The year in research – stories worth revisiting

Posted by
On December 22, 2022

Woman wearing safety glasses and lab coat. She has long, dark, curly hair and is wearing blue latex gloves. She is looking at a long glass tube during an experiment.

Fateme Rezaei, the Linda and Bipin Doshi Associate Professor of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering at Missouri S&T, recently earned a $1.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for carbon-capture research. Photo by Michael Pierce, Missouri S&T.

From using artificial intelligence to help match kidney transplant donors with those in need to designing more helpful assistive robots for people with disabilities, Missouri S&T researchers are coming up with innovative ways to tackle challenges. 

Here’s a look back at 10 research topics that demonstrate the variety and depth of research at S&T.

Dr. Yun Seong Song, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Missouri S&T, with his interactive robot Ophrie
Dr. Yun Seong Song, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Missouri S&T, with his interactive robot Ophrie. Photo by Michael Pierce, Missouri S&T

With a little help from my robot 

A new study by Missouri S&T researchers shows how human subjects, walking hand-in-hand with a robot guide, stiffen or relax their arms at different times during the walk. The researchers’ analysis of these movements could aid in the design of smarter, more humanlike robot guides and assistants. Dr. Yun Seong Song, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, describes the findings as “an early step in developing a robot that is humanlike when it physically interacts with a human partner.”

Dr. Grace Yan, associate professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering, models extreme wind speeds in her tornado simulator.

Step inside my lab tornado

S&T researchers bring tornadoes into the laboratory – literally – with a new simulator that models extreme cyclonic wind speeds. By using the simulator, researchers can study how tornadoes destroy structures and then use the findings to update existing structures and influence new construction. 

Photo of Dr. Baojun Bai and the particle gel he's researching
Dr. Baojun Bai, the Lester R. Birbeck Endowed Professor of Petroleum Engineering at Missouri S&T, is developing cost-effective polymer gels that can help make geothermal reservoirs more efficient. Photo by Michael Pierce, Missouri S&T.

Solving for sustainability 

S&T researchers are tackling environmental issues from all angles. Some examples:

  • Dr. Fateme Rezaei, the Linda and Bipin Doshi Associate Professor of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, earned a $1.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for carbon-capture research. Her team will develop a system to capture CO2 and use it for blended cement, ultimately contributing to the decarbonization of the cement industry. 
  • Dr. Hongyan Ma, an associate professor of civil engineering, is leading research to turn CO2 into massive rocks for permanent carbon storage. “We need ways to not only reduce CO2 emission but also to remove it from the air and utilize or permanently store the removed CO2 at a scale large enough to combat climate change,” he says. 
  • The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) awarded a $2 million grant to Dr. Philip Whitefield, Curators’ Distinguished Professor emeritus of chemistry, to study how different types of sustainable aviation fuels could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from airplanes.
Dr. Jinling Liu is the first researcher at Missouri S&T to receive a K01 award from the National Institutes of Health. The goal of the highly competitive program is to provide the support promising early career researchers need to become leaders in their fields. Photo by Michael Pierce, Missouri S&T.

For the health of it

S&T researchers are exploring ways that data can be used to help improve health. 

Dr. Casey Canfield, assistant professor of engineering management and systems engineering, is leading research on using artificial intelligence to fine-tune the matchmaking involved in kidney transplants with a $1.8 million NSF grant. 

Dr. Jinling Liu, assistant professor of engineering management and systems engineering, is developing a way to customize high blood pressure treatment for each patient, based on their unique DNA. Liu, who also holds an appointment on S&T’s biological sciences faculty, is the first S&T researcher to receive the National Institutes of Health’s highly competitive career development funding known as a K01 award, which is from the NIH National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The program’s goal is to provide the resources, dedicated time and experiences early career researchers need to become leaders who are competitive for large grants.

The NIH also supports S&T’s research investigating music, memory and aging, led by Dr. Amy Belfi, an assistant professor of psychological science. 

Most-cited researchers, new highs for royalty income

Sixty-five researchers affiliated with S&T are among the top researchers in their field as measured by their career research records, and 12 other current or former Missouri S&T researchers were among the best in their fields in 2021, according to the latest analysis by Stanford University.

In terms of technology transfer, Missouri S&T also had an impressive year. S&T took in nearly $1 million in royalty income in the 2021-22 fiscal year, an increase of 38% over the previous year. 

two firefighters battling vehicle fire
Through Ignition Grant seed funding, Dr. Guang Xu is studying the fire risks of electric vehicle batteries. Photo by Dominik Sostmann, Unsplash.

Sparking the next big idea

In its first year, the Kummer Institute invested $500,000 in 17 S&T faculty-led research proposal development projects through the Kummer Ignition Grants for Research and Innovation program. Ranging from $25,000 to $50,000 per project, these grants support researchers’ efforts to develop compelling proposals for multi-million-dollar grants from federal agencies, foundations and corporations. Some research topics include designing glass to engineer heart tissue, creating hubs for hydrogen energy and delivering cancer treatment to patients in rural areas.

Young woman with dark hair in a braid, wearing shorts , tank top and hiking boots, sits on the ground next to the fossil she found.
Emma Puetz, a Missouri S&T junior from Rolla, Missouri, found a dinosaur fossil while attending a field school in Montana. Photo provided by Emma Puetz.

The frill of a lifetime

Emma Puetz, a junior in geology at Missouri S&T, was only 20 minutes from leaving field school in Montana when she stumbled upon a triceratops frill – the bony collar that arched behind the dinosaur’s head. 

Photo of Dr. Fahrenholtz in dark green shirt working with female student in light green shirt. They're both wearing blue protective gloves as they work with ceramic substances.
Dr. Bill Fahrenholtz, Curators’ Distinguished Professor of ceramic engineering at Missouri S&T, reviews processes with undergraduate student Grace Epp. Photo by Michael Pierce, Missouri S&T.

Creating consistent ceramics

When you order fries at a McDonald’s in Alaska, you expect them to taste the same as the fries you get from a McDonalds’ in Missouri. That type of consistency is what researchers at Missouri S&T are trying to achieve in ultra-high-temperature ceramics processing for hypersonic vehicles.

Portrait of Dr. Petra Dewitt in the S&T Library’s archives. Photo by Tom Wagner, Missouri S&T.

Add to your book list

Check out the latest scholarly books by faculty, with topics ranging from true crime to quantum electrodynamics:

Dr. Nan Cen on a dark stage surrounded by lighted desk, table and floor lamps
Dr. Nan Cen’s research uses visible light to provide high-speed Wi-Fi data transfer. Photo by Michael Pierce, Missouri S&T.

Shining a light on data transfer

Turning a light on and off doesn’t require much thought – click on, click off. But modulating that light – turning it on and off faster than the human eye can comprehend – and using the modulated light for Wi-Fi data transmission requires a great deal of thought, and it’s the focus on Dr. Nan Cen’s visible-light communications research.

More about S&T research

For more news about Missouri S&T research and scholarship, visit the research section of this news site or visit S&T’s research webpage.

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