The Kentucky NSF EPSCoR Program has recently made 11 awards through its annual academic year programs, aimed at bolstering Kentucky’s burgeoning research infrastructure. For more information on each of the awarded projects, please read below.

Math and Science Summer Camp Experience for High School Juniors and Seniors

Principal Investigator: Jose Algarin
Institution: Eastern Kentucky University

EOC Award

The proposed project will provide rising juniors and seniors from a wide variety of Kentucky high schools with a five-day hands-on immersive experience in the practice of mathematics and science. Faculty will challenge the students to find solutions to real- world problems using the principles of both mathematics and science. In addition to the hands-on academic challenges, the camp will include information sessions on topics such as college academic programs in the sciences and mathematics, college application process, financial aid and scholarships, and career options.

Parity Violation in Low Energy Neutron Transmission through Lanthanum

Principal Investigator: Christopher Crawford
Institution: University of Kentucky

RSP Award

This proposal is to send two undergraduates to Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for 10 weeks during the summer to measure parity violation in the forward scattering cross section of polarized neutrons through lanthanum-139. The students will be given special training in computer control, data acquisition, and basic experimental nuclear/low energy neutron physics before traveling to the lab. During the experiment they will be mentored by the PI, a graduate student, Professor Mike Snow (Indiana University), and scientists at LANL, as part of the US-Japan-Mexico NOPTREX (Neutron Optics Time Reversal EXperiment) collaboration.

Soft, Superhydrophobic Surfaces

Principal Investigator: Jonathan T. Pham
Institution: University of Kentucky

RSP Award

Superhydrophobic surfaces are critical for a gamut of applications, ranging from biofouling of marine vessels and of medical devices to self-cleaning surfaces. For typical superhydrophobic surfaces to function correctly, a stable layer of air is required that separates water from the main part of the underlying surface. One of the key challenges in developing superhydrophobic surfaces it to make sure that such a requirement can be achieved consistently. Limited mechanical properties of the superhydrophobic layer can lead to easy penetration of water into the surface microstructures, which leads to collapse of the air layer. In addition, another open challenge is to minimize the contact time of an impacting water drop onto the surface – for example a situation that occurs during raining on windows, airplanes, and automobiles. Therefore, it is important to understand how to optimize both of these situations with a fabrication process that is simple enough for commercial viability. By combining superhydrophobic layers on substrates having different modulus values, will investigate the wetting behavior of a static water drop placed on top, as well as the impact behavior of a water drop impinging the surface at a particular velocity.

Multi-Scale Fluid Dynamics

Principal Investigator: Bruce Rodenborn
Institution: Centre College

RSP Award

This EPSCoR proposal is part of the Multi-Scale Fluid Dynamics project at Centre College, which includes research related to biophysics, physical oceanography and astrophysics. The project will provide rich opportunities for student learning through the conduct of original research that will contribute to the body of scientific literature. EPSCoR is asked to support the physical oceanography component of the research program to measure energy dissipation when internal ocean-type waves reflect from a boundary.


This experiment is modeled on a system constructed by Rodenborn, et al. at the University of Texas,5 and a similar system was constructed in summer 2017 at Centre College by two KY EPSCoR-funded students. Thus, the system needed for a successful project has been built and tested. Using a wave tank and an angled plate from which internal waves will be reflected, the researchers will measure the density profile using translation stages and a density meter. The researchers will then use an open source particle image velocimetry (PIV) system based on the software package UVMAT available from the Coriolis laboratory.


The necessary computer controls for the laser, cameras, wavemaker and motors to drive translation stages have already been built. The students will align scientific cameras to record hi-resolution movies and check the PIV system laser alignment, particle seeding and determine appropriate frame rates, etc., based on the work done last summer. These new students will learn to process the data using the UVMAT software and build on last summer’s work to complete the data collection needed for a journal article. Students will gather and analyze data using MATLAB, compare it to numerical simulations and optimize the construction and controls to improve the data quality gathered from the internal wave system. The results will be compared with numerical data from a computational fluid dynamics algorithm run by other students funded by Centre College who will also work in the lab.

CdSe-Au Heterostructured Catalysts Synthesized in Novel Ionic Liquids

Principal Investigator: Lawrence Hill
Institution: Western Kentucky University

RSP Award

Traditional methods for nanoparticle synthesis rely on amphiphilic ligands, which are molecules that have two separate functional groups. The first functional group is typically a chemically inert hydrocarbon chain that imparts processability to the particles by preventing the surfaces of two crystals from fusing together. The second functional group is typically a reactive Lewis basic site that binds to the crystal surface. In addition to preventing aggregation, these surface-bound ligands control the evolution of particle shape and corresponding properties by preferentially limiting crystal growth in certain directions. Unfortunately, these surface-bound ligands that govern particle structure also diminish material performance by preventing the crystal surface from interacting with other molecules in chemical reactions. Thus, many nanoparticles with complex architectures have found little use in real-world applications requiring chemically active surfaces.


By comparison, nanoparticle catalysts that function well with less controlled structures find widespread use in industry. In particular, nanoparticles synthesized using a class of solvents called ionic liquids have unusually active surfaces and high performances due to the weak binding of these molecules to the crystal surface. However, ionic liquids have not been widely used to control nanoparticle shape or connectivity. We will investigate a new approach for synthesis of well-defined nanoparticles that combines the chemical selectivity of traditional ligands with the improved properties of ionic liquids. Ionic liquids will be synthesized which have structural features of traditional ligands (hydrocarbon chain and Lewis basic site) chemically attached to an ionic liquid. Mixtures of these ionic liquids will be used to synthesize cadmium selenide nanoparticles with functional group ratios based on the concentrations found in reactions using traditional ligands. Noble metal deposition onto these nanoparticles will also be conducted in ionic liquids, and photocatalytic degradation experiments will then be used to compare the activity of these novel catalysts with catalysts synthesized using traditional solvent/ligand systems.

Application of Highly Thermal Conductive Material to Improve the Thermal Performance of Concrete Pavement

Principal Investigator: Omid Ghasemi-Fare
Institution: University of Louisville

RSP Award

Icy roads in the snowy seasons will create numerous problems and dangerous conditions for motorists. De- icing the pavement surface and bridge decks is one of the main challenges in the Unites States. There are different ways to de-ice the pavement surface: (1) deicing solutions, (2) electrical heated pavement, and (3) hydronically heated pavement. Among which, deicing solutions is the most commonly used. However deicing solutions have several disadvantages. The regular deicing chemicals (i.e., salts, Chloride-based) create environmental contaminations, and can deteriorate concrete and accelerate the corrosion of reinforcement. On the other hand, automatic heated pavements can be a more sustainable and environmental friendly solution if their efficiency can be significantly improved. The aim of this study is to investigate the feasibility ofproducing highly thermal conductive concrete to increase the efficiency of the newly developed de-icing technologies by mixing Phase Change Material (PCM) or powders, fibers and industrial wastes of highly thermal conductive materials such as cooper, aluminum, brass, iron and steel. It is expected to produce 10 to 20 times higher thermal conductive concrete pavement using a new mix design.

EPSCoR Internship: Journeyman Tool & Design

Principal Investigator: Kevin Schmaltz
Institution: Western Kentucky University

EI Award

This EPSCoR Internship Program funding request will facilitate a project providing a current WKU School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) student with a variety of engineering design and manufacturing experiences. The goal is to augment the student’s educational experiences to become better prepared for the professional workforce. The intern will work closely with the owner of Journeyman Tool and Design, LLC and the company’s engineering support contractors. The specific project intended for this internship will focus on developing tooling processes for the automotive fittings manufacturing sector and refining those methods. There is a technology gap that requires research and development of specialized tooling for manufacturing components in the automotive aftermarket industry. This project will focus on the design of tooling to fill this gap. The intern will be given opportunities to expand his existing CAD modeling skills and applying CAD design parameters for this automotive industry sector.

EPSCoR Internship: TutorGen, Inc.

Principal Investigator: Mary Jean Blink
Institution: TutorGen, Inc. Fort Thomas, KY

EI Award

TutorGen would like to participate in the KY NSF EPSCoR internship program in order to fund internships for two student interns to complete eight-week work experiences at TutorGen. Both interns will have an opportunity to work with both our research team and our development team as described below. We have several on-going projects and some projected work that will likely fall within the timeframe of the internship.


TutorGen expects both students to have internship experiences that will provide them opportunities to grow as emerging professionals in the technology industry.


  1. Work with our researchers to explore, compile, and summarize findings on various data sets using tools that may be new to them. This will include gaining some experience with the R programming tool and potentially other tools. Ideally, this work may result in contributing to a publication.
  2. Gain additional experience with NetLogo by performing exploratory research under the direction of Dr. Ted Carmichael. AND/OR, perform data wrangling activities to prepare data for the research team. Ideally, this work will result in contributing to publications.
  3. Work on software development project in a production environment, to build and/or enhance features, algorithms, and user interfaces for our products SCALE and D-TECT.
  4. Gain experience with an agile development team using SCRUM principles for an iterative approach to software development. This will also include learning to use an online tool for managing this process.

EPSCoR Internship: Advanced Semiconductor Processing Technology, LLC

Principal Investigator: Zhi David Chen
Institution: University of Kentucky

EI Award

There are two projects for the student intern to work on. She may work on one of the projects or both, depending on her interest. One project is to help an engineer to fabricate humidity sensors for trace moisture measurement, which is usually called dew point sensors.

The other project is to help an engineer to do modeling and calibration of the humidity sensors so that they become final products, dew point transmitters.

EPSCoR Internship: Foodchain

Principal Investigator: Tony Colella
Institution: University of Kentucky

EI Award

The aquaponic system at FoodChain is a very delicate system that must consistently be monitored to ensure all bacteria, compounds, and gases remain in balance. In this 8-week internship, the student will be responsible for water quality evaluation and innovation. The student will monitor and evaluate areas in which the aquaponic system could be improved and implement the necessary changes to ensure optimal performance.

EPSCoR Internship: Blackhawk Composites

Principal Investigator: Gordon Smith
Institution: Western Kentucky University

EI Award

Operating in Morgantown, KY, Blackhawk Composites specializes in aerospace composite structures, and works to advance carbon fiber manufacturing processes. Two engineering interns are requested to pursue developmental research and enhancements to Blackhawk Composite operations. These projects include testing and developing novel bagging structures for composite layups, and upgrading our oven control systems to improve operation.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement No. 1355438.

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