The Kentucky NSF EPSCoR Program has recently made several 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.

Examining Cognitive Changes in Older Adults Using a Mobile Application to Improve Health and Functioning

Principal Investigator: Matthew Shake
Institution: Western Kentucky University

RSP Award

Exercise interventions designed to improve physical and/or mental fitness have the potential to help reduce health care costs and maintain, or even improve, quality of life for older adults. Perhaps the greatest barrier to successfully applying an exercise intervention is that most older adults are fearful of, or resistant to, such programs.


At the same time, most aging services agencies host bingo games. A few small studies have used the context of bingo games to increase functional performance, socialization, or cognitive performance in older adults with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Diseases, or to increase older adults’ knowledge about risks of medication use.


The PI (along with collaborators from WKU’s Departments of Exercise Science and Computer Science) recently created a mobile application program called Bingocize®. This application for mobile devices (e.g., tablets and phones) provides a novel opportunity for health and aging services professionals to engage older adults in a fun activity that can be modified based on participants’ needs. Early pilot research from the project indicated the program substantially improves participant adherence and several physical health outcomes.


Using a pre/post-test design with random assignment to an experimental or control group, the primary objectives of the current research project is to test the effectiveness of this new technology to maintain or improve older adults’: (1) fluid cognitive abilities that normally decline with age, (2) functional physical performance, and (3) knowledge of health-related topics.


Student researchers are vital to executing the project, and this investigation is an ideal platform to specifically train and support a talented undergraduate student from an especially underrepresented group in STEM: a first-generation, female college student from a Kentucky county with low rates of higher-education attainment.

Assessment of the Acidity of the Haloanisoles and Beyond

Principal Investigator: D.W. Slocum
Institution: Western Kentucky University

RSP Award

Aromatic substitution faces many problems. The most significant problem is lack of regiospecificity. Directed ortho-lithiation is regiospecific, affording rapid access to 1,2- disubstituted aryls. Lithiation has its own drawbacks, most notably a tendency to also attack aryl substituents. This proposal presents a solution to this problem and also describes a puzzling observation that needs to be investigated as to its generality.


Advanced is the hypothesis that by decreasing the difference between the pKa of the conjugate acid of the base and the pKa of the ortho-proton of the substrate, a more focused ortho-lithiation can be realized. A focused lithiation would serve to decrease side-reactions among which are attacks of various ring substituents. This proposal outlines a novel approach to this general problem and an intriguing, at this point, anomaly of reactivity of a prototype set of systems which if generalized enhances the potential utility of the overall approach.

Interfilament Adhesion Strength in Stratasys ABS-P430 Build Material

Principal Investigator: Gordon Smith
Institution: Western Kentucky University

RSP Award

A class of rapid prototype 3D printers utilizes extruded thermoplastics to create a 3D solid. While the material properties of the thermoplastic itself (as an individual filament) are readily available, the adhesive strength between two adjacent filaments (either within a single cross-sectional layer or between successive layers) is less characterized.


The intent of this research is to characterize the shear and tensile properties of this adhesion at the level of individual filament, with the goal of developing a more sophisticated failure model for models emerging from a department-owned Stratasys Dimension Elite 3D Printer.

The Visual Perception of Large-Scale Distance Ratios

Principal Investigator: J. Farley Norman
Institution: Western Kentucky University

RSP Award

In this RSP proposal, an experiment is proposed that will evaluate younger and older adults’ ability to visually estimate large-scale distance ratios. The ability to visually perceive distances is critically important for guiding human (and animal) behavior. For example, in order to safely walk down a flight of stairs, one needs to be able to judge the distance to the next step in order to know where to place your foot. Similarly, in order to safely navigate through the outdoor environment, we need to be able to reliably estimate larger distances. In the proposed study, we will evaluate human adults’ (age range from 18 to approximately 85 years) ability to compare the magnitude of distances outdoors (i.e., evaluate their ability to judge distance ratios).

Description of Peripheral Processes in Light Unstable Ion Collisions at Energies About 1 GeV per Nucleon

Principal Investigator: Ivan Novikov
Institution: Western Kentucky University

RSP Award

The main goal of the project is to calculate interaction, reaction cross-sections and the difference between them for unstable isotopes with neutron halo and/or skin structures. Accurate calculations will allow to determine such parameters of nuclear density distribution of unstable isotopes as core radius and halo/skin radius. The Glauber theory will be used to obtain expressions for all cross sections. Numerical calculations will be conducted using Monte Carlo Markov Chain technique. The undergraduate research assistant will perform develop and implement MCMC algorithm to generate random nucleon coordinates in nuclei with halo/skin structure, optimize algorithm performance using “autocorrelation time” tau-1 and calculate reaction and interaction cross sections for unstable isotope with a neutron halo.

Phylogeography and Population Genetics of the Green Salamander, Aneides aeneus

Principal Investigator: Jessica Wooten
Institution: Centre College

RSP Award

Our goal is to gain a better understanding of the presence of any unique evolutionary lineages and the phylogeographic patterning in the Green Salamander, Aneides aeneus, using both mitochondrial and nuclear gene sequences and modern phylogenetic analyses.

Support For New Faculty Hire

Principal Investigator: Lawrence Hill
Institution: Western Kentucky University

RSS Award

Funding will go towards the purchase of an advanced polymer chromatography system, which will be a key departmental capability for characterization of polymeric materials.


We will chemically control the structure and composition of nanoscale materials to achieve desirable bulk properties. Our work will emphasize tuning interactions of discrete molecular, macromolecular, and colloidal components to control structure over increasing length scales. Our core capabilities include synthesis, modification, and characterization of both organic polymers and inorganic nanoparticles. We will begin with separate projects focused on polymer synthesis and nanoparticle synthesis. Future targets include synergistic hybrid materials for use in power generation, information storage, and medical devices. Our first three planned projects are described in separate sections below. In each case, simple concepts give rise to a target which could have meaningful impact in science and technology. These proposals are highly accessible to students since they build from modular, publishable units towards ambitious long-term goals.

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