Kentucky NSF EPSCoR has recently made nine 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.

Please visit our Funding Opportunities page to learn more upcoming opportunities.

STEM Outreach to Appalachia

Principal Investigator: Debra House
Institution: Somerset Community College

EOC Award

The project will provide STEM Outreach activities to secondary in the SCC service area award to foster interest and increase knowledge of STEM career opportunities, especially advanced manufacturing, in secondary students. The project will also provide STEM role models to participants, including women, people of color, and individuals from Appalachia and low socioeconomic backgrounds. STEM faculty and staff conducting project activities are from multiple backgrounds, of multiple nationalities, and of both genders allowing participants to “see themselves” in future STEM careers. Project activities include GEMS (Girls Exploring Math and Science) and G2TECS (Guys Geared Up for Technology, Engineering, Computers, and Science) for 8th grade girls and boys, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) Day for Gifted and Talented 7th graders, and Kid’s College summer day camp for 6-12 year old participants. Project activities for SCC undergraduate students are designed to increase interest in engineering degrees and includes educational field trips and visits to University College of Engineering campuses to meet Engineering faculty.

2020 Math and Science Summer Camp

Principal Investigator: Dr. Karin Sehmann
Institution: Eastern Kentucky University

EOC Award

The proposed project will build on the success of the 2018 and 2019 projects and provide a five-day hands-on immersive experience in the practice of mathematics and science to rising juniors and seniors from a wide variety of Kentucky high schools. Faculty will challenge a new group of students to find solutions to real-world problems using the principles of both mathematics and science. To introduce the high school students to the area of robotics, an activity entailing the construction and operation of a putting robot will be implemented for the first time. 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.

Providing STEM Education with a Sustainable Outlook to Youth

Principal Investigator: Dr. Tanya Dvorak
Institution: University of Kentucky


This project will provide new STEM education opportunities to K-12 students during outside of school time at school and public events and aims to enhance awareness and knowledge of lignin, bioplastics, engineering, 3D printing and sustainability. The project objectives are to 1) create mini-lessons and demonstrations at STEM and other educational events at schools and public venues to demonstrate polylactic acid (PLA) bioplasticfilaments and 3D-printing; and 2) host a high school STEM camp in July 2020 on sustainability and engineering centered around the 3D printer and PLA bioplastic with lignin filament 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.

S.T.E.M of a Flower Initiative

Principal Investigator: Brittany Robinson
Institution: Kentucky State University


The S.T.E.M of a Flower Initiative is a one-day mini conference designed to bring together young minority girls from grades 9-12 and give them insight about the possibilities and opportunities offered in the S.T.E.M field of study. This conference would not only provide these young minority girls with valuable knowledge but would also be a meeting place for them to interact with established minority women working in the field of STEM.

Fabrication and Characterization of Surface Current Electromagnetic Coils as 3Dimensional Printed Circuit Boards

Principal Investigator: Dr. Christopher Crawford
Institution: University of Kentucky

URE Award

This proposal is for support of two undergraduate researchers in the development of processes to manufacture surface current electromagnetic coils as 3D printed circuits. The goals of this project are a) to integrate the techniques developed in a series of stand-alone projects in our lab into two complete processes for in-house fabrication of these coils, and b) to increase the precision by one order of magnitude to reduce relative magnetic gradients to ∇B < 1×10−4/cm3. Emily will develop wire-wound coils in 3D-printed formers with grooves for the wires, and H´ejer will develop a photlithographic method of printing 3D circuits on the surface of the 3D-printed forms.

Developing a Novel Computational Toolbox for the Structurally-Embedded Smart Material Systems by Feedback Controllers

Principal Investigator: Dr. Ozkan Ozer
Institution: Western Kentucky University

URE Award

The proposed project is aimed to develop a reliable and robust computational toolbox to simulatethe vibration control of a novel“partial differential equation”model for a structurally-embedded smart material system, which is designed by integrating electric conducting piezoelectric layers with their electronics and elastic layers, constraining viscoelastic layers, to provide active and lightweight multi-functional MEMS (micro electro-mechanical system) devices. Controlling unwanted vibrations on these structures (or harnessing energy from ambient vibrations) through piezoelectric layers have been the major focus in cutting-edge engineering applications such as ultrasonic welders, micro-sensors, inchworm robots, and wearable human–machine interfaces such as PVDF sensors adhered onto the surface of skin, cardiac pacemakers under the skin of the chest, or cell colonies on the piezoelectric matrix. In this project, a novel partial differential equation model, accounting for all vibrational modes, is analyzed to provide new insights for a cost-efficient actuator and sensor-feedback design. This project identifies and focuses on two goals : (i) to propose reliable and robust approximations for the differential-equation model recently developed by the PI in the last couple of years, and (ii) to develop a reproducible computational toolbox by applying two major filtering techniques, which will be used the first time, to provide faster and reliable computation for these devices.

The Shockwave-Assisted 3D Direct Imprinting on NiTiHf Shape Memory Alloys using picosecond Laser Pulses

Principal Investigator: Dr. Ali Er
Institution: Western Kentucky University

RA Award

The purpose of this project is to use very powerful laser pulses to pattern a type of metal called a shape memory alloy. Such a material “remembers” its original shape, so that after deformation it returns to its pre-deformed shape when gently heated [1]. Nanoindentation, a technique where an indenter is pushed against the material, is the conventional technique used to produce the shape memory effect. We propose to explore the patterning of NickelTitanium-Hafnium (NiTiHf) shape memory alloys using an alternative laser-based method that is fast, inexpensive, and has high reproducibility.

Applying Solutions of Value to Problems of Relevance: Structure-Property Relationships in Emerging Nanocrystalline Materials and Community Engagement with Science

Principal Investigator: Dr. Kyle Schnitzenbaumer
Institution: Transylvania University

RA Award

The PI’s research interests center on understanding the structure-property relationships of colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals, with a particular focus on how chemically controllable parameters such as size, composition, and surface chemistry influence optical properties and photoexcited state behavior. As an educator, the PI also places high value on development of independent scientists and a more scientifically literate public. These interests are combined in the proposed project, which seeks to (i) establish causal relationships between structural characteristics and photoexcited state behavior in nanomaterials of industrial relevance, (ii) aid in the development of future scientists of the commonwealth, and (iii) engage the general public in the intersection of science and experiential art. This first objective will be achieved by applying techniques with a demonstrated record of success elucidating nanocrystal structure-property relationships to emerging materials of interest for biomedical, optoelectronic, and energy harvesting applications. The second and third goals will be achieved through the establishment of two programs, one focused on connecting science-interested students to scientific role models and another that seeks to incorporate spectroscopic methods in artistic installations.

Probing Phthalocyanine Metal Complexes in Oxidation Catalysis

Principal Investigator: Dr. Rui Zhang
Institution: Western Kentucky University

RA Award

We propose to investigate phthalocyanine metal complexes (MPc’s) as bio-inspired catalysts for important oxidation catalysis. We will not only focus on mechanistic studies and generation of active metal-oxo species involved in the catalysis, but also use the new knowledge to further develop novel catalytic methods using MPc’s. This project is centered on the premise of using visible light (sunlight) as a renewable energy to activate molecular oxygen and transfer it to other chemicals. In this proposal, we will expand the advantageous photochemical approaches to probe the nature of the catalytically active metal-oxo species involved in MPc’s catalyzed oxidations, aiming to accomplish the following objectives of: 1) Synthesizing a series of MPc’s containing different transition metals and electronic substituents to investigate the redox and electronic ligand effects, 2) Producing active Pc’s-metal-oxo intermediates by photo-induced ligand cleavage and photo-disproportionation pathways, and 3) Examining µ-oxo bridged binuclear MPc’s as potential photocatalysts for aerobic oxidations through a disproportionation pathway.

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

Leave a Comment