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Two decades of partnership between NASA and Emporia State University

In 1991, Emporia State University was one of 16 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 Emporia State to develop research programs in earth science and physics involving faculty, undergraduate and graduate students.

The earth science program used satellite imagery to investigate surficial geology, monitor environmental conditions, or do other applied studies using remotely sensed data. Physics research enabled students to do 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 Emporia State 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 or related topics was inaugurated, and related programs were provided 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.

As a result of successful proposals for additional grant funds from other sources, Emporia State 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, Emporia State is a member of the Kansas Space Grant Consortium. This provides modest, annual funds to support undergraduate and graduate students with chemistry, earth science and physics research projects.

A third NASA project for Emporia State 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 sciences, and education required for elementary education majors. The project extended from 1996 to 1998, but spinoffs continue.

Other NASA awards were from the NASA EPSCoR program. In Fall 1996, five collaborating Kansas Regents universities were awarded a multi-year NASA EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) grant. The awarded funds supported Emporia State 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; studies of biochemical responses to microgravity environments, and astrophysical studies of interstellar conditions and dynamics of low-temperature stellar evolution. In 2003, several Emporia State faculty were awarded seed grants. One involved alternative materials (ultralightweight) for telescope designs, and an earth science project involved an investigation of the role of small impoundments (ponds) and dynamics of the carbon cycle.

Another example of a positive spinoff from NASA grant activity was the selection of an Emporia State physicist as a NASA-ASEE Summer Faculty Fellow. In the summers of 1996 and 1997 he joined with a NASA Ames Research Center collaborator and then again in 2000 at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, the Netherlands, for collaborative research. Their research involved dynamics of charged particles and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the interstellar environment.

JOVE, Space Grant, NOVA and EPSCoR—these NASA-funded projects to Emporia State, 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 Emporia State.