Kentucky NSF EPSCoR’s annual seed-funding award programs are aimed at bolstering the Commonwealth’s burgeoning research infrastructure and local scientists’ outreach capabilities. This year, KY NSF EPSCoR has awarded a record number of grants to projects that directly support students. Across six awards, there are 12 students gaining research, work, and/or leadership experience as paid participants, including 5 students listed as the project’s Principal Investigator (PI) or Co-PI.

Please visit our Funding Opportunities page to learn more about current and upcoming funding opportunities for research, outreach, and internships.

Integration of printable multi-sensor detector in the robotic chemical analyzer for on-site diagnostics of infectious diseases

Principal Investigator: Dr. Vladimir Dobrokhotov
Institution: Western Kentucky University

Research Award

The goal of this project is to develop and validate in a laboratory environment a compact and robust battery-powered robotic analytical instrument for real-time, on-site diagnostics of pathogens. The proposed technology utilizes an artificial olfactory system for sensing the chemical signatures of pathogens, reducing time, effort and cost of advance biomedical analysis. The signal processing and pattern recognition algorithms implemented in this technology are accomplished through the enhanced, adaptive software and feedback modes to maximize impact of increased sensing capabilities necessary for novel health care applications. The proposed portable biomedical device brings the intelligent connection between a novel highly-integrated, multisensory system and a pattern recognition and decision-making software, providing early guidance to caregivers and helping them to choose the right treatment for their patients.

Identifying fibroblast remodeling mediators to facilitate integration of implantable and organic bionics in human hosts

Principal Investigator: Dr. Cristi Galindo
Institution: Western Kentucky University

Research Award

Harnessing the capability of fibroblasts for production of bionics or robotic components is a novel concept and achievable only if we are able to manipulate them, which in turn requires a much deeper understanding of basic fibroblast-matrix biology. The object of this project is to characterize morphological and genetic alterations in fibroblasts when grown as three-dimensional (3D) tissue constructs, a first step towards harnessing these versatile cells and thereby enhancing the Human-Machine interface. This project will investigate and study transcriptomic differences in fibroblasts under native conditions and in response to pro-inflammatory and mitogenic mediators when cultured in 3D with and without cardiomyocytes.

Acquisition of an automated catalyst screening system

Principal Investigator: Dr. Lawrence Hill
Institution: Western Kentucky University

Research Award

Controlling surface chemistry is vital for sensing components and multi-functional materials used for electronic interconnects. Most complex material consist of multiple interfacial regions where surface chemistry dominates the interactions of these materials. This project will demonstrate an innovative approach to synthesize active nanoparticle catalysts and then quantify the performance improvement with an automated screening system. Funds from the KY NSF EPSCoR Research Award will be used to purchase an automated screening system, which is expected to provide a key capability for Dr. Hill’s lab, enabling publications, proposals, and student training experiences over the life of the instrument.

Development of GCC based artificial olfactory system to provide verbal scent description

Principal Investigator: Dr. Ivan Novikov
Institution: Western Kentucky University

URE Award

This project combines a novel multisensory gas chromatography approach and an artificial intelligence system to provide easily understandable verbal description of unknown odor. The PI and WKU undergraduate researcher, Alexandra Driehaus (Physics ’22), will develop a Deep Learning based algorithm to provide a verbal description of an odor sample based on an experimentally obtained chromatogram. The odor will be analyzed using multisensory gas chromatography experimental setup, and experimental data (chromatograms) will be mapped to a verbal description using a neural network-based algorithm.

MakerLEAP Kentucky

Principal Investigator: Mellisa Blankenship
Institution: Kentucky Science Center

EOC Award

MakerLEAP (Leading, Engineering, Advancing and Progressing) from the Kentucky Science Center (KSC) will help students explore STEM careers through maker-based project kits. Each kit will equip teachers with the complete curriculum, KSC Education Staff support, and local industry connections essential for students to complete deep exploration in three areas of Advanced Manufacturing: Industrial Engineering; Electrical Engineering; and Robotics and Sensing. KSC will launch MakerLEAP Kentucky pilot programs at Westport Middle School in Louisville and Tates Creek Middle School in Lexington. Participating teachers will have the flexibility to facilitate the MakerLEAP program in-person or virtually based on their current school guidelines.

STEM You Can! Camp

Principal Investigators: Victoria Kelmanson, Eliza Gallagher, Arushi Gupta & Sanjana Kothari
Institution: STEM You Can! Louisville

EOC Award

STEM You Can! is a youth-led nonprofit organization that encourages young girls to pursue scientific knowledge. The four student Co-PIs on this project will provide free STEM summer camps and after school programs for girls to spark their interest in math and science subjects at an early age. The main goal of their outreach is to demonstrate science is creative and collaborative using group discussions and team experiments in astronomy, biology, chemistry, climate change and global warming, renewable energy, and robotics.

STEM of a Flower Initiative

Principal Investigator: Brittany Robinson
Institution: Kentucky State University


Originally awarded in 2019, this project experienced a delay in service due to the Covid-19 public health crisis. KY NSF EPSCoR remains committed to provide KSU graduate student Brittany Robinson with the full financial and personnel support of her award.


The STEM of a Flower Initiative aims to enhance K-12 student awareness and knowledge of lignin, bioplastics, engineering, 3D printing and sustainability. The project objectives are to create mini-lessons and public demonstrations about polylactic acid (PLA) bioplastic filaments and 3D-printing and host a high school STEM camp on sustainability and engineering centered around delivering the mini-lesson and activity. The overarching goal is to increase the awareness of STEM college majors, careers, and STEM in the world, while providing localized STEM demonstrations and mini-lessons.


Intern Supervisors: Dr. Angelique Johnson & Dr. Lindsay Strotman
EPSCoR Interns: Emily Beltchev, Matthew Downs & Abby Olaleye

EPSCoR Internship

MEMStim, LLC is an original equipment manufacturer of neurostimulator leads. In addition to being a woman-owned and minority-owned medical device startup, MEMStim, LLC has been awarded multiple grants including an NIH SBIR Phase I grant, two NIH SBIR Phase II, multiple KY matching fund grants and more. This semester, three EPSCoR Interns will join MEMStim’s 4 full-time staff members, including 3 active engineers, to engage in hands-on professional experience with the opportunity to help the millions of people worldwide that suffer from sensory disabilities. The interns will work on projects to further MEMStim’s additive manufacturing process for cochlear electrode arrays. MEMStim intern projects will explore product development, testing, procedure documentation and quality assurance.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement No. 1849213.

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