Kent State Researchers Win $2.5M in Science Funding

KENT, Ohio – Members of the Kent State University faculty have been awarded nearly $2.5 million in funding from the National Science Foundation for research over the next three years in biology, physics and the science of liquid crystals, the university announced Wednesday.

All faculty investigators have roles planned in the research projects for students -- undergraduate and graduate -- and, in two cases, outreach to area high school students, through research internships, science fairs and Upward Bound college preparation.

The awards will fund basic research on how plants respond to environmental stress such as drought.

Other research topics include:

  • The microstructures of liquid crystals, which are used in electronic displays and other technologies.
  • The fundamental substructure of the proton and neutron, two of the basic constituents of atoms.
  • How prenatal exposure to the hormone oxycotin affects aggressive behavior in adulthood.
  • Advancing the physical understanding of organic materials used in solar cells.

The projects recently funded and the principal investigators for the awards are:

Edgar E. Kooijman, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences, was awarded $324,000 to study “The Secret life of DGPP: Physicochemical Properties and Function of an Enigmatic Signaling Lipid.” This fundamental work on how plant cells respond to environmental stress could lead to a new set of tools for dealing with drought and disease in crop production.

Robin L. Selinger, Ph.D., professor of chemical physics and a member of the Liquid Crystal Institute at Kent State, and Jonathan V. Selinger, Ph.D., professor of chemical physics and Ohio Eminent Scholar at Kent State’s Liquid Crystal Institute, were awarded $375,000 to study “Programmable and Emergent Structures in Soft Matter: Chirality, Polarity and Auto-Origami.” They are studying responsive liquid crystal polymers, a form of plastic that spontaneously changes shapes when heated or cooled. In computer simulation studies, they explore the mathematical relationship between blueprinted structures and the resulting shape change. The materials have potential applications in robotics, touch displays and biomedical devices, among other uses.

Earlier this month, Jonathan Selinger received the Samsung Mid-Career Research Excellence Award from the International Liquid Crystal Society at the 25th International Liquid Crystal Conference at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.

Gerassimos G. (Makis) Petratos, Ph.D., professor of physics, and Mina T. Katramatou, Ph.D., associate professor of physics, were awarded $570,000 to fund their continued research in experimental nuclear physics, focused on work at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. They are studying the proton and neutron, looking at the even smaller quarks and gluons. They also are studying the structure and dynamics of the lightest nuclei in nature, deuterium, or heavy hydrogen, and helium.

Oleg D. Lavrentovich, Kent State’s trustees research professor of chemical physics and the Liquid Crystal Institute, was awarded $460,000 to continue studying the “Structure and Properties of Twist-Bend Nematic Phase” liquid crystals. Lavrentovich reported the structure of this new type of liquid crystal in the journal Nature Communications last fall. The structure had been predicted theoretically but never seen. A research group led by Lavrentovich observed the structure using a cyro-transmission electron microscope at Kent State’s Liquid Crystal Institute.

Heather K. Caldwell, associate professor of biological sciences, was awarded $400,000 to study “Oxytocin and the Ontogeny of Aggressive Behavior.” Her project will look for evidence in early brain development of how a particular hormone, oxytocin, can affect aggressive behavior in adulthood.

Barry D. Dunietz, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry, was awarded $326,000 for the project, “Charge Transfer, Injection and Mobility in Organic Semi-conducting Materials: Modeling for Insight on Mechanistic Aspects.”

SOURCE: Kent State University.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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