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MATTERS Research, scholarship and creative activity at Oklahoma State University



2018 2019


V. Burns Hargis President Kenneth W. Sewell, Ph.D. Vice President for Research OSU Research Matters is published annually by Oklahoma State University and is produced by the Office of the Vice President for Research. Editor: Dorothy Pugh Art Director/Designer: Valerie Kisling Contributing Writers: John Bartley, Derinda Blakeney, Mandy Gross, Jeff Joiner, Tori Lock, Jacob Longan, Leilanna McKindra, Shannon Rigsby, Don Stotts


y predecessors might have believed otherwise, but I think now is the most exciting time for research in OSU’s 128year history. OSU physiologists, biologists and bio-engineers are making critical breakthroughs in how we understand and treat respiratory and infectious diseases. Our developmental psychologists, nutritional scientists and public health researchers are fighting to decode — and ultimately break — the link between childhood trauma and mental (as well as physical) health problems later in life. Engineers, plant scientists, ecologists, soil scientists, geologists, animal scientists and social scientists are finding new and sustainable ways to provide food, energy and water to a rapidly growing and changing world population. And as exciting as all of that is … it’s only a fraction of what OSU’s amazing scientists, scholars and artists do to turn their expertise into value for society. In this issue of OSU Research Matters, you’ll be introduced to a few of our research difference-makers: men and women who have built tools for the International Space Station; developed non-invasive ways to destroy cancerous tumors; illuminated the political, religious and artistic linkages between Europe and the New World; and bred new and robust wheat varieties to feed Oklahoma’s vital economy and the world’s hungry inhabitants. Along the way, we will also let you know about some of the ways that we stimulate, communicate and celebrate OSU research from our internal grant programs to our Straight Talk About Research (STAR) videos and our community conversations at a Stillwater gathering place. After you’ve perused these pages, you won’t need to look back at the cover to know that OSU Research Matters! It’s just what we do.

Kenneth W. Sewell, Ph.D. Vice President for Research

Photographers: Ryan Jensen, Todd Johnson, Jeff Joiner, Gary Lawson, Tori Lock, Kevin McCroskey, Phil Shockley For details about research highlighted in this magazine or reproduction permission, contact the Office of the Vice President for Research. 405.744.6501;

Oklahoma State University, in compliance with Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 11246 as amended, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Higher Education Act), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other federal and state laws and regulations, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, genetic information, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, or status as a veteran, in any of its policies, practices or procedures. This provision includes, but is not limited to admissions, employment, financial aid, and educational services. The Director of Equal Opportunity, 408 Whitehurst, OSU, Stillwater, OK 74078-1035; Phone 405744-5371; email: has been designated to handle inquiries regarding nondiscrimination policies. Any person (student, faculty, or staff) who believes that discriminatory practices have been engaged in based on gender may discuss his or her concerns and file informal or formal complaints of possible violations of Title IX with OSU’s Title IX Coordinator 405-744-9154. This publication, issued by Oklahoma State University as authorized by Office of the Vice President for Research, was printed by Modern Litho at a cost of $4,269.36 3.75M /Dec/18. #7487




On the Cover

Opening Minds OSU alumnus Dr. John Niblack started a legacy for undergraduate researchers. He’s giving back to the university where his journey to becoming a successful scientist began.

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3 Researchers on the Rise

National Notice Research into the arts has raised the international reputation of the OSU Department of Art, Graphic Design and Art History. Two faculty are leading the way.

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Improving A Staple No other OSU agriculture program has impacted more farmers and consumers than the Wheat Improvement Team. Improved wheat genetics is helping feed a hungry world.


There seems to be no limit to how small a man-made object can be created to do a job. On the cover are carboncoated nanosprings 50 times smaller than a human hair. Read on page 2 how the tiniest engineered objects made by an OSU physicist are made.

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A New Way to Heal An OSU physiologist has developed a new way to attack cancerous tumors and infectious diseases in animals without surgery or chemotherapy. And it’s more affordable.


Research to the People: OSU Research On Tap


The World of Elite Racing Sled Dogs

12 Life-Saving Biomedical Research 18

Ensuring Food Safety Never Rests at FAPC


Why Trauma Marks Generations


Tackling Water Issues from Country to City


OSU Sends Tech into Space


Taking Technology Commercial


Helping Families Face Sexual Disorders


Recognizing Top Researchers

back cover The Future of Genetics

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Too Small to be Seen

But powerful enough to sniff out explosives


his year’s OSU Research Matters cover is a scanning electron microscope image taken by Lisa Whitworth at the OSU Microscopy Laboratory. The image shows man-made, carbon-coated nanosprings produced in the Department of Physics at Oklahoma State University. Nanosprings are made of glass and coated with carbon to conduct electricity. The diameter of the average nanospring is 500 times smaller than the diameter of an average human hair. The nanosprings on the cover were grown and carbon coated by Aaron Austin, an OSU undergraduate physics major, and Dr. Elena Echeverria, a postdoctoral researcher, in the laboratory of Dr. Dave McIlroy, professor and head of the Department of Physics. McIlroy and his students are using nanosprings to construct explosive sensors called electronic noses in a project funded by the Office of Naval Research. The goal is to use the sensors to remotely detect Improvised Explosive Devices or IEDs. Millions of nanosprings within the sensor create a pathway for electrical current that is extremely sensitive to the absorption of ammonium nitrate. Additionally, extremely small sensors that are

suitable for integration into remotely operated vehicles can be constructed. According to McIlroy, an early roadblock to nanospring research was making enough of them. Typically, only nanograms of the material can be made at a time. McIlroy figured out how to make several grams of nanosprings at a time. “Consequently, we can make all the nanosprings we need and have more than enough to send to researchers across the globe,” he said. In order to create an image of something so small, an electron microscope captures the image using electrons instead of visible light. Because the wavelength of electrons is much smaller than for light, images of extremely small objects, like nanosprings, have greater resolution.

Dr. Dave McIlroy discusses using OSU’s scanning electron microscope to make images of nanosprings with Lisa Whitworth, lab manager.

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Researchers on the rise The Division of the Vice President for Research launched three grants in 2018 to advance the research careers and investigations of Oklahoma State University faculty in varying stages of their careers. Congratulations to the following awardees.

Wyatt Hoback

SWINGING FOR THE FENCES supports collaborative research teams collecting preliminary data for investigations worthy of future funding from external agencies. Veronique Lacombe and Michael Davis, Physiological Sciences David Lampert, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Jamey Jacob, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Akhilesh Ramachandran, Oklahoma Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, and Jerry Malayer, Physiological Sciences Pankaj Sarin, Material Science, and Khaled Sallam, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Edward Shaw and Erika Lutter, Microbiology

The MENTOR/MENTEE PROGRAM pairs senior researchers as mentors with junior faculty as mentees to encourage career acceleration and collaborative research. Teams (with mentor listed first): Tyrrell Conway, Microbiology, and Dingbo (Daniel) Lin, Nutritional Sciences Michael Davis, Physiological Sciences, and Cara Blake, Veterinary Clinical Sciences John Gustafson, Biochemistry, and Wyatt Hoback, Entomology and Plant Pathology Robert Matts, Biochemistry, and McKale Montgomery, Nutritional Sciences David McIlroy and Mario Borunda, Physics Astri Wayandande, Entomology and Plant Pathology, and Darren Hagen, Animal and Food Sciences Rodney Will, Natural Resource Ecology and Management, and Henry Adams, Plant Biology, Ecology and Evolution Michael Davis, Physiological Sciences, and Megan Williams, Veterinary Clinical Sciences

The 2018 HUMANITIES-ARTS-DESIGN GRANTS provide funding for faculty to advance scholarship or creative artistry. Tilanka Chandrasekera, Design, Housing and Merchandising Phil Choo, Art, Graphic Design and Art History Stacy Takacs, American Studies Program/English Alana Pulay, Design, Housing and Merchandising Holly Karibo, History Lawrence Pasternack, Philosophy Qing Luo, Horticulture & Landscape Architecture Bo Zhang, Horticulture & Landscape Architecture Cheryl Mihalko, Horticulture & Landscape Architecture Liz Roth, Art, Graphic Design and Art History Louise Siddons, Art, Graphic Design and Art History Andy Mattern, Art, Graphic Design and Art History Allen Scott, Music Meredith Blecha-Wells, Music Virginia Broffitt-Kunzer, Music

Qing Luo

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Opening Minds Success in research led John Niblack to give to OSU, where his journey began


Above: OSU alumnus Dr. John Niblack. Above, right: Niblack and his wife, Heidi, met former Niblack Research Scholar Dr. Savanah Sayler (right) at an OSU football game. Below, right: The 2018-19 class of Niblack Research Scholars with John and Heidi (left) and Vice President for Research Dr. Kenneth Sewell and OSU President Burns Hargis (right).

r. John Niblack remembers wanting to be a scientist as early as elementary school, when he started doing simple experiments with a chemistry set. Of course, he didn’t know what it meant to be a scientist, but it sounded interesting. His first chance to work in a laboratory came one summer after an Oklahoma State University tour for high school students interested in science. He met biochemistry professor Dr. Robert Sirny and asked for a summer job. Sirny said sure, and gave him his first lab job — washing dishes. “I washed a lot of glassware,” Niblack said. “What else could I do? I didn’t know anything.” Niblack’s introduction to science may have begun at the bottom rung of the academic ladder, but his experiences working for Sirny and conducting real research as an OSU undergraduate changed his life. Niblack earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from OSU in 1960 and a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Illinois-Champaign. In 1967, he began his career with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. as a research scientist before rising through the ranks to become the company’s executive vice chairman and president of the Global Research and Development division. In 2002, Niblack retired from Pfizer, and two years later, he approached OSU about starting a scholarship for undergraduate student researchers. He wanted to give back to the university where his journey to become a scientist began. Niblack funds scholarships for a dozen or more undergraduate students each year through the Niblack Research Scholars program, managed by the Division of the Vice President for Research. Over the past 15 years, 186 students have worked in science and engineering laboratories across campus in a variety of disciplines. For many of those students, immersion in science early in their university educations opened a world most had never considered before, just as it did for Niblack.

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“What makes a young person want to go into science? What gets kids that interested?” Niblack asked. “I reflected on my own experience, and for a high school student and then a young college student to actually do real research in a real laboratory was the deciding thing for me.” Dr. Kenneth Sewell, the OSU vice president for research, agrees that student research starts a chain reaction that leads many Niblack scholars to graduate and professional schools and jobs as doctors, veterinarians, professors, research scientists, engineers and even pharmaceutical company executives. “Undergraduate research has already changed your life even if you don’t realize it,” Sewell told a group of Niblack scholars. “You’re the lucky ones to be supported by a wonderful program like the Niblack Research Scholars, and you’re lucky that your future has already been transformed. I hope you embrace that.” Niblack draws a direct line from his education at OSU to his success at Pfizer. Today, there are several research programs at OSU for undergraduate students, but Niblack had no such opportunity. He only found himself working in Sirny’s biochemistry lab through a desire to learn and the willingness of a professor to take him under his wing. “Sirny began by teaching me how to operate his equipment and help collect data for studies he was conducting,” Niblack said. “He would give me gentle coaching and then say, ‘Go, see what you can do.’” To honor his mentor, Niblack and his wife, Heidi, established the Robert J. Sirny Memorial Endowed Professorship in Agricultural Biochemistry in 1988. Dr. José Luis Soulages is the current Sirny professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Just as Sirny took a young Niblack under his wing, Soulages is mentoring Alice Chibnall, a



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young scientist who is his Niblack scholar. For Chibnall, from Frisco, Texas, working on genuine research allows her to apply classroom concepts to real-life situations. “This opportunity gives me a very unique experience as an undergrad that will make the transition from my undergraduate program to graduate school slightly easier,” Chibnall said. She plans to study marine biology in graduate school. Though Chibnall’s interest in marine life isn’t closely related to her Niblack research studying lipids in mosquitos, the experience is worthwhile. “I love learning something new every day,” she said. “There’s always a new experiment to run and a new skill to learn.” Another of Niblack’s goals is to make scientists human. Working directly with researchers shows Niblack scholars that scientists aren’t people in white lab coats smoking pipes and writing on blackboards in secret labs. They are real men and women who might even be a next-door neighbor. Niblack stresses the importance of fledgling scientists interacting with working researchers. It’s especially valuable for young women. “At one time, very few women were drawn to the sciences,” Niblack said. “So, for today’s young women to see female scientists working and achieving things — it gives them exciting role models.” Niblack has been pleased to see more women going into STEM fields over the years. That trend is reflected in the Niblack program, where women now outnumber their male counterparts. Former Niblack scholar Dr. Savanah Sayler was drawn to study science at OSU from a small Oklahoma high school that offered few opportunities. Undergraduate research gave her confidence and a firm footing to pursue a career in medicine. “Working in a research lab really helped push me in the direction where I am today. And it had a huge impact on the way that I now practice clinically,” said Sayler, an optometrist in Tulsa. A scholar from 2006 to 2007, Sayler was invited to again meet the Niblacks a few years ago during one of their OSU visits. She was impressed with how

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interested John Niblack was in her career and her experience as a Niblack scholar. “He was so down-to-earth,” she said. “You wouldn’t know he had such a big influence in the lives of so many people.” Each year since starting his program, Niblack returns to Stillwater to meet the latest class of scholars and listen to research presentations from the preceding year’s students. He evaluates the design of experiments and the students’ abilities to explain their processes and outcomes. It’s also a chance to share more than three decades of wisdom about the life and struggles of research scientists who often face persistent setbacks. The process can lead to weeks, months and even years of hard work without meaningful results. It’s a process that one former Niblack scholar described as heartbreaking. “Science is a very frustrating pursuit because most of the time you fail,” Niblack said. “But that’s OK. Failure is a part of it. It teaches you to keep trying.” At Pfizer, Niblack knew about setbacks in pharmaceutical research and development, which can lead to writing off millions of dollars. But often, perseverance pays off in a big way. Under Niblack, Pfizer began developing a semisynthetic antibiotic to improve on the existing drug Erythromycin. But time and again, the experimental drugs appeared to be ineffective. Concentrations of the experimental antibiotics necessary to kill bacteria, as measured in the bloodstream, couldn’t be achieved in human subjects during early clinical trials. With a huge potential profit on the line from the development of a new general antibiotic, the research continued for more than 20 years. Finally, Niblack told his scientists that it was time for a breakthrough or else. “I told the research team that I was going to pull the plug because they had spent too many years and too much money on this for nothing,” he said. That caught their attention. Recent clinical studies of concentrations of certain antibiotics measured in the tissue rather than blood showed high enough levels to kill bacteria.

Not confident but facing the end of their program, the Pfizer clinical researchers tested the hypothesis with their best experimental drug (later named Zithromax), and the results showed the drug indeed worked at high enough levels and remained in the body longer than expected to continue killing bacteria. Following clinical trials, Zithromax was approved by the FDA and moved to market. After two decades, and a last-minute reprieve, the antibiotic became one of the company’s most profitable products. Each year, Zithromax is prescribed to millions of people, and especially to children. Commonly packaged as the Z-pack, it became the best-selling antibiotic in the United States with sales peaking at $2 billion in 2005. When talking to his scholars, Niblack is not all doom and gloom. He points out that young scientists often have a naiveté about what they can accomplish and, instead of shying away, forge ahead eagerly and “starry-eyed,” in his words. “That leads to all sorts of wonderful discoveries accomplished by people who didn’t realize they probably couldn’t succeed at something and they did anyway,” Niblack said. “That’s what youth is all about.”

Above: OSU’s Dr. José Luis Soulages (right) holds a professorship endowed by the Niblacks. With Soulages is Niblack Research Scholar Alice Chibnall. Below: Each year since starting his program, Niblack returns to Stillwater to meet the latest class of scholars and listen to research presentations.


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Ref lections on Research: A Community Member’s Perspective BY JOHN BARTLEY, PHOTO JEFF JOINER

Modern life pulls us all in so many directions that we must prioritize how to spend our time. The OSU Research On Tap series can easily be put at the top of that list. After living in Stillwater for over half of my life, I still get amazed at the incredible research and discoveries that occur at OSU. If you are not employed by the university, knowing about the research occurring on campus can be difficult. As a layperson, it is very doubtful I would attend a presentation on scientific research on campus. I would not want to deal with the parking and would probably fear that the presentation would just be over my head. The OSU Research On Tap series helps solve these issues and provides so many benefits. Being off campus greatly reduces parking concerns, and utilizing Iron Monk as the venue gives me another reason to want to attend. The crowd is a great mix of the Stillwater community (some people could be given the tag of “regulars” with their steady attendance) and OSU researchers who probably would not interact otherwise. The format and tone of the event result in attendees leaving with more knowledge and appreciation for the research that occurs at OSU. The first part of the night is a relaxed one-on-one conversation, using layman terms as much as possible. It is not a dry presentation full of jargon and words in Latin or Greek — it is entertaining and often humorous, but most importantly it is impressive to listen to an expert explain a very deep technical topic in a way that is understandable by non-experts. The Question & Answer portion of the event is even better. It is usually here when you learn the real-world applications and benefits of the research. Research for the sole sake of expanding knowledge feels empty outside academia. Learning about research that leads to real-world improvements and ways to make our lives better makes it exciting, relevant and important to our community and state. I attend as many Research On Tap events as I can. I always leave feeling better informed and better connected — and the beer is pretty good, too.

John Bartley, former Stillwater, Oklahoma mayor, asks a question at OSU Research On Tap using an innovative, wireless ball microphone.

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WHERE COMMUNITY AND UNIVERSITY MEET Join the curious at IrOn MOnk Brewing Co. At OSU Research On Tap, Dr. Kenneth Sewell, vice president for research, chats with scientists, engineers and scholars about their work and why it matters to those attending the monthly events. Add audience questions and the program becomes a dialogue. Join friends and faculty for a local brew and the best of OSU research.

Understanding Elite Canines Dr. Michael Davis’ 20-year project offers insight into dogs and humans as well


unique partnership between an Oklahoma State University scientist and a well-known Alaskan sled dog trainer and musher has generated more than 20 years of research data that has benefited both scientist and citizen scientist. The long-term investigation has allowed them to better understand the strength and stamina of Alaskan huskies and their ability to compete in the grueling, thousand-mile Iditarod sled dog race OSU’s Dr. Michael Davis, professor of physiological sciences in the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, travels to Alaska each year to studying the incredible metabolism of Alaskan huskies. His research, beginning in 2000, has revealed data about canine athletic performance and health as well as insights into human athletic performance. Davis studies sled dogs belonging to Martin Buser, a native of Switzerland

and one of the most famous mushers and dog trainers in his adopted Alaska. He has won the Iditarod four times and completed the race 35 times. The two met in 2002 when Buser had just set the Iditarod record of finishing the race in under nine days, an accomplishment that is said to be equivalent to breaking the four-minute mile in track. Buser’s dogs are the perfect subjects for analyzing the health and performance of elite canine athletes because he has spent decades developing training programs and technological advances in equipment that have led to cutting almost two weeks off winning times. The first Iditarod champion in 1973 took 21 days to win the race that runs from Anchorage to Nome. Buser’s amazing advances have all been accomplished while protecting the health of his dogs both in training and competition. He says he has always been interested in

the science of canine performance and advances in sled design, so joining Davis’ research project, to “satisfy his thirst for knowledge,” was required, as far as he was concerned. “The fact that we’re now covering 1,049 miles in way less than half the original winning times goes back to many factors including physiology, nutrition and genetics,” he said. “And science is not just physiological; it’s also technological. The science of friction is a huge factor in building sleds.” When the two met, Davis was studying the cause of gastric ulcers affecting Iditarod dogs. As teams completed the race in Nome, Davis would anesthetize and scope the stomachs of dogs belonging to owners who volunteered to participate in the research. The study resulted in a successful treatment that eliminated ulcers among the study population.

Enduci officturio. Onserorrovit et aut iducim doluptati beatquam dipitatum etus con porrunt.

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Buser For Buser, the science of canine athletic performance is not the most important goal of studying his dogs. He is just as interested in protecting the health of dogs and ensuring Iditarod race dogs are cared for. The dogs require several hours of rest during each day of the competition, and veterinarians examine the dogs at checkpoints. But even more than winning the Iditarod, Buser said his greatest pride comes from being a five-time winner of the Leonhard Seppala Award for Humanitarian Dog Care. Following the conclusion of his research on stomach ulcers, Davis began examining more closely the unique physiology of the Alaskan husky. “These sled dogs have a phenomenal capacity for exercise and metabolism,” Davis said. “A well-trained sled dog, during a race, will burn 12,000 or more calories a day, day after day. How do they digest, absorb, transport and burn

Davis that many calories? And how do they get rid of that much metabolic heat to be able to burn that many calories? We understand bits and pieces, but we don’t have a full picture yet.” It’s not just sled dog trainers who are interested in expanding the boundaries of exercise performance. Interest has grown in Davis’ research to include understanding possible ways to increase sustainable human exercise. He is taking years of data about dog metabolism and examining how that knowledge could increase the endurance and nutrition of elite human athletes and even soldiers. The Department of Defense is currently sponsoring Davis’ research to learn more about a soldier’s ability to train to improve battlefield performance. Training and improving a sled dog’s nutrition has amazing effects on performance, just as it does for humans.

“The impact of being able to double sustained exercise would be enormous from the standpoint of combat and nutrition,” he said. The two-decade research collaboration between Buser and Davis now includes the addition of OSU’s Comparative Exercise Physiology Laboratory-Big Lake near Buser’s Happy Trails Kennels in Alaska. Working together has been positive for both men. Buser has learned more about training dogs and improving performance during competition, while Davis has collected two decades’ worth of data to continue advancing the scope of his research. “It’s a very productive relationship because he understands enough about research to implement what I tell him we need to do,” Davis said. “He considers the research as important as I do.”

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Life-Saving Research

OCRID unites scientists to confront devastating diseases

OCRID research project leaders and directors include (from left) Drs. Veronique Lacombe, OSU; Marianna Patrauchan, OSU; Shitao Li, OSU; Jordan Metcalf, OUHSC, OCRID co-director; Lin Liu, OSU, director; and William McShan, OUHSC. Not pictured is Richard Eberle, OSU, co-director.

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rom early in Dr. Lin Liu’s career, he wanted to build a research center to study diseases of the respiratory system. The seed was planted as he studied these diseases as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania in the early 1990s. And it blossomed into the Oklahoma Center for Respiratory and Infectious Diseases (OCRID) at Oklahoma State University. When OCRID opened its doors on the OSU campus with $11 million in federal funding in 2013, director Lui was thrilled. “Phase 1 has been transformative to the landscape of respiratory and infectious disease research in Oklahoma,” Liu, Regents Professor and Lundberg-Kienlen Endowed Chair in Biomedical Research at OSU, said this summer after learning that OCRID had won a Phase 2 grant to continue its research until at least 2023. NIH awarded $11.1 million so the center could continue the work of

more than 60 scientists. As it did five years ago, the funding comes from the NIH Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (CoBRE) program. OCRID scientists are leading pioneering research in Oklahoma into a multitude of diseases that sicken millions. These diseases run the gamut from the common cold and strep to life-threatening infections such as tuberculosis, influenza, pneumonia (the leading worldwide cause of death of children under 5), human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV), infections that aggravate such disorders as cystic fibrosis and many other illnesses. Most have no vaccines or cures. OCRID is multi-institutional to tap into as much expertise as possible. It includes OSU, the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC), the University of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF). “OCRID has put Oklahoma on the map in this critical area of medical research,” said Dr. Kenneth Sewell, OSU vice president for research. “Phase 2 funding from the NIH will allow researchers at OSU, OUHSC, OU and OMRF to accelerate their collaborations over the next five years, generating breakthroughs to understanding the causes and potential cures for devastating infectious diseases of the respiratory system.” As a university-level research center, OCRID reports to the Division of Vice President for Research and is based at the OSU Center for Veterinary Health Sciences. Researchers at OCRID are advancing long-term studies that will eventually move beyond the center. For the many smaller research pilot projects supported almost solely by OCRID, winning large grants is difficult. In



Associate professor, physiological sciences Oklahoma State University OSU Department of Physiological Sciences

these small projects, scientists must come up with preliminary results to show the potential of the research, and OCRID funding allows scientists to show the legitimacy of their ideas. “Their research lays the foundation upon which to build future studies,” Liu said. Dr. Veronique Lacombe, an associate professor of physiological sciences at OSU and an OCRID researcher, launched a pilot project that became one of four OCRID core investigations this year. “It’s very hard to have support from federal agencies when you’re starting a novel, cutting-edge pilot project based around an unproven idea,” Lacombe said. “So you have to validate your idea by collecting preliminary data, and only OCRID was able to provide that financial support to start my research as a pilot project.” By combining scientific strengths and the top facilities in Oklahoma, OCRID is building a national reputation for its work. “OCRID was really the key because it brought together scientists and investigators, which we could not have done independently,” said Dr. Heloise Anne Pereira, dean of the graduate college and Herbert and Dorothy Langsam Chair in Geriatric Pharmacy at OUHSC. “Bringing together the best investigators from each of these institutions has really been the success of OCRID.” The continuation of funding is a significant milestone, said Liu. “I am extremely pleased that the first OSU CoBRE grant was able to transition to Phase 2 without any disruption, thanks to an incredible collaboration from scientists across the state of Oklahoma.”

Studying why diabetics are predisposed to respiratory infection by looking into the metabolism of the lungs and why high levels of sugar in the lungs can lead to respiratory infection. A long-term goal is identifying new drugs to treat these patients.

Dr. Shitao Li

Assistant professor, virology, Oklahoma State University

Conducting research on the Influenza A virus, which is a highly transmissible respiratory pathogen and presents a continued threat to global health. Li’s lab is examining how the protein ZFC3HI inhibits virus infection by limiting influenza replication.

Dr. Marianna Patrauchan

Associate professor, microbiology and molecular genetics, Oklahoma State University

The bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a pathogen that causes severe, life-threatening infections in patients with cystic fibrosis, endocarditis, wounds, artificial implants and in healthcare-associated infections. The Patrauchan lab is studying the body’s regulatory circuits affecting the bacteria’s virulence.

Dr. William McShan

Associate professor, pharmaceutical sciences OU Health Sciences Center

Streptococcus pneumoniae is a major cause of human respiratory disease worldwide with a third of cases caused by antibiotics-resistant strains. McShan’s research is working to understand how a molecular switch in the bacteria increases virulence or promotes antibiotic resistance.

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National Notice

Art historians’ research impresses prestigious organizations


klahoma State University’s increased focus on the arts has led to a rise in the university’s reputation in various academic disciplines. Two recent honors from national arts organizations underscores how much the Department of Art, Graphic Design and Art History has grown in visibility as programs and faculty are recognized. In May 2017, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded $20,000 to associate professor Louise Siddons to support a traveling retrospective exhibition of modernist painter, sculptor and printmaker J. Jay McVicker. A native of Vici, Oklahoma, McVicker graduated from OSU and spent his entire academic career at his alma mater, including serving as department head from 1959-77. Siddons also secured funding for the first scholarly book to survey McVicker’s career. Publication of a single-author monograph is considered the gold standard for humanities researchers. While Siddons is receiving praise for her work, associate professor Cristina González is earning recognition for her journal article, “Beyond the Bride of Christ: The Crucified Abbess in Mexico and Spain,” which was the cover story of the December 2017 issue of The Art Bulletin, considered the most prestigious scholarly journal in the field of art history. REBELLIOUS NUNS

Centering Modernism



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González, who arrived at OSU in 2007 after completing a residential fellowship at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, California, specializes in the visual culture of Spanish America and Iberia. She has a doctorate in art history from the University of Chicago, a master in philosophy in Classics from Cambridge, a master’s in art history from the University of Texas, and an anthropology degree from Yale. Although her Art Bulletin article explores the culture of prominent colonial-era convents in Mexico and Spain, where nuns often coveted expensive religious paraphernalia reflecting their elite status, her thesis rests on an examination of particularly ascetic convents where painted portraits might feature representations of crucified nuns.  For González, the statement these women were making is clear.  “In a period of religious turmoil and new institutional reforms, these abbesses were proudly proclaiming their Christ-like status and all the power


Dr. Louise Siddons

Dr. Cristina Gonzรกlez

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The Art Bulletin article also led to a contract with Oxford University Press to produce a volume called Female Piety and Visual Culture in the Early Modern Spanish World, 1500-1800. She recruited a co-editor and eight authors to create this volume, which has been fast-tracked for publication. “Oxford was quite interested in the subject and knew of my own plans for a book project, so they found the article and its reception very encouraging,” González said. “They suddenly saw that there was an audience for this material beyond a sub-field and even beyond a discipline.” LOCAL ARTIST, NATIONAL STORY

Diego Velázquez, Portrait of the Franciscan Abbess Jerónima de la Asunción, 1620. Oil on canvas, 160cm x 110cm. Prado National Museum, Madrid. inherent in the posture,” González said. “These nuns are saying, ‘We only answer to Christ. We control our own convent and refuse to answer to an archbishop.’ So, I see these austere images as part of the story of visual culture in female communities and the politics of piety in the Spanish world that hasn’t been fully written before.” She was especially pleased with the image chosen for the cover of the journal — Portrait of Madre Maria Ana Josefa by José de Alcíbar. “Look at how seductive she is, even though she looks like she doesn’t need anyone,” González said. “In her accoutrements, she’s looking directly at you and saying, ‘Look at me.’ This image and the other works I studied express female agency. This woman is a

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nun in a very demanding environment, cloistered and under the ruling guidelines of the colonial world at the time, but she still has agency. “She still has the power of expression, so I felt like she was my alter-ego or my appendage in some way from a previous life. I’m glad I could bring her to the cover.” This article has greatly benefited her ability to do even more as a scholar. She served as one of five contributors to a book celebrating the 300th anniversary of the founding of San Antonio, Texas. San Antonio 1718: Art from Mexico was published this spring by the Trinity University Press, in partnership with the San Antonio Museum of Art. González went to San Antonio in April to present a related lecture.

Siddons’ work also reaches a broad audience. She has a bachelor’s in art history and women’s studies from Cornell, and both a master’s and doctorate in art history from Stanford. She came to OSU in 2009 as an assistant professor of art history, specializing in American art and the visual culture of modernity. The following year, OSU President Burns Hargis asked her to also become founding curator and co-director of the OSU Museum of Art. In Stillwater, Siddons learned more and more about McVicker. She decided he deserves more notice for his career, especially in modernism. That led to the monograph and exhibition, both called “Centering Modernism: J. Jay McVicker and Postwar American Art.” It is on display at the OSU Museum of Art until Jan. 19, 2019. “I’m interested in local art history, but McVicker isn’t just a local story,” Siddons said. “He is a local artist who was showing at the Guggenheim Museum and the Downtown Gallery in New York City, and the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles in Paris. He was absolutely a national artist who was showing literally all over the country.” McVicker had studied under OSU department head Doel Reed, a legendary printmaker. McVicker’s early works were reminiscent of Reed’s, but after McVicker returned from service with the Navy in World War II, he switched to producing pieces more like those of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.

“People think of him as an abstract expressionist, but that was maybe a year and a half of his career, which didn’t end until he died in 2004,” Siddons said. “In the 1940s, he was interested in modernism and the things happening in art at that time. He knew about surrealism and the influence it had in the 1930s, and cubism and the ongoing influence that had. He was looking at his options, and both seemed relevant, as did the conflict between the two. Cubism is about the rational, and surrealism is emotional.” In discussing McVicker’s work, Siddons labels many pieces her favorite. Through both the exhibition and the book, she shows his progression as an artist, highlighting color aquatints, sculptures, paintings and sketches that explore surrealism, cubism, Op art and other forms of abstraction. “The book does a lot to show where Jay fits into postwar modern art,” Siddons said. “Throughout the 1950s, right as he was finding his voice as an artist, the art world was becoming more and more New York-centered. By the 1960s, Los Angeles was coming up. And by 1965, if you weren’t in New York or L.A., you weren’t getting a show.” González added, “In the conversation about modernism, some of the true pioneers have been left out, such as J. Jay McVicker and others in Oklahoma and the Southwest. Addressing that is not just important for OSU, but also to right some wrongs. Louise’s work is field-changing for the discipline in some ways.” INCREASING PROMINENCE Siddons and González appreciate the positive feedback on their recent work, and the biggest benefit for OSU will become evident in the long-term. “Think about a student considering art history programs,” Siddons said. “Those students see OSU and go, ‘I see they offer a master’s degree, and I’ve been hearing a lot about that school recently. Maybe I should check it out.’” Both professors credit OSU’s administration with providing opportunities for success. Over the past decade, the university has added the master’s program and focused on tenure-track positions.

They appreciate working at a university, reminding people that land-grant colleges were established to provide liberal arts educations, and that research is important in every discipline. “It’s about thinking of OSU as a place for humanities-based research that is both dynamic and intellectually compelling,” González said. “Clearly the university is poised to shepherd that success and transform it into more robust, interdisciplinary programming impacting not only humanities scholars but the greater university and Stillwater community.”

Top: J. Jay McVicker (American, 19112004), Spring Madness, 1942. Etching and aquatint on paper (ed. 25), 10 3/4 x 15 1/2 inches. Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence. Gift of Hal M. Davison, Class of 1949, 1998.0466. Center: J. Jay McVicker (American, 1911-2004), Untitled (Cushing Coaling Tower), 1950. Casein on paper, 22 x 15 inches. Collection of Jay and Victoria Daniel. Bottom: Unknown photographer, portrait of J. Jay McVicker, ca. 1950. Gelatin silver print, 4 7/8 x 3 7/8 inches. Collection of Louise Siddons.

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Ensuring Food Safety

FAPC teams up with a producer and a supplier to test cooking method


Graduate student Dennis Pletcher and FAPC food microbiologist Dr. Peter Muriana validate a new process involving the sous vide cooking technique.

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oday’s consumers want more transparency with their food products, especially with processed meat products. Researchers at Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center are helping a large pre-packaged poultry producer and Marlen International, a global supplier of food processing equipment and unique processes, to validate an innovative cooking technique. “While new techniques are welcome to the food industry, safety is always a top priority to developers,” said Adam Cowherd, director of product management at Marlen International. “Finding ways to make products safer for consumers around the globe is our No. 1 concern.” The two companies partnered with FAPC, a part of OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, to validate a new process involving the sous vide cooking technique. Sous vide is the process of sealing food in an airtight container, generally a vacuum-sealed bag, then cooking that food in water. Protein foods such as chicken will cook for elongated periods of time, slowly heating up until the entire piece of protein reaches the temperature of the water. Although the process takes time, sous vide produces a fully cooked dish that’s never overcooked. As the project began, the prepacked poultry producer and Marlen International needed to cook and chill a pre-packaged chicken product with fine tolerance to temperature for an advantage not available today. With all cooking procedures, there are concerns for safety, which is where FAPC provided its expertise.


“Finding ways to make products safer for consumers around the globe is our No. 1 concern.” — ADAM COWHERD Dr. Peter Muriana, FAPC food microbiologist, and a team of graduate students performed studies of the process to examine the potential risk from Listeria, Salmonella and Clostridium botulinum. Both companies requested Muriana perform “in-plant validation” on the poultry producer’s processing equipment in Marlen’s commercial test kitchen. However, these tests could not be completed with pathogenic bacteria, so Muriana and his team used non-pathogenic Listeria innocua and spores of Clostridium sporogenes as non-pathogenic surrogates in place of pathogenic Listeria and Clostridium. “Food safety is always at the forefront of our work,” Muriana said. “Therefore, research procedures were developed and implemented to confirm the process produced a safe product.” One procedure Muriana and his team examined was the validation of natural nitrite to prevent spore germination after the cooking process in case of temperature abuse. Chemical nitrite is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a food preservative and must be listed on the ingredient label. However, the USDA has designated nitrate found in vegetables and commercially fermented into nitrite as natural. Companies must label this form of nitrite on products as having “No Added Preservatives,” but they cannot call the product cured. Nitrite prevents Clostridium spore germination and assists in forming the pink-reddish coloration of cured meats. Like many food products in today’s industry, many packaged meat products travel long distances to grocery store shelves and dinner tables, providing opportunities for temperature abuse. “If cooling methods during the trip were to fail, large shipments of products could be lost immediately

after temperatures elevate,” Muriana said. “Therefore, nitrite added into processed and cured meats inhibits the germination of Clostridium spores if temperature abuse were to occur.” These anaerobic spores thrive and grow only in the absence of oxygen, making packaged meats under the distress of higher temperatures a playground for growth. Since the spores are heat resistant, normal heating and cooking won’t kill the spores, so the sous vide technology in conjunction with natural nitrite creates an efficient cooking environment. “The use of vegetable natural nitrite generated by microbial fermentation is becoming popular among meat processors in order to shed the stigma associated with adding chemical preservatives to their products,” he said. “By adding the natural nitrite to the meat product during the sous vide process, the producer is able to label its product all-natural, which appeals to today’s consumers.” The research project, which validated and defined the addition of vegetable nitrite in the sous vide process, prevents spore germination under permissive conditions and produces a pre-packaged product that many can enjoy. Muriana and his food microbiology laboratory will continue to research Clostridium spore inhibition and has obtained grant funding from the North American Meat Institute to support his research. Dennis Pletcher, a master’s student who helped perform the sous vide project and is continuing this work for his thesis, presented the data during the International Association of Food Protection 2018 Annual Meeting. “This is just another example of how industry outreach overlaps with

academic research, especially in food safety,” Muriana said. Results also were presented to the pre-packaged poultry producer and Marlen International. “The customer was very pleased with the third-party validation FAPC was able to provide,” Cowherd said. “Marlen, FAPC and the customer all were able to gain valuable insight from this validation study.” In the future, Marlen will be able to use the data collected to demonstrate validation of the sous vide product. The pre-packaged poultry producer also is reassured its products are produced in a safe and efficient manner. The long-term relationship FAPC has with Marlen helps the center provide even more impact to Oklahoma’s value-added food industry, said Dr. Roy Escoubas, FAPC director. “We are grateful for Marlen’s support of FAPC’s mission and especially the important food safety work conducted in our microbiology lab led by Dr. Muriana,” Escoubas said. “The study is another example of the dedication FAPC researchers have to supporting innovation and growth of the food industry, increasing food safety for consumers and enhancing the impact of the food industry as a whole.”

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Improving a Staple

OSU Wheat Improvement Team develops new varieties to feed a growing world

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rought resistance, disease resistance, enhancement of both quality and quantity traits: all are desired outcomes in new wheat varieties developed on behalf of farmers, ranchers and related agribusiness operators by the Oklahoma State University Wheat Improvement Team (WIT). “Access to genetically improved cultivars with marketable grain quality that stand the best chance of weathering Oklahoma’s often-harsh growing conditions is the lifeblood of the state’s wheat industry,” said Jeff Edwards, head of OSU’s department of plant and soil sciences. “It’s no small challenge.” Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service show Oklahoma is among the top five wheat-producing states in the nation, joining Kansas, North Dakota, Washington and Montana. In terms of hard red winter wheat, Oklahoma ranks second. On average, wheat adds more than $605 million annually to the Oklahoma economy. “Oklahoma harvested approximately 70 million bushels of wheat during the 2017-2018 growing and harvest season,” said Mike Schulte, executive director of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission. “More than 50 percent of wheat planted in Oklahoma was developed by OSU’s

Wheat Improvement Team. That represents a significant, positive effect on the state economy and prosperity of producers and their communities.” Edwards pointed out the continued improvement of wheat cultivars is more heavily dependent than other crops on public research like that done through OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, home of the wheat scientists and staff. Fifteen years ago, two wheat varieties — Jagger and Jagalene — dominated the Southern Plains landscape. Reliance on such a limited type of germplasm created a great deal of concern over risk management. Today, thanks to the researchers, wheat growers and related agribusiness operators have much greater diversity in terms of variety genetics. “Ask a producer, and the first answer typically given will be something about the value of increased yield, as that is money directly into the producer’s wallet,” Edwards said. “But it is equally important to factor in money saved through improved disease and drought resistance, which reduces input costs and, by extension, promotes good environmental stewardship by reducing fertilizer and irrigation application rates, as two examples.” Development of a new wheat variety is not a fast process, though. Research trials are intensive. Testing of a new variety can go on upwards of 12 years before the variety makes its way into the marketplace, provided it manages to pass every hurdle and proves to be an enhancement to what is currently available to wheat growers, even if only to producers in a certain region with specific growing conditions.

NEW ‘ FANTASTIC FOUR ’ In the summer of 2018, DASNR released four new hard red winter wheat varieties: Showdown, Green Hammer, Baker’s Ann and Skydance. This was the first time the wheat scientists had released four varieties at the same time. Including this newest quartet of offerings, OSU has released nine wheat varieties since 2015, an unprecedented rate of achievement among crop improvement efforts undertaken by industry and universities.

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Wheat team coordinator Brett Carver, Regents Professor and holder of OSU’s wheat genetics chair, said the recent bounty reflects the breeding program’s maturity and its ability to use many of its products in a multitude of ways, both in the field and beyond the mill. “We couldn’t do that 20 years ago simply because we didn’t have the genetic foundation, or what I call the ‘genetic spunk,’ to stretch beyond the conventional thought process of growing winter wheat in Oklahoma, with or without grazing,” he said. Showdown features high yield potential and is Hessian-fly resistant. It performs well statewide, thriving in a broad range of environmental conditions, from well-watered to mildly drought stressed. While carrying some of the visual features of one of its parents, OSU-bred OK Bullet, Green Hammer offers strong yield potential, high protein content and excellent test weight along with impressive leaf rust and stripe rust resistance. “Green Hammer has perhaps the best combination of resistance to these two diseases altogether at this level of protein and test weight compared to any other offering from this program, and possibly many others,” Carver said. “Green Hammer is best suited for the southwestern, central and northcentral portions of the state.” The high yield potential of Baker’s Ann, along with its strong disease resistance, especially for stripe rust, will appeal to producers who wish to capture the added value in the grain. This variety’s premium milling and baking qualities will be attractive to end-users. “Not since Ruby Lee have we observed this level of baking performance, and Baker’s Ann may be one step above that,” Carver said. “Baker’s Ann will perform best in the Panhandle and north-central Oklahoma but can be produced statewide.” Skydance quickly saw use in an artisan flour for an out-of-state commercial operation. It can be used in both bread and tortilla products, a rare dual function achieved previously in an OSU-bred variety through


Billings, one of the variety’s parents. A good candidate for organic production, though it was not necessarily bred for that purpose, Skydance performs best in southwestern Oklahoma but also will do well in the central parts of the state. Initially available in limited quantities, seed for all four varieties will be available in wider distribution in 2019 to current members of Oklahoma Genetics Inc., a farmer nonprofit that promotes and markets the use of improved genetics, traits and benefits of quality pedigreed seed and vegetatively propagated materials to producers in Oklahoma and surrounding states.

ADDING REAL VALUE “The way our licensing partner OGI is organized, our seed is grown and sold through a network of independent seed producers,” Edwards said. “This creates opportunities for the seed producers to add value and retain that added value in their local economies.” A traditional way of adding value in Oklahoma has been to employ a dualpurpose graze-and-grain production system, wherein the wheat is used as wintertime forage for stocker cattle until the plants reach first hollow stem stage — typically late February to early March — and then the livestock are pulled off the pasture, allowing the wheat to recover and eventually produce a grain crop harvested in late May or June. “Managed wisely, a producer can get paid for growing cattle and growing grain; that is a nice double bump to the wallet, especially given the tight profit margins under which most farmers and ranchers operate,” Edwards said. “Depending on market conditions, 30 percent to 50 percent of the state’s wheat acres will be grazed by stocker cattle over the winter months.” For the grain side of things, superior milling and baking quality are highly desired traits. It is not surprising, given that approximately three-quarters of U.S. grain products are made from wheat flour. “I joined the OSU faculty in 2004, and in that time we have been told time and again by millers that they want a high

milling and baking quality wheat that provides consistent and reliable end-use quality,” Edwards said. “It’s our job to develop varieties that allow producers to grow that type of wheat, which benefits not only them but other aspects of the production process.”

TEAMWORK IN ACTION Developing improved wheat varieties that meet so many varied needs has long been a hallmark of WIT faculty and team members. The current team is comprised of: • Wheat breeding and genetics: Carver, OSU department of plant and soil sciences; • Disease resistance: Bob Hunger, OSU department of entomology and plant pathology; • Insect resistance: Kris Giles, OSU department of entomology and plant pathology; • Molecular genetics, pest resistance: Xiangyang Xu, USDA Agricultural Research Service; • Molecular genetics, marker discovery: Liuling Yan, OSU department of plant and soil sciences; • Molecular genetics, genomic selection: Charles Chen, OSU department of biochemistry and molecular biology;

• Nitrogen use efficiency: Brian Arnall, OSU department of plant and soil sciences; • High-throughput phenotyping: Gopal Kakani, OSU department of plant and soil sciences; and • Information delivery/product validation: currently vacant with Edwards serving as proxy. Additional information about OSUdeveloped wheat varieties is available online at DASNR is comprised of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station system and the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.

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Childhood Trauma

Shreffler’s project explores the generational effects of adverse experiences


Dr. Stacy Tiemeyer holds baby Jasper as his mother Meagan Meadows swabs his cheek to test his stress hormone levels. Principal investigator Dr. Karina Shreffler says she hopes to garner additional funding to check stress hormone levels on patients’ babies.

n the shadow of a groundbreaking study that revealed childhood trauma can be directly linked to chronic disease and mental illness in adulthood, Oklahoma State UniversityTulsa researcher Dr. Karina Shreffler is exploring the biological and behavioral pathways through which the effects of childhood trauma are transmitted from one generation to the next. The 1998 Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) research study followed more than 17,000 patients and revealed that childhood trauma can lead to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, substance abuse and depression as an adult. “We are taking the ACEs study a step further by looking at the intergenerational transmission of adversity,” said Shreffler, professor of human development and family science and principal investigator of the Holistic Assessment of Tulsa’s Children’s Health (HATCH) Project. “We want to determine how your parents’ and grandparents’ exposure to childhood trauma can affect your own physical and mental health.” Shreffler, post-doctoral fellow Dr. Stacy Tiemeyer and doctoral students Meagan Meadows and Tara Wyatt interviewed patients at several medical clinics to invite them to participate in the study. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a hard sell, especially for Meadows, who was pregnant at the time. “I think that shared experience made them more comfortable in revealing their personal stories,” Meadows said. “A lot of women were open to asking questions about my pregnancy because they were interested in learning more about themselves.” Thanks in part to the face-to-face outreach, Shreffler’s team is following


nearly 200 pregnant women ages 15-40 from the first trimester of pregnancy to two years after their babies’ birth. Researchers are tracking stress hormone levels during pregnancy, gathering information about current and past stressors and collecting medical data from hospitals and physicians. “Our study is unique in that we are looking to see if a mother’s impaired stress hormones due to childhood trauma have an impact on a healthy pregnancy and her baby’s health,” Shreffler said. ACEs IN OKL AHOMA Oklahoma has the highest prevalence of adverse childhood events among all states in the U.S., with 16 percent of children up to age 18 having three or more adverse childhood experiences, according to a recent national Child Trends report. Economic hardship and divorce are the most prevalent ACEs in Oklahoma, followed by parents’ alcohol abuse, domestic violence and mental illness. Stress from these experiences accumulate, increasing hormone levels and affecting brain development and physiological function. Because of Oklahoma’s high rate of child health disparities and the community’s proven ability to collaborate across organizations, Tulsa has become the epicenter of childhood adversity research. The interdisciplinary Center for Integrative Research on Childhood Adversity (CIRCA) in Tulsa, the nation’s first childhood adversity research center, was established in 2016 through a five-year, $11.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. Shreffler’s $1.9 million HATCH Project is among several projects at CIRCA focused on childhood adversity.

“Most research on ACEs has looked at an individual’s childhood or asked parents about their children’s experiences,” said Dr. Jennifer HaysGrudo, director of CIRCA and professor of behavioral science at the OSU Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa. “Very few studies have been done with both the parents and the child and to see how their experiences correlate.” EARLY INDICATORS Since the ACEs study, researchers have developed a scoring system to measure the amount of adversity a person has experienced during early life. ACEs include poverty, abuse, neglect and trauma. The more ACEs, the more likely the individual will struggle academically or economically throughout their lives. A high score also increases the likelihood of developing chronic health problems such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke or cancer. Based on stress hormone level measurement throughout the women’s pregnancies and ACEs scores, Shreffler said early findings appear to suggest that the effects of childhood trauma are indeed passed on to the next generation. “We can see that the women who have the highest level of ACEs also have the most impaired physiological systems,” she said. In fact, women with high ACEs scores were three times more likely to experience miscarriage than women with low scores. “Our goal with the study by next spring is to find out whether women with the most impaired physiological function during pregnancy were more likely to have a preterm birth, a baby with low birth weight or a baby who has another type of birth complication,” Shreffler said.

Hays-Grudo said researchers are also looking for solutions. Research has shown that protecting and compensating experiences (PACEs) can mitigate the effects of childhood adversity. “ACEs are powerful. But it doesn’t mean it’s hopeless,” Hays-Grudo said. “We have found the most powerful protective experience is having a special person – a grandmother, an aunt, a teacher – who cares about you. Having someone who thinks you’re terrific can make a tremendous difference in a person’s life.”

Dr. Karina Shreffler, professor of human development and family science and principal investigator of the HATCH Project, is the 2017 recipient of the OSU President’s Fellows Faculty Research Award and the OSU-Tulsa President’s Outstanding Faculty Award for Research. R E S E A R C H .O K S TAT E . E D U 25


Water Matters

All Oklahomans have a stake in conserving and protecting H2O resources


Dr. Saleh Taghvaeian

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PART 1: WATER THAT FEEDS A NATION Without clean, abundant water, there would be no food or fiber — no livestock for meat, no wheat for bread, no cotton for fabric. In Oklahoma, farmers and ranchers are large users of water, but they’re not the only groups vying for the resource. They are also some of the largest users of research, much of it from Oklahoma State University, to protect and use that resource efficiently. Agriculture producers have long used research to improve the efficiency of water use. From limiting erosion with terraces and no-till farming to using sensors and satellites to manage irrigation, research is protecting the state’s most prized natural resource. High-tech irrigation management is one way that farmers are protecting water quality. “If too much (irrigation) water is applied, then that additional amount of

water could contaminate downstream land and water resources because it can contain fertilizers and herbicides,” said Dr. Saleh Taghvaeian, an assistant professor in biosystems and agriculture engineering and an Extension specialist in water resources in the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. Taghvaeian said most Oklahoma farmers are knowledgeable about the use of irrigation and the importance of reducing environmental impacts such as pollution of drinking water sources and the depletion of aquifers. With the education mandate of the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, researchers like Taghvaeian are helping farmers use technology. “We’re introducing them to advancements in soil moisture sensors that send data to producers using wireless technology so they can see at near real-time soil moisture conditions at different locations and depths on mobile devices,” said Taghvaeian. “They can make better decisions knowing how deep irrigation water has penetrated and if they have good storage of soil moisture,” he said. “If they received rainfall, how effective was that in replenishing moisture [and] letting them delay irrigation.” Some producers also use satellite imagery to track use of water, which shows visually how much irrigation is needed. By using technology to see soil moisture levels, producers can make timely decisions about how much moisture is needed without over-irrigating. “We’re trying to avoid large amounts of water loaded with sedimentation and chemicals leaving the field,” Taghvaeian said. “To do that, we’re looking at the amount of water applied and the timing to match crop requirements as perfectly as possible.”


AN URBAN PERSPECTIVE PART 2 : URBAN WATER ISSUES DON ’T STOP AT CIT Y LIMITS While concerns about water are the same everywhere in Oklahoma, population density and rapid development in towns and cities require entirely different approaches. Where ag operations need access to large quantities of water at low cost, thirsty city dwellers also require huge volumes of water that sometimes must be piped for long distances and treated using expensive infrastructure. Competing for drinking water are businesses and homeowners who love green lawns and lush golf courses. “The population is increasing in urban areas,” said Dr. Justin Moss, associate professor and Huffine Endowed Professor of Turfgrass Science. “There’s enough water to keep up with demand but the infrastructure cost to treat and deliver that water is high.” His research focuses on urban water quality, use and conservation, and turfgrass science and sustainable turfgrass management. In 2012, the Oklahoma Legislature passed the Water for 2060 Act that established a goal of consuming less fresh water in 2060 than in 2010. Meeting that challenge will take numerous approaches including the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service partnering with urban groups to share information with residential, commercial and industrial users. Oklahoma City and Edmond both partner with Moss’ Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture and the Extension Service to promote water conservation through ThinkWater, an Extension program. Encouraging water conservation not only ensures water for drinking,

businesses and recreation, but conservation also extends the life of water infrastructure and saves cities, and their rate payers, money. “Cities want to hold on to that existing infrastructure as long as they can,” said Moss. “It’s massively expensive to replace it and almost always requires rate increases.” The ThinkWater program uses research to educate residents and businesses about the benefits of sustainable water use. During hot summer months, as much as 50 percent of urban water is used on lawns and landscaping. Conserving water saves money, limits pollution from runoff and makes infrastructure last longer. When consumers learn how much water they’re using and how much is actually needed, that knowledge can help cut water use in half, Moss said. “We want people to pay attention to water running down the street and into the sewer because of over-watering,” Moss said. “Instead of watering cars and streets and watering when it’s raining, responsible use can have a big impact.”

Dr. Justin Moss

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Balancing water quality and the bottom line

OSU technology will help save money and the environment


ddressing water quality and quantity issues are complicated, especially in Oklahoma, where water is a divisive issue. Providing clean water for drinking and enough water for agricultural, lawns and landscaping, recreational and industrial use are all hotly debated. But a concern that few people want to think about is how to treat wastewater efficiently and safely. OSU’s Dr. Dave Lampert pays more attention to wastewater treatment plants, found in nearly every town in America, than just about anyone who relies on them. That is, until fish start dying in the stream behind their house or their utility bill spikes. Most rate-paying residents don’t consider a plant’s operating cost, but the facility is required by law to protect water quality and human health, and treating wastewater is one of the most energy-hungry processes cities and towns handle. “If you look at all the wastewater plants across the country, something like 14,000, wastewater treatment uses between 1 and 3 percent of all the electricity in the entire U.S.,” said Lampert, an assistant professor in the OSU School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “That’s billions of dollars of electricity and using that much is an environmental issue all by itself.” Lampert and his OSU graduate and undergraduate students in the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology (CEAT) are developing a monitoring system that could help managers operate plants with less energy while still meeting environmental requirements. Recognizing the need, Lampert and colleagues in CEAT and the Spears School of Business are building a business. The system uses a computer program and sensors to monitor the aeration part of the treatment process. Their technology is now being tested with some local assistance.

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“Wastewater is everything that goes down your sink, your shower, and, most notably, your toilet,” said Rabecca Wiseman, a master’s student in environmental engineering who is leading the project. “In our lab we take real sewage from Stillwater’s wastewater treatment plant, treat it, and monitor everything going on while it’s being treated.” The most expensive part of the process is aeration. A wastewater plant pumps air into sewage to support microorganisms that consume organic matter and pollutants. Those organisms require oxygen to do their job. Too little and they die, but too much leads to wasted energy, which is expensive and indirectly causes air pollution. Adjusting aeration automatically in real time based on computer analysis would maintain an optimal level of oxygen and use the least amount of energy. “Most wastewater treatment operators aerate at full capacity 24/7 because they have no way of knowing how ‘dirty’ the water is while it’s being treated,” Wiseman said. “By implementing our algorithm into treatment plants, we can optimize the aeration process, saving a municipality up to $300,000 a year.” Lampert and his students have built a labscale wastewater treatment device that sits on a countertop where they’re testing their innovation. The technology includes water-quality sensors to collect data on the treatment process, including amounts of phosphorous, dissolved oxygen, ammonia, nitrates and other material, at any given moment. The information is fed to a computer, where algorithms created by Lampert and his team automatically fine-tune the aeration process in real time. Next, the engineers will build a larger version at the Stillwater, Oklahoma, wastewater treatment plant to test potential energy savings. Though still early, developing a business around the technology has required a mix of faculty technical and business experts including Lampert, Dr. James Stine, professor of electrical engineering in CEAT, and Dr. David Thomison, a clinical assistant professor in the Riata School of Entrepreneurship in the Spears School of Business. The concept has attracted funding from the EPA, the OSU Technology Business Development


Student Madelyn Shaw works in Lampert’s lab preparing wastewater for testing. At left are sensors monitoring the aeration process. Program, the National Science Foundation I-Corps program, the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and Venture Well. The group’s business model focuses on the more than 12,000 municipal wastewater treatment plants that serve populations of 10,000 to 100,000. These facilities are likely to need the technology and expertise that Lampert and his team would provide. Currently, the plan is to charge municipalities a base fee of $3,000 per month plus $150 per million gallons treated daily. Lampert estimates that electricity costs could be trimmed by as much as 45 percent in a city like Stillwater, saving the average operator $250,000 a year while paying for the OSU technology. Making that case will be the job of the business side of the collaboration. “We have to show them that this is worth their investment,” Lampert said. “That’s where Dave (Thomison) on the business side comes in.”

The Lampert team includes (from left) students Brooks Robinson, Rabecca Wiseman, Madelyn Shaw, recent graduate Nick Overacker and Drs. Dave Lampert and James Stine.

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Coming Full Circle

Scientists reunite at OSU as they work on projects to help NASA get to Mars

Physicist Dr. Eric Benton (from left), materials scientist Dr. Ranji Vaidyanathan, graduate students, Korey Herrman and Lynsey Baxter, NASA research portfolio manager Willie Williams and (back) Bryan Hayes.

The Active Tissue Equivalent Dosimeter, or ATED, on the International Space Station (left).

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ighteen years ago, a physicist and a materials scientist from different parts of the country were paired on a project for NASA involving the study of radiation. Their paths have crossed again as colleagues at Oklahoma State University. Nearly two decades after their first NASA project, physicist Dr. Eric Benton, materials scientist Dr. Ranji Vaidyanathan and their graduate students are making the dream of reaching Mars safely a greater possibility for NASA. Benton studies radiation itself, designing efficient, economical ways to accurately measure cosmic rays while Vaidyanathan creates new composite materials in hopes of protecting astronauts from them. Getting to Mars would take a year at today’s space travel speeds, Vaidyanathan said, noting the voyage isn’t even possible with current spacecraft materials. There’s no clear picture of exactly how much radiation astronauts are exposed to, nor is there a material for the space craft that would fully protect them. That’s changing. In partnership with NASA, Benton recently put an inexpensive radiation detector on the International Space Station to find out just how much radiation astronauts in space receive. Next spring, Vaidyanathan will have a composite material with a greater radiation shielding capability on the ISS as well. NASA scientists are most concerned about astronauts exposed to ionizing radiation during long space missions. Ionizing radiation damages cells, including causing genetic mutations that can lead to cancer. “If you want to know what the radiation environment at 20,000 feet is, there’s some data but not much,” Benton


“Ours is sort of a better, stronger, faster, cheaper version of what NASA already has,” — DR. ERIC BENTON

said. “Is radiation a health problem to pilots? Probably not, but we don’t have a lot of data.” NASA’s current radiation detectors were developed long ago and cost millions of dollars. Benton and graduate students in his lab have been developing tissue equivalent radiation dosimeters to be used in space for more than a decade. A $100,000 grant from the NASA Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program, matched with $50,000 in OSU funding, opened the door to send the latest version, the Active Tissue Equivalent Dosimeter, or ATED, into space. “The fact that OSU teams are leading two of the 17 projects funded by the NASA EPSCoR program to be carried out on the International Space Station is a testament to the high-level science going on at OSU,” said Dr. Kenneth Sewell, OSU vice president for research. “OSU has a long history of partnership with NASA, and these projects extend that legacy into the future.” OSU’s ATED is doing its job better than competing technologies at a fraction of the cost, Benton said. “Ours is sort of a better, stronger, faster, cheaper version of what NASA already has,” he said. While Benton works to measure and catalogue radiation, Vaidyanathan hopes to create a material that can replace aluminum as the primary building block of a spacecraft. While aluminum is considered lightweight, it doesn’t block radiation well. Vaidyanathan and Benton thought of a composite that included hydrogen. “We came up with an idea — I didn’t know if it was going to work,” Vaidyanathan said. “The best material for radiation shielding other than water is polyethylene, a plastic. It has the highest hydrogen content in

Graduate student Bryan Hayes.

Dr. Eric Benton with part of the ATED in his right hand and a Zeleny Electroscope from the early 1900s in his left. it. Hydrogen has no neutrons. Even if the hydrogen atom is hit by cosmic radiation, it is not going to release more energetic particles from that.” Around 2013, Vaidyanathan decided to develop a composite material for radiation shielding that could double as the outer skin of a space craft. Polyethylene has a low melting point, much like a plastic bag. But when mixed with boron nitride, the melting temperature rises, and the resulting

substance is harder than simple polyethylene. Vaidyanathan takes that composite and coats the outside with carbon fibers glued with epoxy. Based on theoretical models developed by Benton, Vaidyanathan may have successfully come up with a solution — and at half the weight of aluminum. “If you do not have proper protection, you cannot do a Mars mission with the current spacecraft materials,” Vaidyanathan said. “And every pound of material we have to send to space costs $8,000 to $10,000 per pound. Aluminum weighs 2.7 grams per centimeter cubed. But the composite is 1.5, almost half of that. If you have a spacecraft material made out of composite that can also protect astronauts at the same time from radiation — that is what NASA wants.” A spacecraft is, in its essence, a pressurized vessel, like a tank that holds natural gas. Vaidyanathan and his graduate students, Lynsey Baxter and Korey Herrman, created a pressurized tank that Benton took to Japan. “He does the material development, and I do all the testing and modeling from the radiation point of view,” Benton said. “We put it in the particle accelerator in Japan and with water in it, it stops all the radiation. We now have a material we are pretty happy with — SC2020 or space composite 2020. This is a great example of a successful interdisciplinary project.” For Benton and Vaidyanathan, life has come full circle. A relationship centered around scientific discovery that got its start at NASA nearly 20 years ago continues to lay foundations for more extensive and safer spaceflight.

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Getting Out of the Lab

NSF I-Corps prepares OSU entrepreneurs to succeed


hat does it take to be a successful entrepreneur? Besides investment, it takes technical know-how, business understanding, patience, perseverance and nerves of steel. It also doesn’t hurt to have support from the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (I-Corps). NSF I-Corps guides scientists, engineers and other researchers in understanding how universitydeveloped and NSF funded technologies with commercial potential can be introduced as products to an eager market. The heart of the program is showing researchers the commercial value of their inventions by moving products out of the lab to provide solutions for societal needs. NSF I-Corps Sites are located across the country, including at Oklahoma State University. The OSU I-Corps site provides advice, resources and network opportunities in addition to up to $3,000 for teams developing universityfunded technologies. Top teams attend a national, accelerated seven-week course that includes $50,000 in project funding and real-world, hands-on entrepreneurial training. Richard Gajan, the Thoma Family Clinical Assistant Professor in the OSU School of Entrepreneurship, is co-director of the OSU I-Corps Site. He explains why the program is so valuable: What is it about the program that can turn someone with little business acumen, but a great concept for a needed technologybased product, into a successful businessperson? “The first step is for the researcher to try to understand where the customer would find value in the new discovery,”

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Gajan said. “People will pay for value, and only the customer can tell you what that value is. So the program forces the researcher to interview 30-plus potential customers in person to discover if some of them would want the new discovery and why they would want it. Then we continue with other business concepts from the customer’s viewpoint. Where do they want to buy it? How much would they buy at what prices? Hopefully, the researcher will discover a customer for the product and the beginning of business appears.”

To learn more, visit

Chemical engineering researcher Dr. Seok-Jhin Kim is developing technology to clean produced water coming from oil extraction. Commercializing the technology is helped by his I-Corps experience.

A farmer in El Salvador uses the Greenseeder Handplanter to plant corn on a hillside. The Greenseeder Handplanter, developed at OSU, was invented to offer farmers in the developing world who plant crops on marginal land a seed planter that is safer to use, efficient and decreases erosion. Developers of the Greenseeder are using I-Corps to develop a business around the planter.


The Division of Vice President for Research


STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT RESEARCH (STAR) videos highlight the diverse and impactful research happening at Oklahoma State University. Casting the spotlight on our researchers, a new video is launched every two weeks of faculty explaining WHAT they do and WHY it matters. The videos, and all archives, can be found at

Gender Conditions

Mullins’ team wins $2.9 million to study disorders of sexual development in children


arry Mullins is passionate about helping people. That’s guided his career as a clinical psychologist, professor and researcher. The Vaughn Vennerberg II Chair of Psychology, Regents Professor and inaugural director of the Center for Pediatric Psychology at Oklahoma State University focuses his research on chronic health conditions in children. His mission is to find best practices for dealing with many conditions, from such high-profile illnesses as cancer to lesser-known chronic health conditions. Consequently, he has become one of the nation’s leading scholars on disorders of sexual development. That’s why the National Institutes of Health recently awarded Mullins and his collaborators $2.9 million to fund the second half of a 10-year study on families of children born with a DSD.

Enduci officturio. Onserorrovit et aut iducim doluptati beatquam dipitatum etus con porrunt.

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“DSD is a constellation of disorders in which children are born with some kind of discordance between their genetics and their physical appearance,” Mullins said. “For example, this can include kids born with their testes inside their bodies, or who fail to fully develop anatomically, or who have both male and female physical traits. There are all sorts of ways children can be born with atypical genitalia, and it can potentially create issues with physical appearance and even functional abilities such as difficulty in urination.” These conditions can affect up to 1 in 20,000 people, depending on which disorders are counted. There has been very little research on the effects of various treatments as well as non-treatment. Mullins and his collaborators are trying to change that, conducting a natural-history study to gather data on these children and their families. “There is certainly a lot of controversy about DSDs,” Mullins said. “For example, what happens when parents and surgeons assign a child a gender early on, and they decide upon a female assignment, but it turns out that their child later identifies differently? We have seen situations when you have a child that has been raised as a girl, and when puberty hits, she starts to develop a beard and her voice deepens.” Another option is to leave such choices up to the individuals with DSD, once they are mature enough to do so. That has become the practice in other countries, and appears to be gaining some popularity in America. Of course, this route is also fraught with its own issues, such as the potential for bullies who tease their young peers who are perceived as different. “Sadly, kids make fun of each other all the time,” Mullins said. “They unfortunately will pick on each other for being different in any way. So, you can understand why parents want to try to do whatever they think will help their child’s long term adjustment.”


“We want to identify the factors that place these kids at risk and their families at risk. We want to see if we can change that trajectory over time.” — DR. LARRY MULLINS

Thad Leffingwell, head of the Department of Psychology, said this study is one of many ways the department is working to improve the lives of children. “It’s something we don’t often talk about in society,” Leffingwell said. “We don’t talk about how remarkably frequent gender is ambiguous at birth. It changes the way you think about a lot of things if you realize that people don’t always come out with perfectly formed genitalia.” Mullins’ group is halfway through a 10-year study of about 80 kids born with DSD, as well as their parents. Some of the families opted for surgery, and others did not. The researchers are not making any decisions or even recommendations about what is the best choice. They are simply asking the parents to rate themselves as well as their children’s emotions and behavior in areas such as depression, anxiety and acting out. Children will start self-reporting on those


areas when they turn 8. The study also includes physicians’ reports about complications and postsurgical cosmetic appearance. “This is probably one of the biggest samples ever accrued of these kids, and it’s unique because we are starting right after birth,” Mullins said. “Most studies are retrospective, where you might take 18-year-olds and ask them what they recall. We are doing a prospective study, looking at objective measures over time. “We know so little about these families. We know very little about how the parents cope. We know very little about how the kids do with modern-day medical procedures. We know it’s controversial, but this data could be so helpful for people in the future. We want to identify the factors that place these kids at risk and their families at risk. We want to see if we can change that trajectory over time.”

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A New Way to Heal Focused ultrasound program offers safer, affordable treatment for pet cancers

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ive years ago, Dr. Ashish Ranjan established a focused ultrasound program at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences. Today, OSU is the first veterinary school to offer focused ultrasound treatment as a service in addition to surgery and chemotherapy. “Building on my prior work with high-intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, technology at the National Institutes of Health, my laboratory initiated several funded research projects in cancer-bearing rodent models to understand the feasibility of translating this approach to treat veterinary cancer patients,” explained Ranjan, Kerr Foundation Endowed Chair and associate professor in the Department of Physiological Sciences. “Specifically, the projects aimed to tailor the HIFU sound energy for enhancing localized tumor killing, enhancing chemotherapy delivery and optimizing the immune system for robust therapeutic outcomes. In addition, we worked on devising new methodologies for improving sensitivity of drug resistant pathogens to antimicrobials. Based on the promising data in rodents, the laboratory was recently funded by the Focused Ultrasound Foundation to conduct clinical trials in dogs with cancer and non-healing wound infections. That’s how we got started,” he said. The HIFU service is currently available to pet owners to treat cancerous tumors, infected soft tissue and bone infections in a clinical trial, Ranjan said. “Patients entering the clinical trial must have an active infection or the presence of a locally accessible tumor. The FDA is currently reviewing our application to include in the HIFU regimen nanoparticle immune adjuvants, which we developed in the lab. This will be especially beneficial for patients with aggressive cancer that has spread to other parts of the body from its primary site,” he said. “While we are the only school to provide HIFU as a service, Virginia Tech also has a grant that is supporting research in focused ultrasound technology for veterinary cancer patients.” Others working on this project at OSU include Drs. Danielle Dugat, Jerry Malayer and Jerry Ritchey. Malayer provides cell and molecular biology support looking at the interactions of molecules in and on the cells that mediate

Dr. Ashish Ranjan, Kerr Foundation Endowed Chair and associate professor in the Department of Physiological Sciences at the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, works in his Nanomedicine and Targeted Therapy Laboratory, where his team develops a variety of treatments for cancer and infectious diseases.

Check out the focused ultrasound program at

R E S E A R C H .O K S TAT E . E D U 37

Veterinary medicine interns, residents and students prepare a dog for an ultrasound treatment, including Dr. Harshini Ashar (braid), Dr. Kalyani Ektate (left), Dr. Donald Holter (right), Dr. Ian Konsker (back, right), and Parker Mullins (black scrubs). the processes of tumor destruction while Ritchey is responsible for immunopathology support. “I look at microscopic samples of the cancer to determine whether the cancerous tissue is being affected by Dr. Ranjan’s treatments to perhaps verify if the treatment is working or not,” Ritchey said. “We also run samples through a flow cytometer, which gives us a picture into the function of the patient’s immune system during the cancer treatment because some of Dr. Ranjan’s therapies are aimed at enhancing the patient’s own immune system to help fight the cancer.” “My role in the focused ultrasound clinic at the hospital is to engage clients,” said Dr. Danielle Dugat, Cohn Family Chair for Small Animal Care, and assistant professor of small animal surgery in the Veterinary Medical Hospital. “Dr. Ranjan and I seek out patients who are in need of this therapy. Together with others involved in the

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project, Drs. Kalyani Ektate, Harshini Ashar, and Donald Holter, we help manage these cases from the time they come in the door, including their hospital stay, evaluations, taking measurements and performing diagnostics — basically all the clinical aspects of maintaining that patient around the actual procedure itself.” The HIFU procedure typically requires that the patient be very still for about an hour. Patients receive anesthesia and pain control during each procedure. “Our state-of-the-art system comes equipped with an imaging and treatment transducer. We use the ultrasound imaging transducer to locate the tumor,” Ranjan said. “We are doing the HIFU treatment under image guidance, which in this case, happens to be ultrasound.” During this clinical trial phase, the veterinary center team reports mixed rates of success.

“In some cases, we had complete remission,” Ranjan said. “The tumor was gone after one or two treatments. In other cases, we had control of the disease. In other words, the tumor did not grow beyond what it was when the patient came to us, so that is also success.” “My experience currently with the clinical trial cases has been very rewarding,” Dugat said. “We’re learning as we go what type of cancers may be more responsive or less responsive. Through this trial, we are gaining information on how different tumors may react. Two cases that pop in the top of my mind are ones where the tumors have completely gone away. So for a patient where maybe surgery would have meant removing half of their jaw or reconstructing their lip, now they didn’t have to have any surgery and the tumor was removed via this method. That is the real rewarding part of this technology. When we know more

“When we know more information in the future, then maybe we can offer this as a first step or a first line of treatment before we even think about surgery.” ­— DR . DANIELLE DUGAT information in the future, then maybe we can offer this as a first step or a first line of treatment before we even think about surgery.” The two most critical benefits to focused ultrasound treatment over such traditional treatments as chemotherapy or radiation are that it is non-invasive and non-toxic. There are some cost benefits to this treatment as well. “As we are the first veterinary school to offer this kind of treatment, we also happen to be the first college to set the cost of the treatment,” explained Ranjan. “If an owner were going to go with focused ultrasound in contrast to surgery, they would be saving at least 50 percent. A typical surgical procedure for an oral cancer would cost about $5,000, whereas in the case of focused ultrasound, that would be available at $2,000 to $2,500.” “This technology is very exciting,” said Dr. Jeff Studer, hospital director. “It, combined with the tireless efforts of Drs. Ranjan and Dugat, is providing treatment options for our patients who would have otherwise not had options.” According to Drs. Dugat and Ranjan, owners have been very willing to participate in the clinical trial. “Pet owners are happy to try to advance medical care not only to get good results in their own patient but to give us more information so we can help future patients,” Dugat said. “So it’s been very positive even in the cases that haven’t worked. The owners have been very thankful that they have gotten the chance to try and see if there was anything that could be done.” “It was pretty fabulous that Laddie was part of that trial, mostly financially so he could be treated,” said owner Jennifer Reyna of Stillwater, Oklahoma. “He is doing just fine now.” Laddie is a 10-year-old border collie who had a mass on his mandible.

As part of the cancer clinical trial, treatment costs were covered by OSU endowed chairs. The mass was confirmed to be an acanthomatous ameloblastoma. Laddie received one focused ultrasound treatment for three to five minutes. Within a few days, the mass fell off. A recheck three weeks later showed Laddie was cancer-free with no ulcers. No evidence of neoplasia or ameloblastoma were found in the diagnostic evaluation. Oreo is another success story. Lance Millis, director of student academic services at OSU’s College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology, has been bringing Oreo to OSU’s Veterinary Medical Hospital since the 9-year-old Shetland sheepdog was a puppy. When veterinarian Dr. Paul DeMars noticed a mass on Oreo’s lower right lip, he referred the dog to the hospital’s dentist, who surgically removed the mass. A biopsy showed it to be cancerous. When the mass returned, Millis entered Oreo in the clinical trial. “Oreo is doing great,” Millis said. “His demeanor has been terrific. There has been no recurrence; he’s doing awesome. When we would take Oreo in for his treatments, the vet students would recognize him. Dr. Dugat would ask about him. We’re very happy he has friends at the hospital.” Oreo received two focused ultrasound treatments for three to five minutes each. A recheck three weeks later showed no cancer with no ulcers present. “We have now expanded the treatment from dogs to cats,” Ranjan said. “There is a significant amount of interest at the hospital to do horses as they also get skin cancer or sarcoids. My lab is currently working on developing a system for that kind of treatment. These translational projects meet the OSU mission of developing clinically relevant technologies that enhance non-invasive

and minimally invasive treatments. The owners currently see a lot of benefit in having a treatment like this where there is no surgery and no infection. It has very minor complications, and it’s relatively rapid.” “The future appears bright when it comes to the possibilities. We want owners to know that there are newer methods out there whether it be for chronic wound healing or treating cancer,” Dugat said. “As we learn more about this approach, we are optimistic at the possibilities that this technology can offer. I give credit to several undergraduate, graduate, and DVM students who worked tirelessly to bring this to fruition,” Ranjan said. “It’s said that the best reward in biomedical sciences is when research is translated from bench to bedside. Our early data in the canine patients represents such a vision, however, a lot of research is still needed to be done to establish the true feasibility of this technology, and wide-range clinical use for a variety of indications.”

For more information on OSU’s focused ultrasound program, contact Dr. Ranjan at ashish. To support veterinary medical research, contact Chris Sitz, senior director of development and team lead for the veterinary center with the OSU Foundation, at 405-385-5170 or csitz@

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Recognizing OSU’s researchers 2018 Regents Distinguished Research Awards

Each year, Oklahoma State University recognizes select researchers with the Regents Distinguished Research Award. The recipients are honored for meritorious research achievement and national and international recognition. These reseachers were honored at the 2018 University Awards Convocation.

Federico Aime, Ph.D.

Professor and William S. Spears Chair of Business Administration, Department of Management Spears School of Business

Federico Aime is a respected researcher in strategic management with a record of impactful publications in premiere academic journals. Aime is known for frequently publishing in the discipline’s top academic publication, the Strategic Management Journal. He is considered an expert in the area of strategic leadership and has made contributions in top management team decisionmaking, team microdynamics and microprocesses of organizational activity. Aime is regarded as a selfless scholar who strongly supports and promotes the work of his doctoral students. His students consistently take academic jobs at some of the best schools in the nation. He has also extended his service internationally, initiating a collaboration with Moi University in Kenya that has help graduate more than 20 Kenyan doctorate students in the last eight years.

Kristen Baum, Ph.D.

Jason DeFreitas, Ph.D.

Kristen Baum has been the principal investigator (PI) or co-PI for grants totaling more than $7 million awarded to OSU. Her research focuses on the effects of land use and management practices on pollinators, including native bees and monarch butterflies. Baum is known for her tremendous support for undergraduate researchers, including mentoring more than 75 students on independent research projects. She is a co-director of OSUTeach, which works to increase the number of qualified students pursuing degrees to teach science and math in secondary grades. Baum has won numerous awards including the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award, the Land Grant Award for Excellence and the Regents Distinguished Teaching Award.

While relatively new to Oklahoma State University, Jason DeFreitas has nonetheless amassed an impressive publication and funding record. He has authored or co-authored 74 peerreviewed publications in national and international journals and helped secure more than $365,500 in external funding for research projects. That number includes more than $155,000 in funding awarded as a principal investigator since coming to OSU in 2013. To gauge the impact of his work, his research publications have been cited more than 1,100 times, with 894 of those since joining the OSU faculty. DeFreitas is also a gifted mentor of doctoral students. In order to recruit the best and brightest in his field, he offers a challenging, intellectual climate that fosters innovation and improves his students’ marketability.

Professor, Department of Integrative Biology College of Arts and Sciences

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Assistant Professor, Health and Human Performance College of Education, Health and Aviation


Elizabeth Grubgeld, Ph.D. Professor, Department of English College of Arts and Sciences

Since coming to OSU in 1986, the scholarship of Elizabeth Grubgeld in Irish and British literature has brought her international recognition and raised the profile of the OSU Department of English. Much of her work has shone a scholarly light on Irish author George Moore (18521933). Grubgeld’s first book, an award-winning study of Moore, partly led to the founding of the International George Moore Society. Including the Moore study, her scholarly output includes three books on Irish autobiography, 28 peer-reviewed articles and 38 presentations at academic conferences around the world. Grubgeld’s scholarship continues to influence her students. She has directed 19 theses and dissertations in Irish literature, autobiography and modernism.

Amanda Sheffield Morris, Ph.D.

Professor and George Kaiser Family Foundation Endowed Chair in Child Development, Department of Human Development and Family Science College of Human Sciences

Though Amanda Sheffield Morris won the Regents Distinguished Research Award in 2013, colleagues agree that her research quality and output make her deserving of the award once again. She is recognized as an expert in the social development and emotional adjustment of infants, children and adolescents, and the role of parents in the emotional development of children. Morris’ work includes community outreach initiatives such as Oklahoma’s University for Parents that teaches participants about the importance of parenting and child development. Since being named a Regents Distinguished Research Award recipient in 2013, Morris has published more than 30 journal articles with more than 5,600 citations. Her total citations now number more than 10,400, and her research has led to nearly $4.5 million in funding.

Ashish Ranjan, Ph.D.

Glenn Zhang, Ph.D.

Ashish Ranjan is a leader in the innovative use of devicedirected nanoparticle treatments for chronic diseases, including cancer. He has translated his research in canine cancer patients to demonstrate targeted treatment to kill tumors using an ultrasound device. His laboratory has received funding from agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and the Department of Defense. Ranjan has completed 16 funded research projects, and the cutting-edge research from his OSU lab has generated more than 20 peerreviewed scientific journal articles in the last five years. He has received the NIH Fellows Award for Research Excellence, the OSU President’s Fellows Faculty Research Award and the Zoetis Award for Veterinary Research Excellence.

A molecular immunologist, Glenn Zhang’s focuses his research on the development of novel alternatives to antibiotics, which have been banned from livestock production use. He has developed several innovative antibiotic-free strategies for use in both humans and livestock. Zhang has received research funding of more than $6.7 million and published 65 peer-reviewed papers in high-impact journals including Science. His articles have been cited more than 6,500 times. Zhang has served on grant review panels for all major federal funding agencies and has been honored with awards from the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and national organizations. His honors include the James A. Whatley Award for Meritorious Research in Agricultural Sciences and induction into the National Academy of Inventors.

Associate Professor and Kerr Endowed Chair in Biomedical Research, Department of Physiological Sciences Center for Veterinary Health Sciences

Professor and Boulware Endowed Chair, Department of Animal and Food Sciences Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources


Oklahoma State University Office of the Vice President for Research 203 Whitehurst Stillwater, Oklahoma 74078-1020


Cox Fellowship supports the future of genetic research To stand out in the competitive arena of genetics research, graduate students must prove themselves in the laboratory. The Oklahoma State University Otto S. Cox Graduate Fellowship for Genetic Research supports two students each year with proven records of genetic inquiry and the potential to impact their disciplines in the future.

Nikki Clauss

Michelle King

“As recently as 10 years ago, cutting-edge genetic and genomic technologies were prohibitively expensive, but today they are more accessible than ever,” said OSU Vice President for Research Dr. Kenneth Sewell. “The Cox Fellowship provides our students with the ability to apply these tools to nearly any organism or question they are interested in pursuing.” Nikki Clauss, a doctoral candidate in experimental psychology from Phoenix, studies the biological stress response and how it manifests as behavior. She focuses on how eating disorders contribute to obesity by examining biological influences on behavior using epigenetics, the study of changes in gene expression. “It led me to look at the epigenetic mechanisms of connections between behavior and biology,” said Clauss. “I’m interested in understanding how stress is related to obesity.” Michelle King, a doctoral candidate in microbiology and molecular genetics from Choctaw, Oklahoma, works on a team examining the antibiotic-resistant bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a pathogen responsible for thousands of deaths, usually through hospital-acquired infections. She is examining calcium signaling in cells and its effect on the virulence of Pseudomonas. “This is pioneering work because we’re one of the first labs to describe this,” said King. “Genetics research is difficult and it can be frustrating, so it’s nice to be recognized by the university for the quality of your work.” The Cox Fellowship provides financial support with a $1,000 stipend as well as the boost of recognition for pursuing challenging research work.

OSU Research Matters 2019  

Research, scholarship and creative activity at Oklahoma State University.

OSU Research Matters 2019  

Research, scholarship and creative activity at Oklahoma State University.