KU News Release

Feb. 10, 2011
Contact: Roberta Pokphanh, Office of Research and Graduate Studies, 785-864-3107

Graduate students to present research Feb. 17 in Topeka

LAWRENCE — Outstanding graduate students from three Kansas research universities will discuss their work and how it benefits Kansans during the eighth annual Capitol Graduate Research Summit on Thursday, Feb. 17, in Topeka.

Graduate students from the University of Kansas, Kansas State University and Wichita State University will present their work in poster sessions. The free event is open to state officials and the public from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Docking State Office Building.

KU will be represented by 13 doctoral students — eight from the Lawrence campus and five from the KU Medical Center. Their research interests range from water quality in Kansas to identifying genetic factors that can interfere with treatments for breast and ovarian cancer and from evaluating technologies to determine hearing loss to studying molecules that could transform the electronics industry.

One KU chemistry project, for example, is a study of azulene, a molecule that could help transform the electronics industry from computers to cellular phones. The research is being conducted by Brad Neal, a fourth-year doctoral student who says, “Azulene is unlike other small molecules in the way that it can be manipulated to perform an exact application, such as nanoscale electronics.”

Lindsey Witthaus, in KU’s environmental science doctoral program, is researching water quality in Kansas. Witthaus is utilizing an interdisciplinary methodology that incorporates environmental engineering, ecology, geography and social sciences to gain a greater understanding of model inputs. Her work will also help policy makers appreciate how models can be used to guide environmental policy in Kansas.

The summit will conclude with the presentation of eight $1,000 awards to two students from each campus. Funding for the awards was provided to KU Endowment by KansasBio and Tom and Jill Docking.

KansasBio was founded in 2004 by the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp. and the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute to unify Kansas’ bioscience industry, academic research institutions and economic development organizations. Its goals are to enhance the state’s business and research climate, and to work with leaders across the state to attract and retain bioscience talent, companies and funding.

Tom and Jill Docking are KU alumni. Tom, a partner in the Wichita law firm of Morris, Laing, Evans, Brock and Kennedy, earned a bachelor’s in economics and political science in 1976 and a law degree and a master’s of business administration in 1980. He served as Kansas lieutenant governor from 1983 to 1987. Jill received her bachelor’s degree in history at KU in 1978 and her master’s of business administration in 1984. She works as a financial adviser and recently served as chair of the Kansas Board of Regents. She is a member of the KU Endowment Board of Trustees. The Dockings recently were named co-chairs of the next comprehensive campaign for KU.

KU’s Capitol Graduate Research Summit participants are listed below by hometown, major, title of presentation, academic adviser, previous degrees earned and, when available, parents’ names and high school.

From Atchison 66022 and Kansas City
Jill Nicole Peltzer, doctoral student in nursing, is researching “The Development of a Comprehensive Health Center in a Rural Community.” Cynthia Teel, professor of nursing, is her adviser. Peltzer earned a bachelor’s degree in spring 1992 and a master’s degree in fall 1999, both from KU’s School of Nursing. She is the daughter of Ted and Sharon Peltzer and a graduate of Atchison High School.

From Lawrence 66044
Emily Diane Kessler, doctoral student in clinical child psychology, is researching “Weight-Related Criticism and Criticism during Physical Activity as Predictors of Sedentary Behavior in Preadolescent School Children.” Her adviser is Ric Steele, associate professor of psychology. She has a bachelor’s degree from Agnes Scott College, Decatur, Ga. Kessler is the daughter of Cheryl Ragar and a Lawrence Free State High School graduate.

From Lawrence 66046
Sommer L. Amundsen, doctoral student in bioengineering, is collaborating with Gustaf Van Acker III, doctoral student in molecular and integrative physiology, to study “Optimal Stimulus Parameters for Mapping Muscle Synergies and Associated Movements Evoked From M1 Cortex with Repetitive ICMS.” Their advisers are Paul Cheney, professor of molecular integrative physiology, and Carl Luchies, associate professor of mechanical engineering. Amundsen’s bachelor’s degree is from Hope College, Holland, Mich.

From Lawrence 66047
Alan F. Halfen, doctoral student in geography, is researching “Sand Dunes and Megadroughts of Kansas.” William C. Johnson, professor of geography, is his adviser.

From Lawrence 66049
Michael D. Mangus, doctoral student in mechanical engineering, is researching “Performance and Emission Testing of Feedstock Biodiesels.” Christopher Depcik, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is his adviser. Mangus has a bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University.

Lindsey Marie Witthaus, doctoral student in environmental science and civil and environmental engineering, is researching “Validation and Calibration of the EUTROMOD Model for Kansas Reservoirs.” Her project advisers are Belinda Sturm, assistant professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering, and Val H. Smith, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. Witthaus has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh. She is the daughter of James and Marlene Witthaus and Lawrence Free State High School graduate.

From Dodge City 67801 and Prairie Village
Shane R. Stecklein, medical student and doctoral student in pathology, is researching “Antagonizing Repair-Mediated Resistance in Breast and Ovarian Cancer.” His adviser is Roy A. Jenson, director of the KU Cancer Center and the William R. Jewell, M.D., Distinguished Kansas Masonic Professor. Stecklein earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from KU in spring 2006. He is the son of Diane Stecklein of Prairie Village and a graduate of Dodge City Senior High School.

From Olathe 66062
Brian D. Cordill, doctoral student in electrical engineering, is researching “Reducing Design Costs in Modern Aircraft through Virtual Shielding Measurements.” His adviser is Sarah Seguin, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science. Cordill has a master’s degree from University of California-Los Angles and a spring 2007 bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from KU. He is the son of Linda Cordill and an Olathe South High School graduate.

From Overland Park 66210
Daniel J. Parente is a medical student and doctoral student in biochemistry and molecular biology in KU’s School of Medicine. Parente’s project is “Evaluating the Performance of Sequence/Function Analysis Tools Using the LacI/GalR Protein Family” Liskin Swint-Kruse, associate professor of biochemistry, is his adviser. Parente is the son of Ernest and Linda Parente and a Blue Valley Northwest High School graduate.

From Prairie Village 66208 and Dodge City
Shane R. Stecklein. SEE FORD COUNTY

From Roeland Park 66202
Gustaf M. Van Acker III, doctoral student in molecular and integrative physiology, and Sommer L. Amundsen, doctoral student in bioengineering, are working collaboratively to study “Optimal Stimulus Parameters for Mapping Muscle Synergies and Associated Movements Evoked From M1 Cortex with Repetitive ICMS.” Their advisers are Paul Cheney, professor of molecular integrative physiology, and Carl Luchies, associate professor of mechanical engineering.

From Clearwater 67026
Ashlee Nicole (Widler) Martz, doctoral student in audiology, is researching “A New Method for Diagnosing Hearing Loss.” Mark Chertoff, associate professor in the School of Allied Health, is her adviser. Martz earned a bachelor’s degree in speech-language-hearing from KU in spring 2007. She is the daughter of Todd and Kim Widler and a graduate of Clearwater High School.

From Mulvane 67110
Troy A. Johnson, doctoral student in biochemical and molecular biology, is researching “Enzyme Catalysis: Understanding How It Works.” His adviser is Todd Holyoak, assistant professor of biochemistry. Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree from Emporia State University in 2006.

From Kansas City 66103 and Atchison
Jill Nicole Peltzer. SEE ATCHISON COUNTY

From Otisco 47163
Brad M. Neal, doctoral student in chemistry, is researching “Self assembly of mercaptoazulenes on metallic Au(111) surfaces.” His advisers are Mikhail Barybin, associate professor of chemistry, and Cindy Berrie, associate professor of chemistry. Neal has a bachelor’s degree from Bellarmine College, Louisville, Ky.

From Khoms
Hadi Ali Shateh is a doctoral student in the School of Architecture, Design and Planning. His project is “An Effective Methodology for Analyzing the Spatial Structure of Urban Areas Using Space Syntax and GIS Techniques: The Case Study of Topeka, Kan.” Mahbub Rashid, associate professor of architecture, is his adviser. Shateh has a bachelor’s degree from El-Mergheb University in Al Khums, Libya.

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