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Research for the Future

We are pleased to bring you a new feature that will highlight some of the recently funded projects at the University of Kentucky.

The following projects were approved for federal funding in 2001. A special thank you goes to the Kentucky congressional delegation for their hard work in support of the research efforts of UK. In particular, Senator Mitch McConnell, Senator Jim Bunning, Congressman Hal Rogers, and Congressman Ernie Fletcher have made the appropriation of over $9 million in research funds to UK a high priority. Without their leadership and support, these new projects, important to both the Commonwealth and the nation, would not have been possible.

Advanced Genetic Technologies
This $475,000 project from the USDA will enable plant and animal scientists from the UK College of Agriculture to develop and use a multidisciplinary genomics and genetic analysis facility to solve agricultural problems. The project will involve extensive coordination with other UK initiatives in the areas of bioinformatics, structural biology, functional genomics, and proteomics. Advanced genetic technologies offer tremendous potential to eliminate plant and animal diseases, enhance the nutritional value of food, exploit renewable biological sources of fuel and industrial feedstocks, and develop new uses for agricultural plants and animals. The principal investigator is Chris Schardl, Department of Plant Pathology.

C1 Chemistry Project
The U.S. Department of Energy has added $1.4 million to UK's C1 chemistry research project that will produce ultra-clean, high-efficiency transportation fuel (diesel fuel and gasoline) and high-value chemicals. Faculty and students from UK, the University of Utah, the University of Pittsburgh, West Virginia University, and Auburn University are collaborating on this project, now in its second year and administered by CFFS, the UK College of Engineering's Consortium for Fossil Fuel Science. C1 chemistry refers to the conversion of molecules containing one carbon atom, such as methane, carbon dioxide, methanol, and synthesis gas. CFFS director Gerald Huffman is overseeing the project.

Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant
UK and University of Louisville epidemiologists will collaborate in investigating the impact of exposure to radioactive materials on people working in and around the gaseous diffusion plant in Paducah, Kentucky. The DoE and National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health will provide $1.75 million for the project this year and $2.5 million for each of the next two years, according to project director F. Douglas Scutchfield, UK director of the Center for Health Services Management and Research and director of the School of Public Health. The researchers will look for such things as cancer incidence and prevalence of those cancers most associated with exposure to radioactivity (lung, bone, thyroid, and bone marrow cancers).

Excalibur Launch Technology
This is the second partnership between UK's Center for Robotics and Manufacturing Systems (CRMS) in the College of Engineering and Truax Engineering, Vista, California. Excalibur is a $600,000 project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense to design a lightweight heat exchanger that will be used with a reusable rocket-launch vehicle. Alan Male, CRMS director, will oversee the work of eight CRMS and mechanical engineering faculty and graduate and undergraduate students. An unmanned shuttle vehicle that can launch items into orbit will ultimately reduce the cost of missions into near space.

Forage-Based Livestock Systems
Forage-based livestock production is of vast economic and agricultural importance across mid-America. This $375,000 project from the USDA will allow eight UK agronomy and animal sciences faculty to research the nutrition and physiology of grazing animals, which will enhance weight gain, product quality and farm profitability. The researchers will also work on post-harvest physiology to improve forage quality and minimize loss of stored forages needed during periods of slow pasture growth. Integrative studies of landscape-forage-livestock systems will lead to innovative management practices that will enhance this highly sustainable agricultural ecosystem. Mike Collins, Department of Agronomy, is the principal investigator.

Intelligent Transportation
Researchers at UK's Kentucky Transportation Center improve highway safety for all travelers by working on issues related to the safety of trucks. This $1.5 million a year project from the U.S. Department of Transportation will develop computer diagnostic equipment to monitor truck engine and safety performance over the next three years. Providing detailed information about the truck's control systems will make it easier to maintain and repair the vehicles. This is a joint project with Veridian Engineering in Arlington, Virginia, and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. UK's principal investigator is center director Paul Toussaint.

Kentucky DoE EPSCoR Program
Kentucky is one of 20 states designated for EPSCoR—Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research—a national merit-based program for research and infrastructure development. The U.S. Department of Energy will provide $4.35 million over three years to Kentucky DoE EPSCoR that supports two research clusters and an entrepreneurship and enterprise development project. One cluster focuses on the creation of theories and technologies for microdevices; the other cluster designs new software and hardware to examine and provide insight into the fundamental forces of matter. Four Kentucky colleges and universities participate in the program directed by John Stencel, associate director of the UK Center for Applied Energy Research.

Legal Training Facility
The U.S. Department of Justice has funded a $750,000 video teleconferencing facility for the UK College of Law. According to Dean Allan Vestal, the facility will expand the role of the law school and build on its initiative to provide extensive access to legal education. The teleconferencing facility will increase UK's current capabilities in training prosecutors throughout the state and provide alternative dispute resolution programs to government agencies.

New Crop Opportunities
College of Agriculture multidisciplinary teams from horticulture, agronomy, agricultural economics, entomology, biosystems and agricultural engineering, and plant pathology are involved in research for the New Crop Opportunities Center, established in July 2000. The USDA is funding the project at $750,000 for one year. Research and extension efforts are focused on economically sustainable crop production, new crops, and expanded crop uses in Kentucky, as well as profit and risk potential analysis and marketing of specialty crops. Initial research involves peppers, blackberries, native plants and under-utilized landscape plants, greenhouse crops, and special varieties of corn, soybean and wheat (grain crops already being grown by the state's farmers). Dewayne Ingram, Department of Horticulture, and Larry Grabau, Department of Agronomy, are heading up this project.

Precision Agriculture
Precision agriculture uses technologies such as GPS (global positioning system) and GIS (geographic information system) to manage crop production by the square meter rather than traditional "field-average" management. Farmers using precision ag can enhance overall profitability while reducing nutrient and pesticide loading of the environment. Since 1994, UK researchers have been engaged in basic and applied research in areas such as soil fertility, remote sensing, variable-rate application equipment, yield-monitor testing, and development of yield-measurement techniques that can be used on the smaller, diverse farms that populate the Commonwealth. The USDA is funding the project at $750,000 for one year. Scott Shearer, Department of Agricultural Engineering, and Tom Mueller, Department of Agronomy, are heading up this project.

Reclamation of Mined Lands
Over 250,000 acres of land in Kentucky have been impacted by surface mining, and another 1.6 million acres have been designated for coal extraction. Most of the land mined since 1978 has been heavily compacted and, although revegetated, could remain unproductive for the next 300 years. This $2 million-a-year project from the U.S. Forest Service and Office of Surface Mining will enable UK researchers to work with state and industry partners over the next three years to reclaim 3,000 acres in three areas. The researchers will use new methods that will result in high-value hardwood timber, wildlife habitat and increased carbon sequestration (a process of trapping carbon dioxide in reservoirs beneath the Earth's surface). Don Graves, UK Department of Forestry, will oversee the project.

Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative
UK researchers are part of a 19-university consortium working on the $6 million U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative charged with eliminating head scab as a threat to the wheat and barley industries. The USDA has provided $60,000 to David Van Sanford, Department of Agronomy, Donald Hershman, Department of Plant Pathology, and several UK graduate students to develop resistant varieties and evaluate chemical control of the disease.