KU News Release

March 24, 2010
Contact: Roberta Pokphanh, Office of Research and Graduate Studies, (785) 864-3107

KU graduate students to present research projects March 25 in Topeka

LAWRENCE — Outstanding graduate students from three Kansas research universities will present their work Thursday, March 25, to state officials and the public during the seventh annual Capitol Graduate Research Summit at the Docking State Office Building in Topeka. The free event takes place from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

This year’s summit features 13 students from the University of Kansas: eight from the Lawrence campus and five from the KU Medical Center. Kansas State University and Wichita State University each will have 10 students participating.

Research projects are presented in a poster sessions. Throughout the summit, the students will be on hand to explain their work and discuss how it benefits Kansas.

Erick Spears is studying colon cancer at the molecular level.

“The APC gene is associated with 80 percent of all colon cancers,” said Spears, a doctoral student in molecular biosciences. “It’s what tells a cell not to divide when it’s not supposed to. Cancer involves cells growing uncontrollably, so we’re studying the interactions of the APC gene in hopes of coming up with better cancer treatments and preventive measures.”

This kind of research is important because approximately 95,000 Kansans live with some form of cancer and more than 5,000 Kansans die of cancer each year.

Skye Leedahl’s research looks at the social benefits of participation in the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization, based on 20 interviews she conducted.

“Participation enhanced feelings of well-being and combated feelings of isolation and loneliness,” said Leedahl, a doctoral student in social welfare. “People received and provided social support, and their behavior was influenced by watching how others are dealing with health and financial issues. Those who take part in such social organizations can easily remain active in their communities as they age, and these organizations are a valuable resource for meeting local community needs.”

There are 159 VFW posts in Kansas and more than 28,000 VFW members.

Capitol Graduate Research Summit participants are listed below by hometown, major, title of presentation, academic adviser, parents’ names, previous schools attended and previous degrees earned.

From Fort Scott 66701
Erin M. Lewis, doctoral student in mechanical engineering; “Bioengineering Toolkits for 4th and 5th Grade Teachers”; Lisa Friis, associate professor of mechanical engineering; David and Debbie Lewis; bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from KU, spring 2009; Fort Scott High School.

From Lenexa 66227 and Clearview City 66019
William A. Blake, doctoral student in electrical engineering and computer science; “InSAR for 3-D Ice Sheet Basal Imaging”; Christopher Allen, professor of electrical engineering and computer science; Michael and Cheryl Blake; bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from KU, fall 2005; Olathe North High School.

From Olathe 66061
Heidi Lynn Hassel, master’s degree student in civil engineering; “Enhancing Fatigue Life of Steel Bridges through Common Retrofit Techniques”; Caroline Bennett, assistant professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering; bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University, spring 2009.

From Olathe 66062
William Russell Donovan, doctoral student in aerospace engineering; “Meridian: The Development of an Unmanned Aircraft System for Cryospheric Research”; Rick Hale, associate professor of aerospace engineering; Bill and Coleen Donovan; master’s degree, fall 2004, and bachelor’s degree, spring 2001, both in aerospace engineering from KU; Osawatomie Senior High School.

From Leavenworth 66048
Andrew Michael Duncan, master’s degree student in chemical engineering; “High-Pressure Viscosity of Biodiesel from Soybean, Canola and Coconut Oil”; Susan Williams, associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering; Thomas and Jennie Duncan; bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from KU, spring 2007; Leavenworth High School.

From Wichita 67226
Kevin L.Farmer, doctoral student in rehabilitation science; “Effect of Voluntary Exercise on Mechanical Allodynia and Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Expression in Diabetic Mice”; Douglas E. Wright, associate professor of anatomy and cell biology; Vernon and Linda Farmer; bachelor’s degree in education (sport science) from KU, fall 2003; associate’s degree from Allen County Community College; Wichita High School Heights.

From Topeka 66611
Libby Averill Rosen, “Sleep Characteristics in Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding Mothers”; Karen Wambach, associate professor of nursing; doctoral degree in nursing from KU, fall 2009; bachelor’s degree from Washburn University, spring 1994.

From Lakewood 80226
Erick Alan Spears, doctoral student in molecular, cellular and developmental biology; “Wnt Signaling Pathway and the APC/MSI Double-negative Feedback Loop”; Krisiti Neufeld, assistant professor of molecular biosciences; master’s degree from the University of Colorado-Denver, fall 2000.

From Kansas City 64111
Sarah E. Tague, doctoral student in molecular and integrative physiology; “Vitamin D Deficiency Increases Growth of Pain-Sensing Nerves"; Peter G. Smith, professor of molecular and integrative physiology; bachelor’s degrees in art, Germanic languages and literatures and microbiology from KU, spring 1999; Shawnee Mission East High School, Prairie Village.

From Kansas City 64155
Jill K. Morris, doctoral student in molecular biology and integrative physiology; “Effects of a High Fast Diet on Insulin Resistance and Nigrostiatal Dopamine Depletion Following 6-OHDA;” Paige C. Geiger, assistant professor, and John A. Stanford, associate professor, both in molecular and integrative physiology; bachelor’s degree from William Jewell College, Liberty, Mo.

From St. Joseph 64503
Katherine Harvey, master’s degree student in dietetics and nutrition; “Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Intake and Its Relationship to Fatty Acids in Breast, Red Blood Cells and Serum LCPUFA in Women at High Risk for Breast Cancer”; Debra Sulllivan, associate professor and chair of the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition; bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University.

From Springfield 65810
Mary Elizabeth Krause, doctoral student in chemistry; “Development of a new medical imaging agent”; Jennifer Laurence, assistant professor of pharmaceutical chemistry; bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University-Springfield, spring 2005.

From Minot 58702
Skye Nichole Leedahl, doctoral student in social welfare; “Social Organizations and Aging: The Benefits of VFW Membership”; David Ekerdt, professor of sociology and director of the Gerontology Center; Peggy Thompson; bachelor’s degree from University of North Dakota-Grand Forks, fall 2005.

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

kunews@ku.edu | (785) 864-3256 | 1314 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, KS 66045

KU Today

Subscribe to our daily newsletter covering research, academics, media coverage, campus news, events & more. Subscribe




The University of Kansas prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability, status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, gender identity, gender expression, and genetic information in the university’s programs and activities. Retaliation is also prohibited by university policy. The following persons have been designated to handle inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policies and are the Title IX coordinators for their respective campuses: Executive Director of the Office of Institutional Opportunity & Access, IOA@ku.edu, 1246 West Campus Road, Room 153A, Lawrence, KS 66045, 785-864-6414, 711 TTY (for the Lawrence, Edwards, Parsons, Yoder, and Topeka campuses); Director, Equal Opportunity Office, Mail Stop 7004, 4330 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Fairway, KS 66205, 913-588-8011, 711 TTY (for the Wichita, Salina, and Kansas City, Kansas, medical center campuses).