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Research, scholarship and creative activity at Oklahoma State University

Celebrating the

150anniversary th

18 62 The Morrill Act

Oklahoma State University founded

OSU begins agricultural research

OSU’s bacteriology department identifies typhoid germ in local drinking water

ENERGY NANOTECHNOLOGY

ENGINEERING FOOD SAFETY

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18 90 s

land grant universities

18 90

of

2012

VETERINARY MEDICINE

ENTREPRENEURSHIP

MUSIC AGRICULTURE HUMAN HEALTH CHEMISTRY


Greetings friends and colleagues,

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

Editor/Writer: Kelly Green, Art Director/Designer: Ross Maute, Photographers: Mandy Gross, Todd Johnson, Gary Lawson, Kevin McCroskey, Phil Shockley, Kylee Willard Contributing Writers: Derinda Blakeney, Wravenna Bloomberg, Jamie Marie Edford, Matt Elliot, Mandy Gross, Christy Lang, Jim Mitchell, Stacy Pettit, Lorene Roberson, Marla Schaefer, Donald Stotts, Lindy Wiggins, Kylee Willard. For details about research work highlighted in this magazine or reproduction permission, contact the editor. Kelly Green, Editor, Vanguard 405.744.5827; vpr@okstate.edu research.okstate.edu

As I’m sure you noticed from the cover of this magazine, Oklahoma State University — along with many others across the nation — celebrates a milestone this year: the 150th anniversary of land-grant universities. The Morrill Act of 1862 was indeed a turning point in the history of our nation. Through the provision of land, the act made a way for these new universities to support themselves. The act also defined the universities as ones that would benefit their communities, states, nation and the world through effective instruction, research and service. At OSU, we hold that land-grant mission at the core of all we do. As you read through the stories in this edition of Vanguard, you’ll see example after example of the way our faculty and student researchers fulfill that mission every day. You’ll also find brief highlights from some of our historical research programs — some of which continue today. (Historical information on OSU’s research programs is provided by the Research volume of the Centennial Histories Series by Craig Chappell.) What we research and how we research has changed since the late 1800s, but what’s held true is our commitment to solve problems, find solutions and meet needs. Please join us in celebrating this anniversary and enjoy these stories.

OSU agriculturalists speed up research efforts to increase food production and alleviate shortages during World War I

OSU entomologists develop pesticides to combat boll weevils, which were devastating cotton crops in Oklahoma and neighboring states

OSU scholars study soil erosion that led to the Dust Bowl

With the onset of World War II, the OSU Electronics Laboratory partners with the federal government in rocket-building efforts

TEXTILES BIOFUELS PLANT VARIETIES

HOMELAND SECURITY

EDUCATION

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Cheers,

OSU biologists assist with early-day cancer research

BOTANY

STEM


Research, scholarship and creative activity at Oklahoma State University

2 Setting the pace

22 Energy 101

Dr. William Barrow leads veterinary pathobiology team toward a safer, healthier world.

2012

New OSU institute will help America achieve energy independence.

6 OSU Space Cowboys: Living the dream with NASA

26 Predicting bankruptcy

9 Student spotlight: Daniel Ede

10 The magnificent mango

29 A center for STEM research

Nutritional sciences researcher finds mangoes reduce body fat and control blood sugar.

32 Up to the task

12 Microalgae: A versatile feedstock for biofuel

and biobased products

OSU-CHS flight research now part of Oklahoma aviation history.

34 Rat research could save lives

14 The big top show goes on

Finance professors develop model to measure bankruptcy risk.

Oral history project examines culture of circuses with ties to Oklahoma.

18 Making the best crop varieties better

Zoologist Alex Ophir seeks to understand rats’ potential for bomb detection

36 OSU takes lead to help the wheat industry 38 From the landfill to the future

20 A hopeful heart

OSU-Tulsa researcher finds use for discarded carpet

OSU political scientists study the success and failure of prohibition laws in Oklahoma

Researchers from OSU and other institutions examine the quality, quantity and availability of water resources in Oklahoma

OSU pursues development of advanced materials through laser research

Sensors become an area of focus for OSU as researchers create detectors for everything from radiation to corrosion

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40 Student spotlight: Kelsie Brooks

Following 9/11, OSU expands its research in homeland security and develops several defense-related technologies

WHAT’S NEXT?

COMPUTER SCIENCE

DISASTER RECOVERY

PHYSICS

UNMANNED AERIAL SYSTEMS

SENSORS

NUTRITION

Oklahoma State University, in compliance with Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 11246 as amended, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other federal laws and regulations, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, disability, or status as a veteran in any of its policies, practices or procedures. This includes but is not limited to admissions, employment, financial aid, and educational services. Title IX of the Education Amendments and Oklahoma State University policy prohibit discrimination in the provision of services or benefits offered by the University based on gender. Any person (student, faculty or staff) who believes that discriminatory practices have been engaged in based upon gender may discuss their concerns and file informal or formal complaints of possible violations of Title IX with the OSU Director of Affirmative Action, 408 Whitehurst, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078, (405)744-5371 or (405) 744-5576 (fax). This publication, issued by Oklahoma State University as authorized by the Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer, was printed by Southwestern Stationery and Bank Supply at a cost of $6,308. (5M) 1/12. #3880

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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SETTING THE PACE W Dr. William Barrow leads veterinary pathobiology team toward a safer, healthier world

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Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

hen asked what he does for fun, Principal Investigator William Barrow laughs and says, “Work.” The disciplined scientist has had 27 consecutive years of National Institutes of Health funding. Receiving a NIH award is difficult and keeping it is a constant challenge. Barrow’s infectious disease and organizational background positioned him as a scientist willing, qualified and competent to take on the task of administering a multi-year, multimillion dollar NIH contract such as one he was awarded in 2003. The management and performance of that

contract, positioned him and his team well for their newest NIH award. Currently executing a seven-year IDIQ (Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity) contract with a maximum potential value of $25 million, Barrow’s team at the Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Sciences is working on making the world a safer, healthier place. Barrow manages the contract and guides the overall performance of the team. The contract continues until May 31, 2018. The purpose of this contract, Barrow says, is to provide the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious


A laboratory technician works in a biosafety cabinet with proper personal protective equipment. Research in Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) biocontainment requires specialized training and advanced education. This high-level work is the norm for a team of veterinary pathobiologists at OSU’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences.

other infectious diseases, as well as agents of bioterrorism,” Barrow says. His team—all within the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology—includes co-investigators, Philip Bourne, Christina Bourne and Kenneth Clinkenbeard. Also involved in this contract are staff members Esther Barrow, Patricia Clinkenbeard, Mary Henry and Nancy Wakeham.

Diseases (NIAID) with a broad range of in vitro assay capabilities that can be used to screen potential drugs for human infectious diseases or diseases of human importance caused by infectious agents. In other words, in a controlled environment, like a test tube, they examine the effects of various compounds to see if they are effective against a panel of bacterial pathogens that are available now or will be available in the future. “The services provided under this and other similar contracts will assist NIAID in accomplishing its goal of developing medical products to counter emerging, re-emerging and

Back to the beginning Barrow, who has family roots in Oklahoma, has been interested in science since his youth. “I wanted to know what made things tick,” he says. As a young boy, Barrow wanted to become an M.D. He admired family doctors, some of which actually made house calls. He had a favorite uncle, Dr. Llewellyn Barrow, who graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine in 1931 and played a major role in the discovery and development of the anti-nausea medication, Dramamine. This uncle, an M.D. in the U.S. Army during World War II, received a citation from a U.S. general for one of the first uses of the drug for the D-Day invasion and the fact that it had saved many lives by preventing sea sickness. Later Barrow became interested in research. He completed his bachelor’s degree at Midwestern State University, and his master’s degree at the University of Houston focusing on how insecticides affected bacteria in the environment. After earning his master’s degree in microbiology, Barrow became the assistant lab director for the regional health department in Tyler, Texas. It was here that he learned more about bacteriology, mycology, parasitology and serology. “Every quarter the state tested the lab,” explains Barrow. “We received a group of unmarked samples and we had to correctly identify each bacte-

rial pathogen or parasite, as the case may be. I learned a lot about diseases, what causes them, and how drugs work or don’t work to combat them.” Barrow returned to graduate school at Colorado State University, where he earned his doctorate in microbiology in 1978 followed by a Heiser Postdoctoral Fellowship at the National Jewish Hospital and Research Center in Denver, Colo. That fellowship was sponsored by the Heiser Fellowship Program for Research in Leprosy. Additional training through an NIH Fogarty Senior International Fellowship was later conducted in the Tuberculosis Unit at the L’Institut Pasteur in Paris, France.

Raising the bar Today Barrow’s research team uses in vitro assay capabilities accomplished with high-throughput screening and electronic database management to test potential drugs —techniques that were established during their first NIAID IDIQ drug screening contract. “When we received the first NIAID contract, we purchased necessary equipment and developed programs to study the effects of a drug on our inventory of bacteria,” Barrow says. “We can use that same technology to do similar work for this contract.” Barrow and the team use cultures and some reagents from BEI Resources— the main repository for cultures and reagents for microbiology and infectious diseases research. Their services are also supported by a contract through NIAID. Barrow credits the good track record his team has and the expertise they have developed by working through the first contract as the reasons the team was awarded this new contract. His wife, Esther, also a microbiologist, has played an important part in STORY CONTINUES >

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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Ken Clinkenbeard is a co-investhe endeavor. Her efforts were instrutigator like the Bournes. He earned mental in helping Barrow establish the his doctorate in biological chemistry research program that they brought and has more than 35 years of experito OSU, which eventually led to this ence working with infectious diseases. contract and other NIAID awards. “Esther, Patricia (Ken’s wife), “Bill is a really nice guy with a good sense of humor and an infectious laugh,” Mary and Nancy are the worker bees,” smiles Barrow. “They make sure smiles Esther. “Sometimes people don’t the tasks get completed and projsee this side of him because he is so ects keep moving forward. They help serious about his work. He is dedicated train new employees and ensure our and always looking to the next step, high standards of quality work.” the next logical research endeavor and A total of 17 contracts were awarded preparing the proposal to compete for under this program. Those contracts funding to make the research a reality.” involve Part A (Bacteria and Fungi), They aren’t the only husband/ Part B (Viruses), Part C (Parasites wife duo on the team. and Vectors), Part D (Toxins), and an Phillip Bourne’s background is additional Part E, which provides for a biochemistry. He manages the drugs Central Data Management Center that to be tested as they are received. He will support the receipt, storage, quality also manages the electronic datacontrol and analysis of all data generbase, develops the robot programs ated under Parts A, B, C and D. The and various drug screening programs contract awarded to OSU’s veterinary and trains individuals on how to run center was one of six awarded for Part A. the samples through each system. “We have capabilities that a lot His wife, Christina, brings molecular of groups do not have,” smiles Barrow. biology and crystallography to the team. “You can’t screen certain organisms “She focuses on the mechanism just anywhere. We have the approof action studies as well as quality priate laboratories, equipment, protocontrol,” Barrow says. “We routinely cols and training in place to screen check our inventory of bacteria to make organisms that most institutions sure the genotype of the organism aren’t capable of handling. We can use remains constant. This allows us to the knowledge and training we have verify to NIAID that the test organisms established to work with other groups have not changed and that we tested and bring in more research funding a particular drug against the strain to the veterinary center and to OSU.” of bacteria listed in our inventory.”

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The need for answers The scope of the work encompasses any type of in vitro assay work needed for infectious disease research, including routine screening of products and development of new in vitro assays and database management of work. According to the NIAID, providing different viable options will allow the NIAID to respond to changing priorities as scientific and public health needs shift, including rapid responses to public health emergencies. “The importance of this research can best be explained by noting the increasing consequences of emerging infectious diseases and the development of drug resistance in various microbial communities,” Barrow says. “Microbial drug resistance generally develops in human beings as the result of improper use of antimicrobials. As observed in recent years, drug resistance can also develop in animal communities and be transmitted to humans. Look at the case of MRSA infection being transmitted from pigs to humans and the salmonella-related egg recall.” Antimicrobial drug resistance can develop in all major groups of pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibiotic resistance has been called one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. On April 7, 2011, the World

GR A N T

cti on s, OSU

VETERINARY MEDICINE

Lib rary

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

After spending years trying to develop the world’s first successful vaccine for anaplasmosis, a fatal tick-borne disease in cattle, Oklahoma State veterinary researchers finally accomplished their goal in 1965. Glenn C. Holm, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, announced that the first doses of the vaccine would be made available to veterinarians that fall. Manufactured and distributed by the Iowa-based Fort Dodge Laboratories, the vaccine, called Anaplaz©, was developed by a team of researchers headed by William E. Brock. Brock’s associates were Andrew W. Monlux, head of veterinary patholog y, and Charles C. Pearson and Ira O. Kliewer (pictured) of the Oklahoma Veterinary Research Station near Pawhuska. The project was underwritten by a two-year grant of $60,889 from the National Institutes of Health. Kathy Kocan, a Regent’s Professor and the Walter R. Sitlington Endowed Chair in Food Animal Research, has spent her 37-year career at OSU studying tick-borne diseases, like anaplasmosis, and working toward solutions. She and her team have identified the developmental cycle and transmission pattern of several tick pathogens – key first steps in the development of new vaccines. “Overall, I would like to see our research result in a vaccine that would contribute to a solution for tick and tick-borne pathogen problems,” Kocan says. “The ticks aren’t going away and ticks are changing as the world we live in changes. We need to keep the research moving forward to get closer to the answers we need. Preventative measures are needed to control ticks and tick-borne diseases and for the welfare of pets, production animals and people.”


PHOTO / PHIL SHOCKLEY

Members of Barrow’s Veterinary Pathobiology Team. (Front row) Dr. Bill Barrow and Esther Barrow (Middle row) Patricia Clinkenbeard, Dr. Christina Bourne, Mary Henry and Nancy Wakeham (Back row) Drs. Ken Clinkenbeard and Phillip Bourne.

Health Organization made antimicrobial resistance an organization-wide priority and the focus of World Health Day; they consider drug resistance to be one of the top three threats to human health today. Since 2001, the NIAID has been establishing a “…comprehensive infrastructure with extensive resources that support all levels of biodefense research.” Having accomplished this solid framework of research and product development over the last several years, the NIAID is “…now transitioning this infrastructure to provide the flexibility required to meet the challenges of emerging, re-emerging and other infectious diseases in addition to biodefense.” Through the NIAID Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (DMID), a more integrated approach is now being created to perform in vitro assessments of antimicrobial activity for a broad spectrum of pathogens. According to the NIAID, this strategy is being employed to “…advance science by promoting cross-fertilization across and within disciplines and approaches; serve the research community more conveniently; achieve effi-

new products to address the issues cient use of resources through economy of emerging infectious diseases and of scale and avoidance of duplicadrug resistant strains and that will tion; and provide the flexibility needed help make the world a better place for to respond to changing priorities.” humans and animals alike,” he says. “This is the reason for the multiple In addition to benefitting NIAID, Parts A-E that were established by Barrow’s team’s research brings tangible the new contracts recently awarded,” benefits to the state of Oklahoma. As a explains Barrow. “With these new result of the first drug screening contract, contracts, the DMID is replacing the the veterinary center was awarded about original in vitro programs with one $8 million. Of that amount, the college broad IDIQ solicitation of multiple received almost $221,000 for renovacontracts to provide access to a larger number of qualified contractors, provide tions, about $500,000 worth of new equipment, about $2 million in indirect increased flexibility for services and costs, and just over $546,000 for a fixed thus more effectively cover all areas of fee. The work generated almost $2.5 current and potential future interests. million for personnel labor, including “It is the intent of the DMID that fringe benefits. Under the contract, 2.5 the procedures developed through this percent of the total expenditures were program will be shared among contracdesignated to small businesses; some tors within the program as well as with of which are located in Stillwater and the wider research community. This in other cities in Oklahoma. With the new turn will assist the NIAID in its role in contract, the OSU Center for Veterideveloping medical products to counter nary Health Sciences will be able to various emerging infectious diseases continue these research services and as well as agents of bioterrorism.” maintain its role in the Biodefense Barrow is confident he and his team’s work will produce tangible results. and Emerging Infectious Diseases Program that is currently evolving at “I know that our work has a good the NIAID and throughout the country. chance of leading to the creation of Derinda Blakeney

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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Shea Fehrenbach floats in zero gravity aboard the NASA Weightless Wonder.

OSU Space Cowboys Living the dream with NASA

PHOTOS COURTESY JAMEY JACOB

“Floating in zero gravity is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done. It was like being in a dream.” Oklahoma State University student Shea Fehrenbach from Piedmont described just one of the many exciting moments that he and his teammates have experienced as part of NASA’s educational outreach efforts.

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ehrenbach started working toward that “dream” about a year ago when the OSU team— dubbed the “space cowboys” –became one of only ten chosen among the 75 universities that submitted proposals to participate in NASA’s Microgravity University. “It was a terrific opportunity and a testament to our students’ ability to put together a proposal to show NASA they had the ‘right stuff,’” said Dr. Jamey Jacob, professor of aerospace engineering at OSU and the team’s official adviser.


“When we shook hands with the astronaut commanding the last shuttle mission—I think my mind exploded a bit!”— Zack Deck

The students’ proposal addressed NASA’s request to supply an astronaut living environment with artificial gravity for long duration space missions. “Our idea was to use a rotating inflatable system to generate artificial gravity for the astronauts so they won’t experience the side effects that usually happen when working in a weightless environment, such as muscle and bone loss,” said Kristin Nevels from Claremore, who served as one of the team leaders. For Kristin, Shea and a few others, the microgravity work represented only a portion of their involvement with space projects. They were also members of another OSU team of space cowboys that qualified as one of three national finalists for NASA’s first ever Academic Innovation Challenge. Also known as X-Hab, the challenge was to design an inflatable space habitat or “loft,” for astronauts on long duration flights. The team included members from mechanical and aerospace engineering in the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology, like Kristin and Shea, as well as interior design students from the College of Human Sciences at OSU. “With all our projects in mind, I thought it would be good to give the students a chance to look at some of NASA’s hardware and consider how best to integrate the designs they were developing,” said Dr. Jacob, who worked out the details in November of 2010 for a valuable road trip to Houston, home of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

While there, the students were allowed to discuss research applications with scientists and also visit labs, including the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, where astronauts spend much of their time underwater training for spacewalks. It includes a full scale mockup of the International Space Station immersed in a giant swimming pool. After meeting with some of the astronauts, Zack Deck of Midland, Texas, put into words the enthusiasm the space cowboys were feeling on that initial visit. “When we shook hands with the astronaut commanding the last shuttle mission—I think my mind exploded a bit!” Memories of the trip mingled with the serious design plans as both teams returned to OSU to bring their concepts to life and offer NASA working prototypes. Six months later, in June of 2011, they were headed back to Houston, anxious to see their life-sized, inflatable loft put to the test and do some testing with a small-scale model of their rotating system in zero gravity. After a few days of required NASA training, Fehrenbach was

“living the dream” as he rode in a specialized aircraft that flew dizzying maneuvers over the Gulf of Mexico so he and his colleagues could perform experiments in a microgravity environment. “Floating around and conducting an experiment was like being an astronaut for two hours. The experience of zero gravity was like nothing I’ve ever felt before and the experiment itself essentially proved that our rotational concept was feasible for deployment,” said Fehrenbach. Once back on earth, the space cowboys watched as NASA technicians lifted their life-sized X-Hab loft design into place atop the habitat demonstration unit—a totally new place to proudly display an image of Pistol Pete. Though the team’s design for X-Hab didn’t move on to field testing, the space cowboys realized they’d won a place in NASA’s history for their alma mater. “I’m really proud of the work we did for NASA during the 2011 X-Hab competition, it was a oncein-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Cory Sudduth from Allen, Texas. story continues >

Kristin Nevels, Alyssa Avery, Shea Fehrenbach, Zach Barbeau and Ben Loh with NASA’s Robonaut.

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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Jamey Jacob, Kristin Nevels, Cory Sudduth, Zach Barbeau, Shea Fehrenbach, Ben Loh and Alyssa Avery with NASA’s Deep Space Habitat Demonstrator at D-RATS, where they test the hardware in the Arizona for evaluation for the moon and Mars.

The team also managed to impress some professionals along the way. “The astronauts who helped judge our concept were very impressed with the unique design our students came up with, including its robustness, flexibility and safety, and NASA has stated that it wants to explore our design elements for use in their manned space exploration program,” said Dr. Jacob, who traveled with the team to the Johnson Space Center in June. This is where the story is supposed to end, but it doesn’t. Instead, at NASA’s

invitation, the OSU Space Cowboys traveled to the Arizona desert in September to witness for themselves all phases of the X-Hab program— every new and exciting gadget. “One of the greatest features of our Arizona trip was getting to see NASA demonstrate its new space exploration vehicles, such as the Robonaut and Chariot over rough terrain and observe how they’ll be used to collect and transport geological samples on Mars,” said Sudduth.

In addition, NASA announced in August that OSU is one of two universities that will participate in a new phase of the X-Hab project with a new goal—a deployable habitat that would give astronauts more living space during their eight-month trip to Mars. “I’m very excited about this year’s X-Hab project since we will have much more design freedom, which will allow us to explore a wide realm of space habitats,” added Sudduth. In other words, the dream continues. Jim Mitchell

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Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu


S T U D E N T

S P O T L I G H T

Exploring solutions for Haiti T

he 2010 Haiti earthquake impacted Daniel Ede, stirring him to seek a future solution to help minimize similar future disasters in developing countries. The civil engineering senior from Tulsa had gone on several short-term missions trips in high school. In places like Mexico and Guatemala, he did construction work on homes, churches and schools. “I noticed right away that their building practices were different than here in the U.S.,” Ede said. As in many developing countries, homes and other structures in Haiti are built with under-reinforced concrete masonry. Under the pressure of that 7.0 M earthquake, those structures failed and collapsed like decks of cards, trapping and killing thousands. Natural disasters cause this sort of damage in many other developing countries too. “Around the world, people live each day at the mercy of their surroundings,” Ede said. “As they sleep, they trust their shelter won’t collapse. As they go to work, they trust the bridge will hold or the watersheds will control the floodwaters of the rain. Too often, when uncontrollable disasters occur in developing countries, the blame is placed on merely nature and not the man-made surroundings.” As he watched the turmoil play out in Haiti, Ede wondered if actions taken beforehand could have allowed for much less loss. He decided to pursue a solution. As the first of his two Wentz Research Scholarships, he explored the effects of bamboo as a reinforcing material for buildings in developing countries. Known for its strength and durability, bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world and can be found in diverse climates. It is also inexpensive and more readily available in those countries than steel rebar, the primary reinforcement material used in the U.S. To test his hypothesis, Ede compared two walls made of cinder blocks and concrete mix – one reinforced with bamboo and one not – at increasing loads to determine the efficiency of bamboo as a reinforcing

Daniel Ede PHOTO / KEVIN MCCROSKEY

material. He found his bamboo-reinforced wall withstood more than three times the amount of lateral load than did the under-reinforced concrete wall. Although additional research is necessary, Ede says his results suggest bamboo is extremely beneficial in providing added protection against wind and seismic loads. “The research process was a great experience,” Ede said. “I knew I wanted to do engineering when I came to OSU, but I didn’t know anything about research. I thought it was something professors did.” Ede received a presentation award for his work at OSU’s annual Wentz Research Day, an event that brings together all of the current undergraduate researchers at OSU funded by the Wentz Foundation to present their results. He is also now embarking on his second Wentz project: a comparison of insulating concrete forms (ICFs) and wood-framed walls. Following completion of his bachelor’s degree, Ede plans to get a civil engineering job. He said his experience in research has already set him apart in several interviews. He also plans to continue taking short-term missions trips, bringing what he’s learned in the lab to the doorsteps of the people who could benefit the most from it.

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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The

Magnificent Mango

Nutritional sciences researcher finds mangos reduce body fat and control blood sugar. PHOTOS BY PHIL SHOCKLEY

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Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu


five with 35 percent of calories from fat. hile it may not get the One of the high-fat diets did not include publicity of say the blueberry, or even mango powder, while the other four high the acai berry, the addition of mango to fat diets contained 1 percent mango a diet may combat obesity and diabetes, powder, 10 percent mango powder, fenoaccording to research conducted by a fibrate or rosiglitazone. nutritional sciences associate professor The team assigned eight mice to in OSU’s College of Human Sciences. According to a group led by Edralin each of the six diets and allowed them to eat and drink at will for two months. Lucas, incorporating mango in the diet After two months, Lucas and her could help cut body fat and control team found no statistically significant blood sugar. differences in body weight among the “Our findings demonstrate that mice, but the amount of body fat was mango flesh is a promising alternative varied according to the diets. The mice that can be useful in reducing body fat consuming diets with mango or the two and blood glucose,” Lucas says. drugs had body fat levels similar to those Plus, Lucas says, mango is not assomice eating the lower-fat diet. ciated with serious side effects of some The mango-containing diets drugs used for the same purpose. also exhibited glucose and cholesObesity and consumption of high terol lowering properties. In fact, the fat diet are associated with the development of many chronic diseases including 1-percent mango diet had a similar type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Drugs, or even a more pronounced effect in reducing blood glucose than the diet such as rosiglitazone and fenofibrate, containing rosiglitazone. The team used to treat the diseases can increase further observed mango affected several the risk of bone fractures, liver enlargefactors involved in fat metabolism. ment, fluid retention and heart failure. Lucas says human studies should Lucas and co-investigators Penelope Perkins-Veazie, Brenda Smith, be done to confirm the team’s findings and further investigation should focus on Stephen Clarke and Stanley Lightfoot understanding how and what components conducted the study funded by the of mango are responsible for its effects on National Mango Board. body fat, blood glucose and lipids. Lucas and her colleagues chose the The findings, she says, do demonTommy Atkins mangos because they are strate the addition of mango to the diet one of the most common varieties in may help prevent metabolic syndrome the U.S. The mango flesh was freezedried, ground into a powder and added — a cluster of conditions like obesity, insulin resistance, high cholesterol and to mice diets. high blood pressure that can increase The team formulated six diets, one the risk of cardiovascular disease. with 4 percent of calories from fat and

PHOTO / PHIL SHOCKLEY

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Nutritional Sciences Associate Professor Edralin Lucas leads a group in OSU’s College of Human Sciences studying the effects of mango on lowering blood glucose and reducing body fat.

“We will soon be conducting a human study to investigate whether the addition of mango to the diets of pre-diabetics will help them control their blood sugar and whether incorporation of mango into the diet of overweight people will help them reduce body fat,” Lucas says. “We are also investigating how mango reduces body fat and blood glucose.” Lucas hopes the findings will encourage people to make better food selections. “We would like to see people try to make healthy food choices such as including many fruits and vegetables like mango in their diets,” she says. “It would help prevent many chronic diseases including obesity and diabetes.” Lindy Wiggins

Legacy

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GR A N T HUMAN SCIENCES In the 1980s, scientists from OSU’s home economics college searched for new food sources, especially as solutions for shortages in underdeveloped countries. Christa Hanson and Sue Knight (pictured) experimented with dried yeast protein as a food additive. As a result of this work, Knight was able to develop “Meal on the Go,” a complete meal in a bar. Today, Barbara Stoecker, a Fulbright Fellow and Regents professor in OSU’s College of Human Sciences, conducts research on malnutrition in Ethiopia with an international team of scientists. She has assisted Hawassa University in Ethiopia in developing a curriculum for a master’s degree in nutrition and is credited with making a difference in building the academic capacity of the university and Ethiopia. She has worked with impoverished women and children in Africa, Iraq and Jordan to determine how best to prevent mineral deficiencies.

photo / Special Coll

ectio ns, OSU Libr

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Microalgae A versatile feedstock for biofuel and biobased products

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ncertainties in supply and price of non-renewable energy sources and the environmental concerns over the adverse effects of fossil fuels have led researchers at Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center to explore alternative fuel sources. “Currently, biofuels such as bioethanol and biodiesel are mainly produced from corn and vegetable oils in the U.S.,” said Nurhan Dunford, FAPC oil/ oilseed specialist and OSU department of biosystems and agricultural engineering professor. “Today, there is no bioethanol production facility in Oklahoma because the amount of corn grown in the state cannot meet the needs of a bioethanol production facility. At this point, these operations have to rely mostly on feedstock coming from outside the state.” With the local alternative feedstock need in mind, Dunford and her group of student and faculty researchers have been examining non-food crops such as microalgae as potential biofuel and bioproduct feedstocks. “Microalgae are microscopic organisms found in both marine and freshwater environments,” Dunford said. “Various types of algae are among the most efficient plants to convert solar energy to chemical energy, and microalgae can accumulate a wide range of commercially important products like oil, sugar, protein, cellulose and highvalue functional bioactive compounds.” Microalgae, the non-food feedstock, offer diverse uses. “With microalgae, we can clean waste water while generating biomass,” Dunford said. “Microalgae are capable of absorbing excess plant nutrients PHOTOS BY KYLEE WILLARD

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Faculty and student researchers are studying microalgae as potential biofuel and bioproduct feedstocks because of the need for local alternative sources.


from waste water and using CO2 to produce oil, biomass and even useful high-value compounds.” As an alternative to land planted crops, microalgae can grow and thrive in water sources such as ponds or animal waste streams. “Microalgae systems use far less water than traditional oilseed crops,” Dunford said. “By use of microalgae, it would take only 1 to 3 percent of the existing U.S. crop area to replace half of the petroleum-based transportation fuel with biodiesel. More importantly, microalgae do not compete with cropland.” Research shows many microalgae strains can accumulate as much or more oil than oilseeds. “Microalgae may have 30 to 70 percent oil, based on dry algal biomass, while soybeans contain about 20 percent oil,” Dunford said. “The high oil content and rapid biomass production make microalgae a very attractive renewable source for bioproduct manufacturing.” The project The scope of the research project includes developing a semi-continuous microalgae system that maximizes production of algal biomass with high oil content, captures carbon dioxide produced by power plants and ethanol production facilities, and reduces the adverse impact of agricultural waste water on environment. “Successful completion of this project will take researchers a step closer to a non-food feedstock source that can be produced on non-agricultural land with less space requirement than today’s feedstocks used for biofuel production,” Dunford said. Initially, research stemmed from purchasing six microalgae strains from a culture bank. “Three of the strains are native to Oklahoma, while the other three have high oil content and possess traits of adaptability to the Oklahoma environment and are an interest to many startup companies,” Dunford said. Testing began in 10-milliliter test tubes and has advanced to 10-liter bioreactors. “From 10-milliliter to 1-liter to 5-liter and now to 10-liter bioreactors,

testing has been successful in the lab in a controlled environment,” Dunford said. “Today, we can effectively grow and harvest these microalgae strains.” From the lab to the OSU Swine Farm Procedures from the microalgae laboratory testing were mirrored in a study that involved growing microalgae in waste water obtained from a lagoon at OSU’s Swine Farm. Flint Holbrook, a biosystems and agricultural engineering junior, commenced work on the microalgae project three years ago as a freshman. Holbrook focused on inhabitation of microalgae in animal waste streams. Holbrook and his team followed the labtested protocols to perform the animal waste water experiments. “We found that the microalgae grew in the wastewater and absorbed nutrients floating in the lagoon,” Holbrook said. “In theory, microalgae could remove pollution and absorb CO2 and other greenhouse gases.”

algae,” Holbrook said. “How do you make it profitable? How do you get out of it more than you put in? The goal is to help commercialize microalgae and introduce these practices into the market.” Future work Next phases of the project include establishing protocols and mimicking real-life growing conditions. Recent research funding from the Department of Transportation through the South Central Sun Grant program will be used to design and install larger microalgae bioreactors in OSU’s biosystems and agricultural engineering greenhouse. The long-term goal is to put microalgae strains in an outdoor pond or directly integrate into animal waste water ponds. “From the liter tests, we can develop processes to recover highvalue compounds from algal biomass,” Dunford said. “The next step would be the evaluation of economic viability of a commercial scale microalgae growth and processing facility and conversion

Yan Zhu, OSU graduate student, and Nurhan Dunford, FAPC oil/oilseed specialist, examine microalgae strains in the FAPC laboratory.

According to Dunford, Holbrook’s research demonstrated that one of the Oklahoma native microalgae strains can grow in swine lagoon water with no additional nutrients and removes a significant portion of the excess nitrogen present in the waste water. “We worked to find the market and determine if we are able to grow micro-

of algal oil and biomass to biofuels and other high-value products. Our ultimate goal is that results of this ongoing study could lead to establishment of an algal biomass-based industry that could produce biofuels and high value-added products in Oklahoma.” Kylee Willard

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“…I miss a lot of things about show business. When you’re sitting there on the sidelines and somebody rides into the center ring on a horse and does these tricks and is just fantastic and the audience just loves it and the band’s playing, you just can’t help but say, ‘I want to be a part of this.’ I still feel that, even today.” —Robert Rawls, former circus performer

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BIG TOP SHOW GOES ON Ever thought of running away and joining the circus? If you live in Oklahoma, you only have to go as far as Hugo to do so.

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ith a population of approximately 6,000, Hugo, Okla. has a long history of circus culture dating back over 70 years. More than 20 circuses have had winter quarters there. Currently three active circuses headquarter in Hugo: Carson and Barnes, Kelly Miller, and Culpepper & Merriweather. Traveling by road, these tent circuses entertain in towns of various sizes and in small rural communities throughout the country. The owners of Carson and Barnes also own and operate the Endangered Ark Foundation, the second largest Asian elephant sanctuary in the United States. Led by librarians Tanya Finchum and Juliana Nykolaiszyn, Hugo and its circus legacy are the focus of an oral history research project at Oklahoma State University. The “Big Top” Show Goes On: An Oral History of Occupations Inside and Outside the Circus Tent is comprised of interviews with current and former circus performers living in Hugo. The effort is funded by an Archie story continues >

PHOTO COURTESY MIKE FULTON

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Green Fellowship from the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center. Named for the American folklorist interested in occupations and their cultures, especially those that are disappearing, the fellowships support new documentation and research into the culture and traditions of American workers that will create significant digital archival collections (audio recordings, photographs, motion pictures, field notes) that will be preserved in the American Folklife Center archive and made available to researchers and the public. “This research is intended to fill a gap in our knowledge about day-to-day work involved with putting on a tent circus,” Nykolaiszyn said. “Preliminary research found very little documented information on this aspect of Oklahoma or on specific people or occupations within the circuses that have had their winter quarters in Hugo. An occasional article in the Daily Oklahoman would mention a Hugo circus with a personal name or two and would refer to Hugo as the Sarasota of the Southwest or the unofficial Circus City, USA.” Oral history was established as a modern technique for historical documentation in the late 1940s, about the time the first circus wintered in Hugo. Qualitative interviews emphasize the

participants’ perspectives and give them a significant hand in shaping the content of the interview. The Oklahoma Oral History Research Program at the OSU Library was established in 2007.

“The circus is not just family entertainment. It is families doing the entertaining and all that that entails.” — Tanya Finchum “Circus employees have historically been marginalized and their voices are missing from much of the documented record of occupations,” Finchum said. “As researchers we guide the interview as each participant narrates his or her story. We are seeking to learn and document circus life in relation to circus work. “What is involved in the typical day of a tight wire walker during the circus season? How does a performer learn the trade? How does a family life coordinate with work in a circus? These are just a few of the questions this project hopes to answer as participants share their firsthand accounts.”

Finchum and Nykolaiszyn traveled to Hugo and met with the Circus City Showmen’s Club, a group of retired and semiretired circus showmen, to explain the project and recruit potential participants. Twenty people — nine males and 11 females ­— shared their experiences and memories of circus work and life. The group represents three families with circus roots at least four generations deep. The majority of those interviewed were trained for the circus by either parents or grandparents. Four of the 20 are first-generation circus workers with an additional one marrying into the business and bringing a parent along. “The circus is not just family entertainment,” Finchum said. “It is families doing the entertaining and all that that entails.” Occupations of participants include: boss canvasman, manager, owner, tight wire walker, aerialist, bareback rider and cook. As the interviews were transcribed, read and re-read, the researchers say commonalities and differences began to appear. “With each interview it became more evident that over the course of a career in the circus, a single employee may have many job assignments,” Nykolaiszyn said. “For example, as an aerialist ages and can no longer perform in the air,

(Left) Bareback rider Lucy Loyal performs as part of a Carson & Barnes circus, circa 1975. (Below) Animals, like these camels, traveled by road along with the rest of the circus performers.

PHOTO COURTESY MIKE FULTON

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In the Hugo cemetery a special section marked “Showmen’s Rest” honors the lives and careers of elephant trainers, tight wire walkers and other circus performers.

he or she may work the cookhouse and then later the concession stand.” During one interview, Robert Rawls shared: “I’ve done just about every job there is to do on a circus, much like the rest of my family. That’s nothing special in my family. If you’re on a circus, you might be a performer, but you also know how to set up a tent, to drive a stake, to operate a truck or a vehicle, or you know how well everything is laid out. You can do the 24-hour man job. You can do it all. We were trained to do everything. So, whenever you’re on a circus, you were always called to do something outside your so-called job description.” Many of the participants also equated the circus to a small town that moves every day and requires people to live and work in small spaces and in very close proximity. As shared by Mary Rawls: “Most of the shows we were on were small and if they weren’t small, then you had a clique of small and they were all friendly. You just felt part of a small town. It was very homey. Everybody knew everybody else and it was just like you lived in a little town that picked up and moved every day. It was very cozy and of course, if you came out with

circus slang or something, somebody knew what you were talking about. If you’re talking to a ‘towner’ well, then you’ve got to explain what you’re talking about.”

close their eyes and mentally perform. “With the steady decline of traveling tent circuses, there are fewer and fewer people with first- hand experiences of working in them,” Finchum said. “An end goal of this project is to preserve these narratives for future researchers and to Statements like Mary’s reflect that fill in the gap of documented information although there is very little privacy about this group of the working class.” there is a tight bond among members This project will also serve to docuof the circus community. During the ment part of the cultural heritage of season, the circus may relocate over southeast Oklahoma and Oklahoma in two hundred times, which means long general. “Circuses that have wintered in days and a definite routine. With each Hugo have brought economic benefits “jump” there is order as to which truck to the area as well as entertainment to arrives first, what each person does at citizens in the state,” Nykolaiszyn said. each phase of the set up and take down, “Historically these tent circuses followed and what goes where and when. The the agricultural seasons and set-up on researchers found this aspect of the circus has changed very little historically. cotton gin lots or ice plant lots. Finding a vacant lot large enough to accommoOne of the unexpected realizations date a tent circus is becoming more chalnoted by the researchers is the impact lenging and add the increasing regularegulations have on circuses. Day after tions and immigration issues to that, the day as the circus moves through different life of the tent circus is teetering on the jurisdictions, circus management deals edge of an uncertain future. with numerous officials. From health “Their continued existence is inspectors to fire marshals, each town evidence that the circus is still magical has ordinances for which the circus must for people of all ages and is truly one of comply. In addition to having skills to the last great family entertainments.” interact with the paying public, the circus Original recordings and transcripts manager needs skills in negotiation, diplofrom this project will be deposited into macy, time management and legalese. the American Folklife Center were they The researchers also found that the will be archived. Copies will also be participants’ identities are closely tied to deposited into the OSU Library where their work. Circus performers identify themselves as show people, as entertainers. the transcripts will be made accessible online at www.library.okstate.edu/ They take great pride in their circus herioralhistory/circus. tage and no matter their age, they can Kelly Green

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rought resistance, disease resistance, producing both quality and quantity: all are desired traits of new wheat varieties developed on behalf of producers and related agribusiness operators by the Oklahoma State University Wheat Improvement Team. “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 Brett Carver, WIT leader and holder

of OSU’s wheat genetics chair. “It’s no small challenge.” Wheat and other “general crops” such as soybeans, cotton and hay accounted for approximately $905 million in lost agricultural production from Oklahoma’s excessive and historic 2011 drought. Wheat harvested in Oklahoma totaled 166.5 million bushels in 2008, 77 million bushels in 2009, 120.9 million bushels in 2010 and 74.8 million bushels in 2011. “It’s been quite a roller coaster ride for our state wheat producers, and not the fun kind; they need to

plant the best adapted crop for their area, which underscores the importance of the work being conducted by our WIT researchers,” said Clarence Watson, Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station associate director. Watson pointed out that the continued improvement of wheat cultivars is more heavily dependent than other crops on public research like that done at the nation’s landgrant universities. Three of the top four wheat varieties planted in Oklahoma for the 2011 crop year were developed

Making the best crop varieties better OSU Wheat Improvement Team

PHOTOS BY TODD JOHNSON

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“We can do better. That is the landgrant university mission. It’s who we are and what we do.” ­— Brett Carver by scientists with OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources: Endurance, the most popular variety with 18.9 percent of total wheat acres planted; Duster, the second-most popular variety with 16.6 percent; and OK-Bullet, the fourth-most planted variety accounting for 7.2 percent of total acres. In 2011, two new OSU-developed wheat varieties were made available: Garrison and Ruby Lee. Garrison has statewide adaptability and produced consistently good yields over a five-year test period. It has excellent tolerance to acidic soils and matures relatively late and thus misses early spring freezes. Garrison has good tolerance to fusarium head blight, a disease that can hurt grain yields grown in a wheat-corn crop rotation. The variety is considered to be a replacement for Endurance with better disease resistance, test weight and good protein.

Wheat grows in greenhouses at the Stillwater Experiment Station, where researchers from OSU’s Wheat Improvement Team are breeding new varieties of wheat with greater drought tolerance and disease resistance.

Ruby Lee also has statewide adaptability plus superior yield potential and outstanding milling and baking characteristics. It produces a high test weight and very large kernel size, is earlier to mature than Endurance and is an excellent fall forage-producing variety. In a normal year, Oklahoma producers plant about 2.5 million acres of “dual-purpose wheat,” which are used for livestock grazing during the fall and winter months and then are harvested for grain by early summer. “Ruby Lee is an alternative to the high-production levels of our Billings variety, where soils have a pH level more

than 5.5, with better cold tolerance and dual-purpose yields,” Carver said. Carver and his fellow OSU wheat breeders were concerned that drought conditions would make data scarce this year for many varieties. Instead, the team members’ thoughts about many varieties’ drought tolerance were confirmed. “Many of the varieties that have Duster in their parentage continued to shine, combining relatively good drought tolerance with strong disease resistance,” he said. “But as great as these varieties are, we can do better. That is the landgrant university mission. It’s who we are and what we do.” Donald Stotts

Legacy

GR A N T

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Magruder (pictured right) was a man of many “firsts” at the college. He was the first agriculturalist. He was the first instructor at the college. He took the first steps toward developing a school library by either buying books or talking publishers out of samples. He established the first livestock feeding trials. He organized Oklahoma’s first agricultural support organization, the Oklahoma Agricultural Society. He established the first student awards – using his own money – by commissioning gold medals to be given for best oration by a student, presented from 1893-1895.

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Although James C. Neal served as the first director of the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station – the university’s first engine of research – most of the work fell on Alexander C. Magruder, who served as the first professor of agriculture as well as supervisor of the college farm. Magruder was responsible for planting the famed Magruder Plots (pictured left) for research on wheat. In continuous wheat cultivation since 1892, the plots are the oldest agricultural research project west of the Mississippi River.

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Hopeful Cardiovascular disease. Coronary artery disease. Congestive heart failure. These heart centralized issues have affected millions of people over the years with limited answers in disease treatment. However, a breakthrough in the area of gene therapy is less than two years from research completion.

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he department of chemical engineering within the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology at Oklahoma State University has been working on vector manipulation, funded by the American Heart Association. Currently, the use of gene therapy to cure diseases is hindered by its inability to provide a safe and effective delivery to a specific location in the body. A virus provides the ability to target specific cells, but can be dangerous. Because of


this, a vector offers the most promise as it serves as a nano-scale transportation device to deliver the gene to the targeted location, while remaining much safer than using a virus. Dr. Joshua Ramsey, assistant professor of chemical engineering, leads a group of researchers focusing on developing synthetic vectors that are engineered to imitate a virus. By altering viral genes and using synthetic components, this process would trick the body into accepting the vector instead of viewing it as an infectious virus. “The intent is to develop nanoparticles capable of delivering therapeutic genes to vascular tissue for the treatment of cardiovascular disease,” said Ramsey. “The impact, however, will be much broader. The vector we are working to develop will be modified in the future to target a variety of diseases.” The long-term goal of this research is to replace the knob and fiber proteins of adenovirus with a synthetic cellpenetrating peptide. This combination of peptide and genetically modified virus would result in a nanoparticle that presents the same efficiency of a virus, but offers flexible targeting and immunity resistance. The fiberless adenovirus nanoparticle presents significant advantages over the native adenovirus being used. Specifically as it offers flexible targeting to vascular endothelial cells, said Ramsey. In the past, a patient needing gene therapy treatment had two choices: viral or synthetic vectors. The viral approach presents safety concerns, but is still more effective than synthetic vectors. This research is focused on creating

overall approach to design a novel a marriage of these approaches by vector,” said Ramsey. “The vector will isolating the functions of the virus and need to be validated in animal trials using synthetic materials, such as cellpenetrating peptides, to target and enter and eventually transitioned into human clinical trials.” diseased cells while avoiding the drawRamsey mentions with the long backs associated with a virus. process from lab research to clinical Mechanical revascularization is trials, there is significant investment in currently common for heart related both time and money. “As long as our diseases, but is not always an option approach continues to show promise, for all patients. Thus, this therapeutic however, there is incentive to quickly approach, through targeted gene advance the treatment so patients can delivery, offers hope. There has long benefit from it.” been potential in this area, but unfortuThe impact of this research is nately the viral vectors, considered the expected to enhance the general field of most efficient and stable approach, has gene delivery by leading to discovery of been associated with extreme setbacks principles that would enable better design including severe immune responses and of vectors and increase gene delivery use resistance over time. through effective synthetic nanoparticles. Because of this, synthetic vectors The College of Engineering, Archihave been deemed safer. Yet, the poor effitecture and Technology at OSU is focused ciency of synthetic vectors has prevented on its core mission of advancing the advancement of gene therapy beyond the clinical trial stages. The need for a combi- quality of human life, specifically through instruction, outreach and research. nation of the effectiveness of viral vectors “There is a growing group of CEAT with the safety of synthetic vectors is what laid the foundation for this research. faculty doing cutting edge research in the biomedical fields and having a real impact By replacing existing knob and on the future of medicine,” said Ramsey. fiber proteins with these peptides and “Gene therapy truly has the potential targeting ligands, it will allow attachment of the vector to a specific target cell to change the way we treat disease. Those diseases considered in need of therapeutic treatment. This method, if perfected, would significantly currently incurable reduce the danger associated with tradi- could become very manageable.” tional viral gene vectors. This research is currently at a WRAVENNA midpoint for the four-year funded project. BLOOMBERG “Most of our studies to date have been proof-of-concept studies intended to verify the usefulness of our

Dr. Joshua Ramsey, assistant professor in chemical engineering, engages in research for engineering novel gene delivery vectors.

PHOTO / PHIL SHOCKLEY

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Energy Solutions

The National Energy Solutions Institute will provide knowledge and resources to help America achieve energy independence

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new collaborative group of researchers at Oklahoma State University all say the same thing: we need a diverse profile of clean, efficient energy sources to solve the world’s energy problems. The solution, they say, isn’t in one area, such as wind or solar, but in using the correct combination of all the sources of energy available today, including oil and gas. Under the direction of Dr. Stephen McKeever, OSU’s vice president for research and technology transfer, the group has come together to form the National Energy Solutions Institute, an effort that, according to McKeever, will fuse the needs

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of private industry in energy production, distribution and conservation with practical and impactful academic research. “The emphasis of the research will be on providing practical energy solutions for the current and future needs of the nation,” McKeever says. “Researchers will work in collaboration with private, state and federal sectors to enable the nation’s transition to a sustainable energy future.” To do so, the institute will include several centers that build on the ongoing work of OSU’s key energy research programs. The institute’s researchers represent three colleges and five departments on the OSU-Stillwater campus.


Oil and Gas Led by OSU Geology Associate Professor Dr. Jim Puckette, the Unconventional Hydrocarbon Fuel Research Center focuses on finding elusive conventional petroleum reservoirs and improving recovery of oil and gas from unconventional reservoirs. “Barring a fantastic breakthrough, renewable energy will provide just 20 to 30 percent of our energy demand over the next two to three decades,” Puckette says. “I’m completely in favor of renewables, but there’s just more work to be done to make them feasible.” Puckette says in the meantime improvements in the exploration and recovery of oil and gas provide excellent opportunities to lessen dependence on foreign reserves. Currently, the most successful unconventional fossil fuel development is in shale gas. Although shales typically have insufficient permeability for commercial natural gas extraction, new drilling techniques have significantly increased their feasibility as a source of energy. “New horizontal drilling and completion techniques, including multistage hydraulic fracturing, have allowed the development of this energy resource to the extent that it, along with coalbed methane, has reversed the decline in U.S. gas production with a more than 3000 percent increase in gas production being

recorded over the past decade,” Puckette says. The strategic technical goals of the center are to conduct research and education programs on unconventional hydrocarbon resources and to integrate geology, geophysics and engineering to better understand and develop these resources in the future. Once these sources of fuel have been discovered and extracted, researchers at The Center for Clean Fuel Production will focus on limiting their effects on the environment. “The energy security of the U.S. is predicated on a reliable supply of domestic energy and the efficient use of all energy resources,” says Dr. Khaled Gasem, OSU professor of engineering. “This translates to the need for technologies to utilize fuels of reduced carbon content, improve efficiencies in energy use, and capture and sequester carbon.” Led by Dr. Khaled Gasem, the CCFP will investigate ways to capture carbon using molecular design of chemicals along with ways to use it to enhance oil and coalbed methane recovery. The center will also help create viable technologies to address global climate change and integrate multiple technology platforms and engineering models to optimize production and utilization of energy resources.

biofuels Biofuels made a name for themselves at OSU and throughout Oklahoma several years ago. However, Dr. Ray Huhnke, OSU professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering and head of the OSU Biofuels Team, says there’s plenty of research still to be done. Through the Center for Integrated Bio Energy Systems, Huhnke and an interdisciplinary team at OSU and cooperating institutions will create new advanced biofuel production practices that will enhance and strengthen the state’s multi-billion-dollar energy industry. “This center provides a multi-disciplinary approach to address bioenergy issues such as cellulosic ethanol, production, distribution networks and economics to train personnel from around the world on the possibilities and benefits of harnessing renewable energy resources,” Huhnke says. “The approach is a holistic one in which biofuels production is considered alongside food production, land use and water resources.”

The OSU Biofuels Team is a multi-college, multi-institutional effort, encompassing scientists and engineers within the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources; the OSU College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology; the University of Oklahoma; The Noble Foundation and Brigham Young University. Research being conducted by the team involves the study of several promising biomass-toadvanced biofuel pathways, including feedstock development (such as switchgrass, sorghum, woody materials and crop residues) and both chemical and microbial conversion processes (such as the gasification-fermentation technology). Huhnke says applications will include primarily road transportation fuels and also jet fuels for the air transportation industry, which are of ever-increasing importance.

STORY CONTINUES >

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wind

Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution

To realize the full benefits of new In Oklahoma it may be sweeping energy sources, the nation needs to down the plains, but how can wind upgrade its existing electric power grid energy be efficiently harnessed and distributed? The Oklahoma Wind Power into a “smart” system, says Dr. Rama Ramakumar, an OSU Regent’s Professor Initiative, a collaborative research and from the School of Electrical and outreach project between OSU and Computer Engineering. Led by Ramathe University of Oklahoma, will also kumar, the Center for Power Generabe a part of the National Energy Solution, Transmission and Distribution will tions Institute. OWPI investigates and develop concepts, components, subsyspromotes wind energy resources and provides economic information to policy tems, software and interfaces needed to achieve this goal. R&D efforts will makers, land owners, wind farm developers, potential investors and interested include: development of sensors for monitoring electrical parameters and citizens. OWPI has accomplished a wide range of tasks since its inception in 2000 that leave it poised now to tackle problems even outside of Oklahoma. “This work has included modeling the wind resources of Oklahoma, installing instrumentation to confirm those resources and statistically analyzing data obtained,” says Dr. Steve Stadler, OSU professor of geography. “Since 2004, Oklahoma has seen the installation of 1.5 gigwatts of installed wind capacity with much more NESI researchers will also study under development. It is a multi-billion energy policy. The Energy Policy dollar industry in Oklahoma alone.” Center is devoted to developing and OWPI’s efforts have used spatial establishing policy recommendations analyses within geographic informaand advising legislators and decisiontion systems to determine optimal makers on energy policy, economics turbine placement in the context of and future trends for local and state multiple environmental and social governments and corporate sectors. factors. There are areas in which “Progress toward energy sustainability OWPI’s unique expertise can be readily is gradual such that a different mix of extended, Stadler says, including energy supply alternatives will evolve wind resource modeling, educating with time,” says Gasem, who will play future wind industry professionals a key role in this center as well. “The and assisting in the formation of strategy will be to ensure that we meet locally owned wind cooperatives. our energy supply targets in quantity, quality and reliability during the periods of transition between energy

their temporal variations; innovative architectures and models for the smart grid; data collection and handling (from smart meters, smart appliances, etc.); integration of distributed renewable energy sources with existing/modified grids; exploring the potential of microgrids; and cyber and physical security. Ramakumar and his team will conduct synchronized activities involving model formulation, simulations and laboratory experiments to advance and sustain the necessary technology.

IMPACTING POLICY

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sources. It is imperative that we rise to the challenge of meeting energy demand while preserving the environment.” EPC researchers will conduct analyses to support their specific forecasts and recommendations relating to the energy supply agenda. The group will produce an annual report assessing sustainable energy progress, policy responses, environmental impacts, conservation efforts, and economic costs and benefits. The report will include an annual forecast of needed policy changes, likely technological advances, and environmental and economic impacts.


PROMOTING CONSERVATION

Expert analyses have identified energy conservation – achieved by decreasing energy consumption and then efficiently managing energy usage – as the most immediate practical measure for reducing the nation’s energy footprint. Practical energy solutions in conservation will have a direct impact on the environment, energy economics and security. Researchers in the institute’s Energy Conservation and Management Center will help develop effective energy management strategies, products and technologies, and computer simulation capabilities to enhance energy conservation and management through a variety of programs. Their scientific and engineering efforts will complement comparable efforts in the field aiming to move the U.S. toward more energy-efficient buildings, industrial platforms and transportation systems.

COMMERCIALIZING DEVELOPMENTS

The Energy Technology Center is the commercialization arm of the National Energy Solutions Institute. Owned and operated by OSU’s University Multispectral Laboratory, the ETC will not own intellectual property but will conduct collaborative research and development and facilitate the rapid commercialization of new energy technologies created in the institute and elsewhere through affiliated corporate entities using proven methodologies to drive integration and optimization initiatives. The ETC’s current focus is on electromechanical battery systems for energy storage, says Dr. Web Keogh, director of the UML, and on biomass conversion technologies for renewable, sustainable and green energy sources.

BEYOND RESEARCH Each of institute’s centers will include significant education and training components in order to provide the industry with the future workforce in these new energy sectors, as well as providing continuing education for the existing energy workforce, McKeever says. Education activities will include classroom and field work, research and laboratory opportunities, and industry internships and collaborations. “The goal is to produce the required educated workforce armed with the latest knowledge of renewable, sustainable and clean energy systems and their integration with fossil fuels for the energy future of the state, nation and world,” McKeever says. The researchers will collaborate with workforce training programs at OSU-OKC for wind and at OSU-IT in Okmulgee for compressed natural gas. McKeever believes the comprehensiveness of the institute will position OSU as a leader in modern, cuttingedge energy research and education. KELLY GREEN

Legacy

GR A N T

In 1975, National Geographic reported on the work of the EEL and highlighted the efforts of William L. Hughes (pictured right), Allison and Ramachandra G. Ramakumar (left and right in left photo). That same year Hughes was named chairman of an ad hoc committee appointed by the National Academy of Science to develop a comprehensive report on alternate sources of energ y for developing nations. There was a pressing need by Allison, Hughes and others at the EEL to research not only wind but other alternate forms of energ y as well. Hughes’ research on wind energ y attracted national and international attention. He had worked on energ y conversion and storage problems for about 15 years, long before the energ y crisis became a burning national issue.

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Collec tion s,

In the 1970s, H. Jack Allison of electrical engineering studied the energ y needs and potential in Sri Lanka, an island off the tip of India. Supported by a grant from the United Nations, he tried out windgeneration techniques there developed at the OSU Engineering Energ y Laboratory (EEL). “The energ y systems we build there,” Allison said, “will not be based on fossil fuels. The U.N. people feel alternatives are going to have to be used by everybody someday, so why not set the example while you can.”

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Energ y remains a focus of research in OSU’s College of Engineering, Architecture and Technolog y, and Dr. Ramakumar is still very involved in the efforts serving as director of the EEL. The energ y program has attracted over $3 million in external funds during the past 50 years, including support from electric utilities, the National Science Foundation, Department of Energ y, United Nations and the U.S. Air Force. Areas of focus include: hydrogen production, utilization and storage; fuel cells; wind and solar resources; and the impact of distributed photovoltaic systems on the utility grid.

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Finance professors Betty Simkins and Antonio Camara develop a model to measure bankruptcy risk.

Markets don’t lie. Probably. That’s part of the Efficient-Market Hypothesis. No matter what manner of shenanigans, skullduggery or tomfoolery corporations engage in, the market knows and sees all. Prices reflect that knowledge. Stock prices. Option prices. Et cetera. Theoretically. Realizing that, two OSU finance professors, Betty Simkins and Antonio Camara, have taken a popular way to price options – the positions people take when they buy stocks – and tweaked it to measure bankruptcy risk. They compared their results against cases of big bankruptcies during 2007 and 2008 financial crises and found their system was as accurate as Moody’s KMV, the biggest Wall Street credit rating system, and sometimes beat the popular rating method, Simkins says. Also, in every case it was more accurate than methods used by credit rating agencies. They published their results in a 2011 issue of the Journal of Banking and Finance.

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“Ours certainly won’t replace the others, but it will be useful if anyone wants another measure — a forward-looking measure of bankruptcy risk,” Simkins says. Developing the Model Camara and Simkins began working together on the model after he was hired at OSU in 2006. Their initial focus was on historic bankruptcies. “We were curious if we might be able to find early evidence with Enron or other companies,” Simkins says. They started with the BlackScholes model used to set option prices, the value of stock bought and sold on the market. Option prices rise and fall according to how the market views companies’ viability. If certain kinds of options go up, that indicates the market expects companies to do well.

Simkins and Camara figured those prices would detect things credit rating systems wouldn’t. That’s because most rating systems test companies using historical information such as accounting data that looks only at what happened previously. However, a key drawback to the Black-Scholes model is it makes a few unrealistic assumptions. Chief among those is it assumes there’s no bankruptcy risk with the company behind the option in question. Simkins and Camara found a way to make the equation account for that. Enron was one of their big tests. Test Cases Before WorldCom went under in 2002, no bankruptcy was bigger than Enron when it collapsed in 2001. It vaporized employee 401ks and shook the economy to its core roots while raising questions about deregulation.


The OSU model found Enron’s bankruptcy likelihood shot up in February and March 2000. Funny thing is Enron’s credit rating was still “investment grade” just a year before its collapse. “Were the option prices picking it up earlier than other measures? There is some evidence of that,” Simkins says. In other cases, the group looked at companies that were simply sick and not committing fraud, such as Dana Corp. More than six months before Dana Corp. failed in 2006, the OSU model found the company’s bankruptcy chances had skyrocketed to around 30 percent. But just because the risk shot up, their model didn’t always predict bankruptcy. That’s because option prices can reflect a market’s volatility, or a sudden bout of skittishness toward risk, as it reacts to breaking news. As scandals and the like become old news, the market moves its prices toward their true levels.

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PHOTO / GARY LAWSON

More than six months before Dana Corp. failed in 2006, the OSU model found the company’s bankruptcy chances had skyrocketed to around 30 percent.

OSU Finance Professor Dr. Betty Simkins has developed a new way to measure bankruptcy risk. The method is as accurate as Moody’s KMV, the biggest Wall Street credit rating system.

A key example of that was Tyco International, the alarm and fire protection company. CEO Dennis Kozlowski and CFO Mark Swartz were convicted in 2005 of grand larceny and securities fraud. The company didn’t go bankrupt, but the OSU group’s model showed increased chances of bankruptcy – the market’s immediate, gut-

level reaction to developing news of the scandal. Years after the scandal, Tyco remains a viable company. Subprime Crisis The paper was headed to print in 2008. It won the best paper award from the Financial Management STORY CONTINUES ›

GR A N T BUSINESS

During the 1960s, Richard W. Poole, Richard H. Leftwich and Rudolph W. Trenton (pictured left to right) collaborated on a project to access the trends on Oklahoma’s economic development from 1929 to 1960. Titled, “The Oklahoma Economy,” the account included income trends, population and physical characteristics, and an analysis of the sources of the state’s income and employment. The Center for Applied Economic Research continues the long-standing tradition of OSU economists’ involvement in public policy analysis, regional economic development and economic forecasting. CAER is home to the Oklahoma State Econometric Model, the state’s only large-scale econometric forecasting model. The Center also aims to facilitate funded opportunities for economics faculty and students to conduct applied economic research. photo / Special

Collec tion s,

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“It’s kind of sad, but our timing was perfect.” — Betty Simkins Association. However, a reviewer with the Journal of Banking and Finance asked Simkins and Camara to instead look at the subprime mortgage crisis that began in 2007. Low interest rates, rare regulation, toxic mortgages, easy credit and a financial industry saddled with $36 trillion in debt conspired with excessive borrowing, risky investments, lack of derivatives transparency, failed corporate governance and falling lending standards to cause the biggest recession in more than 80 years. American households would lose at least $11 trillion in wealth. The recession it triggered continues to harass economies all over the world. That’s according to the federal government’s Financial Crisis Inquiry Report released in January. “It’s kind of sad,” Simkins says, “but our timing was perfect.” Simkins’ group, joined in 2008 by Texas State’s Ivilina Popova, studied the crisis for another two years. Their results were the same. They found a much higher bankruptcy risk of companies studied.

Also, just as in the earlier bankruptcy study, Simkins, Camara and Popova predicted bankruptcies with greater accuracy than credit rating agencies such as Standard & Poor’s. They also replicated Moody’s system (as much as they could since part of the method is kept secret), calibrated it to account for derivatives and improved its accuracy. So-called “over-the-counter derivatives” were part of a “shadow banking system” full of short-term debt that was nearly as large as the traditional banking system, the government reported. Regulations built to prevent panics that caused banking mayhem since the 19th century couldn’t regulate derivatives, a multitrillion-dollar repo lending market and other things not shown on companies’ balance sheets. The government in part blamed the derivatives market for the crisis, as well as actions of huge financial institutions such as failed investment banks Lehman Bros. and Bear Stearns. Simkins, Camara and Popova compiled companies’ derivatives exposure by combing footnotes to annual reports, Securities and Exchange Commission’s 10-K reports and other areas.

Finance professor Betty Simkins holds the Williams Companies Professorship of Business and has been at OSU since 1997. She is co-editor of the Journal of Applied Finance and editor of FMA Online, the online journal for the Financial Management Association. Before she obtained her doctoral degree from Case Western Reserve University, Simkins worked for Williams and ConocoPhillips in corporate financial planning, research and development, and process engineering. She is co-editor of a popular textbook published in 2010 called Enterprise Risk Management: Today’s Leading Research and Best Practices for Tomorrow’s Executives.

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Simkins and the others had to piece together companies’ derivatives exposure to get a more-or-less complete view of their bankruptcy risk. Tragically, Camara died from lung cancer before the article was published, leaving behind a wife and two children. Simkins, lamenting her friend and colleague didn’t live to see the work finished, says it’s possible their model could help rating agencies better predict bankruptcies. It works with all kinds of companies, including financial firms not rated by systems such as the Altman Z-score. Simkins knows other folks in academia are using it in research. She’s not so sure about industry because the work was published in detail. Any reader could replicate the approach and use it. “That’s the purpose of academic research. We tell them how to do it all because we’re not trying to sell it or do anything other than communicate there’s another measure of credit risk. I definitely think it makes an important contribution.” MATT ELLIOTT

Antonio Camara was a former business reporter in Portugal before beginning his academic career in Lisbon at Universidade Tecnica de Lisboa. His research has appeared in The Journal of Finance and The Journal of Banking and Finance. He also received the Richard W. Poole Research Excellence Award, which honors faculty members published in leading research journals, and the Best Paper in Risk Management Award from the Financial Management Association, the award he shared with Simkins for their bankruptcy study. He died in 2011.


A center for STEM research

Oklahoma State University is poised to become a leader in the key educational areas of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). CRSTL (the Center for Research on STEM Teaching and Learning), which recently has been established in the College of Education, aspires to leadership in providing opportunities for university faculty, pre-service teachers, in-service teachers, school administrators, informal educators and community leaders to improve PK-20 student learning, teacher preparation and teacher professional development in science and mathematics. The center uniquely focuses on transformative research that can help address challenges in science, mathematics, engineering and innovation. CRSTL will engage in a range of collaborative projects which promise extraordinary outcomes, such as revolutionizing

the STEM teacher education continuum or disrupting accepted theories, procedures and perspectives. Developing a Concept Dr. Julie Thomas, the Frank and Carol Morsani Endowed Chair in Science Education, spearheaded planning efforts to establish CRSTL and serves as its director. CRSTL’s official launch marked a major step for Thomas, who began dreaming about and planning for a STEM education center when she arrived at OSU in 2007. “Science teachers meet at their own conferences and read their own journals. The same is true for math teachers and researchers. In order for there to be collaboration, there needed to be some

infrastructure or vehicle or resource to enable it,” Thomas said. Thomas worked with other faculty and the administration in the College of Education and across campus to develop a proposal for CRSTL. In the spring of 2011, that proposal was presented to the OSU Dean’s Council. The proposal was met with great enthusiasm. The deans recognized that CRSTL had the potential to position OSU as a leader. There are many STEM centers across the country, but Oklahoma State’s focus on teaching and learning research sets it apart. “That focus is partly generated by who we are as a College of Education and partly by my interest,” Thomas says. “That interest, on how to improve STEM Education PK-20, is what makes us unique nationwide. “At OSU, we have a willingness of faculty to collaborate. We don’t have people who only want to work in their lab or only with others in their field. story continues >

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Students participate in National Lab Day on the OSU-Stillwater campus. The event is part of a nationwide initiative to bring discovery-based science experiences to K-12 student groups and expose them to real scientists, lab experiences and future job choices.

People are friendly and open to the idea of collaborative effort. That makes this a wonderful place to work and it makes for endless possibilities with the center.” The Center’s Work CRSTL serves as a hub for STEM educators at OSU, encouraging and promoting research. Faculty from the College of Education, from areas such as physics, chemistry, geology and mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences, from the College of Engi-

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neering, Architecture and Technology and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources are invested in the center as they work on STEM-related research projects. “In the time I’ve been dreaming about the center, I have assembled a variety of partners and income sources that have helped to fund small projects. They were STEM education research projects and because we now have a center, they have a home within in the center,” Thomas explains.

Projects are focused on finding out more about learners and identifying ways to improve instruction. One project provided a research experience in environmental engineering or biotechnology for middle school science and math teachers and undergraduate engineering students. The teachers developed curricula that translated their research into engaging experiments that could be used in their classrooms. Another project addressed the lack of geosciences taught at the high school


“It could have a huge impact on the way students are educated at OSU and in K-12 schools.” — Dr. Julie Thomas level by giving high school teachers the opportunity to participate in authentic geoscience activities that could be easily integrated into biology, chemistry or physics lessons. Faculty from Education and Arts and Sciences have worked together to participate in National Lab Day on the OSU campus the last two years. The event is part of a nationwide initiative to bring discovery-based science experiences to K-12 student groups and expose them to real scientists, lab experiences and future job choices. Thomas is also working on a project to develop dissemination materials for teachers, parents and children in rural, low socioeconomic and largely American Indian populations in Oklahoma. Her research has shown that there is little opportunity for children from remote areas to know about STEM careers.

All of CRSTL’s projects will be showcased online in an effort to connect researchers and display each project as part of a university-wide initiative. Potential to Impact Consistent with Oklahoma State’s land-grant mission, CRSTL projects aim to improve teaching and learning in STEM education in Oklahoma and the nation. The Center will focus on research related to problems and challenges in STEM education, including the STEM career pipeline. Results, then, will be disseminated to the appropriate audiences such as guidance counselors and STEM educators through professional meetings, publications, and workshops. “We want to make sure that students not only know about STEM careers, but are prepared for those careers in the

best way possible through education,” Thomas said. CRSTL is headquartered on the third floor of Willard Hall. By design, the center does not have its own budget. All projects are externally funded and the center does not take percentages of grants. Thomas is confident that CRSTL will continue to develop and grow. “As the center becomes public knowledge, I think additional faculty will present themselves and propose ideas. We want to let the center grow in ways that make sense to the people who work at OSU and for it to become what the faculty here want. “I’m excited about the potential for research initiatives to be born and develop. I’m hoping the center will allow conversations and connections that might not happen otherwise. It could have a huge impact on the way students are educated at OSU and in K-12 schools.” CHRISTY LANG

For more information about CRSTL, visit the website at education.okstate.edu/centers-a-clinics/crstl or contact Dr. Julie Thomas at julie.thomas@okstate.edu or 405-744-3840.

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photo / osu

GR A N T

CO LLEGE OF

EDU CATION

EDUCATION The OSU College of Education has more than 40 years of experience in educational partnership with NASA. In 1968, the college was selected to conduct NASA’s mobile space-age education demonstration program in eight states on behalf of the Johnson Space Center. The goal of this $94,500 project was to provide in-service and pre-service assistance to teachers by developing space-related instructional materials and activities and by working with teachers so that they could deal effectively with space education. The following year, the college won a $600,000 contract to manage the nationwide Space Science Education Project, which established nine regional space education centers. This project helped explain to children, teachers and other publics the how’s and why’s of the space program. Currently, the College of Education manages five NASA Education grants worth more than $38 million. OSU operates NASA’s Teaching from Space Project at NASA Johnson Space Center; the NASA Explorer Schools Project at NASA Glenn Research Center; the NASA Digital Learning Network Project at NASA Langley Research Center; and the NASA INSPIRE Project and Educator Resource Center at NASA Kennedy Space Center. Through the programs, OSU offers experiences and resources to help educators make science, technolog y, engineering and mathematics come alive for learners.

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Up to the Task

OSU-CHS flight research now part of Oklahoma aviation history

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he new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft now in production have down-to-earth ties to Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences and more than 500 Tulsa area research volunteers. Paul Rock, D.O., Ph.D., professor of medicine and director of the OSU-CHS Center for Aerospace and Hyperbaric Medicine, says those volunteers have helped to add a new chapter to Oklahoma’s role in aviation history. “This hardy group of 21 to 75 yearolds included OSU staff and students as well as community participants. Together, they may have helped bring about a change in aircraft design,” Rock said. The volunteers took part in research from October 2002 through April 2003 funded by the Boeing Company to determine the effect of barometric pressures on oxygen satura-

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tion and the occurrence of acute mountain sickness symptoms (headache, nausea, vomiting, anorexia, lassitude and sleep disturbance) and discomfort. “My understanding is that the results of this study contributed to Boeing’s decision to lower the cabin altitude in the new aircraft,” Rock said. Its maximum cabin altitude ceiling is the pressure equivalent of 6,000 feet altitude, 2,000 feet lower than the industry standard of 8,000 feet. After a two-hour informed consent briefing and a medical evaluation, the volunteers took part in a 24-hour session that included a 20-hour simulated “flight” at a barometric pressure (altitude) between sea level and 8,000 feet in the OSU center’s altitude research chamber. The chamber was fitted out to be similar to a passenger cabin in commercial airplane. Some younger

participants were asked to perform mild walking exercise on a treadmill during 10-minute segments at nine different times during the “flight” to simulate the extra physical work of flight attendants. The OSU study looked at effects of pressures equivalent to 650, 4,000, 6,000, 7,000 and 8,000 feet. According to the article by Rock and others about the study “Effect of Aircraft-Cabin Altitude on Passenger Discomfort,” published in the July 5, 2007 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, the level of hypoxemia (low blood oxygen) at 7,000 and 8,000 feet altitude-equivalent pressure was associated with a statistically significant increase in measures of physical discomfort after three to nine hours. Although between five and ten percent of volunteers experienced symptoms of acute mountain sickness above 650 feet, the result was not statistically significant.


“Most industry experts expect that this will become the new industry standard.” — Paul Rock

“We did a later sleep study in our chamber with Boeing and sleep experts from Massey University in New Zealand to determine the effect of sleeping at the different cabin altitudes,” Rock said. Long flights require two flight crews on each flight, so that one crew can sleep and then trade off with the other crew in flying the aircraft. “Again, Tulsans took part in the sleep study, all ‘wired up’ with EEGs (electroencephalograms to record brain activity) and EOGs (electrooculograms to record eye movement and stage of sleep),” he said. The study showed much lower blood oxygen levels for longer periods of time during sleep at 8,000 feet compared to ground level sleep. “This study was another contribution by Tulsa citizens and OSU to Boeing’s Dreamliner and was certainly appropriate for the Dreamliner name.”

Rock said all of the volunteers deserve recognition for their contributions. “Through their generous efforts, scientific evidence was collected to justify the change in the design of the 787 to limit the cabin altitude pressure to the 6,000 foot equivalent pressure. Most industry experts expect that this will become the new industry standard.”

A technician outside the altitude chamber adjusts the “altitude” while volunteer “passengers” inside take a 20-hour flight in the chamber set-up as a passenger aircraft cabin. A volunteer walks on a treadmill under the supervision of a research assistant to simulate the extra physical work of flight attendants. More than 500 Tulsa area volunteers took part in this study for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner conducted at the OSU Center for Aerospace and Hyperbaric Medicine.

MARLA SCHAEFER

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Rat Research Could Save Lives

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rom a pencil, pen and notebook to beakers and test tubes, those hustling across the OSU campus can have a wide array of supplies in tow. But professor Alex Ophir is receiving attention for an addition — ­ much furrier and more mobile than a No. 2 pencil — he hopes will become a very important tool for countries all over the world. Ophir has won a $740,000 research grant to study the bomb-detection talents of African giant pouched rats, which can grow to be nearly 3 feet long and weigh up to 4 pounds. With the Department of Defense’s grant, much of Ophir’s next five years will be dedicated to uncovering the range in behaviors these rats express and what makes their ability to detect land mines and bombs “tick.” “What we want to do is get an idea of the capabilities of these animals, the contexts in which these animals behave in certain ways, and how that might translate if one wanted to start training them for various explosives tasks,” Ophir says. The African giant pouched rat is not the first rodent Ophir won a grant to study. Last year, he was awarded nearly

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$350,000 by the National Institutes of Health to study the monogamous habits and social behavior of prairie voles, which exhibit human-like behaviors of love toward their offspring and mates. By studying the rats in the lab as well as in their native habitat of subSaharan Africa, Ophir plans to gain a better understanding of what the professor calls “animal personality.” “The idea is that not everybody who enlists in the army is set up to be a sniper,” he says. “Some are snipers while others drive tanks. A lot of that is based on the special ability of each individual person. The rats are potentially a lot like that as well.” For example, Ophir says some rats might be born with a special ability to explore open spaces while others might be better equipped to search through tight spaces. Therefore, one rat would be better at searching a mine field for explosives, and the other would be effective in combing through cargo areas. Although an organization in Tanzania, APOPO (a Dutch acronym meaning Anti-personnel Landmines Detection Product Development), has been studying these bomb-detecting

PHOTO / PHIL SHOCKLEY

Research by OSU zoologist Alex Ophir seeks to understand rats’ potential for bomb detection

OSU zoologist Alex Ophir holds a vole, of which he is researching the monogamous and social behavior. Ophir often uses rodents in his research. He has recently received a grant to study the bomb-detection talents of African giant pouched rats.

rats since the late 1990s, Ophir says he hopes unlocking this animal personality could significantly shorten the time needed to train these animals. Ideally, a simple blood test after birth would be able to determine what special ability the rat would have. Then training could begin immediately. Ophir says these bomb-detecting rats have the potential to save hundreds


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“During his Ph.D. studies, my dad developed a significant amount of what makes ultrasound technology useful. As a part of his research he used my mom and myself to capture images that he later used in his publications before I was even born,” Ophir says. “So I’ve really had science all around me my whole life.” As he grew up in Houston, the kitchen table conversation was typically about the ins and outs of academic life. The conversations that stand out to Ophir are those with his father that groomed him for a life dedicated to science. “He’d implicitly teach me about the scientific method,” Ophir says. “He trained me to use it on anything.” As a young child, when Ophir asked his father what made marigolds grow, his father replied by asking what he thought made the flowers grow. Then the duo would carry out experiments to determine a possible answer. “We’d use fertilizer, and it was a huge breakthrough,” Ophir says laughing. Ophir, who joined the OSU faculty in 2009, hopes to make another breakthrough with his research on the giant African pouched rats. As he begins his research, he says he could not have asked for a more encouraging and helpful place. “I don’t think I would have any of these opportunities if I wasn’t at Oklahoma State.” Stacy Pettit

PHOTO COURTESY ALEX OPHIR

of people. Not only might American troops use the rats to track down roadside bombs, but also people in countries across the map could put to rest the fear of being killed or injured by landmines, some of which have been hidden underground for decades. “Maybe we’ll see this on the front lines or maybe it will be behind the scenes, but I think it can be very beneficial for the people of our country and others worldwide,” Ophir says. As an undergraduate, Ophir attended the University of Texas for a degree in psychology and anthropology. At Texas, Ophir worked in a psychology department research laboratory focused on the interaction of hormones and behaviors. He had a chance to conduct independent research on frog aggression and vocal behavior. The link between animals, science and psychology had Ophir hooked. “It just captivated me,” he says. “I knew I had to do this for the rest of my life.” Ophir next attended Canada’s McMaster University, noted for its programs in animal behavior and evolutionary psychology. “I started out interested, and then as I began to research and learn more, I became even more interested,” he says. “As I gained more of an education, it all sort of folded into one.” With Ophir’s father being a radiology professor, science has always been a big part of his life.

“Maybe we’ll see bomb-detecting rats on the front lines or maybe it will be behind the scenes, but I think it can be very beneficial for the people of our country and others worldwide.” — Alex Ophir, zoology professor

GR A N T ARTS & SCIENCES

photo / Special Collections,

Cancer has long been a focus of research within the OSU College of Arts and Sciences. As early as the 1960s, researchers at OSU were engaged in studies to uncover the cause of rapid cell division that leads to tumor growth. Norman N. Durham and K. Darrell Berlin were invited to present their work on aspects of cell division inhibition at the 1971 American Society of Microbiolog y meeting. The pair received a grant from the National Cancer Institute in 1974 to study anticancer agents.

OSU Library

Berlin (pictured standing) continues his work on development a cancer drug today. Collaborating with Doris M. Benbrook from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Berlin has developed a cancer-fighting compound. Based on limited testing in mice, the compound caused cancer cells to destroy themselves but had no side effects in the mouse model. Berlin and Benbrook have patented the compound, and the National Institutes of Health has already acted on its potential to serve as the basis for cancer treatment and prevention medications. Although it will be several more years before a drug based on the compound could be available, Berlin and Benbrook believe it will be a major step forward in the battle against this terrible disease.

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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PHOTOS BY MANDY GROSS

OSU takes lead to help the wheat industry

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rom wheat breeders to bakers to consumers of a wheat product, Oklahoma State University is working on a research project that will benefit members of the wheat industry. OSU researchers and students have teamed together to develop a test that will contribute to the riddle of better measurement of fundamental physical properties of wheat gluten and dough, which are not currently done in cereal chemistry. This first-of-its-kind test could produce better seed, better dough and an overall better wheat product for consumers. Patricia Rayas, cereal chemist for OSU’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center and biochemistry and molecular biology professor, is the lead investigator on the project. “Our goal is to develop a rapid test in which we can describe the deformation and recovery of gluten and dough,” Rayas said. “We want to improve the level of understanding that we have by incorporating fundamental material properties that are used in polymer science into biological polymers of gluten proteins in wheat and cereal chemistry.”

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A number of physical tools are presently available in the wheat industry. These tests were developed in the 50s and measure empirical properties used to understand wheat quality and functionality by applying large deformations and extracting information of its behavior. However, Rayas and her team are working on an easy and rapid test, which will measure fundamental properties of gluten and dough by applying large or small deformations and analyzing the recovery. The results then can be compared to the empirical properties of the same gluten and dough. “Everyone in the wheat industry will benefit from the breeder to the baker,” Rayas said. “This testing will give a better understanding to the variation of these basic properties and how this variation relates to something they are interested in measuring.” Testing in progress The instrument used during the test shapes dough or the gluten extracted from the dough into short, cylinder forms and compresses it at a constant force for

30 seconds. The instrument then lifts the load allowing the material to recover or to go back to its original shape to obtain viscous and elastic components. The equipment electronically measures the beginning height, end height, how much it comes back to its original shape and the speed of the recovery. “The test has been designed for the specific ranges of gluten and dough,” Rayas said. “It also is rapid in analyzing samples starting with flour in relation to empirical testing currently used in industry.” One sample ran in duplicate takes 30 minutes for gluten and 2 hours for dough for the new test, compared to 30 minutes to 2 days with empirical testing. Interacting with industry As a part of the study, Rayas and her team are working with known cultivars from all wheat classes grown in the United States and with hard red winter wheat breeder and commercial samples. Currently, they are expanding the number of samples from OSU’s hard red winter wheat breeding program and most of the Southern Great Plains region breeding programs. Rayas said working with Oklahoma wheat breeders, as well as other states, will provide beneficial information to see how much variation is in this wheat class. “This will help the breeders see how the indices obtained from these


fundamental properties are related to what they traditionally measure in their program,” she said. “We can make the connection of the relation with what they are presently measuring empirically. We can describe the relation and variation that can affect a specific characteristic of interest related to attributes of quality, based on the most likely components and contributors that make them behave differently.” The work with the breeders will conclude in 2 years with the first phase focusing on gluten and the second phase testing dough. Working as a team During the 4-year duration of the project, many individuals have been involved and have had an active role in the project. “The students have been a major part of the project,” Rayas said. “The graduate students have trained the undergraduate students in every single step, including preparation of reports. The undergraduate students have worked along the graduate students and have been the heart and soul of the test.” Pavalee Chompoorat, food science doctoral student, worked on a similar project for her master’s degree and is expanding her research by working on this project. “My study focuses on the comparison of gluten proteins determining the visco-elastic properties using physical tests, such as creep recovery and compression,” she said. “Gluten proteins have diversity in composition, and this diversity causes a large variation in their properties during processing.” Bryanna Johnson, biochemistry and molecular biology senior with a minor in microbiology, started working on the project in July 2011. “I really enjoy working with Dr. Rayas and the other members of the team,” Johnson said. “Dr. Rayas is amazing and very smart. She makes learning fun.” Johnson’s role in the project consists of preparing the mixture of flours, adding specific gluten protein types in percent substitutions and analyzing the influence of those proteins in how the gluten recovers.

Faculty and student researchers have teamed together to develop a test that will benefit every facet of the wheat industry. (left to right) Pavalee Chompoorat, food science doctoral student; Walter Lim, former food science master’s student; Bryanna Johnson, biochemistry and molecular biology senior; and Patricia Rayas, FAPC cereal chemist, are working with wheat cultivars from across the United States.

“I didn’t know how important the gluten proteins and even very specific gluten proteins were for baking,” she said. “The project has given me a better understanding of the technical stages to the end product.” Other students involved in the project include Walter Lim, former food science master’s student, who was the first student working on the project, and Nicole Barreras, biochemistry and molecular biology undergraduate student. Visiting scientist Soline Sandré also assisted on the project. Collaborating with research groups OSU’s contributions are part of a larger research team that includes the United States Department of Agriculture Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration and Agricultural Research Service; Cornell University; and Perten Instruments. Because of the comprehensive testing involved in the project, the research groups work as a team to schedule tests and samples to perform analysis. Members from each group also

meet twice a year to discuss and better evaluate the goals of the project. “From researchers and scientists to students to industry personnel, it’s been a rewarding experience for all,” Rayas said. Focusing on progress The project’s goal is to gain further insight into the behavior of gluten and dough under different strains, and this work presents progress toward the development of a more rapid gluten functionality that includes a form of strength test, Rayas said. “At this junction, it is unclear which factors underlie the greatest variation in gluten strength exhibited by the tested wheat cultivars,” she said. “Although, polymer science suggests that it would most like be closely related to the molecular weight distribution, quantity of cross links and possible entanglements of the macromolecules formed by gluten proteins. The most valuable outcome of this project for the wheat industry is to have a rapid test that can be used to improve the description of gluten variability and specific indices to measure such variability.” Mandy Gross

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From the landfill to the future

OSU-Tulsa researcher’s recycling process finds use for discarded carpet

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s America searches for innovative ways to conserve resources and save energy, researchers at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa are giving old carpet bound for landfills a second life. Dr. Raman P. Singh, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and C.F. Colcord endowed chair, is leading a research team of two graduate students at the OSU-Tulsa Helmerich Research Center developing methods to recycle discarded carpet into a composite for other uses. The composite can then be molded in any way a manufacturer desires and used to replace less durable or more expensive materials, such as wood. The new material has promising environmental impact as the United States alone discards approximately 6 billion pounds of carpet each year, of which only 4 percent is currently recycled in some fashion. “We don’t think of carpet as being a major pollutant,” Singh says, “but it is one

of the single largest components by volume that U.S. consumers send to landfills.” Because carpet is engineered to be durable, it remains in landfills for a very long time and does not degrade easily. While some carpet is disposed of by incineration, certain states are beginning to ban the process due to concerns about hazardous pollutants. According to Singh, interest in carpet recycling is high both in the United States and abroad. Most recycling techniques in development involve breaking carpet down into components and then recycling those in some way. This can be an expensive and timeconsuming process, as the carpet must first be sorted by fiber type and then taken apart. OSU’s process uses the whole carpet as-is, regardless of fiber, color, age or condition. The carpet is infused with a polymer resin to form a hard composite that is then molded into components for manufacture. Singh’s research group is


“The possible applications for carpet recycled using this process are endless.” — Howard Barnett, president, OSU-Tulsa

focusing on testing panels created from the composite for strength, durability, resistance to moisture and sunlight and acoustic absorption. While Singh focuses on the development of the composite itself, colleague Dr. Ranji Vaidyanathan, Carl G. and Gladys L. Herrington Professor in Advanced Materials, is collaborating with industry and governmental agencies to perform the composite molding process on a larger scale and find commercial applications for it. With funding from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, OSU partnered with manufacturer KT Plastics, Inc. of Calera, Okla. to investigate potential uses, such as shipping pallets and home construction materials. A grant from the Oklahoma Transportation Commission is also funding a study of the feasibility of using the composite for highway sound insulation barriers. Singh says the recycled carpet composite has the potential to significantly impact not only on the environment, but the economy. “Not only is the process cost effective and helpful to the environment, but there is also a business opportunity here. Companies that collect carpet will pay you to take it so they don’t have to dispose of it in a landfill. So, not only is the raw material free, but people will actually pay to have it taken off their hands.” That kind of incentive can spur investment and subsequently create manufacturing jobs, he notes. Howard Barnett, president of OSU-Tulsa and OSU Center for Health Sciences, said the practical application of the Helmerich Center research will make a lasting impact on the environment. “Through cutting-edge research and collaborating with local industry, Dr. Singh

and Dr. Vaidyanathan embody our mission to bring research from the lab into the marketplace,” Barnett said. “The possible applications for carpet recycled using this process are endless, which is promising for manufacturers and those workers who will benefit from the jobs created.” While it might be five to 10 years before recycled carpet composites are

used in everyday applications, Singh is enthusiastic about OSU’s potential. “If you look at the maturation cycles of technology, especially a disruptive technology as this, you never know where it will end up,” Singh says. “But of all the projects I have worked on, this is the one that has the most immediate near-term, practical implication.” Jamie Marie Edford

Dr. Raman Singh (right) describes a sample panel created using his carpet recycling process while graduate student researcher Abhishek Jain looks on.

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

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S T U D E N T

S P O T L I G H T

Breaking down a virus Kelsie Brooks PHOTO / KEVIN MCCROSKEY

V

irus. For most it’s a term that incites dread. However, for undergraduate student researcher Kelsie Brooks it has a very different effect. “I have always been interested in biology and the concept of a virus,” she said. “It intrigues me.” Led by Assistant Professor Dr. Tom Oomens, Brooks in part of a team from OSU’s Veterinary Pathobiology Department studying the Human Respiratory Syncytial Virus also known as RSV. “RSV is a global human pathogen, and pretty much everyone has been infected with it by the age of two,” she says. For most it presents little to no problems. For some though – primarily infants and the elderly – it can pose serious dangers. The virus resides in the lungs and causes cold or flulike symptoms. The most recent numbers from the World Health Organization show that RSV causes 160,000 deaths per year. There is currently no vaccine for RSV — something Brooks hopes her work will help to change. Under the mentorship of Oomens, Brooks is evaluating a specific protein in the virus — the G protein — and its role in the attachment of RSV to a host cell. “We know the G protein plays a significant role in attachment of the virus to host cells, which is a critical step in the viral life cycle,” Brooks says. The G protein is unique in that it occurs in two distinct forms: the membrane-anchored (Gmem) and secreted (Gsec). Though both forms of the G protein are found in wild-type virus, the team has designed mutant forms of

40

Research at Oklahoma State University • research.okstate.edu

RSV expressing only Gmem or Gsec protein to determine the impact of each form of the G protein on viral infectivity. “Analyzing of the number of new viruses produced from either Gmem or Gsec mutants in comparison to control wild-type RSV will indicate which form of the protein is more crucial for viral infection,” Brooks says. “This helps us learn more about RSV in general and we certainly hope what we discover will be useful in development of a vaccine.” Brooks, who searched out Dr. Oomenn’s program after hearing about the opportunity to do undergraduate research in her Freshman Research Scholars orientation class, said she initially thought she wanted to be a veterinarian. She said she still really loves animals, but found research on viruses too interesting to pass up. After completing the FRS program, Kelsie also earned a Wentz Research Scholarship. She is currently supported by a Niblack Research Scholarship. She plans to go on to graduate school and become a professional researcher. “I think having conducted undergraduate research will really help me find the right graduate school, which will certainly prepare me for a career,” Brooks says. “The future is always unpredictable, but my experiences with research have given me the opportunity to know what research really is, and this has assured me that it’s the career I want to follow.” Brooks is a microbiology junior from Norman.


Growing the Numbers Annual Research Expenditures (2001 – 2011) ANNUAL RESEARCH EXPENDITURES IN MILLIONS OF DOLLARS $200 $190.1

$180

$183.1

$160

$163.1

$140 $138.8 $128.5

$120 $100

$108.8

$106.6

$80

$102.2

$103.8

’05

’06

$95.8

$91.2

$60 $40 $20 $0

’02

’01

’03

’04

’07

’08

’09

’10

’11

Intellectual Property (2001 – 2011) NUMBER OF PATENTS GRANTED 10

10

8

8 7

6

7

7

6 5

4

5 4

2 0

3

3

’01

’02

’03

’04

’05

’06

’07

INCOME FROM LICENSES (IN MILLIONS OF DOLLARS) 45

$1.75

40

$1.5 $1.469

$1.441

’09

’10

41 38

35 30

$1.25

31

25 $1.0

$1.047

$1.207

23

20

$.906

$.75

$.770

25

25

’05

’06

40

29

20

15

$.649

$.5 $.25

$1.079

’11

NUMBER OF LICENSES YIELDING INCOME

$2.0

$1.682

’08

10 $.287

5

$.226

7

7

’01

’02

0

$0 ’01

’02

’03

’04

’05

’06

’07

’08

’09

’10

’11

’03

’04

’07

’08

’09

’10

’11


Oklahoma State University Office of Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer 203 Whitehurst Stillwater, OK 74078-1020

Non-Profit U.S. Postage

PAID

Stillwater, OK Permit #191

Dr. Allen Apblett (fourth from left) and Shoaib Shaikh (fifth from left) of XploSafe accept recognition as one of Oklahoma’s Most Promising New Business Ventures from (left to right) OVF Chairman J. Clay Christensen, Oklahoma Lt. Governor Todd Lamb, CEO of Express Employment Professionals Robert A. Funk and OVF Secretary Cindy Friedeman.

OSU spin-out making an impact An Oklahoma State University spin-out company, XploSafe, was recently named one of Oklahoma’s Most Promising New Ventures by the Oklahoma Venture Forum, a group dedicated to fostering the growth of new and existing business ventures in Oklahoma. The award recognizes the achievements of successful new Oklahoma companies and is designed to encourage and recognize the importance of entrepreneurship in our state, said Mindy Young, executive director of OVF. XploSafe was created in June 2009 to commercialize explosives detection technologies developed by OSU chemists Drs. Allen Apblett and Nick Materer. The company serves homeland security clients and chemical safety personnel across chemical labs and pharmaceutical manufacturers. XploSafe is managed by OSU alumnus Shoaib Shaikh. “We are pleased to be recognized as one of the most promising ventures in the State of Oklahoma,” Shaikh said. “This

acknowledgement highlights the commitment and work ethic of our team. XploSafe is also thankful for the opportunities provided by the state and assistance available through organizations such as the OSU School of Entrepreneurship, The Riata Center for Entrepreneurship at OSU, The Office of Intellectual Property Management at OSU and OCAST. Their support has fueled the emergence of XploSafe as a solutions provider for homeland security and chemical safety.” XploSafe has patents pending on two technologies exclusively licensed from OSU. “XploSafe is a great example of the technology transfer process we work on every day,” said Steven Price, associate vice president for technology development at OSU. “The company demonstrates the way a problem in society can be addressed in a lab and developed into a practical solution for the market.”


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