In 1991 Emporia State University was one of sixteen institutions selected from a national competition to become a NASA JOVE (JOint VEnture) institution. JOVE had several objectives. The three-year funding from the NASA JOVE program enabled ESU to develop research programs in earth science and physics involving faculty, undergraduate and graduate students. The earth science program under the leadership of Dr. J.S. Aber used satellite imagery to investigate surficial geology, monitor environmental conditions, or do other applied studies using remotely sensed data. Dr. J.L. Ballester was the physics research mentor for students doing collaborative investigations of dynamic processes of the interstellar medium, i.e., the “stuff” between the stars. In addition to the basic research objective, other JOVE objectives which had mutual benefits for ESU and its students included curriculum development (e.g., course development such as Introduction to Space Science or curricula such as the interdisciplinary minor in GeoSpatial Analysis). Educational outreach was also an objective contingent to JOVE involvement. A Speaker Series on space science topics included Aber, Dr. D.A. Backhus, Ballester, and Dr. R. Jones. Dr. R.L. Keith also provided and continues to provide programs in Peterson Planetarium pursuant to this objective; the renovated Peterson Planetarium with a Spitz System 512 projector and auxiliaries enhanced appreciably educational outreach in the space sciences. Backhus served as overall project director for JOVE.
As a result of successful proposals for additional grant funds from other sources, Aber was awarded a JOVE Augmentation Grant in 1995. This provided additional funds for equipment to establish a GeoSpatial Analysis Laboratory to do satellite image processing research, and to provide instruction for a number of courses, including several courses for the GeoSpatial Analysis minor, and undergraduate and graduate certificate programs. In addition to the immediate, tangible benefits from JOVE, it provided the foundation for a successful proposal to become a “Space Grant College” in 1993. Hence, ESU is a member of the Space Grant Consortium. This provides modest, annual funds to support undergraduate and graduate students with earth science and physics research projects (in the areas noted above under JOVE) under the guidance of Aber, Dr. R. Sleezer, and Ballester. Chemistry projects with Drs. Keck and Roach are also possible. Backhus serves as a member of the Kansas Space Grant Consortium Executive Committee.
A third NASA project for ESU was Project NOVA, a project which enabled faculty from the Departments of Mathematics/Computer Science, Physical Sciences (chemistry, earth science, and physics), and the Teachers College to do significant curriculum development for courses in mathematics, physical science, and education required for elementary education majors. Dr. M. Harrell, Mathematics/Computer Science, Drs. S. Irwin and N. Smith, The Teachers College, and Drs. Backhus, Keith, B. Lanier, and K. Thompson from the Physical Sciences were the staff for Project NOVA. The project extended from 1996 to 1998, but spinoffs continue.
The most recent NASA awards are from the NASA EPSCoR program. In the Fall, 1996 five collaborating Regents universities in the State of Kansas were awarded a multi-year NASA EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) grant. The awarded funds supported ESU faculty and students to pursue research in three areas: the use of satellite imagery and ground-based studies to investigate vegetation and infer climatic conditions in northeast Kansas (Aber and Dr. F. P. Pavri, now at University of Southern Maine); studies of biochemical responses to microgravity environments under the direction of Drs. M. Keck and D. Saunders (biology); and astrophysical studies of interstellar conditions and dynamics of low-temperature stellar evolution (Ballester). In 2003 several ESU faculty in collaboration with University of Kansas faculty were awarded “seed grants.” Ballester and Dr. C. Pheatt (math/computer science) were involved with alternative materials (ultralightweight) for telescope designs, and Dr. R. Sleezer (earth science) collaborated with an investigation of the role of small impoundments (ponds) and dynamics of the carbon cycle. Backhus serves in a statewide capacity for the NASA EPSCoR program.
Another example of a positive spinoff from NASA grant activity was the selection of Ballester as a NASA-ASEE Summer Faculty Fellow. In the summers of 1996 and 1997 he joined Alexander Tielens, NASA Ames Research Center, Mountain View, CA, and then in 2000 at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, the Netherlands, for collaborative research. Their research involves dynamics of charged particles and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the interstellar environment.
JOVE, Space Grant, NOVA and EPSCoR--these NASA-funded projects to ESU, during the 1990s and now in a new millennium, have provided research and learning opportunities for faculty and students, and outreach to a larger public. Students and ultimately the general public continue to benefit from past and future NASA funding to ESU.