ASU faculty, students and administration join colleagues to evaluate ASSET II Project
JONESBORO, AR – Last year, a team of researchers coordinated by Dr. Gail McClure, the National Science Foundation EPSCoR state director for Arkansas, broke new ground when they hosted the first ASSET Initiative Annual Meeting showcasing a seven-institution partnership to advance biotechnology and solar materials research in Arkansas.
The seven institutions are Arkansas State University, the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, Philander Smith College, the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville and the University of Central Arkansas.
Now, the word is spreading about the cutting edge research taking place in the natural state.
“We are pleased that the hard work of our researchers is drawing the attention of top researchers in the United States and beyond. This lets us know that we are fulfilling the charge given to us by Governor Mike Beebe (AR) and the National Science Foundation through the EPSCoR program,” said Dr. McClure.
Thirty-two Arkansas State University faculty, students, and administrators convened with colleagues from around the state for the annual meeting at the Holiday Inn and Convention Center in Springdale, Arkansas on August 12-14, to present research progress resulting from the work of three main research groups: (1) Plant-Powered Production (P3), (2) the Vertically-Integrated Center for Transformative Energy Research (VICTER), and (3) the Arkansas Center for Generating Renewable Energy-Efficient Nanoplasmonic Solar Cells (GREEN) research centers, as well as a growing educational outreach and diversity program designed to expand and strengthen the K-20 STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) pipeline.
This year’s meeting was held in conjunction with the CI-TRAIN, Arkansas’ current Track II research project that is directed by Dr. Jackson Cothren, director of the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville.
Research experts, as members of each center’s technical advisory council (TAC), traveled from around the country to evaluate the project’s progress in Year 2 and provide guidance on how to press toward the mark of commercialization of ASSET’s research efforts. These leaders in engineering and bioscience research represent organizations such as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Electric Power Research Institute, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Glenn Research Center, the Applied Biotech Institute, and the National Science Foundation, in addition to a number of leading research universities.
The research poster session was held at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. Thirty-nine students and postdoctoral assistants from the participating universities presented their research findings to external advisory board and technical advisory committee members, as well as their colleagues from the other ASSET campuses. The ASSET Initiative annual meeting poster session is designed to give students the opportunity to practice their presentation skills and insure that they are prepared to effectively communicate their science to people both in and outside of their fields of study. In addition to the poster session, several graduate students made oral presentations over their research at breakout sessions of the centers.
Dr. Carole Cramer, ASU Senior Research Professor of Biological Sciences and Agriculture, directs the P3 research group and specializes in plant-made industrial/pharmaceutical protein research. Dr. Alan Mantooth of the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville leads the VICTER group and specializes in modeling, mixed-signal design, and power electronics. Dr. Vasundara Varadan, the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, serves as the director of GREEN and specializes in metamaterial design and fabrication, light trapping in thin films, and nanowire solar cell research.
Dr. McClure, vice president of Sponsored Projects at the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority (ASTA), serves as the research director and principal investigator of the ASSET Initiative project. This statewide project aims to increase research capacity in engineering and biosciences while increasing the STEM-enabled skills of Arkansans at all points along the STEM pipeline.
The ASU VICTER group consists of the ASU campus led by Dr. Robert Engelken, professor of Electrical Engineering and director of the ASU Optoelectronic Materials Research Laboratory, and colleagues Dr. Bruce Johnson, Dr. Ross Carroll, Dr. Liangmin Zhang, Dr. Kwangkook Jeong, Dr. Brandon Kemp, and Dr. Ilwoo Seok, as well as numerous undergraduate and graduate research assistants. They specialize in liquid phase deposition, processing, and characterization of semiconductor thin films such as indium sulfide and copper indium disulfide to serve as the basis for solar cells. Emphasis is on low cost and low hazard materials.
There is also some work on solid biofuels and thermal issues in power production. The students and faculty are from the College of Engineering and the College of Sciences and Mathematics, including the multidisciplinary ASU Graduate Program in Environmental Sciences. Some are also affiliated with ASU’s new “Center for Efficient and Sustainable Use of Resources” (CESUR).
Year three of the projected five-year ASSET Initiative began on October 1. For more information on the research and K-12 outreach programs of the ASSET Initiative, visit www.arepscor.org, keywords: ASSET Initiative, STEM Education, Engineering, Solar Energy, Photovoltaics, Biotechnology, Research & Innovation, Commercialization, Science, National Science Foundation, and EPSCoR.