October 6, 2009

NSF awards $20 million for Kansas energy and climate research

A $20 million 5-year National Science Foundation grant will further establish Kansas as an internationally recognized leader in renewable energy and global climate change.

The EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) grant for The Climate Change and Renewable Energy Initiative links four universities, the Kansas State University, the University of Kansas, Wichita State University and Haskell Indian Nations University; three Kansas-based companies: Abenngoa Bioenergy, MGP Ingredients and Nanoscale; and two companies outside of Kansas ADM (Illinois) and NetCrystals (California) in a massive research effort. The initiative will also receive $4 million in matching funds from KU, KSU and Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation (KTEC).

“This is a tremendous opportunity for the state of Kansas,” said Kristin Bowman-James, principal investigator and project director of Kansas’ EPSCoR program. “With this funding we will be able to harness the talents of researchers across the state… under the umbrella of a single integrated initiatve.

About 40 scientist are currently involved in the collaborative consortium, representing  a vast array of disciplines, including agronomy, anthropology, computer science, economics, geography, mathematics, sociology, engineering, biology, chemistry and physics.


 Among the five team leaders  for  the Climate Change and Renewable Energy  initiative will be Charles Rice, KSU Distinguished Professor of Agronomy,  who was a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that won the Nobel Peace Prize in  2007. The climate change portion of the project makes up about $5 million of the funding. The team led by Judy Wu, KU Distinguished Professor of Physics, will explore the use of nanotechnology to harness solar energy.


 Other team leaders are Dietrich Earnhart, Associate Professor of Economics at KU and colleagues who will assess how farmers make decisions about which crops to grow.  Director of Haskell Environmental Research Studies (HERS) Center and acting Vice-President of Academic Affairs at Haskell, and Joane Nagel, University Distinguished Professor of Sociology at KU, will work with tribal college students in exploring climate change and energy issues on Native American lands, while developing an educational pathway for Native Americans to earn doctoral degrees.


Awarded $880,000  for its portion of the project,  WSU studies  will revolve around energy with a focus on the development of solar-based renewable energy and establishing a critical energy research infrastructure. Researchers will include Francis D’Souza and Paul Rillema, both of the WSU Department of Chemistry.

“We envision that this interdisciplinary research effort bridged across the natural and social sciences and engineering, will  ultimately allow Kansas to be a key leader in research that addresses serious global challenges,” says Bowman-James.  

EPSCoR is a federal program that targets states that have traditionally been underfunded in the sciences and engineering. For more information on NSF EPSCoR see: http://www.nsfepscor.ku.edu/.

Sources: NSF EPSCoR, KU, WSU and KSU press releases