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MTSU chemistry professor serves as ‘catalyst’ to land 2 federal research grants


Dr. Keying Ding, an associate professor of chemistry at MTSU, has been involved in research since her time in graduate school at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York, in 2004.

“I have always loved doing research in chemistry,” Ding said. “I was a graduate research assistant in graduate school in Rochester and a post-doc research associate at the University of Minnesota.”

Keying Ding, Middle Tennessee State University associate chemistry professor, experiments to develop new metal catalysts for her two research projects that recently won federal grants from the National Science Foundation and the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund, in MTSU’s Science Building on Aug. 10, 2021. (MTSU photo by Stephanie Barrette)

Dr. Keying Ding, Middle Tennessee State University associate chemistry professor, experiments in MTSU’s Science Building on Aug. 10, 2021, to develop new metal catalysts for her two research projects that recently won federal grants from the National Science Foundation and the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund. (MTSU photo by Stephanie Barrette)

Upon starting her MTSU faculty position in 2013, Ding immediately began applying for grants to fund her research. She has previously earned two National Science Foundation grants and participated in another.

This fall, Ding successfully secured two more highly competitive federal grants for her research: one from the NSF and the other from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund.

For both projects, Ding’s chemical research centers around sustainability through developing new earth-abundant metal catalysts — substances that increase the rate of a chemical reaction without undergoing permanent change — to better facilitate “green,” or eco-friendly, chemistry applications.

Click HERE to read the full story.

MTSU biology professor awarded $870K in National Science Foundation grant


Emily Nolan, a recent Tennessee State University graduate, researches and samples snake microbiomes as part of a project with Middle Tennessee State University assistant biology professor Donny Walker in the summer of 2018 in West Tennessee. (Photo courtesy of Donny Walker)

Emily Nolan, a recent Tennessee State University graduate, researches and samples snake microbiomes as part of a project with Middle Tennessee State University assistant biology professor Donny Walker in the summer of 2018 in West Tennessee. (MTSU photo illustration; student photo courtesy of Donny Walker)

MTSU’s Donny Walker, assistant professor of biology, has landed a boost to his research through a National Science Foundation grant awarded in collaboration with researchers at Oregon State University and the University of California Riverside.

National Science Foundation logoWalker and MTSU will receive $870,000 of the $2.61 million highly competitive grant for the NSF project titled Understanding the Rules of Life: Microbiome Interactions and Mechanisms. The grant aims to fund research of members of the microbiome, the host and the environment. Funding begins this January and extends through 2025.

Walker will serve as research team leader along with Jason Stajich, professor of microbiology and plant pathology at UC Riverside, and Joey Spatafora, professor and department head of botany and plant pathology, and Kerry McPhail, professor at the college of pharmacy, both from Oregon State University.

Walker is currently hiring for the project’s MTSU research team, which will include students doing laboratory and field work, including a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in East Tennessee and other off-campus endeavors.

Click HERE to read the full story.

MTSU’s Center for Health and Human Services receives $1M grant to address opioids in Wilson County


A Middle Tennessee State University center and Wilson County nonprofit coalition have partnered to address opioid abuse and misuse in the rural communities of the Midstate county thanks to a $1 million federal grant.

The Center for Health and Human Services at MTSU, in partnership with DrugFree Wilco, has received the funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is part of a three-year grant that follows completion of an 18-month HRSA-funded planning grant to address the opioid epidemic in rural Wilson County communities.

The Rural Communities Opioid Response Program is supported by HRSA to address barriers to access in rural communities related to substance use disorder, including opioid use disorder.

DrugFree Wilco is a coalition of volunteers seeking to prevent and reduce drug addiction among youth and adults in Wilson County. In addition to that organization, the Center for Health and Human Services is working with MTSU’s Department Health and Human Performance public health faculty, its Data Science Institute and other on- and off-campus partners.

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Archived Sponsored Programs News

Professor Hanna Terletska speaks with Innovations magazine about the impacts of her groundbreaking research, recent prestigious NSF CAREER award, and what this means for her students.

Click the image below to read the full article.


Click HERE to learn more about Quantum Materials.

January 2021

MTSU undergrads discover 'URECA' research grants, faculty mentors

MTSU assistant professor of history Molly Taylor-Poleskey explains the university's URECA grant and shares tips on finding a faculty research mentor.

December 2020

Grape Expectations

The story of a dogged research team, a cantankerous plant, and wine that could change the world
by Allison Gorman

Lab ResearchWine has been integral in human culture for thousands of years, from the Last Supper to the works of Shakespeare to Hannibal Lecter’s “nice Chianti.” But, despite its global reach, the flow of commercial wines begins in a few distinct regions within two narrow latitudinal bands—one in the Northern Hemisphere, most famously including Tuscany and parts of California, and one in the Southern Hemisphere, encompassing parts of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, and Chile.
The wines most of us recognize, whether or not we drink them, come from one species of grape, which flourishes in the cool nights and warm days specific to those fertile regions.
“The chardonnays, the cabernet sauvignons, the merlots, the pinot noirs, the sauvignon blancs, those are all Vitis vinifera,” MTSU Agriculture Professor Tony Johnston said. “The global industry is built on that genus and species—from 95% to 99% of commercial vines. There are just a handful of other species that are commercially grown for wine production around the world.”
Zion Market Research projects that the wine industry will reach $423.6 billion in global revenues by the end of 2023. Finding a grape that could flourish outside Vitis vinifera’s 20-degree latitudinal range could give whole swaths of the world, many of them quite poor, access to that lucrative market—or at least provide one other means of economic self-sufficiency.
“If another variety of grape can be shown to be viable and produce good-quality product, we can open up the whole equatorial range of the earth to grape production,” Johnston said.
In other words, Johnston is not crazy for spending the last 25 years mildly obsessing over Vitis aestivalis, a North American grape commonly known as
Norton/Cynthiana.Norton/Cynthiana is not on anybody’s wine tour. It’s the official grape of Missouri. But like Mark Twain and Harry Truman, it’s notoriously scrappy. Unlike its delicate cousin in Napa Valley, it shrugs off little things like drought, humidity, diseases, and pests.
Grown primarily in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest U.S., Norton/Cynthiana is traditionally used for table grapes, juices, jams, and jellies. It makes for delicious wine too, Johnston said. He first worked with it in the mid-1990s as a research assistant at the University of Arkansas, and he believes it has “enormous economic potential”—if it can be propagated.
In the words of a certain Shakespearean prince (and almost certainly a wine drinker), “Ay, there’s the rub."

Click here for the whole story.

November 2020

Center for Health and Human Services, in partnership with the School of Agriculture’s Fermentation Science Degree Programs secures SARS-COV-2 Rapid Response funding opportunity

Cynthia Chaffin, Director of Center for Health and Human Services, received a 2 years, $816,000, grant from USDA-NIFA called STEMsational Ag: The Virtual Farm.  

Middle Tennessee State University’s Center for Health and Human Services, in partnership with the School of Agriculture’s Fermentation Science Degree Programs, proposes “STEMsational Ag: The Virtual Farm” in response to the SARS-COV-2 Rapid Response funding opportunity. This project will provide both formal and non-formal educational content for K-14 students that is appropriate for traditional school settings (both distance and in-person instruction) as well as children being homeschooled in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This Regional Scale application will target students in Tennessee and all 10 other states in the USDA designated Southeast Region, and will be culturally and geographically appropriate for use in other states with similar agricultural and social environments.

“STEMsational Ag: The Virtual Farm” is a means to rapidly deploy Agriculture and STEM related curriculum for K-14 students who are participating in traditional, distance, or homeschool education settings. The curriculum will consist of modules and audio-visual resources that are appropriate grade level-recommended, age-group tailored projects and assignments. This approach allows for greater reach in terms of student age, with creative and innovative applications for each grade level and flexibility to allow the adoption of “higher” or “lower” level content, as desired.

The project also supports positive mental health. Both parents and children are being affected by the pandemic and the mental health and well-being of both are of concern. The national news is full of images of parents seeking resources to use to teach their children, address their children’s stress levels, and more subtly, to alleviate their own stress. The health of young people is directly tied to academic achievement and their potential for school success and overall quality of life. The schools alone cannot solve or prevent health-related problems. Through resources such as the proposed “STEMsational Ag: The Virtual Farm,” the schools’ ability to have a positive impact on students’ health behavior and academic gains is enhanced. These lessons will also prime the pre-workforce population (K-14 students) for career opportunities in the food and fiber industries.

“STEMsational Ag” will target multiple stakeholders in traditional and non-traditional educational settings across the USDA’s Southern Region. Input from teachers and parents will be included in the development process to assure ease of implementation, regardless of educational background. The materials presented in “STEMsational Ag” will be culturally and regionally appropriate and designed to serve stakeholders with and without internet access for broad usage. To encourage student engagement with “STEMsational Ag,” a video submission contest will be hosted each year through the digital classroom, providing an opportunity for students to highlight projects inspired through the curriculum. Winning submissions will be selected by grant staff and winners will receive a prize, with one winner per state.

October 2020

MTSU firsts: Jones, Terletska receive prestigious National Science Foundation grants

MTSU faculty members Seth Jones and Hanna Terletska hold a distinction no other Middle Tennessee State University professors have ever obtained — National Science Foundation Early Career Development (CAREER) grant recipients.

The NSF CAREER awards support junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through research, education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organization. Jones is in the Womack Educational Leadership Department; Terletska is in the Department of Physics and Astronomy
Read the full story here.

MTSU's Terletska shares NSF-funded research at prestigious international conference

MTSU’s Hanna Terletska experienced a special opportunity to share her research experiences along with nearly 60 of the world’s leading physics scholars.  The group gathered, albeit virtually because of COVID-19, for the late summer international conference Localisation 2020 in honor of Philip W. “Phil” Anderson, a Nobel Prize in physics recipient.  The aim of the conference, last held in 2011, was to bring together renowned researchers in related fields from across the globe and provide a forum to discuss open problems. The topics covered included Anderson localization, disordered quantum materials and more.

Terletska, who is considered a rising star in her field by peers, said the late August conference “was an opportunity to present our research results to the international community and be selected to speak from so many participants (300).”  Terletska spoke for 25 minutes, then fielded questions for five minutes. She has been researching Anderson localization for nearly 10 years.  “It was a great opportunity to contribute to MTSU’s research mission,” she added. “Several students have been working at MTSU on Anderson localization on National Science Foundation-sponsored projects and it is my contribution to bringing quantum material research to Tennessee, too.”
Read the full sory here.

September 2020

Tennessee Board of Regents Awards Funding for Inclusive Pedagogy Project

Congratulations are in order to the center's Director, Dr. Greg Rushton (PI) and his colleagues, Dr. Grant Gardner (Biology) and Dr. Sarah K. Bleiler-Baxter (Mathematical Sciences) who are also PI's for this project. Their research project has been awarded funding from the Tennessee Board of Regents. The project is entitled Inclusive Pedagogy among STEM Faculty: A Professional Development Program for Becoming Aware and Culturally Responsive and has three focal points. The first major point being to support faculty in becoming more aware of and responsive to varied backgrounds, learning styles, and culture of learners in STEM courses. Additionally, this project will serve to promote reflective practice among faculty with respect to inclusive pedagogy. Finally, this project is seeking to spark cultural change within the STEM departments with respect to a focus on inclusion. We are excited to see how their research pans out and wish them the best of luck!

MTSU Faculty and Undergraduate Student's Research Showcased on Out of the Blue

Dr. Hanna Terletska

Dr. Hanna Terletska, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, was one of the first two MTSU professors to be recognized by the National Science Foundation as one of the nation's top young faculty members. This accomplishment is not only rewarding to the recipients but promotes a research infrastructure at MTSU. Dr. Terletska's professional path led her to MTSU because she was looking for a place where she could engage in research as well as teach. MTSU aligned with her professional aspiration to be a teaching research scholar. Join Andrew Oppmann as Dr. Terletska, talks about her research, her love of teaching, and the importance of inspiring young women to pursue careers in science.

Dr. Mary Farone

Dr. Mary Farone, with MTSU's Department of Biology, has successfully secured federal funding for two microbiology projects. One grant is sponsored by the National Institute of Health and the second with the Department of Agriculture. Admirably, Dr. Farone has gone to great lengths to include undergraduate students in the research process. By doing so, undergraduate students gain independence, confidence, and learn many new techniques.  Listen in as Dr. Farone speaks of these skills, the impact of their research, and MTSU’s new state-of-the-art Science Building.

Dr. Molly Taylor-Poleskey

Assistant Professor Dr. Molly Taylor-Poleskey teaches Digital History within the College of Liberal Arts. Dr. Taylor-Poleskey's digital project, Bygone Nashville, with its rich content, catches and holds the viewer's interest. It uses multimedia storytelling skills to explore the history of East Nashville neighborhoods. Dr. Taylor-Poleskey’s prompts and inspiration guided the creation of the project through the efforts and observations of undergraduate students. The students, including URECA grant recipient Audrey Creel, took themes such as religious history, architectural history, and travel history, applied them in different ways to create a public walking tour as well.