University of Iowa Memorial Union, July 21, 2012
Over 230 people attended the first Iowa EPSCoR annual meeting at the University of Iowa in Iowa City on July 31, 2012. Attendees included Iowa EPSCoR faculty, staff and students, plus representatives from the National Science Foundation, Iowa regent universities, and community colleges. Also attending were representatives from industry, government agencies, and economic development groups. Some 40 high school students attending an Iowa NSF EPSCoR STEM Summer Institute were also on hand.
“I want people to think of Iowa as the ‘Silicon Valley’ of renewable energy,” said Denise Barnes, program director of the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) for the National Science Foundation. Barnes attended both the annual meeting as well as the Iowa NSF EPSCoR business meeting held on July 30. She also toured the Wind Energy Lab and the 2.5 MW wind turbine at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids. Kirkwood and the University of Iowa are collaborating on a project to share data from the turbine and to instrument a radio tower to measure wind distribution near the turbine.
The keynote speaker of the 2012 Iowa EPSCoR All Hands Meeting was Earnestine Baker, the executive director of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program based at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Maryland. The program focuses on “[increasing] diversity among future leaders in science, technology, engineering (SEM) and related fields.”
Baker noted that the benefits of the program first require breaking down common barriers minority students face in addition to making a university-wide effort to encourage the support of more minorities in SEM fields. Its main focus was to increase academic success of male African American men starting in 1989, but has grown to include all minorities and genders. Baker said only 12 percent of enrolled college students are African Americans, but they only account for 8.7 percent of all bachelor’s degrees and 2.6 percent of science and engineering Ph.D.’s.
A large focus of the Iowa NSF EPSCoR program is to increase the participation of underrepresented minority groups in science, technology, engineering, and math fields. Baker said increasing diversity is not just about the percentages. “You can increase your diversity by 100 percent if your number of minorities goes up from one to two,” Baker said. But, it’s about the quality of impact the program has on minorities in SEM fields.
Platform Overviews and Industry Panels
The annual meeting featured overviews from Iowa NSF EPSCoR leaders. Robert Brown, the program director and director of Iowa State’s Bioeconomy Institute, gave a review of the entire project as well as the bioenergy platform. Barry Butler, co-project director and executive vice president and provost, University of Iowa, covered the wind energy platform. The energy utilization platform review was done by leader Ted Heindel of Iowa State, while the energy Policy Platform Review has handled by John Beghin, Iowa State.
A special session was held to discuss industry-university partnerships, a part of the Iowa EPSCoR program. Sharron Quisenberry, vice president of research and economic development at Iowa State, moderated a panel that discussed how researchers could work with private industry on energy research. The panelists included Diane Munns, Vice President of Regulatory Relations and Energy Efficiency for MidAmerican Energy Company; Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Associations, and Jack Harris, CEO/President of the Iowa Innovation Corp.
In the afternoon sessions, Chitra Rajan, associate vice president for research at Iowa State, gave a review the Iowa NSF EPSCoR “broader impacts” effort, which includes faculty development, workforce development, diversity, STEM education, and external engagement. Krishna Rajan, a professor of materials science and engineering at Iowa State, explained the cyberinfrastructure portion of EPSCoR that he is heading up. The public session was completed with an update by external evaluator Cindy Dunn of Kansas State University and internal evaluator Gene Lutz of the University of Northern Iowa.
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Polsdofer