rivet pops off the body of the plane. It’s no big deal; the plane has hundreds of them. However, another pops off, then another, then another. Now there’s a problem. The Great Plains has seen a drastic decrease in native grasslands with the encroachment of non-native species. Our ecosystem is like that airplane, and the native species are like the rivets. “When the rivets start popping out, there is redundancy so you don’t care,” says Sam Fuhlendorf, Regents Professor of landscape and fire ecology in Oklahoma State University’s Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management. “But, at some point, when the last one pops out, it is not a good situation.” These non-native species can really wreak havoc once they’re established, says Gail Wilson, restoration ecology professor. “Without proper control, everything from the soil on up through the entire system, including birds and mammals, are affected,” she says. Many invasive plants have been brought in for a specific purpose — erosion control, forage or beauty — and with no predators to fight them off, have taken over.

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“When you start eliminating native species, and replacing them with nonnatives that don’t provide the same resources, you get to a tipping point where the native ecosystem just can’t handle it,” says Karen Hickman, range ecology and invasive species professor. Researchers at OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources are taking on the task of bringing back our native grasslands. Some research is geared toward strategies for managing property so that invasive species do not become a problem, while other studies tackle issues related to areas already invaded by non-native species. Prescribed burning Through prescribed burning, native plant communities can maintain their diversity and productivity for livestock production and wildlife habitat. “Native prairies, shrublands and forests supply the majority of livestock forage and 99.9 percent of the wild-

life habitat in Oklahoma,” says John Weir, research associate. “Without fire, native plant communities become dysfunctional and unproductive.” Naturally, many people correlate fire with wildfires roaring through the countryside, destroying everything in their paths. But a controlled fire can be a good fire. “Fire exclusion and fire suppression had been ingrained in our society for years and popularized by the very successful Smokey the Bear ad campaign,” says Terry Bidwell, professor and OSU Cooperative Extension rangeland ecology and management specialist. “The results have been a rapid decline in the quality of our natural resources, along with costing taxpayers millions of dollars each year to fight wildfires and the many other negative consequences of fuel build-up.” For the past 15 years, prescribed burning research has taken place on six plots just west of Stillwater, where the invasive sericea lespedeza is present. In three pastures, the entire plot is burned once every three years using traditional burning techniques. The other three pastures have been managed through patch burning, or burning approximately onethird of each pasture each year. “In the traditional plots, sericea is the dominant plant at about 25 percent,” Fuhlendorf says. “In the patch-burning plots, it has not increased at all. It comprises about 5 to 10 percent of those plots. It’s still there, it just hasn’t increased.”


PHOTO / TODD JOHNSON

Dr. Sam Fuhlendorf is working to control invasive plants through patch burning.

Patch burning is a just a portion of Fuhlendorf’s latest research, which he calls pyric herbivory. The idea behind this research is that grazing and fire should be coupled, rather than treating the two as independent disturbances to the landscape. “When pyric herbivory is used as a management tool, it can improve forage quality available to livestock, improve biodiversity, limit woody plants and other invasive species, limit pests such as ticks and horn flies, and sustain or enhance livestock production when compared with traditional management,” he says. While Fuhlendorf began his research on the Tallgrass Prairie in northeast Oklahoma, patch burning was far from a new idea in the state. “The idea came from trying to manage for diversity with fire and grazing but then realizing that a really useful model is to look at native people or pre-European people and how

they interacted with their environment,” says Fuhlendorf. “Recent books have highlighted that, historically, people were largely a fire-dependent culture. So, I guess one could say that we just learned this from what people have known for a really long time.” With some promising results from his research, Fuhlendorf has seen these practices spread like wildfire and now take place in many countries on multiple continents. Sonja Leverkus, range manager for 30 million acres of northeast British Columbia, was intrigued by Fuhlendorf’s research and decided to take patch burning to Canada. The spruce forests that will coat the landscape of the Boreal forest in Canada are not good for a diversity of wildlife and need to be managed by fire. “The reason we burn is to maintain open range and open forage for livestock, as well as wildlife,” says Leverkus. “We are finding that this increases

biodiversity, encourages shifting mosaics across the landscape as well as decreases fuel loading in the Boreal.” Prescribed burning is also used to draw animals away from major roads and highways. “We don’t have to deal with moose walking around on our highways like they do [in Canada],” Fuhlendorf says. “We might not have the same problems in Oklahoma as Sonja does in Canada, but our solutions are the same.” Re-establishing native species While Fuhlendorf continues burning the landscape, two other OSU researchers are blazing a trail to spark the growth of native species in areas formerly dominated by non-native species. There are several ways to remove invasive species from native areas. The trick is finding an effective and efficient way to get native species to STORY CONTINUES >

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Once the invasive plants are eradicated, it is very difficult to get the natives re-established, in large part because native species will not germinate in soil previously occupied by invasive species. “Our research suggests establishment of the natives can be improved through the addition of native soil to re-establish the native soil microbes,” Wilson says. “However, we have so little native grassland, can we afford to destroy what we have left and dig up

“There are millions of acres of highly disturbed and invaded rangelands in the world so identifying the causes of why native species are not re-establishing, and then developing methods to re-establish these plants will have huge economic and environmental impacts,” says Keith Owens, head of the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management. The issue of non-native species bombarding the native grasslands obviPHOTOS / TODD JOHNSON

once again thrive in areas previously overrun by the invasive species. To find the best solution, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program recently awarded a $2.2 million grant to two OSU researchers, Wilson and Hickman, along with collaborators from Indiana University. While this five-year grant is for research on three different military bases in Oklahoma, Kansas and Illinois,

Gail Wilson (left) and Karen Hickman (right) are using a $2.2 million grant from the Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program to study the most effective ways to re-introduce native plants to areas overrun by invasive species.

Hickman and Wilson think the results will be applicable to all domestic lands. “All of the research sites have invasive-species problems,” Hickman says. “It’s a problem that is widespread throughout most of the United States.” Research has shown there is lower plant diversity when invasive species are present, resulting in reduced bird abundance, fewer insects, fewer pollinators and fewer small mammals. Re-establishing native species would improve ecosystem services from top to bottom. “These invasive species often invade diverse, native grasslands, developing a monoculture of the invasive,” says Wilson. “This funding allows us to look at different ways to restore these invaded areas.” They are starting their search below ground level. Native plant species will not successfully establish without the presence of the correct soil microbes.

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soil from native grassland areas to use in restoration projects like this? Our research will develop new methods to re-establish native plants and microbes without impacting native grasslands.” The project proposes growing plants in a greenhouse, in their native soil and bringing the potted plants, soil and all, to the previously invasiveoccupied areas to be planted. Wilson and Hickman know the natives will grow in this soil, but how far the species will reach out is yet to be determined. “This way the plants now come with the microbes, they need to grow,” Wilson says. “As they grow, they’ll take the microbes with them.” The researchers are interested in how rapidly the soil communities can be changed back into native, and at what distance will the nurse plants change the soil. This is the beginning stage of what could be a major breakthrough for native species re-establishment.

ously garnered the attention of the DOD. By providing millions of dollars for the research being done at OSU, the federal agency wants something done about it. “Federal funding for research is being reduced so gaining support of this magnitude speaks very well about the quality of the proposed research and the capabilities of the investigators,” says Owens. “This research grant is a large step in the invasive species program in NREM and furthers our leadership in this field.” Fuhlendorf’s research is maintaining the integrity of the airplane, while Wilson and Hickman research the best way to rebuild the one that just crashed. Together, these researchers can keep our native grasslands soaring above the rest. SEAN HUBBARD


New Supercomputer Serves Researchers Statewide

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alabhaskar Balasundaram is a basic research scientist. The industrial engineering associate professor and native of India specializes in operations research, an area with applications to everything from financial markets to biology. In a nutshell, his work applies advanced analytical methods to help make better decisions. By using mathematical models to analyze complex situations, operations research gives decision-makers the power to make more effective decisions. His work could help investment managers more effectively direct their clients’ portfolios by providing insight on correlations between certain stocks. His work could also have an impact on biological discoveries by revealing possible significant relationships between proteins. Operations research professionals draw on the latest analytical technologies. These include: simulation techniques for modeling and evaluating the performance of uncertain systems; optimization techniques to help narrow choices to the very best when there are virtually innumerable feasible options and comparing them all is difficult; and lastly, probabilistic and statistical modeling to quantify and measure risk, mine data to find valuable insights, test hypotheses and make reliable predictions. Sounds complicated, right? That’s because it is. “In my research, you can improve in two ways,” says Balasundaram. “Either by improving your method, that is, the mathematical model and algorithm you are applying to a certain problem, or by improving the technology you’re using to solve the problem. Cowboy has helped quite a bit with the latter.” Since Cowboy came online in late 2012, Balasundaram has been able to process much larger volumes of data and with record speed. For one current project, his graduate students using a desktop computer were limited to

Dana Brunson, director of OSU’s High Performance Computing Center, stands in front of Cowboy, the largest externally funded supercomputer in state history.

PHOTO / PHIL SHOCKLEY

dealing with networks containing about 20,000 nodes that often took several hours to solve or crashed trying. But using the Cowboy cluster, they were able to solve the same problem, using the same methods in less than 3 minutes, thanks to a network with more than a million nodes. A closer look at COWBOY Cowboy contains 252 standard compute nodes, each with 32 GB RAM. Cowboy also has two “fat nodes,” each with 256 GB RAM. Cowboy’s peak aggregate speed is 48.8 TFLOPs, which is about 48.8 trillion calculations per second. The world’s most powerful supercomputers run in the quadrillion range. When it’s really humming, Cowboy uses 80 kilowatts an hour, about as much as 22 central air conditioners. This much energy output requires Cowboy to have its own built-in cooling system, a network of pipes carrying cooled liquid to keep the circuits from melting.

“You can not only do the work you’re currently doing faster, you can tackle larger problems,” says Dana Brunson, the director of OSU’s High Performance Computing Center. “We all know that scientific research is based on theory and experimentation, but given the high-level problems researchers are attacking these days, computational science has become a third pillar of scientific inquiry.”

For Balasundaram that means more progress on a seemingly unending supply of problems to be solved. Funded by a $900,000 National Science Foundation grant, Cowboy is the largest externally funded supercomputer in state history. The center has served more than 330 users, up from just 19 when Brunson was hired in 2007. Cowboy has nine times the capacity of OSU’s previous supercomputer, Pistol Pete, and it requires only twice the physical space. Cowboy is available to OSU faculty and students as well as to any academic in the state. “We’re basically evangelists for cyberinfrastructure,” says Brunson, who recently received another half-million dollar NSF grant to deploy a dedicated research network shared by OSU, the University of Oklahoma, Langston University and the Tandy Supercomputing Center in Tulsa. She is working on other proposals to support additional staff. Brunson provides training to use the supercomputer. She is also available to consult on proposals with specific cyberinfrastructure requirements. Cowboy is equipped with a collection of program libraries and software packages. Users can request any particular software package necessary for their work. KELLY GREEN

For more information on Cowboy or the services available through the HPCC, contact Brunson at dana.brunson@okstate.edu or visit hpc.it.okstate.edu. Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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PHOTO / SEAN KENNEDY

Sasha Watts, Amy Ellman, exercise specialist assistant, Emily McGinley and Whitney Moore walk through Centennial Green in downtown Tulsa for Cowboys Get Healthy, Get Fit.

The OSU Family Health and Nutrition Clinic combines research and community resources in the treatment of childhood obesity.

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hile it may take a village to raise a child, Dr. Colony Fugate and Dr. Teri Bourdeau know it takes an even greater commitment to raise a healthy child. “It really takes an entire community to address the many underlying issues, such as poverty, lack of nutrition knowledge and even the number of sidewalks in a city that impact our state’s obesity level,” says Fugate, a pediatrician at OSU Center for Health Sciences and medical director of the OSU Family Health and Nutrition Clinic. “Addressing these issues can be challenging work because there are so many factors that contribute to the development of obesity.”

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Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

Fugate and Bourdeau, a clinical psychologist at OSU-CHS, are using an evidence-based approach to combat childhood obesity through the Tulsabased clinic. Working with Sara Malone, a licensed dietitian, and Kerry Morgan, the clinic’s certified health education specialist and a clinical instructor in the School of Applied Health and Educational Psychology at OSU-Tulsa, the OSU team has developed a program to support children who are overweight or obese and their families. They have also built community partnerships with local and state organizations to extend the clinic’s reach and developed new curricula to provide OSU students with the skills to address weight issues in Oklahoma’s communities.

“Our efforts are really aimed at assessing the motivational factors that lead to obesity in children,” says Bourdeau. “In childhood obesity treatment, we focus on optimizing health and teaching families to find the resources to make healthy decisions.” The Family Health and Nutrition Clinic was launched in 2009 to provide individualized and comprehensive support for overweight and obese children and their families. It was the first clinic in the state to develop a multidisciplinary obesity treatment program for overweight and obese children, or those with a body mass index greater than 85 percent. “The clinic is really the base of our services where we interact directly


with children and families dealing with obesity,” says Fugate. “Through the clinic, we provide the education and support to patients and their health care providers to systematically address the issues causing obesity.” The clinic takes an evidencebased approach to obesity treatment, following guidance outlined in the “Expert Committee Recommendations Regarding the Prevention, Assessment and Treatment of Child and Adolescent Overweight and Obesity Report.” Published in 2007, the recommendations include assessing families for unhealthy eating habits and encouraging families to incorporate physical activity into their daily routines. “You are not just looking at the eating and exercising behaviors of a child, but also their parents and grandparents,” says Fugate. “Sometimes there are many generations of behaviors in a family you have to overcome.”

other health care providers on the latest obesity treatments via conference presentations, agency workshops and continuing education seminars. Part of the new OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine curriculum includes courses for second-year students on nutrition, obesity medicine and health change behavior and a multidisciplinary course for fourthyear students combining health education and behavioral health. Research on helping patients make healthy behavior changes has also been integrated throughout the curriculum. The clinic leaders also conduct a lot of advocacy work as active members of the Tulsa County Wellness Partnership and the Oklahoma Fit Kids Coalition, and work closely with the Tulsa City County Health Department, OSU Cooperative Extension, Indian Health Care Resource Center and many other agencies.

choices about eating and exercise with their parents, they are more likely to maintain those habits as adults.” The clinic has also partnered with Shapedown at Saint Francis Health Zone for the Pink to Orange Program. The partnership takes a team-based approach to helping families to utilize the resources of Saint Francis and OSU Physicians to address obesity in children 7 to 15 years old. Families who visit the clinic are provided an individualized treatment plan that addresses areas such as nutrition, exercise and behavioral health. These plans are tailored to help all members of the family and are communicated to the primary care provider. “We take these simple concepts and use them to address the complex issues that surround childhood obesity,” says Bourdeau. “In some cases, you find success not by helping someone lose a lot of weight, but when you help

“If physical activity can be fun, they’re more likely to stick with it.” — Kerry Morgan Since its inception, the clinic has had more than 600 patient referrals from OSU Physicians clinics, primary care providers, physician specialists and partner agencies in Tulsa and the surrounding areas. “When working with families to increase physical activity, we want to help them identify activities that are enjoyable,” says Morgan. “If physical activity can be fun, they’re more likely to stick with it. We see patients with varied interests in physical activity as well as various ability levels, and we try to find something that fits well for the entire family.” In addition to treating patients, one of the main goals for the clinic is to train primary care physicians and

“We already have a lot of resources available in our community to help families struggling with obesity,” says Bourdeau. “We help bring together all of these community partners, referring the families to one program or another depending on their needs at a given time.” The OSU Family Health and Nutrition Clinic has partnered with YMCA of Greater Tulsa and OSU Cooperative Extension for Cowboys Get Healthy, Get Fit. The group-based community program emphasizes incorporating healthy eating and physical activity into a family’s daily routine. “The program encourages families to adopt healthy habits like eating more nutritious meals and adding exercise to their daily routine,” says Malone. “When children learn to make healthy

them stop gaining weight. You are continually working with families to develop the skills to be healthy.” The OSU Family Health and Nutrition Clinic is using obesity research, treatment programs, education and advocacy to build community support for addressing obesity problems. “It is easy to blame an individual for obesity, but we live in an environment that makes it challenging to live a healthy life,” says Fugate. “We spend a lot of time sitting down, many careers are not physically demanding, and we don’t place enough emphasis in society on getting exercise. In reality we are all culpable and it’s up to all of us to impact change. We see that in our work every day.” SEAN KENNEDY

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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Popping the Cork on a State Wine

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Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

PHOTO / PHIL SHOCKLEY

Researchers from the Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center helped select the best wine blends to serve as the Oklahoma Governor’s Table Wine.


Just like the saying, “Fine wine is better with age,” the Oklahoma wine industry is growing and the quality of wine produced in the state is improving. To help promote Oklahoma wines, Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center is assisting the Oklahoma Grape Industry Council to identify special blends of wines that could be used as a state wine, specifically by the governor. The History “How to make good wine: Grow grapes and practice for a hundred years.” This saying, found on a sign at Beringer Winery in California, doesn’t exclusively apply to this winery, says Gene Clifton, Grape Industry Council president and owner of Canadian River Winery in Slaughterville, Okla. The Oklahoma wine industry is more than 100 years old — a fact most people don’t realize. “At the turn of the last century, from the 1800s to the 1900s, Oklahoma was the fourth-largest grapegrowing state in the country,” says Jill Stichler, owner of Redland Juice Co. in Lexington, Okla., and a council member. Many Europeans immigrated to Oklahoma during the land run. They built houses, then planted gardens and vineyards, Stichler says. “People grew grapes in their backyard and made wine for themselves and their families,” she says. Oklahoma not only became a state in 1907, it added Prohibition to its constitution that year as well, banning these growers from selling the wine they produced. The industry began to make a comeback in Oklahoma during the mid-1980s. In 2000, State Ques-

tion 688 passed, allowing wineries to sample and sell wine from their tasting rooms, Stichler says. In 2000, there were three wineries in the state. Today, there are more than 60. “For people who say this is a young industry, we just say it is a second resurgence,” Stichler says.

Clifton says the wine industry in Oklahoma is “just as old and good” as Virginia’s and offered to bring her samples that could be used for official functions. As a result, the Grape Industry Council provided several Oklahoma wines to the governor, unofficially labeled as the Oklahoma Governor’s Table Wine. The State Wine The council wanted to give all Oklahoma wineries an opportunity to participate in this project. With the help from McGlynn, FAPC and the council received a grant from the Oklahoma Viticulture and Enology Fund, which funded the center’s Oklahoma Wine Quality Assessment and Improvement project and allowed OGIC to participate in the 2013 Wine Forum of Oklahoma, a prestigious event at OSU. The Oklahoma Wine Quality Assessment and Improvement project aims to strengthen the quality of Oklahoma wines and help increase wine sales throughout the state. “Oklahoma wineries were invited to submit samples of their wines for evaluation,” McGlynn says. “A set of standard quality tests was run on each of the submitted wines. The

“For people who say this is a young industry, we just say it is a second resurgence.” The Project The idea of having an official state wine was the brainchild of members of the Oklahoma Grape Industry Council, says William McGlynn, FAPC horticultural products processing specialist. Clifton discussed the possibility of providing a state wine with Gov. Mary Fallin during an event sponsored by the Made in Oklahoma Coalition. Fallin told Clifton she had noticed the Virginia governor only served wine produced in that state during a visit there.

tests evaluated acid content, sugar content, alcohol content, color and various stability characteristics.” A sensory evaluation also was performed on all the wines using a system developed by Roy Mitchell, professor of viticulture and enology at Grayson Country College and winemaker at Homestead Winery in Ivanhoe, Texas. Mitchell assisted in developing a subjective quality rating for the wines submitted. STORY CONTINUES >

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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PHOTO / MANDY GROSS

Wineries from around the state submitted samples for the Oklahoma Wine Quality Assessment and Improvement project completed through the Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center.

“Based on the chemical tests and sensory evaluation we conducted, an overall quality rating was developed for each wine,” McGlynn says. “If specific quality issues were noted with the wine sample, possible remedies were discussed that could be applied to subsequent batches of wine.” McGlynn says it’s a big advantage for wineries to know the chemistry and sensory analysis of their wines and how they compare with other wineries in the state. In addition, a sensory test was performed on Oklahoma wines to determine which would be selected to participate in the Taste of Oklahoma Terroir seminar during the 2013 Wine Forum of Oklahoma. The top wines selected were from Canadian River Winery, Plymouth Valley Cellars of Fairview, Okla., and Woods and Waters Winery of Anadarko, Okla., and are being used as the current Oklahoma Governor’s Table Wine.

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Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

The long-term goal is to create a special blend of red and white wines yearly using wineries across the state, McGlynn says. The Impact Through this project and other efforts underway, it’s projected that during the next four years, Oklahoma wine sales will reach at least 5 percent of the state’s total wine sales, adding at least 100 new jobs and retaining 250 jobs in rural Oklahoma, and adding an additional $558,000 in taxes to the Oklahoma economy, McGlynn says. “Consumers will benefit from having access to higher quality, locally produced wines,” McGlynn says. “Wineries and vineyards will benefit from higher sales volume and potentially higher-value wines to sell.” Clifton says he hopes offering a state wine will lead to greater awareness of the Oklahoma wine industry.

“The project gives exposure to the good wines in Oklahoma,” he says. “The more people who know about your wine, the more people will buy it.” Participation in FAPC’s wine quality program and the Oklahoma Governor’s Table Wine program is a great opportunity for not only individual grape and wine businesses but also the grape and wine industry as a whole, Stichler says. As the vines grow older, the quality of grapes improves, she says. “Having wine that is produced in our state served by Gov. Fallin is a good feeling as the industry continues to grow and improve,” Stichler says. “Our wineries are doing a good job, and we are glad to showcase them in the Governor’s Mansion.” HANNAH McCOLLOM


PHOTO / PHIL SHOCKLEY

Independent Boards:

Better or No?

A Spears School of Business study examines whether companies with independent boards perform better in the stock market

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n 2002, Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to protect investors by improving corporate governance practices among publicly traded corporations. The law was in response to accounting fraud scandals that brought down Enron, Tyco and WorldCom. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act mandates strict guidelines on reporting financial information and the independence of companies’ boards of directors. Independent board members are directors who are not current or former employees of the company. The average investor is often more willing to invest in a company with an independent board of directors. Scott Johnson, associate professor of management with Oklahoma State University’s Spears School of Business, says that sounds great in theory, but how does the stock of a company with an independent board perform compared with one whose board is employed by the company? “The interesting thing is that the theory is really strong: If you have an independent board, the company should do better,” says Johnson. “But dozens of studies have been done on this, and if you add them all up, there isn’t a strong relationship between an independent board and firm performance. Everyone believes it’s true, but it seems to not actually work out in practice.” So Johnson and co-author Karen Schnatterly studied why everyone keeps saying it’s important to invest in a company with an independent board but the evidence shows that independence doesn’t matter for performance? Their findings will be available in the upcoming article, “Independent Boards and the Institutional Investors That

Prefer Them: Drivers of Institutional Investor Heterogeneity in Governance Preferences,” to be published in Strategic Management Journal. Johnson and Schnatterly, the Emma S. Hibbs Distinguished Professor of Management at the Robert J. Trulaska Sr. College of Business at the University of Missouri, analyzed every instance where large institutional investors added a new semiconductor company (Intel, Texas Instruments, Advanced Micro Devices, etc.) to their investment portfolios from 1993 to 1998. The analysis demonstrates that large investors such as mutual funds, pension funds and foundations are more likely to invest in companies that have more independent boards. The preference for independent boards, according to Johnson and Schnatterly’s findings, is strongest among mutual funds, which encounter the most public scrutiny of their investment choices and face the strongest competitive pressures. This study shows that investors choose to invest in companies with independent boards to signal agreement with public perceptions about board independence despite evidence that independent boards do not improve performance, Johnson says. “We expected that the trading strategies would be a much bigger story. Perhaps some investors do not care about board independence because they purchase big blocks of shares and have direct influence over management or perhaps other investors buy and sell short term and so are less concerned about the longterm effects of boards,” he says. “The hypothesis about competitive pressure and trying to follow the

SCOTT JOHNSON pack ... there’s been work in that [area for years]. In finance, there’s the windowdressing effect that states that mutual funds at the end of quarters tend to clear out bad-looking stocks and put in better stocks so that their portfolios look like a competitor’s. So it’s not a new story, but we didn’t really think it was driving this kind of buying behavior. “I really thought it was going to be trading strategies that were driving behavior, and I guess this other story was consistent with some other research that has been done. But in a way it’s a little bit surprising because you think of these institutional investors as the experts, right? You and I are not experts; we buy Apple stock because we like the iPhone. These mutual fund managers are supposed to be the experts, and I don’t want to minimize the fact that they are, but our data clearly shows evidence that they are subject to these ideologies of what makes a good firm despite the lack of evidence,” he says. Johnson points out that, to some extent, perception is reality in the markets. There is little evidence that independent boards are associated with better future performance but the belief that independent boards are valuable has a strong effect on investing decisions. “The bottom line is that board independence is important to institutional investors in part because these investors know that all of their competitors value board independence … despite a lack of evidence that there is a strong link to future performance.” TERRY TUSH

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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s an advertising professor and communications researcher, Dr. Jami Fullerton is interested in how advertising and other globalized media affect international relations. She investigates the relationship through the concept of nation branding. “Nation branding is at the intersection of public diplomacy and marketing. Essentially, the same strategies and tactics we use in marketing and brand management can be applied to cities, states and nations,” says Fullerton, OSU-Tulsa professor and Peggy Welch Chair in the OSU School of Media and Strategic Communications. “I’m very interested in how all of these areas converge through the use of strategic communication.”

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Fullerton and her research partner, Dr. Alice Kendrick, professor of advertising at Southern Methodist University, recently published a study in American Behavioral Scientist measuring the impact of the federal government’s “Brand USA” tourism campaign on Australians’ opinions of the United States. “In the wake of the 2008 economic downturn, President Barack Obama saw international tourism as one way to improve the U.S. economy,” says Fullerton. “The idea was to bring foreign dollars to our shores, since the average international tourist spends about $4,000 per visit.” The Travel Promotion Act of 2009 established the Corporation for Travel Promotion, a public-private partner-

ship later dubbed Brand USA. The bill created a multimillion dollar global marketing effort to promote the U.S. as a travel destination, including a “Land of Dreams” television commercial, which prompted the online experimental study. As a visiting scholar at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, during the fall of 2012, Fullerton had a unique opportunity to test the commercials on one of the campaign’s intended targets. “We thought that by reaching out to people in other countries with these tourism commercials, even to those who will never visit, might also result in a more favorable international opinion of our country,” she says. Fullerton tested a representative sample of Australian adults to


measure their interest in travel to the U.S. and attitudes toward the U.S. government and U.S. people before and after watching the “Land of Dreams” commercial to evaluate if it would change their views. “While we were interested in whether the ‘Land of Dreams’ commercial increased desire to travel to the United States, we also wanted to know if Australians expressed more positive views about America after seeing the spot,” says Fullerton. “We found the commercial appeared to do double duty for government and industry, both in terms of piquing interest in travel to the U.S. and as a catalyst for goodwill.” This latest research is an extension of the work Fullerton has been doing for over a decade. Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, she became interested in understanding how the strategic use of global media could play a role in changing international opinions of the U.S. “One of the big topics after 9/11 was why do they hate us so much and what can we do to change that,” says Fullerton. “It seemed to me that there was an opportunity for America to improve its image abroad through some good strategic communications efforts. Secretary of State Colin Powell agreed and brought a famous advertising executive, Charlotte Beers, to Washington to serve as undersecretary of public diplomacy. Powell says that he wanted to ‘re-brand’ America.” Soon after the 9/11 attacks, under Beers’ oversight, the U.S. Department of State launched the Shared Values Initiative, a campaign meant to dispel myths about the treatment of Muslims in America. The campaign, containing a series of ads featuring real American Muslims leading happy and productive lives in the U.S., was briefly broadcast in several Middle Eastern and Asian countries before being disbanded. “People in the media, in Congress and elsewhere were saying this was a terrible idea, this would never work, but nobody seemed to have any data to prove it,” says Fullerton. “Since we are in the business of testing communications messages, we decided to conduct the research.”

USA will not only impact the economy She and Kendrick conducted and thus achieve the objectives of a series of tests among internathe Commerce Department, but also tional college students and ultiaddress strategies at the State Departmately found the ads worked in ment, whose goal it is to win the hearts improving attitudes toward the U.S. and minds of people overseas. In that within their experimental study. way, the communications program is “I was a skeptic at first because benefitting our country on two fronts.” the idea was so unorthodox, but we Fullerton plans to expand her found that the advertising campaign research on Brand USA to other counmoved the needle in regards to opintries targeted by the tourism promoions of the U.S.,” says Fullerton. “It tional campaign to see if her findimproved favorability scores by a statisings in Australia hold up elsewhere. tically significant amount. That doesn’t She also wants to expand into other mean that they went from hating us aspects of public diplomacy and nation to loving us, but they went from really branding, examining how governhating us to only kind of hating us.” ment messages can be disseminated Fullerton and Kendrick published their findings in a number of peerreviewed research journals and in their 2006 book, Advertising’s War on Terrorism: The Story of the U.S. State Department’s Shared Values Initiative. Fullerton has received numerous awards for her research, including the national Headliner Award in 2007 from the Association of Women in Communications and the 2008 Tulsa Newsmaker award. Recently, she received the 2013 Dr. Jami Fullerton takes to National Public Radio airwaves to discuss her research on nation branding. OSU-Tulsa President’s Outstanding Faculty Research Award and was honored by the Assoto international audiences using new ciation for Education in Journalism media, and the effects that exported and Mass Communication at its 2013 media such as movies, videogames and annual conference in Washington, D.C. music have on perceptions of the U.S. Ultimately it’s being able to “This research is an opportupresent useful research that motivates nity to use the knowledge we have Fullerton. She hopes that lawmakers about marketing communications will utilize her findings to influto impact global relations,” says ence policy decisions and implement Fullerton. “Working in this research strategies that will benefit the U.S. area makes me feel like I’m really “If you don’t have good data, how making a difference in the world, can you make good decisions?” she even if it is just in a small way.” SEAN KENNEDY asked. “We have suggested to the U.S. government that programs like Brand

PHOTO PROVIDED

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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Building the Oklahoma Center for Respiratory and Infectious Diseases

Thanks to a National Institutes of Health Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant, Dr. Lin Liu is putting together an incredible foundation of researchers in the field of respiratory and infectious diseases. 20

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

photo / gary lawson


Liu is a Regents Professor, the Lin Liu came to the United States Lundberg-Kienlen Professor in Biomedfrom China in 1990 to complete his ical Research and director of the Lung postdoctoral training at the University Biology and Toxicology Lab in the of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Department of Physiological Sciences at Oklahoma State University’s Center for studying first in the Department of Veterinary Health Sciences. He joined Biochemistry and Biophysics and the veterinary center in 2000. then at the Institute for Environmental “When I interviewed for this job, Medicine. people were talking about COBRE. This is exciting, as we are making OSU history He earned a bachelor’s degree in with the first COBRE grant awarded to Oklahoma State University,” says Liu. chemistry from the University of “The total funding approved is nearly $11.3 Science and Technology of China million over the five-year life of the grant.” in Hefei, Anhui, and a doctorate Liu is collaborating with four in biochemistry at the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry, Chinese colleges from OSU (Arts and Sciences, Agricultural Sciences and Natural Academy of Sciences before pursuing his studies in America. Resources, Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, and Engineering, Architecture and Technology), three colleges from the tious Diseases into a nationally recognized Fahlenkamp, School of Chemical University of Oklahoma (Medicine, Pharresearch center that is the hub for fostering Engineering, College of Engineering, macy, and Arts and Sciences), and the interinstitutional collaborations, which Architecture and Technology, OSU Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. will facilitate respiratory and infectious • Examining mechanisms of acute lung “The objective is to build up a critdisease research in Oklahoma. My goal injury (ALI) in influenza pneumonia ical mass of multidisciplinary investibeyond the COBRE grant is to establish under project leader Dr. Telugu gators and research infrastructure to Narasaraju, Department of Physiological a Life Science Research Institute with ultimately achieve research excellence multiple research centers housed in one Sciences, Center for Veterinary Health in respiratory and infectious diseases,” new research building,” he adds. Sciences, OSU adds Liu. “Respiratory infectious disease While the plans require laying one • Developing a respiratory syncytial is the top global burden of disease. It is block at a time to build Liu’s system, virus vaccine under project leader a public health priority. The discoveries there are more immediate benefits that Dr. Tom Oomens, Department of that we will be able to investigate with will come from the COBRE grant. Veterinary Pathobiology, Center for this funding will address this need.” “I first became interested in lung Veterinary Health Sciences, OSU The grant is designed to allow junior surfactant while doing my postdoc at faculty members to pursue research careers, Summary the University of Pennsylvania. These to create new jobs in Oklahoma and to While each study has specific goals, amazing molecules line the inside build the research infrastructure that will this research will lay the foundation surface of the lung, preventing tiny air enhance OSU’s research landscape. for future studies. As project leaders sacs in the lung from collapsing. Basi“The first goal is to develop an effecadvance their particular work, they will cally, you die without them,” says Liu. tive mentoring program where half of the amass the information necessary to “The patients with respiratory and infecpromising junior investigators graduate apply for their own NIH funding, leaving tious diseases stand to benefit the most in two to three years, with the remainder room within the COBRE grant for a from the research that will be funded by graduating in four to five years,” explains junior researcher to begin more studies the grant. Liu. “To ‘graduate,’ a junior faculty in respiratory and infectious diseases. “In addition, the money will help member will receive at least one inde“We are striving to renew the COBRE retain and create jobs in Oklahoma. pendent NIH RO1 grant, usually ranging grant and bring in another $11 million Working on this grant application for from $1.4 million to $2 million per grant.” to Oklahoma at the end of the five-year the past two to three years, I realize the Starting off, four projects will be funding,” says Liu. “To accomplish this, we importance of team effort and collabofunded with the COBRE grant: will create a critical mass of multidiscirations as well as support from admin• Controlling lung inflammation under plinary investigators in the area of respiraistration. During the process, I am project leader Dr. Shanjana Awasthi, tory and infectious diseases by recruiting fortunate to come to know so many Department of Pharmaceutical new faculty members and attracting wonderful folks at OSU, OU, OMRF and Sciences, College of Pharmacy, existing faculty members into the center. others outside of Oklahoma. Building OU Health Sciences Center “It is our hope to develop the Oklasuch a group of experts in this field is a • Creating a tissue-engineered lung homa Center for Respiratory and Infechuge reward for me.” model under project leader Dr. Heather DERINDA BLAKENEY

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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Controlling Lung Inflammation In her lab at the University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy, Shanjana Awasthi has recently identified a specific peptide — SPA4 — that will modulate immune systems in relation to lung infections. “Lung infections are a major cause of morbidity (the incidence of disease) and mortality worldwide,” says Awasthi. “Serious lung infections can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome, for which there is no specific treatment available. With a rise in lung infections and the unavailability of a ‘wonder drug’ to control associated inflammation, it is important to develop novel therapies.” Awasthi plans to use the COBRE funding to test the activity of the SPA4 peptide in suitable cell culture and animal models. “An ideal therapeutic would be one that can suppress the inflammatory response and preserve the host defense and lung homeostasis,” says Awasthi. The COBRE project allows Awasthi to utilize the expertise and resources related to the lung infectious disease field to maximum potential. She will be able to connect and network with leaders in the field at national and international levels.

“The first year, we will evaluate whether SPA4 peptide inhibits inflammatory response and improves clinical symptoms in an animal model of lung inflammation. My goal in my research career has always been to make a difference in alleviating the morbidity and mortality associated with infection and accompanying inflammation. An understanding of the natural host defense mechanisms can be utilized to design novel immunotherapies for the treatment of infection and inflammation,” she adds. Awasthi’s research will ultimately help clinicians manage patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome, who have long recognized the need for new therapeutics to treat this disease. “Because of its biologic properties, the surfactant protein-A (SP-A) has been a key target for those seeking to design new drugs. The biggest challenge has been to choose the shorter region/amino acids of SP-A which can mimic SP-A functions. In this project, we are testing one of the shorter SP-A peptides—SPA4—for its anti-inflammatory activity,” states Awasthi.

Shanjana Awasthi began her studies at HNB University in Dehradun, India, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology, botany and chemistry from the MKP College. She later earned a master’s degree in biosciences from the Indian Institute of Technology in Roorkee, India. In 1995, she earned a doctorate in microbiology from the Sanjay Ganhi P.G. Institute of Medical Sciences in Lucknow, India. Awasthi is an associate professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy and is certified in clinical microbiology by the American Society of Clinical Pathologists.

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Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu


Creating a TissueEngineered Lung Model “The goal of my project is to create a tissue-engineered lung model that can be used to investigate how one’s immune system responds to infectious agents,” explains Heather Fahlenkamp. “Specifically for this project, we are focusing on influenza, commonly known as ‘the flu’.” Lung infection from influenza is a leading cause of human disease and death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. There are many strains of influenza, and some are more pathogenic (capable of causing disease) than others. “The damaging health effects of the highly pathogenic strains are related to an excessive immune response,” says Fahlenkamp. “The lung model would provide a critical tool making it possible to investigate some of the key aspects of influenza pathogenesis.” The complex model proposed by Fahlenkamp will contain multiple human cell types within a 3D environment that provides for cell movement and interaction. “The results of this project will have an important positive impact because the new information on the immune response to influenza has great potential to provide new targets for preventive and therapeutic interventions in influenza infection. The lung model will be of great and continuing value for testing treatment strategies,” she adds. The COBRE grant will fund supplies to carry out her experimental work and pay graduate students’ salaries to work on the project. The grant also covers a portion of her academic salary, allowing her to focus more time on the research project. She will have funds to travel to meetings and conferences to present her research findings and learn about other work being done in this area.

“Being part of a research center also provides access to core facilities that would otherwise not be available to a single investigator, as well as access to a wealth of expertise from mentors and consultants associated with the center,” Fahlenkamp says. “I will have the opportunity to work with experts in the field and to build collaborations for future projects. The grant will help me take my research to the next level.” Fahlenkamp’s research aims to create and characterize the lung model to show that it behaves similarly to human lung tissue. The lung model will be used to study the effect of various strains of influenza virus on key cell types that influence the immune response to the virus. “By the end of the first year, I expect to have designed the 3D environment for the model, which includes a porous scaffold that allows for cell migration and growth within the entire scaffold and culture conditions to maintain the multiple cells types within the model,” she adds. While her research has the potential to contribute to the future development of better influenza vaccines to help prevent the spread of the disease and better treatments of complications from the infection, there are some immediate beneficiaries as well. “Oklahoma State University, students and I will benefit from the immediate impact of adding resources and publicity to this important area of research,” says Fahlenkamp. “The state of Oklahoma also stands to benefit with an increase of technical expertise in the research area that could serve as an incubator for startup companies with the addition of new technical jobs within the state.”

Heather Fahlenkamp earned her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from OSU. She earned a master’s degree in bioengineering from the University of Utah, then returned to OSU to earn a doctorate in chemical engineering. Currently, Fahlenkamp is an associate professor of chemical engineering in the OSU College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology. Her other research projects include creating advanced 3D tissue models to test and study human allergic inflammatory responses with the potential to provide health care providers with more information to help better manage patients with allergic diseases.

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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Mechanisms of Acute Lung Injury (ALI) in Influenza Pneumonia Through previous research, Telugu Narasaraju has determined that neutrophils (inflammatory cells that are in the lungs during influenza) contribute to the lung damage. He has identified expression-specific chemokine receptors on the surface of neutrophils during influenza. This project aims to understand the mechanisms of neutrophil-mediated lung injury. Specifically he will examine whether these induced receptors alter neutrophil function and contribute to neutrophil-mediated lung injury. He also aims to develop a combination drug therapy that targets both neutrophil-induced ALI and the virus itself. “Based on the outcome of these studies, we will test various drugs that block these receptors on neutrophils or anti-inflammatory drugs that suppress neutrophil activation for their therapeutic effects in reducing ALI,” he adds. Narasaraju has been working in the field of respiratory and infectious diseases since he joined the doctorate program in 1995. For the past five

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Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

years, he has spent more time understanding the mechanisms of acute lung injury and now has concrete evidence to support the neutrophil’s involvement in lung damage. “The COBRE grant also helps me to become an independent researcher and plays a key role in achieving my longterm goals of developing novel therapeutic strategies,” says Narasaraju. “In addition, I will benefit from the mentors and the interaction between scientists. “In recent years, influenza outbreaks have occurred in many countries resulting in not only human deaths but also tremendous loss in poultry and other livestock industries,” he says. “Although most of these flu outbreaks originated from Asian countries, they are highly capable of spreading to any corner of the world within a short time. With positive outcomes from my research, we intend to move to a ferret model, which is best related to human-type lung infections.”

Telugu Narasaraju did his undergraduate studies at Sri Venkateswara University in India. He went on to earn a doctorate in microbiology from Osmania University also located in India. His post-doctoral training has been in Lin Liu’s Lung Biology and Toxicology Lab at OSU’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences and at the National University of Singapore. In 2010, he joined OSU’s veterinary center as an assistant research professor. He teaches cell and molecular biology in addition to his research.


Developing a Respiratory Syncytial Virus Vaccine live vaccine, the goal of which is to “RSV is a huge problem with elicit a strong immune response yet be 100,000 to 200,000 children dying controllable and safe,” he explains. from it each year worldwide,” says The plan is for Oomens to Tom Oomens. “Fortunately, fatalities design different versions of this are rare in the U.S., but many chiltype of live vaccine and test dren are hospitalized with the virus them in an animal model. each winter, placing a high financial “We will design and produce the burden on parents and our health care virus in the lab and test it, recording system. By age 2, all children have how well it works in a mouse model contracted RSV, which is the No. 1 viral and in a model of human lung tissue, in cause for bronchiolitis and pneumonia collaboration with researchers from the in children. It is thought that getting OU Health Sciences Center and Oklathe virus at a young age may result in homa Medical Research Foundation. We asthma later in life in some cases.” will use slices from human lungs made Despite its medical importance, available through rejected lung transthere are no vaccines and few antiplants. By using the human tissue, we viral drugs to combat it. The COBRE can see how it reacts in humans and see grant money will provide the funding how well the vaccine generates immufor Oomens’ lab to design and test nity and protects us from the real virus. live RSV vaccine candidates. “I am interested in many different “In the past, an inactivated vaccine viruses, including human and animal has been tried. It was found that the inactivated vaccine did not protect recip- viruses,” says Oomens. “RSV is unique ients but instead enhanced RSV disease. in that your immunity is not complete. You can get the virus over and over again Since then, the emphasis for young throughout your lifetime. For adults children has been on live virus vaccines and most kids, RSV is relatively benign because they do not enhance disease. in that it causes no more than coldHowever, the live vaccine will have to be like symptoms. However, a percentage very safe, especially since it will be used of infants, small children and very for such a young age group,” he adds. elderly people are vulnerable. In elderly Oomens’ lab has characterized a homes, RSV can be quite dangerous protein of the virus that controls the because the immune system wanes extent to which the virus expands with age, and RSV is very contagious.” to neighboring cells and tissues. Building upon the work he has “The COBRE grant is an immense already done, Oomens is looking opportunity to further our research forward to testing his theories and develfindings. With COBRE funds, we will oping an RSV vaccine to help improve manipulate this protein at the genetic the health of humans in the future. level to make a live virus that will no longer spread when the vaccine is administered. This will be what is called a ‘self-limited’ or ‘single-round’

Tom Oomens earned his master’s degree in immunology and a doctorate in virology from Wageningen University in the Netherlands. He did postdoctorate work on molecular virology of RSV at the University of Alabama Medical School in Birmingham and at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology at OSU’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences. In addition to his interest in RSV, Oomens studies the assembly and entry of RNA viruses and virushost cell interaction.

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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From Basic Research to a Vaccine

OSU duo tackles disease prevalent in developing countries

F

or Bill and Wendy Picking, the magic began on a softball diamond in Lawrence, Kan. Bill was the coach, and Wendy was assigned to right field. “I really wanted to play first base,” Wendy says. “The joke goes that I had to date the coach to make that happen.” It did happen, and Bill and Wendy found they had more in common than softball. The researchers, who recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary, shared a passion for science, too. Now faculty members in Oklahoma State University’s microbiology department (Bill is the department head), the pair have spent the majority of their professional careers studying Shigella flexneri, the leading bacterial cause of dysentery in the developing world. “When Bill and I were postdoctoral fellows, we did very, very basic research — transcription and translation. Basic research is very important in finding new scientific facts that are the basis for new drugs, but when we became faculty I needed something a little more applied, something a little closer to the bedside,” Wendy says. Bill suggested Shigella. “It is a simple bacterium, and we thought we could get a lot of mileage out of it as a pathogen,” Wendy says. “It wasn’t too far into our studies, maybe four or five years, that we knew we’d probably come across the vaccine antigens.” Diarrheal diseases are one of the leading causes of death in children. In low-income countries, which often lack proper sanitation and clean water, children have an average of three diarrheal episodes per year with more than 2,000 dying every day. Even the survivors suffer due to the growth deficiencies caused by decreased

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Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

to PATH, an international nonprofit food intake and the reduced nutrient organization that transforms global absorption that results from repeated health through innovation. PATH diarrheal/dysenteric episodes. takes an entrepreneurial approach Although shigellosis, the dysenteric to developing and delivering highcondition caused by the Shigella bacteimpact, low-cost solutions ranging rium, is stereotyped as a problem of the from lifesaving vaccines, drugs, diagresource-poor world, this public health nostics, and devices to collaborathreat is encroaching upon industrialtive programs with communities. ized nations as well. The Centers for The partnership with PATH Disease Control and Prevention estimates 400,000 cases per year in the U.S. has been quite successful. “Through PATH funding as well as The outbreaks typically occur in child and adult day care centers or from disas- extensive collaborations with its scientific staff and programmatic leadership, ters that disrupt sanitation systems. we were able to complete critical proof The Pickings’ preliminary work of concept experiments,” Wendy says. confirmed what they already suspected. “We had a history with some of the folks There were two proteins of the surfaceat PATH which, along with the collablocalized secretion system of the orative nature of PATH’s approach bacterium that served as protective to partnership agreements, allowed antigens against Shigella infections. us to work as a synergistic team.” “These results were a real breakWorking through OSU’s Technology through,” Wendy says. “There are Development Center, the Pickings currently no licensed vaccines to licensed their discovery to PATH in 2013. prevent shigellosis. Many of those that “We are so happy to have played are currently being developed may not a small role in moving this vaccine be ideal for vaccination of young chilcandidate toward a reality,” says Dr. dren or do not provide broad protecSteve Price, TDC director. “We see a lot tion against all Shigella strains.” of worthwhile OSU-developed techTheir possible vaccine candidate may trump both of these drawbacks — it nologies come through our office, but this is one that really exemplifies our has the potential to be given to chilland-grant mission and one that can dren and to provide broad coverage. benefit people in true, tangible ways.” The next step was to further develop PATH is in the process of develwhat they’d discovered into a fulloping the antigens as a Shigella vaccine fledged vaccine to be tested in humans. candidate. Clinical trials are set to begin “Vaccines are historically expenlate in 2014. If the candidate is found sive to develop, and — depending to be safe and effective among pediatric on the disease and the population populations in the developing world, the targeted — the return on the dollar vaccine will be a culmination of more can sometimes be limited,” Wendy than 20 years of effort for the Pickings. says. “Unlike a Lipitor or something “It’s very rewarding, especially as someone takes every day, vaccines a mom, to know we’ll be helping to are a one-and-done kind of thing.” save children’s lives,” Wendy says. Knowing there wasn’t a big enough KELLY GREEN market for their vaccine candidate in the U.S., the Pickings reached out


“It’s very rewarding to know we’ll be helping to save children’s lives.” — Wendy Picking PHOTO / KEVIN McCROSKEY Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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Preparation and Opportunity Lead Scientist to OSU

W

hen Kathleen Robinette says fate has had a powerful effect in her life, she isn’t discounting the role preparation plays in the reason she is now the department head of Design, Housing and Merchandising in the College of Human Sciences at Oklahoma State University. A series of events, ranging from finding an ad in a borrowed newspaper to being hired by the Air Force because officials didn’t want to lose her skills and expertise to the Army, led to a career that made Robinette one of the world’s leading experts in anthropometry. During her three-decade career with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson AFB, Robinette created groundbreaking technologies in anthropometry (the study of human body measurements) which improved the fit of apparel and environmental spaces as well as vital oxygen masks, helmets, harnesses, body armor, anti-gravity suits, and biological and chemical suits. Any of these items, if illfitting, could prove hazardous or deadly. She brought to fruition the world’s first three-dimensional human head measurement scanner in 1985, and the world’s first 3-D whole-body scanner in 1993. Robinette says, “I determined there must be a better way to measure people than with sticks and tape measures.” Robinette began collecting 3-D anthropometric data and initiated

a whole body human measurement survey known as CAESAR, the Civilian American and European Surface Anthropometry Resource. The first of its kind, CAESAR cataloged 3-D scans of 18- to 65-year-old North Americans and Europeans of various sizes and proportions, plus it offered accessible measurements of each subject. A cooperative research and development agreement between AFRL’s Human Effectiveness Directorate and the Society of Automotive Engineers International led Robinette and her group to partner with 35 organizations, including Gap Inc., Levi Strauss & Co., Boeing Co., John Deere and Ford Motor Co. to provide thousands of 3-D human models that are used worldwide for engineering many types of products. In 2006, Robinette founded an international not-for-profit organization known as WEAR (World Engineering Anthropometry Resource), which stores an ever-growing database of engineering, anthropometry and fit data for design use. Scientists on six continents desiring better fit and function in nearly anything worn or used in one’s environment can access the complete, raw, high-quality data at a fraction of the cost of lessaccurate datasets. Robinette’s early goal for the global user consortium, based in France, was to prove that 3-D human body cases lead to better ergonomic designs than statistical percentiles.

“I determined there must be a better way to measure people than with sticks and tape measures.”

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“Case methods are reality-based rather than statistics based on mathematical constructs,” says Robinette. “Using cases, you select a whole person based on their particular combination of body dimensions and what’s important for your design.” So what does this all mean for the future of design, housing and merchandising on the OSU campus? The department is home to the DHM Product Design and Testing Laboratory, which includes most of the technology and tools Robinette helped to develop and use in worldwide research initiatives. “We have a lot of new technology [3-D scanning, motion capture, fit mapping] that people are not using,” she says. “So one of the things I want to do here is figure out how to get it into our curriculum and our research and help our faculty.” As anthropometrics is important to all areas in which one lives, works and moves, the applications are endless to design for the entire apparel and built environment through faculty research and teaching, students’ experiential learning and community outreach. “We have a unique ability to consider the whole system in design because of our combination of apparel design, production and interior design,” she says. “If we think of the problem as a human-apparel-environment system, we are able to consider garment versus built-environment solutions.” Robinette says faculty members in DHM are working on designs for senior living in protective and diagnostic garments and the built environment as one example. “We have a research project for development of a garment to prevent injury due to falls, and a collaborative project that allows


patients to wear a garment that would allow for off-site diagnosis of chronic health problems,” she says. “We want to bring our knowledge of human beings and garments, equipment, furnishings and interior design to be able to design for the aging population, their families and caregivers,” she says. Most falls occur in bathrooms, and the size and location can cause problems when trying to rescue the victim. Aging-in-place design takes into account systems needed to facilitate safe movement and access in a variety of residences. “We are teaming with a company to build human models that will help position them in spaces that

take into consideration caregiving and social interaction needs for aging residents,” Robinette says. By understanding fit mapping and new technology, and by using advances correctly and effectively to their best benefit, companies can gain a legitimate advantage in product design and satisfied customers. Students who know the technologies’ capabilities are highly sought-after prospective employees. When she was contacted for the department head position two years ago, Robinette deleted the message, thinking it was a blanket e-mail. “I didn’t realize it was specific to me. It would have never

“I am using everything I have ever done in my whole career.”

occurred to me to apply for a position like this,” Robinette says. Convinced to pursue the opportunity by Adriana Petrova, DHM assistant professor and member of the search committee who had met Robinette on several occasions through Petrova’s Ph.D. adviser at Cornell, Robinette is certain fate had a role. “I was close to retirement after 30 years with the Air Force,” Robinette says. “But this is perfect for me. I wanted to get those 30 years of knowledge into the curriculum and this was a perfect opportunity to do that. “Not only could I get curriculum set up, the research equipment was here! The 3-D body scanner, Walter™ the thermal mannequin, the motioncapture system and surface electromyography devices, textile-testing instruments and the environmental chamber for human testing. “I am using everything I have ever done in my whole career.” LAURA CRUTCHER and JULIE BARNARD

Kathleen Robinette, who has been solving problems and enhancing lives in large and small ways for decades with invention and innovation, has brought her extensive research, passion and expertise to the Design, Housing and Merchandising Department in the College of Human Services at Oklahoma State University.

— Kathleen Robinette

PHOTO / PHIL SHOCKLEY

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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Little Planes,

Big Benefits A look at current UAS research projects underway at OSU

A

recent report released by the Association for Unmanned Systems International estimates that the integration of unmanned aerial systems in the United States will have an economic impact of $82 billion by 2025. Congress has given the Federal Aviation Administration until the end of 2015 to develop and implement policies for unmanned systems’ introduction to the national airspace. To help ensure the technology is ready when that happens, undergraduate and graduate students work alongside faculty at Oklahoma State University to study several types of UAS. For Weather Moore, Okla., was severely damaged on May 20, 2013, when an EF5 tornado ripped through, killing more than 20. A similar monster tornado hit El Reno just a few days later, causing similar casualties. Over the last 50 years, predictive models and warning systems for

the super cells that spawn these killer tornadoes have greatly improved, but researchers think using UAS could make them even better. OSU students have designed an unmanned vehicle for severe storm investigations. Called MARIA for Meteorological Analysis and Research Investigation Aircraft, the vehicle is under development and integration. Since radars currently do not provide temperature and pressure data required for meteorological models, the goal of the project is to perform baseline tests of airborne sensing systems using unmanned aerial vehicles for meteorological measurements. “We’re working to create a small, easily transportable, easily launchable vehicle equipped with sensors to measure humidity, relative pressure and temperature,” says Dr. Jamey Jacob, a professor in the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “The main question we’re trying to answer

is why some of these super cells turn into tornadoes and others don’t.” The vehicle will be able to fly within the lower levels of a storm below the lower condensation level to better understand tornado formation and obtain thermodynamic measurements required for advanced computer models. Students will also evaluate the vehicle’s ability to perform post-storm search and rescue to assess damage from tornados, floods and related events. The researchers are collaborating with scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s National Severe Storms Laboratory and researchers at the University of Oklahoma. They plan to perform flight tests in early 2014 and be operational by the spring storm season. For the Environment Ensuring safe, permanent storage of carbon dioxide in geologic carbon sinks is vital for the success of geologic

PHOTO / GARY LAWSON

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Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu


An unmanned aerial vehicle flies above OSU’s UAS airfield in Stillwater. Students and faculty from the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering study and develop different types of unmanned vehicles and systems, which have potential applications in storm prediction, agriculture and energy.

storage projects. The National Energy Technology Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy has set a goal of 99 percent storage permanence in carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) projects. The development of monitoring technology that is capable of validating storage permanence while ensuring the integrity of CCUS operations is essential for meeting the goals of carbon dioxide emissions reduction, environmental protection and human health and safety. To address these issues, OSU is cooperating with the Southwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership to develop and implement new near-surface and airborne monitoring technologies. The research program focuses on the design and deployment of a dense grid of shallow subsurface and surface sensors in combination with low-altitude airborne detection of carbon dioxide and methane using

UAVs. The research will also be applicable to oil and natural gas pipeline inspection. “The addition of UAVs really took our project to the next level, and I think it was what really helped us win the funding,” says Dr. Peter Clark, professor of chemical engineering and co-PI on the project. “This is a novel use for UAVs, and they are a good fit for this application.” Other UAS Opportunities in Oklahoma • Farmers could use UAS to more efficiently monitor crops and distribute pesticides, which could help improve efficiency among the state’s 86,000 farms and maintain the state’s position as a national leader in wheat production. • UAS will enable oil and gas companies to more efficiently survey pipelines, drilling rigs and other critical infrastructure. • The utility industries will be able to monitor more than a million miles of electric transmission and distribution lines in rural parts of Oklahoma using UAS. KELLY GREEN

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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The Diamond

Approach

I

nfectious diseases affect millions of people each

year, causing pain, financial loss, economic slowdown and even death. Those who suffer

from diseases only treatable through large

doses of antibiotics wish there were alternatives

to deliver drug treatment. Challenged by the magnitude of this issue, researchers at Oklahoma State University say diamonds could be the answer.

But how can this elegant material be used to administer healing agents to the human body?

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“Due to low chemical reactivity and unique physical properties, diamond nanoparticles may be useful in a variety of biological applications such as carriers for drugs, genes or proteins; novel imaging techniques; coatings for implantable materials; and biosensors and biomedical nanorobots,� says Dr. Chuck Bunting, associate dean of research and sponsored programs in the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology. OSU is on the cutting edge of research in nanomaterials, and diamond nanoparticles promise an exciting future. Diamond nanoparticles could be used in bio-sensing applications, catalysis, electrochemical applications, quantum computing and quantum optics.


The research into using DNPs for drug delivery is taking place in the School of Material Science and Engineering at OSU by Dr. Raj Singh in collaboration with Drs. Rashmi Kaul and Anil Kaul at OSU’s Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa. DNP is just one exciting piece of research that could help millions that’s being conducted in the Helmerich Advanced Technology Research Center. “The most important aspect of this research will be to use diamond nanoparticles as agents of drug delivery,” says Singh. “In order to achieve this, we have to find new ways of attaching drug molecules to diamond surfaces.” Possible Usage An example of where these DNPs could be used is in urinary tract infections, considered the second most common infectious disease in the United States, resulting in more than $6 billion in health care costs. The high recurrence rate of UTIs shows a significant need for better treatment options. The research for DNP found persistent UTIs are caused by a virulent form of bacteria known as Dr + E. coli, which invades and survives in tissues for extended periods of time by binding to a known host cell receptor. Rashmi and Anil have been working with this specific type of bacteria and its specific receptors for more than 20 years and have a variety of patents dealing with urinary tract infection pathogenesis. Traditional methods of treating UTIs involve administering high dosages of antibiotics such as amoxicillin. However, the widespread use of such high-dosage antibiotics leads to the evolution of antibiotic resistant pathogens and unwanted side effects, which is where using DNPs becomes more appealing. “If successful, the drug-loaded nanoparticles can be more effective in treating the infections without the adverse side effects of antibiotics,” says Singh. “Prevention and more effective treatments can also lead to cost savings for health delivery systems.”

Diamond nanoparticle research lays the foundation for targeted, lowdosage antibiotic treatments. It demonstrates that DPNs are viable platforms for efficient delivery of drugs, such as amoxicillin to kill Dr + E. coli in cells. “This research requires the use of new approaches to modify and control diamond surfaces using chemical means so that drugs can bind/attach and keep the drugs there until released at select locations to treat infections,” says Singh. “This will help in administering a lower amount of drugs to treat the diseases and prevent the proliferation of the drug-resistant bacteria.”

Singh mentions this research will utilize the inherent stable optical emission properties of DNPs for optical probe applications. It is envisioned that this research will lead to targeted low-dosage DNP-based UTI treatments, optical probes and biomarkers, which will have a broad impact on human health and biomedical research. “DNPs can be used for delivering all kinds of drugs,” says Singh. “This includes those for treating cancer in which the drugs can be delivered locally to cancer cells, thereby avoiding the harmful effect of chemotherapy.”

PHOTO / RYAN JENSEN

Dr. Raj Singh leads a research team studying the use of diamond nanoparticles as drug delivery agents.

The Breakdown A common route to prepare DNP is through detonation. “They are found in crude oil at concentrations up to thousands of parts per million, in meteorites, interstellar dust, and protoplanetary nebulae, as well as in certain sediment layers on Earth,” says Bunting. “They can also be produced in the laboratory by chemical vapor deposition or by detonating high explosive materials.”

The potential impact this research could have on human health and the economy is substantial. “This research is part of the new area of research in nanotechnology and nanomaterials for medical applications,” says Singh. “The benefits of these approaches can lead to new ways of treating many diseases more effectively, thereby saving lives and minimizing side effects.” WRAVENNA BLOOMBERG

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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Energy Solutions

A new OSU program delivers results for Oklahoma utilities

Thanks to better exploration techniques, Oklahoma is experiencing tremendous growth in oil and gas production. While this growth is good for energy producers and for consumers, it has placed unprecedented pressure on the utilities responsible for providing electricity to new well sites, especially providers in rural areas where most of the drilling occurs. The result has been long lead times for energy producers and questions from utilities about the most effective way to build their distribution grids. Researchers at Oklahoma State University’s National Energy Solutions Institute have been working on a first-of-its-kind software program that addresses this issue. The Capacity Infrastructure Model or CIM is a web-based tool that allows producers to input new drill site information such as location, power

requirements and length of use and delivers it to the appropriate service provider. Utilities use the information to plan new infrastructure faster and more efficiently than previous processes that included a lot of email. “The Capacity Infrastructure Model allows us to bring data together from multiple sources and helps us turn that data into knowledge by helping us create useful practices around it,” says David Swank, CEO of Stillwaterbased Central Rural Electric Cooperative. “Having the ability to leverage this source allows us to manage risk and create more economic growth.” The CIM also assists with the threat of overbuilding, a major concern for the utilities as they expand. “Our buy-in results from our awareness of the challenges we have in meeting the needs of the oil and gas industry,” says Chris

NESI’s Energy Research Operations Center will be set-up similar to CREC’s Systems Operations Center, which is pictured below.

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PHOTOS PROVIDED / CREC

Data collected through the Capacity Infrastructure Model will be evaluated by NESI scientists to further improve how electricity is delivered to consumers.

The National Energy Solutions Institute Institute at Oklahoma State University is a collection of research programs designed to support the needs of private industry in energy production, Meyers, president of the Oklahoma Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives. “We believe it’s our duty not to overbuild and strand member resources.” The CIM is in a testing phase right now with CREC as the primary utility user. Other Oklahoma and regional utilities are expected to begin utilizing the software soon. On the production side, Oklahoma Citybased Devon Energy Corp. is an active user. Tom Poteet, Devon’s electrical program manager, says the CIM is a clean, collaborative space and is a good productivity tool. “It fulfills an immediate need for the utilities and is a well-thought-out concept,” he says. OSU computer scientist Blayne Mayfield, who helped develop the software, agrees, saying the CIM lowers cost and increases collabora-

tion. “It is at least a first of its kind in this region,” Mayfield says. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s Public Utility Division supports using the CIM. Brandy Wreath, OCC division director, says the software’s ability to foster collaboration across many lines of business sold him. “Anytime you can bring people from different sectors together, there is going to be positive results,” he says. All the information added to the CIM is evaluated by NESI scientists at the Energy Resource Operations Center, where researchers seek to further improve how electricity is delivered. “Efficient planning of electric power distribution to support the oil and gas producers in the state is essential,” says NESI director Dr. Stephen McKeever. “The CIM provides a useful tool to enable that to occur.”

distribution and conservation with practical and impactful academic research. Under the direction of Dr. Stephen McKeever, OSU physics professor and Oklahoma’s secretary of science and technology, researchers at OSU are aligned in their mission to develop a diverse portfolio of efficient energy solutions to solve the world’s energy problems. These solutions will not be found in one area but in using the correct combination of all the sources of energy available. For more information, visit nesi.okstate.edu.

KELLY GREEN

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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OSU Sets Royalty Record For the first time ever, royalties from university-developed technologies at Oklahoma State University topped $2 million a year. “It is definitely a milestone,” says Stephen McKeever, OSU’s vice president for research and technology transfer. “Since this figure represents the value companies place on technologies developed by our researchers, I’d say this is a clear indication that we are fulfilling our land-grant mission by providing technologies of vital need in our community.” Topping the list of royalty generators is a probiotic administered to the nation’s dairy and feedlot cattle. Developed at OSU, the bacteria used in this direct-fed microbial help maintain the proper balance of microflora in the animals’ gastrointestinal tracts. The bacteria also help the cattle convert food to energy. The technology is licensed to Nutrition Physiology Co. LLC, a leading provider of probiotics to enhance the health and productivity of animals. The other leading royalty earners include:

A collective group of wheat varieties developed by OSU’s Wheat Improvement Team and licensed to Oklahoma Genetics Inc. These wheat varieties’ unique characteristics make them adaptable to Oklahoma conditions, including traits necessary for high yields, superior quality, disease and insect tolerance, excellent milling and baking characteristics, and excellent grazing potential. These varieties cover at least 47 percent of the fields in Oklahoma.

A method for measuring radiation exposure used in 25 percent of the world’s radiation badges. The badges detect radiation in hospitals, medical and dental offices, universities, national laboratories and other industries where radiation poses a potential threat to employees. The technology is licensed to Landauer, a global leader in radiation science and services.

Royalties from these and other licensed technologies are re-invested into university research programs. Half of the royalties support the Technology and Business Development Program, an initiative that seeks out research projects with high commercial potential and supports them to the point of licensing. TBDP funds prototype development and feasibility demonstrations, since the projects are often too specific for federal funding and too basic to get normal industrial support. For startup companies, the university partners with Cowboy Technologies LLC, a for-profit company that develops early-stage OSU technology companies until they are ready

A cattle diagnostic. Monoclonal antibodies invented at OSU can identify bovine viral diarrhea virus, a costly disease that suppresses the cow’s immune system, making them susceptible to other infections. The antibodies are licensed to IDEXX Laboratories, an international diagnostics company.

to be stand-alone entities. Cowboy Technologies provides management, marketing expertise and seed funding to help new companies navigate these critical phases of technology development. “You need more than just an innovative technology to make for commercial success,” says Steven Price, OSU’s associate vice president for technology development. “That’s why at OSU we have programs like TBDP and Cowboy Technologies to help maximize our technologies to their full potential. We believe it’s the modern interpretation of our land-grant mission.” KELLY GREEN

For more information on technology development and licensing at OSU, visit tdc.okstate.edu.

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Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu


Growing the Numbers Annual Research Expenditures (2002 – 2012) ANNUAL RESEARCH EXPENDITURES IN MILLIONS OF DOLLARS $200 $180 $160 $140 $120 $100 $80 $60 $40 $20 $0

’02

’03

’04

’05

’06

’07

’08

’09

’10

’11

’12

*At the time of publication, research expenditures for 2013 were not available.

Intellectual Property (2003 – 2013) NUMBER OF PATENTS GRANTED 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 ’03

’04

’05

’06

’07

’08

’09

OSU INCOME FROM LICENSES (IN MILLIONS OF DOLLARS) $2.25

’10

’11

’12

’13

NUMBER OF LICENSES YIELDING INCOME 50

$2.0

45

$1.75

40 35

$1.5

30

$1.25

25

$1.0

20 $.75

15

$.5

10

$.25

5 0

$0 ’03

’04

’05

’06

’07

’08

’09

’10

’11

’12

’13

’03

’04

’05

’06

’07

’08

’09

’10

’11

’12

’13

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

37


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Journeying to Write

PHOTO PROVIDED

To those who say high school English won’t affect a person’s future, meet Oklahoma State University assistant professor J.C. Hallman. The California native and five-time published author says a creative writing class in high school started it all for him. “It was a kind of experimental course that let me produce at my own pace and read what I wanted to read,” says Hallman, who teaches English at OSU. “This triggered something in me that was already there, surely something latent, but without it, whatever that is, a skill, an aptitude, might have remained dormant. Writing seemed like a reasonable way to reply to the world’s basic intricacy and mystery. It still does.” Hallman describes his work as a combination of memoir, history, journalism and travelogue, and it has been compared to Alain de Botton and Bruce Chatwin. His first book, The Chess Artist, tells of his friendship with chess player Glenn Umstead. His second work, The Devil is a Gentleman, is about an intellectual apprenticeship with philosopher William James. In Utopia, Hallman explores the history of utopian thought and literature in the context of visits to six modern utopias in various stages of realization, and in Wm & H’ry, he examines the copious correspondence of William and Henry James. Next year, he will publish B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal. Hallman admits that deciding the focus of each new book is somewhat of a mysterious process, until you’ve written a few. “You recognize that there really is a thread of idea stretching from project to project. You can’t know what this will be as you’re doing it, but you can recognize it in retrospect. The mystery is good, though,” he says. “It’s how you know you’re reacting to some need in yourself that couldn’t be satisfied if you did some other form of work. The mystery is the creative process.” Hallman says he writes two to three hours a day, typically in the early morning. His workspace often reflects the intensity of his creative process, growing messier as he inches closer to the completion of a chapter. At the end of each chapter, he sorts and organizes his area and begins again.

J.C. Hallman His notes for a single book can fill several shelves in his office before they’re packed away in a box once the book is finished. Then, the shelves start to fill again with materials for the next book. Hallman doesn’t think of any of his books as better than another; instead, he views them as equal in shaping his identity. “To privilege one over the other would be like saying you like your right eye more than your left,” he says. To those new to his work, he recommends you start where he did — ­ with his first novel, The Chess Artist. “Writers are often a little ashamed of their first books, but the truth is that they’re often quite good because that first book hurdle is the hardest to clear, and it’s in first books that you often see a writer at his or her most innovative, most inspired moment.” Hallman has taught at a number of colleges and universities, including the University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins and Bennington College. Among other honors, he is the recipient of a 2013 fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, which awarded him $40,000 to write a history and travelogue about the much-troubled sub-Saharan country of Swaziland. For more information on Hallman and his work, visit www.jchallman.com. KELLY GREEN

2014 Vanguard Magazine  
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