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:  Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems (INFEWS) is just one aspect of the NSF’s Ten 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) ( 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 (  RoL: Epigenetics (NSF 18-600,, RoL: Forecasting and Emergence in Living Systems (NSF 18-031,, RoL: Building a Synthetic Cell (NSF 18-599, 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.

Podcast on Drought Features a Missouri Transect Plant Team Member

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Missouri is currently facing a drought alert and 30 counties are experiencing extreme drought this summer.  University of Missouri Chancellor, Dr. Alexander N. Cartwright, sat down for an Inside Mizzou podcast with several MU professors, including Dr. Felix Fritschi of the Missouri Transect Plant Team to discuss how drought is understood and felt by communities, how it is studied at MU and how research can help bring about innovation to combat drought and natural disasters. 

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:


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:


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:

Lab website:


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:

Lab website:

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

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.

Missouri EPSCoR Doppler Radar in the News

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Doppler radar, built by EWR in Kirkwood, MO, will be installed at the end of June on the MU South Farm Research Center in Columbia, MO. Already, it has received media attention state-wide in anticipation of the high-quality, real-time data available to researchers in the state, the National Weather Service, and to the public. An expert in radar technology, Neil Fox, has been collaborating with the Climate Team, headed by Pat Market, since the onset of the Missouri Transect project. On March 10, 2015, KBIA, a local subsidiary of NPR News interviewed Dr. Fox about the radar's predicted broader impacts on state-wide weather forecasts This Doppler weather radar that will improve Missouri microclimate datasets and enhance prediction of climate variability and extreme events. It will also provide high-quality, calibrated precipitation estimates that will be used to better understand precipitation over multi-use complex terrain. Many education and community outreach activities will benefit from using the radar during field trips to South Farm. In short, it is no wonder this state-of-the-art equipment is generating a buzz across the state.

Thundersnow and Flash Floods: The Elevated Thunderstorm and Its Dangers

Event date(s): Saturday, September 9, 2017
Location: Monsanto Auditorium, Bond Life Sciences Center, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211

Saturday, September 9

10:30-11:30am Saturday Morning Science: Thundersnow and Flash Floods: The Elevated Thunderstorm and Its Dangers

Speaker: Patrick Market, Professor of Atmospheric Science, University of Missouri, Atmospheric Science Program

Location: Monsanto Aud., LSC

Over the last 30 years, flooding has been the second leading cause of weather-related fatalities, with lightning coming in third. Many times, these phenomena occur on what may appear to be less threatening weather days. Our research group has produced a number of tools for improved weather forecasts on those days.

Saturday Morning Science is a series of one-hour long talks on various scientific topics. No science background is required, only enthusiasm for and an interest in science. The talks are free and open to the public. If you want to know a bit more about science or if you are simply curious, come join us on Saturday morning.

Join the conversation: #MizzouResearch and #LSSP2017

More info: