Missouri S&T

Missouri EPSCoR Researchers Gathered for the Fourth Annual Meeting

Monday, November 26, 2018

Missouri Transect researchers gathered on October 4-5, 2018 for the Missouri Transect Annual Meeting at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) campus. The event brought together over 100 Missouri Transect participants, including faculty, staff, post-docs, graduate students, and undergrads and featured 42 research poster presentations.

On the evening of October 4, Jake Jacobson, Director of Public Relations for Children’s Mercy Kansas City, led a workshop for the Missouri Transect Student and Post-doc Association on effective communication to the public using social media engagement and building relationships with journalists.  He presented videos, social media posts, and anecdotes of communicating with print journalists to help students brainstorm how to get their own research out to the public in organic and creative ways.

The annual meeting with all Missouri Transect participants took place all day on October 5.  Among those in attendance were several key UMKC faculty and administrators. Attendees from all across Missouri received a warm address of welcome from UMKC Chancellor, Dr. C. Mauli Agrawal.  Dr. Agrawal was introduced by the UMKC Host and Climate Team member, Dr. Jimmy Adegoke.  He shared UMKC research areas of strength and highlighted successful interdisciplinary projects on campus.

Pictured L-R: UMKC Chancellor Dr. C. Mauli Agrawal, Missouri Project Director Dr. John Walker, Dr. Anthony Caruso, and Dr. Jimmy Adegoke

Dr. Anthony Caruso, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at UMKC, gave the Keynote Address.  Dr. Caruso is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Physics and Electrical Engineering at UMKC.  Based on his own research at UMKC, Dr. Caruso discussed how each of the teams (Plant, Climate, Community, Cyberinfrastructure, and Education) could contribute expertise to urban agriculture, One Heath Intelligence (OHI), and counter UAV defense research. He spoke on multi-institutional large grant opportunities for Missouri Transect researchers, particularly related to OHI.  OHI revolves around mapping the environmental, dietary, psychological, and physiological factors that affect a single person and predicting the health and longevity of an individual based on these factors.  Funding to study OHI ranges from federal to private sources based on the type of individual being studied, such as adults, children, elderly, the disadvantaged, active service members, or veterans.

After a short networking break, UMKC faculty, Dr. ZhiQiang Chen, Associate Professor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering and Plant Team Seed Grant Recipient, and Dr. Lawrence Dreyfus, Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development led a panel of presentations of innovative technologies being developed and implemented by Missouri Transect researchers.  The session was called “Frontiers of Science: AVs, Autonomous Systems and Big Data Technologies and their Applications.”  The five presenters are Co-Investigators on the Plant and Climate Teams: Dr. Mikhail Berezin, Associate Professor, Department of Radiology, Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL); Ali Shafiekhani, PhD student with Gui DeSouza, (Associate Professor) Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Missouri-Columbia (MU); Dr. Zhaozhang Yin, Associate Proffesor, Department of Computer Science, Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T); Dr. Tim Eichler, Research Scientist at MU and University of Arkansas, and Dr. Neil Fox, Professor, Atmospheric Science, MU.

Graduate student, Ali Shafiekhani, presents on Vinobot and Vinocular technology out of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MU

As a representative of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Dr. Timothy VanReken spoke in the afternoon about the NSF INFEWS program and other “Cross-Cutting NSF Activities.”  Dr. VanReken is a Program Officer for NSF INFEWS and a Program Director for NSF EPSCoR. He has been with NSF EPSCoR since 2014 and came to Missouri for the Missouri EPSCoR Site Visit in 2017.  In his presentation, Dr. VanReken gave an overview of the Food-Energy-Water Nexus and the evolution of the INFEWS program at NSF (Program Synopsis: https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=505241).  Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems (INFEWS) is just one aspect of the NSF’s Ten Big Ideas (https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/big_ideas/) and he encouraged EPSCoR researchers to look closely at the proposals and Dear Colleague Letters (DCLs) coming out of these initiatives.  One DCL that he highlighted was the Growing Convergence Research (NSF 18-058) (https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2018/nsf18058/nsf18058.jsp) that aims to fund “research driven by a specific, compelling challenge inspired by deep scientific questions or pressing societal needs.”  The proposed research should be interdisciplinary and innovative.  He also highlighted Rules of Life (RoL) funding opportunities because they fit well with Missouri EPSCoR research (https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/big_ideas/life.jsp).  RoL: Epigenetics (NSF 18-600, https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2018/nsf18600/nsf18600.htm), RoL: Forecasting and Emergence in Living Systems (NSF 18-031, https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2018/nsf18031/nsf18031.jsp), RoL: Building a Synthetic Cell (NSF 18-599, https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2018/nsf18599/nsf18599.htm) are all new initiatives. 

In the afternoon, four research and outreach highlights were given by students, Co-Investigators, and research scientists on the Missouri Transect Plant, Climate, Community and Education Teams. Lisa Groshong (Ph.D. Candidate, Community Team, MU) presented on “The community impact of climate change: Perceptions of state park visitors.” Abigail Aderonmu (Ph.D. Candidate, Climate Team, UMKC) gave her talk on “Missouri farmers’ perceptions of climate change and its impact on risk management practices.”  Dr. Nadia Shakoor (Senior Research Scientist and Tech Transfer Seed Grant Recipient, Plant Team, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center) talked about her research on “Natural diversity in maize drought stress response: Genome-wide association mapping of compositional traits and growth phenotypes.”  Dr. Sandra Arango-Caro (Education Programs Facilitator, Education Team, DDPSC) gave a presentation about her outreach education work, “MO DIRT: Promoting soil science in the state of Missouri.”

Graduate student, Abigail Aderonmu, presents her study of climate change and survey results of farmers' adaptation to climate change

After another networking break, students came to the front of the meeting room to give short “Poster Pop-Ups,” elevator pitches on their research to entice the audience to visit their research posters.  A poster session then took place and closed the annual meeting day of events.  At the end of the poster session, Dr. John Walker, Missouri EPSCoR Project Director, presented awards for the best posters and presentations, which were decided by a panel of judges.  The winning poster presenters where:

First Place: Carrie Merritt, UMKC, Undergrad (PI: Fengpeng Sun, Climate Team) “Midwestern Climate Modelling and Analysis: An Examination of Climate Patterns, Trends, and Sensitivities” (Poster 14)

Second Place: Shimin Tang, UMKC, PhD student (PI: ZhiQiang Chen, Plant Team) “Disaster-Scene Mechanics Understanding using Deep Learning” (Poster 21)

Third Place: Samuel Holden, MU, Undergrad (PI: Ruthie Angelovici, Plant Team) “Investigating the Genetic Architecture of the Seed Amino Acid Composition in Maize Using a Genome-wide Association Study (Poster 23)

Students give "pop-up" presentations of their posters before the poster session Samuel Holden describes his reserach to EAB member, Dr. Bonnie Bartel Carrie Merritt stands in front of her poster during the poster session

The Missouri Transect: Climate, Plants and Community is a statewide, collaborative research effort to understand how climate variability impacts plants and communities in Missouri. Researchers are collaborating with each other across disciplines and 10 institutions as part of this five-year project.  It is funded through the National Science Foundation’s EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) program.

Missouri Transect Sponsors New Faculty Hires Across Missouri

Friday, October 6, 2017

New Faculty Hires

Missouri Transect has committed to providing a total of $800,000 to start-up packages to five faculty hires across the partner institutions. These faculty hires reflect both future needs of the project and gaps in specific areas, and are designed to strengthen the overall mission of Missouri Transect.  The final faculty hire will begin in January 2018 at Lincoln University in the field of ecology.  Learn more about the current new faculty hires that have provided expertise and innovation at Misssouri S&T, UMKC, University of Missouri, and the Danforth Plant Science Center:

Xiong Zhang, Missouri University of Science and Technology (MS&T)

Xiong Zhang is Associate Professor in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at MS&T in Rolla.  He moved to Rolla from the University of Cincinnati as Associate Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, and Architectural Engineering, and Construction Management.  Dr. Zhang earned his Ph.D. and worked as a postdoctoral research associate in civil engineering at Texas A&M University.  He is an established member of the Missouri Transect Plant Team.  His research interests include remote sensing for geo-engineering applications, unsaturated soil mechanics, constitutive and numerical modeling of coupled climate-soil- structure systems, advanced laboratory testing techniques, geothermal and ground source heat pump systems, soil stabilization and ground improvement, and frozen ground engineering.

MS&T profile: https://care.mst.edu/people/faculty/profiles/zhang/


Fengpeng Sun, University of Missouri–Kansas City (UMKC)

Fengpeng Sun is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geosciences at UMKC.  As an established climate scientist, Dr. Fengpeng Sun brings to the Climate Team added expertise in high-resolution regional climate modeling. His research focus includes climate variability and change, regional climate modeling and downscaling, climate change impacts and sustainability, and geosciences data analysis and statistics. Dr. Sun received his Ph.D. in Earth System Science with a focus on Climate Dynamics from UC-Irvine. Before he joined UMKC in 2016, he was an assistant researcher in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at UCLA, developing regional climate downscaling framework to construct historical climate and to project future climate change in the Greater Los Angeles Area and California’s Sierra Nevada.

Research website: http://s.web.umkc.edu/sunf/index.html


Malia Gehan, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (DDPSC)

Malia Gehan is an Assistant Member at DDPSC.  She joined the Plant Team at the inception of the Missouri Transect project in 2014 as a postdoctoral fellow at DDPSC.  She has since established her own lab, with start-up funds provided by Missouri Transect’s new faculty hire initiative.  Her research focus is on improving temperature stress resistance in plants using grasses and quinoa as model plant systems.  The Gehan Lab is conducting high-throughput phenotyping using plant imaging techniques to measure abiotic stress and identify traits that could resist temperature stress.  Dr. Gehan is also dedicated to outreach and has led computer science training for the Missouri Transect Computer Science Institute for Women (CSIW) in 2015 and other student and teacher workshops.

Danforth Center profile: https://www.danforthcenter.org/scientists-research/principal-investigators/malia-gehan

Lab website: http://www.gehan-lab.org/


Ruthie Angelovici, University of Missouri-Columbia (MU)

Ruthie Angelovici specializes in improving amino acid presence in staple crop seeds.  Her lab is working to understand the metabolic and genetic mechanisms driving the response of amino acids to environmental stress and other constraints.  Dr. Angelovici received her M.S. from Tel Aviv University, and her Ph.D. in Plant Sciences at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.  She continued on as a postdoctoral fellow at the Weizmann Instutite and then continued on as a postdoctoral fellow at Michigan State University from 2010-2015.  She became the first new faculty hire of Missouri Transect in 2015 when she joined the Division of Biological Sciences at MU and became a member of the Missouri Transect Plant Team.

Research profile: http://biology.missouri.edu/people/?person=165

Lab website: https://angelovici.biology.missouri.edu/

Missouri Transect Second Annual Meeting Bring Together Over 100 Attendees at Missouri S&T

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Dr. Cheryl B. Schrader gives opening remarks at the Missouri Transect Annual Meeting

The Missouri Transect Annual Meeting took place on September 14-15, 2016, at the Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla. The event brought together over 100 Missouri Transect participants and featured 48 research poster presentations.

Among those in attendance were several key Missouri S&T faculty and administrators. Attendees from all across Missouri received a warm address of welcome from Missouri S&T Chancellor Cheryl B. Schrader. Other Missouri S&T leaders also on hand to meet and interact with attendees included Dr. Robert Marley, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs; Dr. Bruce McMillian, Associate Dean of the College of Engineering and Computing, and Dr. Stephen Roberts, Vice Provost and Dean of the College of Arts, Sciences, and Business.

Dr. Kruse presenting on GRFP opportunities. To access her presentation, visit https://missouriepscor.org/news/nsf-powerpoints-missouri-transect-annual-meeting

Dr. Rebecca Kruse, Program Director for the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings, gave a presentation about NSF funding opportunities. She focused specifically on grants available to early career investigators, including the Faculty Early-Career Development Program (CAREER) and Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

Dr. Rich Ferrieri with Brookhaven National Laboratory gave the meeting’s keynote address. He described use of a technique his lab developed to administer and track radiotracers and their metabolites in whole plants using positron emission tomography (PET). To show the power of this technique for precision phenotyping, he highlighted results from two projects aimed at identifying the physiological, metabolic, and genetic changes in plants in response to root herbivory. Ferrieri previously served on the External Advisory Board for the Plant Imaging Consortium, a joint project of the Missouri and Arkansas EPSCoR programs, and has an adjunct faculty appointment with MU’s Department of Chemistry and Research Reactor. His talk highlighted the growing emphasis and innovations in precision phenotyping in plant science research.

Attendees were also brought up to speed on the progress of the Missouri Transect goals and projects. Each of the five Missouri Transect teams (i.e., Plant, Climate, Community, Science Education and Outreach, and Cyberinfrastructure) highlighted its accomplishments over the past year as well as next steps for the years ahead. A poster presentation session also gave students and postdoctoral fellows an opportunity to share results from projects as well as for all participants to learn about the wide range of research and educational projects currently underway.

Among the poster presenters were Lisa Groshong from the University of Missouri, who shared results from a project using photo narratives as a means to document visitors and park managers’ perceptions of the effects of climate change to Missouri State Parks. New advanced phenotyping technologies also were the focus of several posters, including Tyler Bradford with Missouri State University whose poster showcased a drone fitted with a hyperspectral camera being used to monitor and assess vegetative stress of fields of plants exposed to different drought conditions. Among the educational projects highlighted were Mutant Millets, an inquiry-based learning and advanced science research in modern agriculture project for high schoolers launched by the Danforth Center, and a community resilience education and training project for kids 6-9 years of age designed by Lincoln University.

Lisa Groshong, graduate student on the Community Team, speaks with Dr. Sandra Arango-Caro about community surveys and citizen science projects. Tyler Bradford, graduate student working on the Missouri State University seed grant, speaks with Rahul Sukharia about his research at Missouri State Lincoln University undergradates and graduate students speak with their faculty mentor, Dr. David Heise, during a networking break

Dr. Joel Burken, Chair of the Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering Department at Missouri S&T and co-Lead of the Missouri Transect Plant Team generously hosted the annual meeting.  The event was organized by Missouri S&T Distance and Continuing Education Department.  The Missouri Transect would like to thank Sue Turner, Director of Distance and Continuing Education and Dr. Burken for their efforts in making this event such a success.

The Missouri Transect: Climate, Plants and Community is a statewide, collaborative research effort to understand how climate variability impacts plants and communities in Missouri. Researchers are collaborating with each other across disciplines and 10 institutions as part of this five-year project.  It is funded through the National Science Foundation’s EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) program.

RTD Conference 2018 - Remote Sensing - HPC - Visualization

Event date(s): Monday, September 17, 2018 to Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Location: Havener Center, Missouri S&T, Rolla, MO

RTD 2018 Conference

September 17-18

Missouri University of Science & Technology, Havener Center, Rolla, MO

RTD 2018 is the Research and Technology Development conference, and annually RTD is an all-encompassing event for researchers, students, and academics who are involved with research and technology. It's about networking, learning about technologies, developing new skills in our workshops, and meeting new people who may, or may not, have the same interests as you. RTD is a blowout party, it's thoughtful discussion, and it puts you in a place to ponder "what if..."

Helpful Links:

RTD 2018 Website



Missouri S&T doctoral student enlists drones to detect unexploded landmines through changes in plant health

Posted by
On January 9, 2018

Read the original article on the mst.edu website here.

From U.S. Navy laboratories to battlefields in Afghanistan, researchers are lining up to explore the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to detect unexploded landmines. At Missouri University of Science and Technology, civil engineering doctoral student Paul Manley is enlisting a third variable —plant health — to see if drones can be used to more safely locate such weapons of destruction.

Manley’s Ph.D. research leverages his master’s thesis work in biology at Virginia Commonwealth University with the resources of Missouri S&T. In his case, that notably includes the MinerFly support team, which helps researchers such as Manley and thesis adviser Dr. Joel Burken with UAV construction, flight tests and navigating Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

“At VCU, Paul’s experiments on plant responses to explosives were at the leaf level and in the lab,” says Burken, Curators’ Distinguished Professor and chair of civil, architectural and environmental engineering. “Now his research can be applied at the field level with the use of UAVs.”

Paul Manley, a doctoral student in civil engineering, speaks about his work to enlist drones for environmental research to safely identity mine locations based on changes to plant health. Sam O’Keefe/Missouri S&T

The hyperspectral camera Manley favors is no ordinary point-and-shoot. Rather, the device’s higher spectral resolution allows for image collection across hundreds of bands that can detect subtle changes in how plants such as corn and sorghum gain or lose water and nutrients, or how they biochemically respond to stress.

“As drought increases, so does the relative temperature around that area,” says Manley. “So we can use thermal imaging to see how plants are responding to drought stress. When you add in those hundreds of bands, you can really ‘see’ how the plants are responding.”

The research is funded in part through Missouri S&T’s share of a five-year, $20 million National Science Foundation grant to nine institutions across the state that are teaming up to better understand climate variability and its potential agricultural, ecological and social impacts.

The consortium enables Manley to conduct test flights at locations such as the University of Missouri-Columbia’s Bradford Research Center as well as the Southwest Research Center near Mount Vernon, Missouri. Soil, terrain and crop types vary by location.

The project, “Missouri Transect: Climate, Plants and Community” received federal funding from the Experimental Program to Stimulate Cooperate Research (EPSCoR), with a goal of building research teams and expanding research capacity across the state.

Those same sensors are now being pointed toward the topic of detecting landmines and explosives. Existing landmine detection methods are far from ideal, Manley explains.

“Currently, you have people walking around the minefields, leading animals on leashes, tilling up the surface to just detonate the mines and get it over with, or they are using ground-penetrating radar to detect these in the subsurface,” Manley says. Another innovative device —constructed from plastic, iron and bamboo, and powered by wind — would need to be replaced each time it detected any of the more than 100 million unexploded landmines across the world.

“These detection methods are really slow, and they’re expensive, and they all involve people out in the minefields doing this work, so it’s dangerous,” he says.

Observing changes in plant health to determine the presence of unexploded landmines is not dissimilar from Manley’s earlier work. Over time, he explains, the mine casings can degrade, causing changes in soil properties as compounds then leach into the subsurface.

Explosive ingredients such as TNT and RDX, also known as T4, are “taken up by plants readily,” he says.

“RDX gets into groundwater, while TNT tends to stay in the roots. And RDX is readily taken into the leaves.”

By combing the knowledge of how plants and chemicals interact and the new technical capabilities to ‘see’ how plants behave from the sky, Manley aims to have a new approach to help disarm minefields around the globe — and change the world for the better.

Tags: Academics & Faculty, Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering and Computing, Department of Computer Science, email, Environmental Engineering, Missouri S&T, Missouri University of Science and Technology, news, research, Science & Tech

Researchers study crops with UAVs

Missouri S&T researcher studying how climate change affects Missouri fields

Published on September 22nd, 2016
By Missouri S&T
Article from Morning Ag Clips
Dr. Simone Silvestri, assistant professor of computer science at Missouri S&T, is using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to monitor how crops respond to climate change and drought. (cs.mst.edu)

ROLLA, Mo. — As the Earth warms, changes in crop production can have profound effects on food scarcity and distribution, so a Missouri University of Science and Technology researcher and his team are studying how climate change affects Missouri fields.

Dr. Simone Silvestri, assistant professor of computer science at Missouri S&T, is using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to monitor how crops respond to climate change and drought.

“There are benefits for producers and consumers,” Silvestri says. “Because of climate change, less water can mean lower production, which in turn drives up prices because of scarcity demand.”

Silvestri and his team are using UAVs to study a corn field in Columbia, Missouri, from first planting until harvest. The plants do not contain genetically modified organisms. The project helps map naturally occurring modifications of plants’ DNA to robust crops that weather dry conditions and ward off parasites.

In the study, he says, the researchers are proposing a framework to optimize the tradeoff between the monitoring accuracy provided by a UAV network and its cost. The goal is to achieve autonomy in flying a network of several UAVs while optimizing multiple performance metrics such as data accuracy and energy consumption.

The UAVs are equipped with several types of cameras, such as RGB (red, green and blue), hyperspectral and thermal, which allow the team to gather a variety of information on several crop features such as plant growth, health and water stress. Simone and his team define high-level missions though a web application, which include the field to be monitored, the altitude at which pictures should be taken and the frequency (for example, three times a day or once a week).

The framework provides efficient algorithms to distribute the monitoring missions to the UAVs and autonomously schedule their flight and data collection operations. An automated weather monitoring station also is integrated with the framework to ensure that it is safe to fly.

“Our role is to improve the scalability of data acquisition,” Silvestri says. “We need to have reliable data at a low cost.”

The work is funded through a National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) for $71,055.

See more at: https://www.morningagclips.com/researchers-study-crops-with-uavs/?utm_co...

Other recent articles about Dr. Silvestri's work can be found on these online news sources:

Seed World


Tags: Missouri S&T, Plant Team, Simone Silvestri, climate change, UAVs, crops, field research, article, outreach