As Kansas legislators zero in on final funding plans for state universities, they should keep in mind the array of student research projects that were on display last week at the Docking State Office Building.
It’s easy for lawmakers to identify with the educational mission of the universities, community colleges and vocational-technical schools under the Kansas Board of Regents, but they shouldn’t forget the important research being done primarily at the state’s three largest universities: Kansas University, Kansas State and Wichita State. Not only does it show the excellence of students at those schools, but it illustrates how university research can fuel economic development in the state.
More than 30 presenters participated in the Sixth Annual Graduate Research Summit, sharing information on a broad range of research. Nearly half of those were KU doctoral students in a variety of fields.
Their research focused on medical issues such as the effect of a high-fat diet on estrogen and insulin levels, the causes of migraine headaches and hearing loss and treatments for cancer. Other students were studying efforts to promote wind energy and measuring emissions from heavy-duty engines burning biodiesel fuels. Legislators may soon be consulting with the KU doctoral student who is evaluating the sedimentation in Kansas reservoirs, a problem that threatens the use of the reservoirs as municipal water sources as well as recreation venues.
Some of the research topics are easier to grasp than others, but many have obvious practical applications that can improve the lives of Kansans. Many also seem to have the potential to inspire business and industrial ventures that could benefit the Kansas economy.
Preparing students to contribute to their communities and participate in the state job market is a strong mission for all of the state’s higher education institutions. Some of those students and the faculty members they work with also hold a special role in advancing knowledge and developing technology that can make Kansas a national leader in certain fields.
Neither mission should be overlooked when legislators are evaluating the contribution the state’s research universities make to the future of Kansas.