Redefining research: new roles for government, corporate sponsors

CoverImage_small_frontLike many schools in the United States, Missouri S&T came of age as a research university during the U.S.-Soviet “Space Race” of the 1960s. Back then, much of the research conducted on campus was funded by the federal government and usually involved the practical application of knowledge to meet specific needs. Today, most research conducted at S&T is still “applied” in nature, but the clients have changed. The private sector has become a significant source of research funding for Missouri S&T, and many expect that trend to continue – here in Rolla and in university research labs throughout the U.S. How this shift in funding affects the role of U.S. research universities is a subject that is generating interest not just at S&T, but across our nation. [Read more…]

Firing up the ion drive

AerospacePlasmaLab042Ever since the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk, the goals of aviation have seemed simultaneously overly ambitious and within reach. It’s no different at Missouri S&T, where researchers are using a pulsed theta pinch to study the physics of high-density, heavy-gas plasma for ion space propulsion in order to meet (and in some cases exceed) the demands of future NASA missions. Inside S&T’s Space and High-Altitude Environment Testing Facility, researchers analyze multiple ion drive propulsion systems. [Read more…]

Clearing electronic traffic jams

HyPointLab103Over the past few decades, the number of electronic and electrical devices has skyrocketed, as has the amount of radio waves that can interfere with other devices. That’s where researchers in S&T’s Electromagnetic Compatibility Laboratory come in. Inside the EMC’s versatile semi-anechoic chamber, energy can’t get out or in. This controlled environment eliminates outside ambient noise and allows researchers to test emissions and immunity on big screen TVs and other digital devices.

Transforming infrastructure repair

HighBayLab049As roads and bridges across the country continue to age and deteriorate, state and federal agencies are seeking ways to rebuild and revitalize the failing transportation system. Missouri S&T is helping. Inside the High-Bay Structural Engineering Research Laboratory in Butler-Carlton Civil Engineering Hall, researchers use specialized equipment to simulate loading, vibrations and other real-world conditions that are critical to testing and evaluating new infrastructure systems. In this environment, they push materials to extremes to predict when they might fail.

A driving force for the future

SteelManufacturingLab182The demand for the nation’s automotive and manufacturing industries to provide safe, affordable vehicles with better fuel economy has never been greater. S&T is at the center of a consortium with the steel industry and is home to the Kent D. Peaslee Steel Manufacturing Research Center. Working with steel manufacturers, suppliers and other industry partners, S&T researchers seek to reduce a vehicle’s overall weight by developing lighter and stronger materials.

Greek your iPhone

College students and alumni with iPhones may soon be able to show off their fraternity or sorority pride thanks to Connor Wolk, a sophomore in mechanical engineering, and his business partner, Taylor Jay, a student at the University of Kansas. The pair recently launched Dual Cases LLC to make lightweight yet sturdy iPhone cases that can be customized with Greek letters. [Read more…]

Tulsa turf team

Love it or hate it, artificial turf has many benefits — including year-round field use and an even playing surface. In October, students voted to fund 75 percent of the $2.4 million required to install turf on S&T’s football and intramural fields, but more is needed. [Read more…]

Hannah Frye: pathways to the perfect fit

At first glance, it is impossible to tell that Hannah Frye, a junior in chemistry with an emphasis in biochemistry, is helping Robert Aronstam perform groundbreaking research that could lead to treatments for diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. But stop her in the Havener Center at lunch and ask her about her work with the chair of biological sciences and she can explain anything from cell signaling to how she measures the calcium levels in a cell’s endoplasmic reticulum and cytoplasm. [Read more…]

Letter from the editor

The crossroads Our campus has a proud tradition of equipping our students with a practical, applied education. It’s a tradition that began with our founding as a land grant institution — a response to the westward expansion fueled by the Industrial Revolution.

Over the century that followed, Missouri S&T became a full-fledged research university, coming of age — as many research campuses did — during the height of the U.S.-Soviet “Space Race.” Though research became more prominent on campus, the university remained true to its land-grant roots. Today, Missouri S&T continues to evolve, advancing the fields of engineering, science and technology. But it does so in the face of economic uncertainty.

This economic uncertainty means a shift in funding — which in turn redefines S&T’s role as a research university. Last year, for the first time in its history, Missouri S&T received the majority of its research funding from private sources.

As the private sector looks to universities like Missouri S&T to solve real-world problems, we’re also partnering with private interests to support our research goals. This shift allows S&T to continue to push the envelope of innovation. But it also raises questions: Who ultimately benefits from this research? And at what cost?

These are questions our cover story, “Redefining research,” attempts to answer.

One thing is certain: The need for university research will not go away any time soon. It is what fueled innovation in the past — from the Space Race forward — and it will continue to fuel it in the future.

– Megan Kean-O’Brien, MS TComm’12, design and production editor

‘Inventern’ finalist

Ron Erickson, IST’11, is building his own rally car from the ground up. By himself. The project got him noticed by MythBusters star Adam Savage, who held a contest last fall to find the next “Inventern” for his website tested.com. [Read more…]