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Research, scholarship and creative activity at Oklahoma State University 2008
BIofuelS Bolster State’s energy outlook
Marlene Strathe, Interim President and CEO
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: Jana Smith, Art Director/ Designer: Valerie Kisling; Photographers: Gary Lawson, Terry Drenner, Phil Shockley, Todd
Johnson; Contributing Writers: Julie
Lang, Derinda Lowe, Trish McBeath, Jim Mitchell,
Lorene A. Roberson, Marla Schaefer, Don Stotts.
For details about research work
highlighted in this magazine or reproduction
permission, contact the editor.
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
Oklahoma State University broke ground on a new interdisciplinary science research building in 2007 and, in
doing so, entered a new era of research that is helping redefine the OSU mission. The global challenges faced
by our researchers today often require a united interdisciplinary team approach. We tell only a few of these
remarkable stories in Vanguard 2008, but we trust you will find them interesting and inspiring.
In our regular Q&A spot, special guest Oklahoma Secretary of Energy David Fleischaker shares his thoughts
on the state’s bioenergy initiative and the role of Oklahoma universities in developing critical alternative energy
fuels. The cover story features Ray Huhnke’s switchgrass research within the Division of Agriculture Sciences
and Natural Resources and the impact that research will have on the state and nation.
Elsewhere on campus, the College of Educations’s Julie Thomas, Morsani Endowed Chair in Science Educa-
tion, is turning collaborative research into viable tools for educators and their partners. And, the Oklahoma
Nanonet funded a nanotoxicology project by Carey Pope, veterinary medicine, and Kevin Ausman, chemistry,
to test the safety of nanomaterials before they enter the marketplace.
The National Science Foundation funded the research of Alex Simms, Boone Pickens School of Geology,
and Regina DeWitt, physics, to date minerals from Antarctica to help determine changes in sea level over the last
10,000 years. The collaborative research of the College of Human and Environmental Sciences, the psychology
department and the University of Colorado addresses the serious malnutrition problem in Ethiopia.
New University Multispectral Laboratories in Ponca City and Stillwater now offer a full spectrum of sensor
research services to clients. While the UML labs began operations, OSU-Tulsa celebrated the completion of
the Helmerich Advanced Technology Research Center. Also in Tulsa, the OSU Center for Health Sciences has
partnered with the Cherokee Nation and Indian Health Services on life-saving diabetes research.
In another health-related project, a California-based company has licensed an OSU technology to quickly
and inexpensively test omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids crucial in the treatment of a range of disorders. Some
MBA students partnered with the Food & Agricultural Products Center to develop a business plan for the
Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation that will turn fish eggs from paddlefish into caviar.
In the final story — a showcase of the arts — OSU artist Adam Labe pays tribute to the past with his
sculpture “Cast Iron Stack.” Labe relied on his experience at Kohler Company and his passion for history to
transform vessels of iron into contemporary art.
We hope you enjoy reading the stories in Vanguard 2008 as much as we enjoy telling them.
Dr. Stephen W.S. McKeever
Research, scholarship and creative activity at Oklahoma State University 2008
2 Q&A: Oklahoma Biofuels Initiative Transforming Energy Industry Oklahoma Secretary of Energy David Fleischaker weighs in on the impact of Oklahoma’s biofuels initiative on the state and nation. Fleischaker discusses the role Oklahoma research universities play in developing alternate energy sources.
5 New full service sensor research labs open for business The University Multispectral Laboratories began opera- tion early in 2008 and became one of the few facilities of its kind in the nation to offer integrated testing and evalu- ation services for the full spectrum of sensors, safety and security systems.
8 The Right Man at the Right Time Neil Purdie, head of the OSU chemistry department, says researchers today are talking more about omegas and less about cholesterol. Purdie and co-inventors have been granted a patent for a method considered unique because it measures fatty acids vs. the traditional approach of testing cholesterol levels.
10 Dating minerals from Antarctica predicts changes in sea level Alex Simms, assistant professor in the OSU Boone Pickens School of Geology, and Regina DeWitt, assistant professor in the OSU physics department, are dating beach deposits from Antarctica using a technique known as optically stimulated luminescence to reconstruct sea-level changes and determine how fast the sea level rose over the last several thousand years.
12 Oklahoma caviar product of the plains The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation plans to market caviar from paddlefish with the help of the OSU William S. Spears School of Business and the Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center. MBA graduate students and the FAPC teamed up to develop a plan for a paddlefish program, including a paddlefish processing center.
14 Cover Story: Biofuels bolster state’s energy outlook OSU’s groundbreaking research to turn grasses into energy has received a lot of attention from Congress, the White House and the Oklahoma Governor’s Conference on Biofuels. The OSU Biofuels Team is looking at all types of perennial grasses as alternative fuel sources.
18 Baa, baa Katahdin sheep, have you any CLA? Conjugated linoleic acids are a group of dietary fatty acids that block all three stages of cancer growth, strengthen bones, reduce body fat and increase muscle mass in some animals. An interdisciplinary team of researchers from
the OSU Food & Agricultural Products Center and the U.S. Department of Agriculture—Agricultural Research Service are investigating the fatty acid composition of meat from Katahdin sheep.
20 Research accelerates commercialization of nanomaterials Kevin Ausman, assistant professor in the OSU department of chemistry, and Carey Pope, Sitlington Chair in Toxi- cology, professor and head, department of physiological sciences in the OSU Center for Veterinary Health Sciences are focused on buckminsterfullerene—a nanomaterial manufactured in ton quantities for possible application in fuel cells.
22 New center identifies tools for teaching science Julie Thomas, Frank and Carol Morsani Endowed Chair in Science Education, in the OSU College of Education, has a passion for helping classroom teachers get kids turned on to science in school. Thomas plans to initiate a center that organizes collaborative research efforts between education and arts and sciences, engineering and agriculture.
24 Research ties child nutrition in Ethiopia to learning Collaborative research on child nutrition in Ethiopia links low zinc intake with poor learning skills. Barbara Stoecker, a Nutritional Sciences Regents Professor in the OSU College of Human and Environmental Sciences, hopes to find ways food can be processed in rural areas that would enhance or maintain its nutritional value, to benefit cognitive develop- ment in infants and young children.
26 OSU Center for Health Sciences developing practice-based diabetes research The OSU Center for Health Sciences is preparing to launch a statewide clinical practice-based diabetes research initia- tive that will involve primary care physicians across Okla- homa who treat diabetic patients.
28 OSU-Tulsa Dedicates the Helmerich ATRC OSU officials and Tulsa community leaders gathered to dedicate OSU-Tulsa’s Helmerich ATRC on November 29, 2007, a $43 million research facility that is expected to boost Tulsa’s economy by creating jobs and attracting industries to the area.
Inside Back Cover: Growing the Numbers: Research and Intellectual Property
Back Cover: Cast Iron Stack
About the Cover: Dani Bellmer, biosystems engineer at the OSU Food & Agricultural Products Center, is part of the OSU Biofuels Team working to make production of ethanol from sweet sorghum economically viable. Photo by Todd Johnson
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Oklahoma’s Biofuels Initiative Transforming Energy Industry
Research at Oklahoma State University • www.vpr.okstate.edu2
DaviD Fleischaker is
he practiced as a trial attorney with the United States
Department of Justice and then in private practice
representing local governments and environmental
groups in environmental litigation.
become the chief operating officer of the family oil
and gas company. He has served on several civic
boards, including the Board of Trustees, Oklahoma
City University; Board of Trustees, the National
Conference of Christians and Jews; Board of Trustees,
Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City; Board
of Trustees, Ballet Oklahoma; Board of Trustees,
Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association.
and environmental matters. His articles have
appeared in The Washington Post, USA Today, The
Los Angeles Times, The Daily Oklahoman and The
Oklahoma Gazette and his commentary on National
Public Radio, All Things Considered.
Fleischaker received a B.A. from Brandeis University,
Waltham, Massachusetts in 1966 and his J.D. from
the University of Texas School of Law, Austin, Texas in
ties play in the development of new
The universities are the primary research institutions in the State of Oklahoma and will play an essential role in development of Oklahoma’s biofuels industry.
Q2What would you say is the key driver
in the debate over energy options?
The key drivers will be price, compatibility with the current infrastructure, displacement of foreign oil and carbon footprint. Alternative energy sources must be priced competitively to win in the marketplace. Use of current infrastructure, for example pipeline and fueling stations for alternative fuels, will reduce the adoption costs. Producing home-grown fuels that displace foreign oil is a national priority. Finally, the concern for climate change will put a premium on fuels with a low carbon profile.
Q3Do you believe Oklahoma will lead
in this effort with its new bioenergy
Absolutely. Establishing the Oklahoma Bioenergy Center places Oklahoma in the top rank of states competing for this new industry. Research and development is at the heart of establishing a biofuels industry powered by dedicated energy crops like switchgrass or sorghum. Oklahoma has made a commitment to R&D activity and both industry and federal officials have weighed in. They are impressed.
Q4With experts in both agriculture and
energy, will others look to Oklahoma
universities for alternative energy solutions?
There is no question that others will look to Oklahoma for solutions and, in fact, are already doing so. We have established a collaboration with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory on switchgrass development, with Proctor and Gamble on oil seed extraction processes and are discussing collaboration with the Idaho National Laboratory on energy crop harvest and transport processes. And we have been in business for only 6 months. More collaborations will follow in the next year.
3Research at Oklahoma State University •
Q5Do you think the movement to develop
alternative fuels will lead to a national
energy strategy?
The movement to develop alternative fuels is part of our national energy strategy. The best evidence is the amount of federal dollars being spent to develop alternative fuels – billions - and the establishment of federal goals that mandate the use of alternative fuels. In fact, the bulk of federal energy research funding is directed at alternative energy research. The federal government has established alternative transportation fuel mandates and is discussing a mandate for renewable electric generation. There will likely be a new fuel efficiency standard set this year and I expect to see Congress establish either a
“carbon tax” or a carbon cap-and-trade scheme. All of these steps herald a new energy policy.
Q6How many years will it take to develop
and adopt new energy options so we
are less dependent on oil and gas?
Today, we are developing options to become less dependent on oil and gas. Wind mills are sprouting in Western Oklahoma and around the country. Hybrid vehicles are on the road and their numbers will multiply at surprising rates over the next 5 years. We are using ethanol in our vehicles and Detroit is beginning to heed the call for more fuel efficient vehicles. This transformation will take time. Oil and gas will play a very significant role in our “energy portfolio” for the foreseeable future. But we are on the road to incorporating many forms of alternative energy into the total energy portfolio.
Research at Oklahoma State University • www.vpr.okstate.edu4
The University Multispectral Labo- ratories (UML) opened their doors in January 2008 and became one
of a few facilities of its kind in the nation to offer integrated testing and evaluation services for the full spectrum of sensors, safety and security systems. UML Labo- ratory Director D. Webster Keogh says the team that has been assembled for the first vital stage of operations will begin to deliver capabilities with a critical national mission of getting reliable technology into the hands of war fighters and first responders more quickly.
An outgrowth of interdisciplinary sensor research at Oklahoma State University, the unique capabilities of the UML in Ponca City, Oklahoma, and a satellite facility just north of campus in Stillwater (Richmond Hill) will create research and development opportunities for OSU faculty and student researchers already involved in developing innovative sensor and sensor-related technologies for commercialization.
Triton Scientific (TSCI) manages the UML for OSU. According to Stephen W.S. McKeever, vice president for research and technology transfer, and executive director of the UML, TSCI has unique capabilities and its personnel have outstanding track records in the areas of defense, homeland security and intelligence analysis. TSCI personnel have managed many programs related to sensor, detector, defense and security systems development.
The decision to locate the UML facilities in Ponca City came after Cono- coPhillips donated buildings vacated in the research complex. The ConocoPhil- lips’ gift of the research building, known as Research East, plus an additional gift of $2 million, helped create the testing and integration center and provided an economic boost to North-Central Okla- homa. The Ponca City Development Authority (PCDA) and the State of Okla- homa invested another $2 million and
Roger Koehler and Les Colyott, UML employees, inspect the renovation of the new laboratories at the Research East building in Ponca City.
The UML partnership will positively impact the Oklahoma economy and the safety of the nation.
A new OSU laboratory will offer full spectrum of sensor research services
P h
o to
$6.6 million, respectively, in the project. These investments have gone into reno- vating the Research East laboratories and purchasing vital equipment.
The UML will operate chemical, biological, radiological and explosive test, evaluation and integration labora- tories, as well as labs devoted to testing electronic communication systems and equipment. Facilities for secure commu- nications and data storage also exist at the Ponca City location. Customers for the lab will consist of private sector and government clients and the goal is to become a self-supporting, “trusted agent” R&D, test and evaluation complex certi- fying a wide variety of sensor, safety and security systems. Primary customers will
5Research at Oklahoma State University •
be in the defense and homeland security sectors. Several partnerships have already been established with private, university and government laboratories.
As a result of creating of these facili- ties, opportunities will exist for OSU faculty and student researchers to collabo- rate with lab personnel on proposals and utilize lab facilities on projects. Summer research opportunities and internships will be established and the UML will be a valuable new asset to a wide variety of university defense- and security-related research programs.
This high technology project is already generating new, quality jobs for Oklahoma and Oklahomans. When fully operational the UML is projected to employ 80 scientists, engineers and support personnel with an expected
annual payroll of $8.8 million. The PCDA have projected an economic impact on the surrounding area of $120 million over ten years. The PCDA received the International Economic Development Council “Partnership of the Year” award for the UML initiative, along with OSU and ConocoPhillips.
The PCDA stood out in the IEDC category of development organizations serving areas with populations less than 50,000 people. McKeever noted that the partnership is an excellent example of “Oklahoma creativity” being an economic development initiative involving local, state, federal and private sector partners.
The Research East building’s 80,000 square feet will be renovated in three phases. About one-third of the Research
The UML is developing an outdoor test and training range in partnership with area tribal governments at the Chilocco Indian School.
East complex is almost complete. However, the UML facilities are not just limited to the Ponca City complex. The UML is also developing an off-campus electromag- netic compatibility testing laboratory in close partnership with OSU at the Rich- mond Hill site in Stillwater. This facility consists of anechoic and reverberation electromagnetic test chambers, and is one of only six such facilities in the US. (See related story) In addition, an agreement has been reached between the UML and the Five Confederated Tribes of Okla- homa to establish an outdoor test and training range in partnership with the tribal governments at the Chilocco Indian School north of Ponca City. Communi- cations testing and associated training will take place at the facility under the direction of UML personnel.
Jana Smith
80 reverberation chamber valued
and Computer Engineering
of electromagnetic compatibility.
ETS-Lindgren officials attended
the OSU Foundation and the OSU
Vice President for Research and
Technology Transfer.
W. S. McKeever, vice president for
research and technology transfer,
acknowledged the generous gift
ment of the company in advancing
the technology through education
ber is used to evaluate the emis-
sions and immunity of electronic
devices in the frequency range
of 80MHz to 18GHz. The rever-
beration chamber is co-located
at the University Multispectral
Hill complex. There are only six
locations in the United States
where this combination of test-
ing can be accomplished in one
engineering, believes OSU can
of electromagnetic testing and
a host of educational and test-
ing capabilities that did not exist
before. Positive response from
government and industry sources
incorporated into the educational
isn’t offered at any other university
in the country. Instrumentation
Electromagnetic Testing and
of expertise in electromagnetic
ETS-Lindgren gift enhances national reputation
Chuck Bunting, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at OSU, says the reverberation chamber will be used to train undergraduate and graduate students at OSU.
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7Research at Oklahoma State University •
A fast simple method to measure the amount of choles- terol and polyunsaturated fatty acids in humans is heading toward clinical trials, according to Neil Purdie,
head of the chemistry department at OSU and a researcher specializing in lipid-cholesterol fractions.
Purdie’s method takes a unique approach – it measures fatty acids vs. the traditional approach of testing cholesterol levels.
The costs today of measuring fatty acids can be astronom- ical because of the type of instruments used, Purdie says. It involves a mass spectrometer – an instrument used to measure fatty acids that are found in serum or plasma.
The process takes 2 ½ days to measure the polyunsatu- rated fatty acids – or PUFAs – which Purdie says are found everywhere “including the back of your eyes and the soles of your feet.”
And while the language and instruments of chemistry can be confusing, most non-chemists can comprehend
that keeping tabs on fatty acids is needed for the heart to function properly.
“The great front of new ideas regarding new diseases centers around fatty acids,” says Purdie. “Researchers are talking more about omegas and less about cholesterol.”
The gauntlet thrown Purdie began his OSU career some 40 years
ago delving into physical chemistry, inorganic chemistry and analytical chemistry.
In 1991, Purdie would venture into clinical chemistry – a form of chemistry used to evaluate a patient’s health. His research came about as a challenge. Robin Purdie, now director of OSU’s Seretean Wellness Center, challenged her husband to find a better way to test cholesterol.
“The gauntlet was thrown so I picked it up,” Purdie says.
The goal was to find an inexpensive and quick way to measure cholesterol and the omega-3 and omega-6 PUFAs found in human plasma,
plant oils, food products and biodiesel fuels – all known as lipids.
“The management of these lipids is of critical importance in the areas of health and wellness, as
well as renewable energy resources,” says Purdie.
Health-conscious scientists agree that proper omega ratios are vital to good health.
The Right Man at the Right Time
Neil Purdie, head of the chemistry department at OSU, specializes in lipid-cholesterol fractions.
Research at Oklahoma State University • www.vpr.okstate.edu8
a quantum leap Purdie describes the project as serendipitous. In 1992, Purdie presented a paper – “Direct Measure of
Total Cholesterol and its Distribution Among Major Serum Lipoproteins” – in San Diego at the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, attended primarily by laboratory profes- sionals and physicians.
In 1993, a clinician in Cape Town, South Africa, phoned Purdie after reading Purdie’s 1½-page journal article. The distance between the two scientists – about 14,000 miles – posed a major challenge in the collaboration, but Purdie and the Cape Town clinician found a way to efficiently ship blood samples to Stillwater.
In 1999, Purdie headed to Cape Town. “This was a major quantum leap for our research team,” Purdie says. “Before going to Cape Town all we had to analyze was healthy blood. There we discovered different blood that contained large amounts of fatty acids. Now we had other things to measure and understand.”
OSU graduate students play a major role in the research. In 2003, then-graduate student Lisa Reilly, who earned her doctorate in chemistry in 2006 and now works for the U.S. Army, took the research to a new level. In Cape Town, she obtained and analyzed blood samples of more than 650 patients bringing back her findings to Stillwater.
“Lisa worked very, very hard and she was absolutely an excellent graduate student,” Purdie says. “She possessed the math skills to interpret the data.”
At the end of Reilly’s doctoral work, she presented her findings at the AACC conference in San Jose – 11 years after Purdie had presented his paper to the association.
“Once again serendipity was involved,” Purdie says. “Timing has been everything in this project.”
At that AACC conference, Purdie received yet another break, he met Betsy Alberty, a California-based entrepreneur who previously had held research and marketing jobs for biotechnology companies.
Alberty eventually formed LipidX Technologies in Mill Valley, Calif., to develop Purdie’s concept.
endless possibilities Despite the daunting challenges, the research continues to
garner press attention. Since its beginnings, the studies have been covered in several newspapers including The Oklahoman and most recently an issue of The New York Times in which the LipidX founder discussed the possibilities of revolution- izing the dietary habits of Americans.
That national attention has fueled new possibilities. “The same PUFAs that are in human plasma also are in biofuels,” Purdie says.
OSU oil-oilseed specialist Nurhan Dunford recently provided biodiesel samples to Purdie. “Biodiesels are a hot area,” she says. “Our researchers use the same analytical techniques to detect compounds as chemists use.”
Dunford also investigates omega-3 fatty acids and the health benefits. “There is a great interest in the food industry to incorporate these fatty acids into foods,” she says.
Both the health-conscious scientists agree that proper omega ratios are vital to good health. “There should be less omega-6 in foods and more omega-3 in our diets,” Dunford says. Purdie adds that a high omega-6 count often is a sign that a person is very ill.
“Dr. Purdie was really excited when I brought up new potential applications for his new analytical techniques and was able to discuss how we can relate the technology to other food-related systems,” Dunford says.
The road ahead Purdie, along with co-inventors Reilly and Alberty, recently
were granted a provisional patent by the U.S. Patent Office. Another long wait is ahead. The research now moves
from the academic world into the commercial arena. LipidX faces the task of entering human trial studies that will involve thousands of participants.
From there is the daunting task of FDA approval for the new assay. LipidX and OSU also are in the process of wrapping up a research agreement that will engage graduate students and established professionals in several areas as the interests cover a broad range of applications.
Purdie and his team of researchers remain hopeful they will make a success of the vision that started as the result of his wife’s challenge. “The serendipity in the process has been crazy,” says Purdie. “Just absolutely nutty.”
Lorene A. Roberson
OSU chemist Neil Purdie says researchers today are talking more about omegas and less about cholesterol.
9Research at Oklahoma State University •
W ith a small exploratory research grant from the National Science Foundation, OSU researchers Alex Simms, assistant professor in the Boone Pickens
School of Geology, and Regina DeWitt, assistant research professor in the physics department, are dating beach deposits from Antarctica using a technique known as optically stimu- lated luminescence (OSL).
Dating these samples will help Simms and DeWitt recon- struct sea-level changes and determine how fast sea level rose over the last several thousand years. As the Antarctic ice sheet melts, land rises because there is less weight “pushing” the continent down. The melting ice adds to the volume of water in the ocean causing sea level to rise around the globe.
Determining the past thickness of the Antarctic ice sheet is critical in understanding how ice sheets and sea level respond to climate change. Simms says, “We must disentangle what is natural and what is induced by humans.” Simms and graduate students, Peter Kouremenos and Annie Drewry, spent 35 days in Antarctica on an NSF icebreaker searching for new raised beaches where they could collect samples for dating.
Simms, DeWitt, Kouremenos and Drewry are looking at changes in sea level over the last 10,000 years. Cobbles left behind on beaches as sea level changes provide clues. As the continent rises, cobbles constantly turned by waves crashing
An innovative technique to date minerals is applied for the first time to solid rocks from Antarctica.
Dating minerals from Antarctica predicts changes in sea level
on the active beach no longer get turned over. Using OSL to date the underside of the cobbles, the researchers can record when the minerals in the rock were last exposed to sunlight and when the beach was last active.
Once the samples are dated, Simms and DeWitt can deter- mine how fast the continent has risen and how much Antarctica has contributed to past sea level changes. OSL has been used extensively to date last sunlight exposure and deposition of loose sediment grains, but the application to solid rocks is new. Simms and DeWitt are the first to use OSL for this type of study. DeWitt recently received an NSF grant to build equipment for dating minerals in the future. (See related story.)
In the laboratory at the Oklahoma Technology and Research Park, Kouremenos cuts a thin section of a sample before using a chemical treatment (different acids) to isolate the mineral grains for dating. Kouremenos completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Alberta in Canada, but the OSU graduate program offered the challenging research opportu- nity he was looking for—the one he is currently working on with Simms and DeWitt.
Antarctica is the fifth largest land mass and the least populated continent. It is the coldest, windiest, driest, highest, quietest and most remote continent on earth.
Jana Smith
Overlooking a beach in Antarctica where Simms, Kouremenos and Drewry collected samples for the study. Photo provided.
Research at Oklahoma State University • www.vpr.okstate.edu10
The National Science Foundation
awarded $446,258 to Regina
Instrument for Spatially Resolved
will apply the principles of confo-
cal microscopy to luminescence
established technique for age-
sediments (i.e. time since deposi-
tion). The technique measures the
luminescence emitted from the
in the laboratory.
optical setup including lasers
confocal arrangement for laser
volume at high-spatial resolution,
measurements over a wide
Kouremenos, Simms and DeWitt examine samples from beaches in Antarctica. The samples are cut into thin sections before being chemically treated with acid(s) to isolate the mineral grains for dating.
OSU home to first surface dating instrument in the nation
Commercially available lumines-
from their surrounding material,
thereby destroying any spatial
on the academic research infra-
structure nationwide and in the
EPSCoR state of Oklahoma. The
facility will expand the applica-
tion breadth of the luminescence
technique and create many new
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surface is exposed to sunlight.
The confocal instrument enables
measurements with bulk samples
and provides high-spatial resolu-
undatable deposits where the
The instrument will be the second
surface dating instrument world-
interdisciplinary research activi-
cross-disciplinary collaborations
11Research at Oklahoma State University •
Caviar is not a common food consumed in Okla- homa, but that could soon change. The Okla- homa Department of Wildlife Conservation plans
to market caviar from paddlefish, a species that is abundant in many Oklahoma lakes and gets its name from its distinct paddle-shaped snout.
With the help of Oklahoma State University’s William S. Spears School of Business and Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center (FAPC), a plan was developed for a paddlefish program, including a paddlefish processing center.
“The goals of the project were to improve the manage- ment of Oklahoma’s paddlefish population, expand existing paddlefish research programs, improve the experience of the paddlefish angler, promote food safety and create a self-funded program,” said Tim Bowser, FAPC food process engineer and associate professor of OSU’s Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering.
The marketing plan Wildlife officials contacted the William S. Spears School
of Business to explore the viability of marketing caviar from the paddlefish. Masters of Business Administration graduate students Daniel Navaresse, Sophia Blanchet and Michael Bres- hears decided to take on the task and work on the project.
“It was amazing to think that just two and one-half months earlier we started with no knowledge of the paddlefish. All we had heard was that wildlife officials had contacted the MBA program about the possibility of students helping with a business
plan and our instructor was asking for volunteers,” Navaresse said, as his teammates shook their heads in agreement.
While the team used their research to shape a practical, multi-phase business plan for the caviar, they admit the process was not always smooth.
“The three of us did have some disagreements in putting this plan together, but we managed to work through them,” Navaresse said. “Those disagreements often represented our different backgrounds and perspectives. Ultimately, we all agree, those differences became our real strength in devel- oping this business plan. I think it shows how beneficial it is to mix disciplines on a project like this.”
One of the team’s most critical goals was to convince Oklahoma Wildlife Commissioners of its viability. That is why all three graduate students are proud to note they devel- oped the presentation that commissioners saw before giving overwhelming approval to the $600,000 initial phase of the project.
“We tried to anticipate every question commissioners would ask the wildlife officials who would make the presentation,” Blanchet said. “The rangers, biologists and others were espe- cially helpful in providing us with insight, while we offered them specific ways to position the project to make it easier to understand and support.”
The processing plan During the process of developing the marketing plan, the
Spears School of Business requested assistance from the FAPC. Bowser provided information to help get a paddlefish research center set up by late February 2008.
Two other states already have a paddlefish program in place: North Dakota and Montana. Wildlife officials visited the North Dakota site to get an idea of an existing program
New venture “fishy” business for student entrepreneurs.
C o
Oklahoma caviar product of the plains
Research at Oklahoma State University • www.vpr.okstate.edu12
that is helping to protect these fish. After researching the idea for the
program, Bowser recommended building a mobile processing facility that could be moved to different locations around Oklahoma.
“When comparing a mobile facility to a fixed facility, the mobile plant in the long run makes more sense,” Bowser said. “System mobility is necessary to access the seasonal paddlefish spawning runs that are spread out over hundreds of miles of Oklahoma’s waterways.”
When anglers catch paddlefish, they will be able to bring the fish to the state- and federal-inspected facility to be processed. Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation employees will remove the filets from both the males and females and will return those filets to the angler. If a fish has its eggs, those eggs will be processed into caviar.
No commercial harvesting of paddle- fish is allowed in the state, and it is illegal for individuals to sell paddlefish eggs.
Brent Gordon, Oklahoma Depart- ment of Wildlife Conservation fisheries biologist, said the primary function of the paddlefish research center is to collect important biological data for the depart- ment’s paddlefish management plan.
“These data will be collected by processing paddlefish meat for anglers and salvaging paddlefish eggs,” Gordon said. “By collecting key information from angler-caught fish, biologists will gain a better understanding from the paddlefish population and fine-tune management strategies.”
Gordon said one of the main goals was to make this program accessible to the anglers, so they would be part of the data collection.
“The program would be good for the resource, the paddlefish; good for the angler; and at the same time, benefit the department,” Gordon said.
FAPC researchers also helped deter- mine the best processing techniques for removing and preparing the paddlefish filets and removing the eggs from the females.
Wildlife officials and FAPC researchers
processed some paddlefish in the FAPC pilot plant facility. They discovered many of the processing steps could be completed on the rail. This included removing the filets as well as the eggs.
Jacob Nelson, FAPC meat processing specialist, also helped to design and build a custom knife to make the paddlefish processing easier and faster.
The end result Keith Green, Oklahoma Department
of Wildlife Conservation paddlefish/ caviar coordinator, said the informa- tion he received from both the FAPC and William S. Spears School of Business was helpful in preparing the budget for the program.
“The information we received was really accurate and right on target,” Green said. “We were really happy with what we got from OSU.”
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Commission is in the process of building a processing and research center at Twin Bridges State Park on Grand Lake. Green said he hopes the profit from producing caviar will help fund the program.
If this pilot program is successful, the department plans to expand to Fort Gibson and Keystone lakes.
Mandy Gross and Jim Mitchell
Team members Navaresse, Blanchet and Breshears developed a business plan for caviar.
FAPC food processing specialist Jake Nelson helped determine the best tech- niques for preparing the paddlefish for processing.
13Research at Oklahoma State University •
BIOfUELS bolster state’s energy outlook
Revitalizing rural areas will strengthen Oklahoma’s energy industry.
biomass include professionals from DASNR, the OSU School of Chemical Engineering, the University of Oklahoma, Missis- sippi State University and Brigham Young University.
Days of future past OSU’s groundbreaking research on turning grasses into
energy has been receiving a lot of attention, from Congress and the White House to the Oklahoma Governor’s Confer- ence on Biofuels and beyond.
“We’ve been very popular with the media, political, and commodity groups, and even people sitting in coffee shops, and for a very good reason; turning biomass into biofuels is not a fad with us, we’ve been committed to these efforts for a long time,” says Robert E. Whitson, DASNR dean and director and vice president of agricultural programs at OSU.
One of OSU’s earliest and most high-profile efforts – turning switchgrass into “grassohol” – received increased public attention after President George Bush mentioned switchgrass in his 2006 State of the Union address, as part of his setting a lofty goal for the nation: Replace more than 75 percent of America’s oil exports from the Middle East by 2025.
“The president’s mention of switchgrass put a greater emphasis on renewable energy beyond standard corn fermenta- tion in providing ethanol to the liquid fuel offerings,” Huhnke says.
Instead of looking solely at corn, OSU researchers have long been studying all types of perennial grasses, including switchgrass.
Oklahoma has thousands of acres of marginal land that is not suited for producing cultivated crops. Yet switchgrass is a resource that such land can and does produce almost natu- rally. There is no real market for switchgrass in and of itself, but turn that product into ethanol, sell it as an alternative fuel, and the potential is enormous.
“That type of major boost to the economy from a proven environmentally friendly product would benefit Oklahoma, the region and the nation,” Whitson says.
Realizing that fact from the get-go, DASNR researchers spent years breeding switchgrass that can produce greater yields. Charles Taliaferro, a longtime Regents professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences who retired last year, used a grant from the Lockheed-Martin Corporation to begin the process of switchgrass improvement in the early 1990s.
An interdisciplinary team at Oklahoma State Univer- sity and cooperating institutions stands to potentially revitalize rural areas in Oklahoma and beyond by
creating new ethanol production practices that will enhance and strengthen the state’s multi-billion-dollar energy industry.
Ray Huhnke, OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (DASNR) agricultural engineer and coordinator of the university’s biofuels team, says the entire OSU approach is unique, with an emphasis given toward achieving economical conversion of crop residues and grasses to ethanol.
“The beauty of the OSU system is that for every 1 unit of energy put into the ‘grassohol’ process, as much as 3 units of energy are returned,” Huhnke says. “Traditional corn-based ethanol production provides about 1.6 units of energy per 1 unit of energy input.”
Instead of looking solely at corn, OSU Biofuels Team researchers are studying all types of perennial grasses and even straw.
“We are considering all these types not only to ensure they work well but are available in the necessary volume throughout the year because bioconversion must be a year- round process to be economically viable,” Huhnke says. “In addition, we are evaluating grasses on the basis of how they affect the environment in terms of nutrient needs and wind and water erosion.”
It is hoped that the grasses and residues will provide more than 60 gallons of ethanol per dry ton of material.
“I like to tell people that if you see a round bale in a field, consider that single bale to be a barrel of liquid fuel,” Huhnke says.
In OSU research tests, biomass is combusted in a device called a gasifier, where plant components – cellulose, hemicel- lulose and lignin – are turned into a gaseous state composed primarily of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen. The gas then flows through a cleaning and cooling system and then into a bioreactor where it is microbially turned into a mixture of ethanol, inert gases, water and other useful prod- ucts. The mixture then is processed still further, separating and recovering the essential products, including ethanol that is then distilled into a fuel-grade product.
The OSU Biofuels Team of investigators working on the creation of economically viable ethanol from Oklahoma
Research at Oklahoma State University • www.vpr.okstate.edu14
“I like to tell people that if you see a round bale in a field, consider that single bale to be a barrel of liquid fuel,” Huhnke says.
The grant was part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Biofuels Feedstock Development Program adminis- tered by Lockheed-Martin at the Oak Ridge National Labo- ratory in Tennessee.
Taliaferro, nationally renowned in plant breeding circles, and his fellow researchers recognized the potential of switch- grass, a perennial plant that did not require the amount of nurturing required with row crops. The switchgrass research plots grown as part of Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station studies resulted in improved varieties and germplasm used in subsequent plant breeding and other scientific inves- tigations.
Switchgrass is found in the central and eastern portion of the United States from the Gulf Coast to Canada. Switchgrass grows on many different soil types, from bottomland to less productive upland soils. The wide distribution of the species is a plus, because strains can be found growing under a variety of environmental conditions, meaning it can be widely planted and cultivated, with little by way of labor and upkeep relative to other perennial grass species.
Still, the OSU Biofuels Team was careful not to over- look other potential prospects. Different types of grasses must not only work well, they must be available in the neces- sary volume throughout the year to ensure bioconversion is economically viable.
“Think of it as a continuation of the process started years ago,” Whitson says. “Our OSU researchers didn’t overlook the potential of switchgrass then, which is a prime reason why the science on a national level has developed to the point it has today. Our current, interdisciplinary team of scientists is not concentrating solely on switchgrass just because it’s a hot topic of conversation at the moment.”
statewide success through local action One particularly promising aspect of OSU’s biofuels
research is the team’s ongoing study of sweet sorghum, with the aim of making possible the effective production of ethanol in the farmer’s own field.
Sweet sorghum can be grown throughout temperate climate zones of the United States, including Oklahoma. It provides high biomass yield with low irrigation and fertilizer require-
ments. Corn ethanol, in contrast, requires significant amounts of water for growing and processing. Best of all, producing ethanol from sweet sorghum is relatively easy.
“Just press the juice from the stalk, add yeast, allow fermen- tation to take place and you have ethanol,” says Dani Bellmer, a biosystems engineer with DASNR’s Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center (FAPC). “Unfortunately, the simple sugars derived from sweet sorghum have to be fermented immediately.”
Throw in the expense of constructing and operating a central processing facility that would only operate the four to five months of the year when sorghum would be available in Oklahoma and the challenge multiplies.
The beginnings of a possible solution presented itself when entrepreneur Lee McClune, president of Sorganol Produc- tion Co. Inc., approached FAPC scientists seeking their assis- tance in testing his newly designed field harvester capable of pressing and collecting juice from sweet sorghum. His proposed Sorganol process involved using the harvester, large storage bladders for fermentation and a mobile distillation unit for ethanol purification. FAPC and DASNR’s initial involvement in the project was to look at the feasibility of fermenting the juice in the field.
“We’re examining such things as juice extraction efficiency, whether or not pH (acidity) or nutrient adjustment of the juice is needed, and various environmental factors,” Bellmer says.
The goal of the Sweet Sorghum Ethanol Unit of the OSU Biofuels Team is to make production of ethanol from sweet sorghum economically viable by using an in-field processing system that minimizes transportation costs and capital invest- ment.
Equipment such as the harvester and other technology could be owned individually or cooperatively with a number of producers sharing and possibly helping one another process ethanol from sweet sorghum.
In Oklahoma, the potential processing scenario might look like this: Plant sweet sorghum around mid-April, and then stagger plantings for two to three months. This would provide a harvest window of August through November.
“Ethanol yields in Oklahoma could range from 300 gallons to 600 gallons per acre, depending on biomass yield, sugar content and juice expression efficiency,” says Chad Godsey, biofuels team member and OSU Cooperative Extension crop- ping systems specialist with the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.
Godsey says the team is working to determine the maximum possible harvest window for sweet sorghum in Oklahoma.
“Obviously, the longer the harvest window, the more ethanol state farmers will be able to produce,” he says.
OSU Biofuels Team researchers also are studying environ- mental parameters that may affect the feasibility of on-farm fermentation. A producer must be able to ferment the juice in Photos by Todd Johnson
15Research at Oklahoma State University •
the field during Oklahoma’s harvest season for sweet sorghum, which occurs in the fall when temperature extremes are highly possible. Temperature can speed up, slow down or derail the fermentation process.
Weather data for Oklahoma indicate an average low temperature of about 44 degrees Fahrenheit and an average high temperature of approximately 98 degrees Fahrenheit during the August-through-October period over the past 10 years.
Six test plot sites are maintained at Oklahoma Agricul- tural Experiment Station facilities across the state, allowing OSU Biofuels Team members to conduct research on sweet sorghum under local conditions.
“We would like to do with sweet sorghum what the Brazilians have done with sugar cane. In Brazil, sugar cane ethanol provides a large percentage of their fuel needs,” Bellmer says.
The idea of using sweet sorghum for commercial ethanol production is not new. The reason sweet sorghum is not as popular as corn in terms of being a source of ethanol in the United States has been the need to ferment its simple sugars immediately and the high costs associated with a central processing plant that is operated only seasonally.
“By determining a process by which agricultural producers can create ethanol in the field from sweet sorghum, that barrier
is removed,” Bellmer says. “Producers will then have a much higher value product to sell.”
Formula for sustainable success To take full advantage of the environmental and economic
potential of biobased energy, Huhnke believes Oklahoma must develop and invest in ways to produce biofuels that do not negatively affect food, feed and fiber needs that rely on the production of agricultural crops.
“Evaluating the best types of biomass to grow, the best conversion processes to use and the best places to locate conversion facilities are necessary if Oklahoma and the nation
Ray Huhnke coordinates OSU’s biofuels team.
OSU’s biofuels team of investigators work on the creation of economically viable ethanol from Oklahoma biomass.
Research at Oklahoma State University • www.vpr.okstate.edu16
are to create an industry that is successful and sustainable,” Huhnke says.
Perennial prairie grasses like those in Oklahoma produce less erosion because the plants root well, are not tilled and generally need little or no fertilizer.
Other states have a vigorous biofuels industry that is dependent on corn to produce starch-based ethanol. Corn lacks the spreading roots that help perennial grasses hold soil and planting corn generally is performed using soil-loosening tilling practices to allow seeds to sprout more efficiently. Corn is also valuable food for humans and livestock.
In the past year, the rush to meet corn-based ethanol demand has contributed to higher feed grain prices for live- stock producers and rising food prices for consumers nation- wide, despite the fact that American farmers collectively planted an extra 14 million acres of corn this year, an area equal to approximately one-third the size of Oklahoma.
The National Research Council (NRC), the top science review board in the United States, released a report this fall that warns “the increase in harm to water quality could be considerable” if the nation continues to expand corn-based ethanol production without appropriate environmental protection policies. According to the NRC, the results are likely to be more soil erosion, increased levels of pesticides
environmental effects related to corn-based ethanol produc- tion experienced during the past few years.
“Many people want a fully functional biobased energy industry right now,” Huhnke says. “Unfortunately, it’s still a few years down the road, even though we have been studying how to make a sustainable biofuels industry viable for a while now.”
In short, science moves at the speed science moves. The potential payoff is obvious, though, not only at the pump for consumers but in the revitalization and prosperity of rural communities.
Phil Kenkel, Fitzwater Chair in the OSU Department of Agricultural Economics, estimates that a 50-million-gallon biorefinery would generate a one-time boost to the local economy of $90 million during construction and boost economic activity by more than $60 million on an annual basis.
“A typical biorefinery will create 30 to 35 fulltime jobs while the plant’s spill-over effects can result in 80 to 90 addi- tional jobs in supporting industries,” Kenkel says. “The busi- ness structure of a biorefinery has a major impact on the local economy.”
Studies indicate that ethanol projects organized as farmer cooperatives or through investment from a local community have approximately twice the positive economic effect relative to projects funded by out-of-state-investors.
Partners promoting progress and prosperity Under the auspices of the Oklahoma Bioenergy Center,
scientists at OSU are working in unison with researchers at OU and the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation to enhance the state’s ability to be a significant contributor to and take greater advantage of the national ethanol effort.
“Oklahoma is ideally suited to be a leader in biofuels and bioenergy research, as Gov. Henry stated when he announced the Center initiative in January 2007,” Whitson says. “Okla- homa produces many of the most promising energy crops and has a noteworthy tradition as both an energy and agri- culture state.”
Biofuels research supported by the Center includes devel- opment of feedstocks, collection and transportation, conver- sion technologies and distribution. The Center also features an education component to help interested farmers and ranchers make the transition to energy crops and adopt best manage- ment practices.
Gov. Henry and the State Legislature initiated funding at $40 million over a four-year period.
The creation of the Center came on the heels of the federal government mandating the annual production of 35 billion gallons of biofuels by 2017. The United States only produced about 5 billion gallons of biofuels in 2006.
“Our biofuels research has always been a multi-college effort and now we’re increasingly becoming multi-institutional,” Whitson says. “We in the Division have long believed and promoted that an interdisciplinary outlook is the best way to develop solutions to the challenges facing society and solving real-world issues is a vital part of the land-grant mission and the reason why OSU exists. It’s who we are at our core.”
Donald Stotts
and herbicides in waterways, more low-oxygen “dead zones” from fertilizer runoff and water shortages for drinking and irrigation.
“Our OSU Biofuels Team has always been willing to be unpopular and caution people that a sustainable biofuels industry has to take into account a wide range of production, economic and environmental factors,” Whitson says. “We take our role as stewards of the land very seriously.”
Use of cellulosic biomass – plant material from grasses and forage, forest waste products and similar sources – seems to be a vital component to avoiding the negative economic and
Instead of looking solely at corn, OSU researchers have long been studying all types of perennial grasses, including switch- grass.
17Research at Oklahoma State University •
The goal of any research project is to answer ques- tions or find solutions that will benefit society. Supe- rior research projects provide solutions for multiple
constituencies or industries. A recent investigation conducted collaboratively by the
Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center (FAPC) on the campus of Oklahoma State University and the United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) Grazing Lands Research Station in El Reno, Okla., may do just that.
“The results of these data could be used by the livestock, meat processing and dietetic industries,” said Jacob Nelson, FAPC value-added meat processing specialist.
The project, which was conducted by an interdisci- plinary research team, provides significant data indicating crossbreeding Katahdin sheep with Suffolk sheep may be a useful foundation for U.S. lamb production programs. The project began when FAPC researchers were approached by Kim Barker, an agricultural producer from Waynoka, Okla., to investigate the nutritional and potential marketable attri- butes of Katahdin sheep.
“Sheep producers may use this data to plan breeding programs and lamb processors may see increased demand as consumers pursue varied options to satisfy their dietetic needs,” Nelson said.
Those dietetic needs may include increased conjugated linoleic acids (CLA) intake.
CLAs are a group of dietary fatty acids that have been found to block all three stages of cancer growth, strengthen
bones, reduce body fat and increase muscle mass in some animals. CLA isomers are found primarily in meat and dairy products of ruminants and food products from these animals are the major dietary source of CLA for humans.
“Increasing consumer demand for food products of supe- rior health quality has renewed interest in modifying the fatty acid composition of meat,” said Dr. Guadalupe Davila El Rassi, FAPC analytical services manager. “If CLA content of meat products was increased, then human intake of this beneficial fatty acid would increase also. We thought fatty acid content and CLA production might differ between sheep breeds and changing breeding programs could offer the potential for modifying this production.”
Therefore, an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the FAPC and USDA-ARS joined forces in 2005 to investigate the fatty acid composition of meat from Katahdin sheep.
Katahdin are medium-sized, hardy sheep that do not produce a fleece and therefore do not require shearing. The breed is growing in popularity in the United States because of its low maintenance requirements and parasite resistance, which make these sheep more adaptable to warmer temperatures.
“However, Katahdin are generally regarded as having infe- rior carcass and lean meat yield characteristics when compared to an established breed such as Suffolk,” Nelson said.
The study therefore sought to evaluate the productivity of hair sheep and larger wool breed crosses to determine their usefulness in Southern U.S. small ruminant production systems, Davila El Rassi said.
Nutritional attributes of Katahdin sheep benefit food industries.
Baa, baa Katahdin sheep, have you any CLA?
Research at Oklahoma State University • www.vpr.okstate.edu18
chemical and fatty acid composition To achieve this goal, Katahdin sheep were bred with Suffolk
sheep and data were compared among Katahdin, Suffolk, Suffolk/Katahdin crossbred and Katahdin/Suffolk crossbred wethers. The animals were raised at USDA-ARS and researchers at the FAPC analytical chemistry laboratory analyzed the fat and cholesterol content, as well as fatty acid composition, of two different muscle types of each breed group.
“We found that the content of cis-9 and trans-11 CLA, the ‘good’ fat, in Katahdin muscles was two times more than that of Suffolk muscles,” said Dr. Veneta Banskalieva-Dobreva, FAPC research specialist. “In the crossbred animals, we observed results similar to the Katahdin lambs—twice more CLA content than in the Suffolk muscles.”
Because CLA have health benefits, nutritionists are advising people to consume more foods having enhanced amounts of these compounds, Davila El Rassi said.
Davila El Rassi also said the higher concentration of bene- ficial CLA found in meat from Katahdin sheep are character- istics that may be passed along to crossbred offspring, which indicates combining the breed characteristics of Katahdin sheep with the growth and muscling of existing U.S. breeds should produce superior market lambs.
The research team also examined live animal performance, carcass characteristics and sensory attributes of Katahdin sheep versus other breeds.
live animal performance For two months preceding harvest, a sample of each breed
group were fed a high concentrate diet and live animal data were collected.
“While forage gains of purebred Katahdin were consistent with those of other breed groups, feedlot gains were lower and final weights off feed were lower,” said Dr. Michael Brown, USDA-ARS research animal scientist. “Suffolk-sired lambs from Katahdin ewes performed well on both forage and in the feedlot. Consequently, a lamb production system utilizing purebred Katahdin ewes bred to Suffolk terminal sires would indicate an easy-care ewe flock producing lambs of acceptable growth rates and market potentials.”
carcass characteristics Upon harvest, 13 carcass traits, including gross carcass
traits, carcass quality grade and yield grade traits and sub- primal cut weights, were analyzed for each breed group.
“Preliminary analysis of these traits indicate that the Suffolk breed had more desirable carcass merit than the Katahdin,” Nelson said. “However, the carcass merit of the Katahdin could be improved by crossbreeding with the Suffolk, which was evidenced by improvements in carcass weights and muscu- larity in the crossbred animals.”
sensory attributes The next step in the Katahdin research project involved
sensory analysis of cooked samples of leg from all four sheep breeds and crossbreeds. Twenty-two sensory panelists evalu- ated samples of sheep based on appearance, aroma, texture and flavor using a 9-point hedonic scale.
This analysis revealed there were no statistically significant differences between breeds for any of the sensory attributes based on the panelists’ preferences, said Darren Scott, FAPC sensory specialist.
“This mean that genetics has a minor influence on the sensory characteristics,” Scott said.
adding value However, the combined results of all phases of the Katahdin
research project may contribute to the meat marketing poten- tial for hair sheep, said Chuck Willoughby, FAPC business and marketing relations manager.
“Our interest in continuing this research beyond the initial collaboration with Barker stems from the potential benefit it may offer to Oklahoma’s Katahdin sheep producers, many of whom are members of the Katahdin Hair Sheep International Association in Fayetteville, Ark.,” Willoughby said. “These data may provide them a means to differentiate their products and allow them to compete against the successful differential marketing programs of Australia and New Zealand.”
The FAPC strives to add value to Oklahoma by discovering, developing and delivering information that will stimulate and support the growth of value-added food and agricultural prod- ucts and processing. The FAPC offers large and small busi- nesses, producers and entrepreneurs access to faculty and staff with expertise in business and technical disciplines.
The Katahdin research project, which will benefit multiple industries, is a perfect example of how the FAPC is adding value to Oklahoma.
Ruth Bobbitt
Crossbreeding Katadhin sheep with Suffolk sheep may provide the foundation for U.S. lamb production programs.
19Research at Oklahoma State University •
Two professors from different colleges at Oklahoma State University recently joined forces to answer a call for
research proposals from the Oklahoma Network for Nanostructured Materials (ONNM). The result—they are involved in interdisciplinary research on the newest wave to hit science—nanotechnology. While nano- technology holds great promise for innovations in a wide array of applications, understanding how these materials may adversely affect living systems is critical, prompting development of nanotoxicology.
“Oxidative Behavior of Nanoparticles in Biological Systems” is the research project funded by the ONNM. The ONNM is part of the Oklahoma Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), which is funded by a National Science Foun- dation Research Grant and a $3 million match by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. EPSCoR was founded with the goal to increase the state’s research competitiveness through strategic support of research instruments and facilities, research collaborations, and integrated education and research programs.
Kevin Ausman, assistant professor in the department of chemistry, is the prin- cipal investigator for the study. Carey Pope, Sitlington Chair in Toxicology, professor and head, department of physiological sciences, Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, is the co-principal investigator.
“Dr. Ausman brings his expertise in synthetic chemistry to the project, to prepare a class of nanomaterials for evaluation of their oxidative properties” explains Pope. “Our part involves characterizing mechanisms of the oxidative toxicity of these various nano- materials.”
“We are focusing our efforts initially on buckminsterfullerene,” says Ausman. “This nanomaterial is now being manufactured in ton quantities for possible applications in fuel cells. There has been significant controversy in the scientific literature over the last several years about the biological effects of exposure to fullerenes. We hope to be able to lay that controversy to rest.”
To stress the importance of nanotoxi- cology research, Pope uses a comparison with asbestos.
“Asbestos was a great insulating material, widely used in a variety of applications for decades,” says Pope. “It subsequently became apparent that it could lead to lung cancer in people, so asbestos removal became and remains a priority. There is global concern that these new nanomaterials are adequately evaluated for their toxic potential prior to their widespread introduction into commerce to avoid a similar situation.”
“This research will help determine how quickly nanomaterials are commercialized,” adds Ausman. “If we find problems, it could strongly affect the commercialization process. We are primarily concerned with three things: consumer-based nanomaterial applications, environmental safety of disposal and work
Understanding how nanomaterials may adversely affect living systems prompted the development of nanotoxicology.
Research accelerates commercialization of nanomaterials
Research at Oklahoma State University • www.vpr.okstate.edu20
place safety for anyone using these materials in a manufacturing process.”
This state-supported research project will also help train graduate students in this new interdisciplinary area. A nanotoxicology seminar series on campus has been initiated to bring faculty and students together from multiple disciplines to focus on ways to study potential adverse effects of these materials.
“Interdisciplinary research collaborations are becoming essential,” says Pope. “Each discipline can bring a different perspective
and way of thinking to the research team. Research funding may increasingly depend on the establishment and success of such collab- orative interactions.”
According to Ausman, preliminary results are in and within three to four months the team plans to have a very good synopsis of the nano- materials being studied. Because nanotoxicology is relatively new, this research could be used as a model for future research studies.
Derinda Lowe
Pope and Ausman are evaluating the toxic potential of materials before they enter the marketplace and have an adverse impact on society
Photo by Phil Shockley
21Research at Oklahoma State University •
Julie Thomas arrived on the Okla- homa State University campus eager and excited to begin a new challenge.
Those feelings have only grown during her first three months on the job.
Thomas joined the College of Education in late August 2007 to serve as its Frank and Carol Morsani Endowed Chair in Science Education. Thomas spent the previous 11 years as a professor at Texas Tech University where she taught elementary science teaching methods and worked on a number of profes- sional development projects. She was perfectly content in Lubbock, but when she read the job description for the Morsani Chair, the chance to move into a leadership position sparked an interest inside her.
At OSU, part of Thomas’ charge is to initiate a center that organizes collaborative research efforts between education and arts and sciences, engineering and agriculture.
“I felt like there was a real opportunity to make a difference here,” Thomas said. “It was obvious that the (College of Education) Dean (Pamela Fry) and the University wanted to make it happen. The resources are here and their vision really fit with my philosophy.”
Thomas has a passion for helping class- room teachers get kids turned on to science in school, an interest that stems from more than 20 years in public education. While working with gifted and talented children, particularly on their science interests, at an elementary school in Nebraska, Thomas became inspired to pursue her Ph.D.
“I remember working with one student who wanted to learn to make dinosaur models. I was able to take him to a museum to spend a period of time learning from the man who built all of the museum’s displays. It was fasci- nating to watch the connection. That experi- ence helped me realize how much I wanted to be able to provide more science learning opportunities for children. Children have a natural interest in science. For a lot of reasons, science can be pushed to the back burner in an elementary classroom.”
Thomas earned her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in science from the University of Nebraska. She was determined to help give teachers the tools they need to teach science in a way that makes it rich and real.
“The frequency and quality of science education, the impact it makes on kids in elementary schools, affects their interest level when they reach the middle and high school levels,” Thomas noted.
During her tenure at Texas Tech, Thomas was involved with a project called Discovery for Recovery that was a collaborative effort between waterfowl biologists from Ducks Unlimited, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Museum of Science and History in Fort Worth, Texas. After noting a declining pintail duck population, scientists formu- lated a plan to study migration patterns to help them understand reasons for the drop in population. Satellite transmitters were used to track the ducks during spring migration to help determine what factors were limiting the populations.
Thomas helped institute a program in upper elementary classrooms in Texas where teachers and students tracked the migration of the ducks as part of their science curriculum. Students would monitor the ducks’ movements via the satellite data, see where they would make stops and assess factors that might be affecting the population numbers.
“The project certainly had benefits for both the students and the scientists,” Thomas said. “For the students, it was real-world hands-on learning. The lead scientist saw it as an oppor- tunity to better communicate his research so that the general public can understand it. Ultimately, that understanding is what leads to policy change.”
Since her arrival at OSU, Thomas has been busy getting a grasp of the landscape by meeting people and visiting with them about their passions, their research work and their ideas.
New center identifies tools for teaching science
Children have a natural interest in science and learn through experience and education.
Research at Oklahoma State University • www.vpr.okstate.edu22
“I need to know what kind of expertise we have here, what sorts of projects are ongoing and what kinds of interest faculty members have individually. I am trying to find out how we can organize our collective efforts in the best, most productive way for the university. Really, I am just organizing opportunities for collaboration with education faculty. We want to be able to make purposeful connections with faculty from arts and sciences, engineering and agriculture in order to develop shared research projects.”
Thomas’ working name for the center is the acronym CRSTLE, which stands for the Center for Research on Science Teaching and Learning Excellence. More definitive objectives and goals will begin to take shape in late February when Thomas hosts a planning conference that will be a forum for OSU faculty to interact with key leaders from around the country who have built collaborative programs.
“I am bringing in people who have defined some pretty creative ways to integrate arts and sciences, agriculture and engineering with education,” Thomas explained. “I want those individuals to share the models they’ve devel- oped and how it has worked for them.”
Just three months into the job, Thomas has been impressed with her new university, and has developed considerable confidence that the pieces will come together as she works to create CRSTLE.
“OSU is a great place with wonderful people,” Thomas said. “I have come into contact with so many bright, hardworking individuals. Everyone is enthusiastic about the idea of initiating a center. There is a lot of support.”
Thomas is convinced that developing the research center will elevate the quality of science teachers by providing opportunities for professional development.
“Collaborative research among the center affiliates will also enhance the world’s percep- tion of who we are and what we are doing at OSU,” she said.
Christy Lang
Thomas wants to initiate a new center that organizes collab- orative research efforts between education, arts and sciences, engineering and agriculture.
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Nutritional Sciences Regents Professor Barbara Stoecker’s research on child nutrition in
Ethiopia has grown into a collaborative project on the link between low zinc intake and poor learning skills. Stoecker hopes to find ways food can be processed in the rural areas that would enhance or maintain its nutritional value, particu- larly micronutrients, to benefit cogni- tive development in infants and young children.
With funding from the National Institutes of Health, an extensive cross- sectional pilot investigation of zinc absorption in women in their third trimester was initially conducted in rural Ethiopia. Results from this research were used to expand the current study to include a larger population of women and children.
“We approached several scientists who are known for their work on micronu- trient deficiencies in developing countries. We wanted to make sure this research gained the attention of the international community,” Stoecker said.
“The collaboration among the different disciplines will add value to the outcomes for Ethiopia and other countries whose populations often struggle due to lack of sufficient daily nutrition”
Tay Kennedy, associate professor in nutritional sciences, and David Thomas, professor of psychology, began collecting data on cognitive development and temperament of six-month old infants. A battery of episodes measured temper- ament, activity, interest and emotional responsiveness.
Another series of tests measured the speed at which an infant processes new information. The infants were shown the same object for one minute and then shown a novel object to measure the length of time the infant viewed the novel object.
Scientists note that better nourished children process information faster.
Research ties child nutrition in Ethiopia to learning
Collaborative work on malnutrition in Ethiopia will hopefully make a difference for the future.
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Research at Oklahoma State University • www.vpr.okstate.edu24
Most infants will look at the novel object longer, said Thomas. The length of the longest look at the familiar object predicts, with reliability, cognitive devel- opment. The shorter the longest look, the faster the processing speed.
The scientists noted the better nour- ished the child the faster the processing speed. The inference is that a higher level of nutrition predicts faster processing speed and better cognitive abilities. While the data are being evaluated in Stillwater, Thomas expects the initial project will allow researchers to fine tune the instru- ments for larger projects.
Additional funding has been received from NIH and the research will be expanded. The next phase will be a randomized control trial on 900 women at the end of their first trimester, said Stoecker. Zinc supplements or a placebo
will be delivered on a daily basis for 15 months. If this trial shows benefit to mothers and their infants, the ultimate goal will be to develop a sustainable way to increase zinc in the diets of mothers and infants in the village.
Other collaborators in the research include Michael Hambidge and Nancy Krebs from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center; Rosalind Gibson, University of Otago in New Zealand; Yewelsew Abebe, dean of the College of Agriculture of Hawassa University in Ethiopia and Laura Hubbs-Tait, OSU professor in human development and family science.
As collaborative work on malnu- trition in Ethiopia continues, Stoecker is optimistic these efforts will make a difference for the future of the African country.
Julie Barnard
obvious for the Ethiopian woman
given the history of OSU’s
connection to the African coun-
try. The department of Nutritional
Sciences in the College of Human
Environmental Sciences fulfilled her
health of her country’s citizens.
After completing her doctorate
who is now Dean of Agriculture
at Hawassa University, asked her
mentors, NSCI professors Gail
assist her in developing a curricu-
lum and research projects for the
university’s first master’s program
in nutrition.
Barbara Stoecker works with Ethiopian PhD student Afework Bezabih Mulugeta.
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25Research at Oklahoma State University •
OSU Center for Health Sciences is preparing to launch a state- wide clinical practice-based
diabetes research initiative through a Center for Diabetes Care and Research network.
Its mission is to improve health care for diabetes patients while benefiting diabetes research. In a “win-win” part- nership with patients and researchers, the center will involve primary care physi- cians across Oklahoma who treat diabetic patients. In turn, physicians will be able to enroll their patients in OSU’s planned diabetes studies, increasing the numbers of subjects and yielding data from a wider range of socio-economic levels.
The research effort is one of the focus areas of OSU-CHS’s translational research initiative. Translational research is a continuum of biomedical and clinical research and health care outcomes, says project director David Wallace, Ph.D., assistant dean for research. “The center’s practice-based model will be a major benefit to diabetic patients,” Wallace says. “They will continue to see their primary care physicians throughout the course of their treatment. Once or twice each year the patients will receive educational training/updates, onsite examinations and
participation in clinical studies.” Wallace believes the approach should
improve understanding of this disease and its health and economic impact on the state of Oklahoma. Among research partners are OSU-CHS academic depart- ments and its clinic system, along with clinical and biomedical research, rural health, telemedicine, behavioral sciences, epidemiology, nutrition and clinical care. Patients will receive diabetes education, self-management training, pharmacy services, retinal imaging, behavioral health services, nutrition information, dental hygiene and foot care.
A comprehensive diabetes care program, based on disease manage- ment principles, is a proactive approach to managing patients with chronic disease. The overall goal is to create an outcomes based disease management program that systematically approaches patient care using evidence-based clinical guidelines.
Close collaboration between a nurse care manager with the clinic and community-based primary care physi- cians underlies the multidisciplinary team approach, says Judy Wickham, R.N., M.B.A., continuous quality improve- ment case manager. Each patient has
OSU Center for Health Sciences developing practice-based diabetes research
A new approach to diabetes will improve the health and economic impact in the state.
Research at Oklahoma State University • www.vpr.okstate.edu26
a primary care physician who directs care. The multidisciplinary team works with the physician and the patient in a self-management approach to care, and monitors patients for complications. The care manager liaisons between the patient, the physician and the center multidisciplinary team to help ensure that the individual patient has access to the right resources.
In rural health in Oklahoma, the center will build upon the 93 physician preceptors and 23 hospital coordina- tors who are part of the OSU Center for Rural Health’s rural clinical education program. These physicians often are on the frontlines of diabetes care and can be pathway to treatment in rural Oklahoma. Telemedicine will offer sub- specialty care (cardiology, pulmonology, psychiatry and more) and consultation to rural patients in the patients’ hometowns. OSU’s telemedicine network reaches more than 25 communities in the state and offers distance-learning capabilities for patients and physicians. If no clinic site is available, OSU’s Mobile Telemedicine Clinic can provide real-time interactive examinations, ultrasound, electrocardio- gram, spirometry, vital sign monitoring, retinal eye scans/pictures and dermatology
screening. Some procedures, such as ultra- sound, can be stored and forwarded at a later time to the specialist if needed.
“The diabetes center will further support the overarching mission of the Center for Rural Health by providing access to primary care for rural Oklaho- mans, “says William Pettit, D.O., OSU associate dean for rural health
Wallace says base-line data could reveal problem areas such as genetic factors and metabolic changes that point to targeted research projects. “We do not want to exclude any population of patients and will be able to retrospectively examine the data to help guide the direc- tion of future studies,” he adds.
Tracking patients over time will allow comparisons of multiple socio-economic, genetic, nutritional and physical factors. From a research view, this will help mini- mize bias and will generate a more accu- rate data representation of the diabetic populations being examined. The long- term goal of the center is to develop into the premier diabetes care and research center in the region, he adds.
Marla Schaefer
Judy Wickham, R.N., M.B.A. and David Wallace, Ph.D., discuss a practice-based diabetes research initiative now in the planning stage.
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27Research at Oklahoma State University •
Whether students and faculty are exploring new technolo- gies or creating inventions
that contribute to the development of our state, exploration and the quest for knowledge is a theme that resonates throughout OSU-Tulsa’s new Helmerich Advanced Technology Research Center (ATRC).
OSU officials and Tulsa community leaders gathered Nov. 29th to dedicate OSU-Tulsa’s Helmerich ATRC, a $43 million research facility that is expected to boost Tulsa’s economy by creating jobs and attracting industries to the area.
OSU-Tulsa President Gary Tren- nepohl, Congressman John Sullivan and Dean Karl Reid joined other area legis- lators and dignitaries in the Atrium of the Helmerich ATRC for the dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony. More than 300 community members and OSU-Tulsa faculty, staff and students took part in the celebration and guided tours of the new facility.
“The Helmerich ATRC is the result of a successful partnership between state, local and private citizens,” Trennepohl said. “This new research facility is an outstanding example of how universities and our community can partner with the private sector to create new educational opportunities, promote research for Oklahoma industries and fuel economic growth.”
The Helmerich ATRC was made possible through Tulsa County’s Vision 2025 initiative, the State’s 2005 higher education bond issue and Walter and Peggy Helmerich of Tulsa.
“We want to extend a huge thank you to the Helmerich family and Tulsa and state leaders for their vision in making possible a facility that will greatly enhance Oklahoma State University’s research, teaching and outreach on both our Tulsa and Stillwater campuses,” said interim
OSU System CEO and President Marlene Strathe.
Susan Neal, director of community development and education for the city of Tulsa, declared it “OSU-Tulsa Day” on behalf of Mayor Kathy Taylor who was unable to attend. Neal said the Mayor declared the proclamation for OSU’s considerable contributions to the educa- tional, cultural a