Greetings from Wichita State University! As of May 26, WSU began a gradual reopening of campus offices and the reintegration of our research labs. While all defense-related research continued at the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) during the campus closure, limited research had continued on the rest of campus for those projects and personnel with impending deadlines, as well as research related to COVID-19. Many of these COVID-19-related research projects are briefly described at https://wsu.news/covidresearch.

As mentioned in the April Research Newsletter , President Jay Golden committed internal funding to support a Convergence Sciences Initiative for building transdisciplinary teams that solve complex societal problems in health disparities and health delivery, digital transformations, and sustainability. WSU researchers have been engaged in efforts to forge new alliances, and as a result, 18 teams submitted proposals on June 8 to compete for funding in these three categories, as well as a fourth open area. We will undoubtedly report in the future on both the funded projects and other initiatives resulting from this convergence of minds. 

In this issue, we will share some of the more established activities pursued by faculty and students, including a WSU University Research/Creative Projects-supported investigation of the effect of heightened security measures in schools on the perception of their safety; the development of return-to-learn policies with Kansas schools; and a student-initiated project on minority students and women.

You will also learn about the move of one of our long-time partners, NetApp, to the WSU campus, and the partnership between NIAR and the Air Force to create a virtual B-1 Bomber that can be evaluated for structural issues.

When you are in the Wichita area, be sure to visit campus and learn more about the Shocker way of pushing boundaries to change the world. 

Coleen Pugh
Associate Vice President of Research
Wichita State University
Getting to Know
 Wichita State University
Last fall, WSU admitted 1,655 first-year students. Here's a
look at our enrollment numbers this academic year.
Total Enrollment: 16,058
Undergraduate: 13,217
Graduate and Professional: 2,469
In-State: 9,399
Full-Time: 11,397
Research Advantage
Research Records
U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Awards
Agency & Industry Research
The steep rise in contracts and awards from the U.S. Department of Defense
(DoD) increased by more than $40 million from FY18 to FY19.
1,016 | Number of industry-sponsored awards
$33.7M | Amount of industry-sponsored awards
Featured Research
Wichita State digs deeper into coprolite history through archaeology of food laboratory
Dr. Crystal Dozier works with a lab research team at Etzanoa, a lost city near Arkansas City and recently discovered by Wichita State professor Donald Blakeslee.
You can tell a lot about people based upon what they eat – culture, preferences, geography and overall health. Food is not only nourishment, but it’s a message to anthropologists, like Wichita State University’s Dr. Crystal Dozier, to help understand the past.

The Food Research Lab at Wichita State University studies human’s relationship with food throughout history. A majority of the work that’s done there is microfossil analysis of primarily plants that are left on archeological artifacts. 

"We can tell what people were cooking and eating and working with by looking at these microscopic pieces of plants,” Dozier said.

In 2019, Dozier and two of her colleagues were tasked with analyzing more than 1,000 samples of 1,500-year-old feces that was found in a cave in southwest Texas. While there, they learned one coprolite had eaten a lot of cactus pads and another had part of a likely pack rat or small rodent. 

It turned out that the cactus and rat were not the most interesting items found in the 1,500-year-old poop.

“The really headline-grabbing aspect of this particular study was the fact that we had found a venomous snake fang in the coprolite along with the rims and scales of a venomous snake,” Dozier said.

Currently the lab research team is working very closely with the excavations at Etzanoa, which is a lost city near Arkansas City and recently discovered by Wichita State professor Donald Blakeslee.

“We are working on looking at microscopic remains in the pottery recovered from that site as well as what’s in the sediment and possibly ancient agricultural fields,” Dozier said.
Dozier says that the study of food archaeology provides valuable insight not only into the past, but it also informs us about the future. 

“We're discovering new things about humans’ relationship to food by studying how people in the past ate,” she said, “and knowing the food habits of people in the past opens up new understandings for our food in the future.” 

Resources and Facilities
NetApp presence on campus will broaden digital transformation, convergence sciences at WSU
Work has begun on a permanent new home for NetApp's Wichita operations on the Wichita State University Innovation Campus, near 17th Street and Innovation Boulevard. It is expected to open in early 2022.

The 168,000-square-foot LEED Silver building is designed as an open office plan, with 600-plus workstations. The data center will be outfitted with 420 racks for NetApp’s product development purposes. Developing a permanent home on Innovation Campus will allow the company to work even more closely with WSU students, faculty and other researchers. 

NetApp, a world leading solutions provider in digital transformation, is already one of the largest employers of Wichita State students and alumni. NetApp is a Fortune 500 global data storage and cloud management company, headquartered in Sunnyvale, California.

While the new building is under construction, NetApp has leased Innovation Campus’ Partnership 3 Building, on 18th Street near Oliver, as a temporary home for many of its operations and employees. Most employees are currently working from their homes and will continue to do so while COVID-19 remains a major health concern.

Looking beyond that time, WSU President Jay Golden said: “I fully expect that NetApp's deepening collaboration with Wichita State will change the company, university and the broader community in many positive ways. The collaboration with NetApp is a cornerstone of the university's new National Institute for Digital Transformation.”
Student Applied Learning and Research
Shocker student focuses research on serving underserved populations

Wichita State University student, Inneke Vargas, who is majoring in psychology with a minor in criminal justice, currently works as a research assistant for Dr. Amy Chesser, Dr. Nikki Keene Woods and Melody McCray Miller.

Her research is funded by a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) grant, the first of its kind awarded in Wichita. Her work benefits the Women’s Health Network, an organization working to create a collaborative network of providers, organizations and resources to provide equitable health care experiences for women in the state of Kansas. 

Vargas is a participant in the TRIO McNair Scholars Program, an undergraduate research program that prepares students for graduate school by introducing them to paid research opportunities early in their academic careers. Participation allowed her to hone her research focuses on three specific areas in mental health, health literacy and education, and reproductive health with a particular interest in rural and underserved populations such as minorities and LGBTQ+. 

Community Research
Sociologists examine parents' education decisions
For any parent or guardian, deciding what school their kids should attend can be difficult. Safety, security systems, student programs and learning opportunities are just a few of the factors to consider. 

Chase Billingham, associate professor of sociology at Wichita State, examines the factors that parents weigh when deciding on a school. He and his coauthors — Shelley M. Kimelberg from the University at Buffalo, Sarah Faude from YW Boston and Matthew O. Hunt from Northeastern University — found that heightened security measures in schools (such as metal detectors and armed security) make parents feel that schools are less safe, not safer. The research shows that parents are less likely to send their kids to those particular schools. 

This research has important implications for how to build and operate schools that are safe and inviting places that facilitate integration and student learning. It marks an important advance in the understanding of school choice behavior in the United States. The research uses original experimental data to show how features like school security systems, academic quality and the racial composition of the student body independently influence parents’ selection process. 

The findings have the potential to inform educational policy related to school siting, construction and student assignments. It will also benefit district administrations as they tackle the persistent issue of racial segregation in schools.

The research is funded by a WSU University Research/Creative Projects Award and has been published in The Sociological Quarterly and the journal Sociology of Education . Billingham and his coauthors presented at the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association and the Midwest Sociological Society. 
Concussion research at Wichita State highlights necessity for a return-to-learn plan
Dr. Richard Bomgardner, an associate professor in human performance studies at Wichita State University, has spent much of the past few years helping schools and teachers find the resources they need to help a student return to the classroom after stuffering a head injury.

It all started when Bomgardner’s youngest son, Kirk, suffered a concussion playing football in high school.

“We sent an email to the teachers, letting them know that he had the concussion, we were going to see a doctor, and he wouldn’t be in school next day. The next morning, we got an email from one of the teachers that was very polite in regard to his injury situation, but she went ahead and assigned a homework assignment for him that would be due within two days,” he said. “That kind of alarmed me a bit that we can notify an educator or teacher about a student who had a concussion and was going to see a doctor, and they’re already assigning a homework project with a deadline before we even have a physician consultation.”

Bomgardner suspected this was not an isolated case, and in 2016 he started his research on return-to-learn policies throughout high schools in the state of Kansas. He has worked extensively with the Kansas State High School Activities Association to provide evidence-based recommendations for what schools can do to develop a return-to-learn plan.

Recently, Bomgardner received a grant from the American Athletic Conference to extend his research to colleges and universities. He and a colleague are surveying faculty members from Wichita State and the University of Tulsa.

In the News
Unprecedented data could be gained from B-1B research with US Air Force
A new research partnership between Wichita State University's National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) and the U.S. Air Force will create a virtual B-1 Bomber that could help the air force predict the future of its supersonic bombers.

The project, sponsored by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center B1 Division, will study the effects of flight operations on aircraft structures. The NIAR team will fully disassemble the aircraft, scan every individual structural part down to the nuts and bolts, and reassemble the virtual aircraft parts to create a digital twin. The program will provide the Air Force with unprecedented information on the B-1B, allowing for the evaluation of damage or changes to aircraft usage in order to repair, modify design or structural inspection intervals, and reevaluate the design life of the aircraft.

“We are taking a real aircraft from the Boneyard (309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona), and it will fly again in a digital format,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Lay, B-1 Program Manager.
Convergence Sciences Initiative continues with submissions of proposal applications
Our society is being reshaped by factors including an aging population, growth of our urban regions, globalization, increased utilization of big data, and environmental and political stressors. At the same time, technology is rapidly advancing in exciting ways we can incorporate in our research and teaching.

As Kansas’ only urban public research university, Wichita State University is uniquely positioned to address many of these issues because of our location; focus on applied learning and research; and partnerships with industry.

When President Golden came to Wichita State, he created the Convergence Sciences Initiative to bring together those from across disciplines.

There have been 18 proposal applications submitted for the initiative, which called for research proposals that span disciplines to form research clusters to address three societal challenges: digital transformations, health disparities and sustainability. A separate wildcard category was provided for proposals to address interesting problems that do not naturally fit these three themes.  
“I was delighted by the number of very high-quality proposals submitted, each and every one reflecting true convergence: spanning multiple departments and colleges, bringing together researchers who have never collaborated before, addressing fascinating and critical problems that can only be solved when disciplines are juxtaposed,” said Dr. Andrew Hippisley, dean of WSU’s Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 
More than $1 million in grant funding is available. Four awards will be granted, and decisions will be made within the next couple of months. 
Of the proposals, three addressed problems in digital transformations, five health disparities, five sustainability, and there were five wildcard proposals. Hippisley said the average team size for the proposals is 10 which “gives us around 180 participant slots, indicating a high level of cross-campus participation,” he said. 
Other convergence sciences proposal statistics: 
  • The average number of departments included in each proposal was seven. 
  • The average number of colleges in each proposal is 3.7.
“This is going to be a challenge for the assessment committee, the kind of challenge we are very happy to have,” Hippisley said. 
According to the initiative: “Successful proposals will identify a societal problem or challenge within one of these themes that can be most effectively addressed by combining and integrating efforts of researchers from different disciplines. Ideally, these proposals will not simply envision individual researchers attacking isolated aspects of the problem, but rather groups of researchers bringing their individual expertise to a concerted effort.”
For more information on Wichita State’s convergence science initiative, visit wichita.edu/academics/convergence_sciences/.
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