Sample of Research Centers and State Surveys Areas of Emphasis

Biodiversity Institute

Included below is the BI’s “theme statement” — to illustrate what any theme needs to demonstrate to be compelling: what, why, how, when, who

  • what is the theme
  • why is it important
  • how should it be tackled
  • where should it be tackled
  • who will it serve

A subset of “why is it important” could entail:

  1. Does it have novelty or creativity in its conception?
  2. Does it have strategic significance?
  3. Will it have measureable effectiveness?
  4. Are the results transferable to other domains?
  5. Does it have the ability to endure, i.e., is it sustainable?

These are measures we use at the BI to evaluate research ideas and whether or not to invest in them.

Broad Themes for the Biodiversity Institute (not including the biomedical sciences)

  1. Understanding and modeling the Physical Universe
    1. The origin, structure, and fate of the universe?
    2. The fundamental structure of energy and matter?
  2. Understanding and modeling Earth’s Environment
    1. Earth’s physical systems—atmospheric, climate, geology, chemistry, ocean systems, etc.
    2. Earth’s organic systems, i.e., the biosphere
      1. The Diversity of Life on Earth
      2. The Tree of Life, i.e., the evolutionary relationships of the diversity of life on Earth
      3. The Language of Life, i.e., the genomics and genomic pathways between genotype and phenotype of plants, animals, microbes
      4. The Web of Life, i.e., how the Diversity, Tree and Language of life, and Earth’s physical systems (#1 above) interact to form emergent functioning ecosystems
  3. Understanding and modeling Human Systems (must be tackled in unison by art, science and humanities)
    1. Human ecology from urban systems to agro systems
    2. Neuroscience and artificial thinking machines
    3. Laws of human history and behavior: turn 5000 years of description into prediction
    4. Ethics/sensibilities of the human condition?current/future challenges: two examples among many
      • the new human design space (mind and body by menu: neuro-engineering, bio-engineering, synthetic biology)
      • the exponential data deluge: decisions made by silicon and algorithms and the impact on freedom
    5. Evolutionary psychology: how did/does nature prime culture and behavior
    6. The divides between reason/knowledge and faith/religion
    7. Tribalism, a core governor of human cognition and behavior (see #7, #10).
  4. Understanding and modeling Complexity
    1. Integrate human and natural systems into a common data, analytics, modeling and narrative (forecasting) system architecture. None of the 11 above can be accomplished without understanding and modeling complexity.

Bioengineering Research Center Response

The overall mission of the Bioengineering Research Center is to create solutions for challenges impacting bioengineering, medicine and biology. The Center provides the mechanisms to facilitate and promote the introduction of new technologies to the clinic. It opens the door to the fastest growing field in engineering and to the discipline that is attracting the best and brightest young engineers.

Kansas Biological Survey

The Kansas Biological Survey is a KU research center that is nationally recognized for its interdisciplinary environmental research and its world-class field station. Research areas include studies of the impacts of climate change on ecosystem structure and function, plant and animal species distributions, reservoir and stream dynamics in the Great Plains, and the applications of satellite technology and geographic information systems (GIS) for studies of land use and land cover, vegetation and watershed analysis, and ecosystem modeling.

Kansas Geological Survey

Energy, water, the environment, geologic hazards—all are the focus of the Kansas Geological Survey. The KGS studies and reports on these issues, providing information that helps legislators, governmental agencies, private businesses, and the public make better-informed decisions. Research subjects range from declines in the Ogallala aquifer in western Kansas to the storage of carbon dioxide in older oil fields and the deep subsurface. The KGS also develops advanced tools and specialties, such as shallow seismic reflection, that aid in understanding these issues and can be applied to settings outside of the state. The KGS thus contributes not only to improved understanding of critical, long-term natural resources issues in Kansas, but also generates new techniques and knowledge that can be used throughout the geologic community.

Hall Center for the Humanities

The following are themes around which a number of faculty presently congregate:

  • Immigration, race & identity
  • Nature-Culture, and the environment
  • Modernities

The theme to which more faculty are starting to drift towards is:

  • Human consciousness and the thinking self

Cross-cutting all these themes is the attempt on our part to foster collaborative, group research projects, including work in the digital humanities.

Schiefelbush Life Span Institute (LSI)

From the 1960s through the 1990s, the Life Span Institute has been defined primarily at the University of Kansas as representing research on intellectual and developmental disabilities in childhood. However, this historical characterization is no longer adequate, given (a) the broad range of activities that now take place within the LSI, and (b) the inexorable march of the behavioral and social sciences toward an integration with the natural sciences.

The activities at LSI with the most promise for discovery, innovation, and impact involve interdisciplinary scientists (representing the social, educational, behavioral, and neurosciences) using fundamental knowledge in an effort to address the etiology and mitigation of problems in human development, health, and disabilities in a meaningful and impactful way. This work involves both typically-developing and atypically-developing populations, and is not restricted to any age range. The LSI may thus be more comprehensively characterized and its themes may be articulated as the following:

Behavioral, neuroscience, and biobehavioral approaches to use-based research on human development, health, and disabilities.

Information and Telecommunication Technology Center Response

The University of Kansas Information and Telecommunication Technology Center (ITTC) puts information science and engineering to work solving interdisciplinary problems. From discovering anomalies in brain images and patterns in biological data, to reliably moving huge data sets across great distances, to developing next generation mission-critical embedded systems, ITTC is putting information to work. Our researchers in remote sensing and signal processing translate observations into information, discovering features and patterns in signals. Our researchers in optics, networking, and telecommunications stand at the forefront of techniques for rapidly and reliably delivering vast amounts of information. Our researchers in computer systems and information assurance develop next-generation embedded systems that provide vital services while protecting against failure and attack. Our researchers in bioinformatics and image processing develop parallel computing techniques for discovering patterns in huge data sets. Finally, our researchers bring their skills to interdisciplinary teams solving problems in areas such as medical imaging, bio- and health informatics, computer-enhanced learning, smart-grid and renewable energy, cybersecurity and import control, microscopy and high-throughput screening, and telemetry. ITTC is putting information to work today, developing new scientific and engineering capabilities, and applying those capabilities to solve tomorrow's interdisciplinary problems.

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