Although Theodore "Ted" Kuwana has received both national and international recognition for his work in analytical chemistry, he admits that he devotes less time to his research than he might have in the past.
That's because Kuwana, regents distinguished professor of chemistry and pharmaceutical chemistry at Kansas University, also is heavily involved in seeking ways to translate scientific research findings into economic development for Kansas.
"I feel that I have a responsibility as a regents professor to work to stimulate economic development," Kuwana said. "It's always a question of how to divide your time and give justice to the research you're trying to conduct as well as these other activities, but I think I'm at a stage in my career when I can do some of those things."
KUWANA IS making contributions to both research and economic development, as evidenced by his research awards and his key role in a new program to improve Kansas' economic competitiveness.
In 1989, Kuwana was named the sixth recipient of the national Charles N. Reilley Award, which is administered by the Society for Electroanalytical Chemistry.
More recently, in August, Kuwana was one of two international scientists given honorary membership to the Japanese Society of Analytical Chemistry during an international conference in Tokyo.
"I think it reflects my activities I've had on an international level," Kuwana said of the honor. "I've had two joint research projects with faculty in Japan."
He presently is involved in a cooperative research project with Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan, one of the seven prestigious "imperial" universities in that country. That project deals with biosensors, Kuwana's current area of research.
CAPABLE OF detecting minute amounts of biological materials such as alcohol and fructose, biosensors can be used for clinical purposes and in food processing.
A prime example of state-of-the-art methods being put to practical use can be found at Cypress Systems Inc., which Kuwana founded in 1987. The company specializes in computerized electrochemical instrumentation.
Kuwana, 60, said he was pleased that, in the past year, 50 percent of Cypress Systems' business was international, involving clients in such places as Eastern Europe, Japan and Australia.
"I think that's satisfying," Kuwana said. "At the same time, I don't think we have enough of that in Kansas. When you talk about commerce, you have to look outside of the state and on a global level."
That's why Kuwana is so excited about Kansas' link with the National Science Foundation's EPSCoR, the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.
FUNDED LARGELY by the National Science Foundation, EPSCoR was created in 1979 to improve the competitiveness of certain states in receiving federal funding for research and development. This year, for the first time, Kansas was included as one of 18 states and Puerto Rico to be eligible for the program.
In August, KU received $100,000 in NSF funding through EPSCoR to develop a plan for increasing the competitiveness of Kansas' research institutions, especially the state's three doctorate-granting institutions of KU, Kansas State University and Wichita State University.
Kuwana, project director for the NSF EPSCoR initiative, will help coordinate the development of that plan.
Kuwana said it is significant that those states that traditionally receive the most federal research funding also are frequently recognized for their development of small businesses. He said more research dollars for Kansas could similarly spur economic development in this state.
NOT SURPRISINGLY, Kansas will have to come up with matching funds for any EPSCoR funding that is approved. "But if you don't look at these self-help programs, then you write your own ticket," Kuwana said.
Born in Idaho of Japanese parents, Kuwana earned his doctoral degree at KU in 1959. He taught chemistry at the University of California, Riverside, Case Western Reserve University and Ohio State University before returning to KU in 1985 to become director of the university's Center for Bioanalytical Research.
Kuwana serves as senior science adviser at KU and is a member of the board of directors of Oread Laboratories, the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp. and Kansas International. Like Kuwana, the latter two organizations have a strong interest in business initiatives related to technology.
"It takes more than one individual to do things. In a lot of ways, I look at myself as a catalyst in many of these initiatives," Kuwana said.
But with the heavy demands of his research, Kuwana said, "The problem is always how to say no to some things."
Ted Kuwana talks about EPSCoR, the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. Page 3C.